During the General Canonical Visit I made to the presences of Venezuela, one of the members of the Technical Council of our school “Cristo Rey” of Carora spontaneously uttered a phrase that made us all laugh but that is very deep. I told him I was going to write a Letter to the Brothers titled with the same expression. We were talking about the good things in the school, and she said that, for her, the school has “an I don’t know how to say it” that made her feel at home.
I have thought a little about that phrase and its profound meaning, and I thought it would be good to share with all of you some simple examples of that “I don’t know how to say it ” that characterizes the Piarist schools.
I have been carrying out the Canonical Visit to the Order for two years. I have been visiting the schools, one by one, and I have listened to students, teachers, parents, Piarists, pastoral workers, etc. A lot of people. And I have been perceiving the “vibrations of the soul of the school”, the aspects and experiences that make our school different. I’m going to share with you some of them. I’m sure there’s a lot more, but I think the effort to “name” what vibrates in school is a good thing and can help us.
“The teachers know us.” This is the clearest experience that emerges among the school’s students when you ask them what they value most about their school. And I’m very glad to be able to say it. Students feel like people – and not just names on a list – they feel loved, welcomed, taken into account. They feel the school as a family, as a space in which they can grow up, in which they can live and build dreams. From my point of view, this is a beautiful example of what the first element of the Calasanctian identity of our schools means: the centrality of children and young people.
“My son is at school all day, there’s no way to get him out of it.” Many parents thus express the ideal of “full-time school” that characterizes – should do so – the Piarist schools. An open school, which breaks the boundaries of academic hours and proposes various pastoral, sports, social, school support initiatives, etc.- that make the education offered in it truly integral.
“The school gave me faith, accompanied me in it and helped me live it.” The vast majority of our alumni who remain close to the school and our proposals (we must admit that there are many who have lost this gift) express with deep gratitude that it is the school where they consolidated – and in many cases where they received – the gift of faith. We know that we have schools in all possible contexts in relation to religious experience. Nevertheless, we also know that the gift of faith can and should be offered, proposed and accompanied in each of them.
“Calasanz has changed my life.” This is the experience of many of our educators. The figure of Calasanz, its charism, the Calasanctian experience that is transmitted in a school that authentically lives its identity, makes our educators discover in a new way their vocation. The encounter with Calasanz enriches and resizes the vocation of each teacher. Schools that do not systematically work this immense wealth that we have do serious harm to the educators who work day by day in them, and consequently to the students.
“I felt accompanied.” This experience of our students and educators, especially in the special moments of each one’s life (a confirmation, a first communion, a mourning, the ordeal of sickness or emigration, etc.) has a profound family meaning. To say about a school that is like a family is really valuable.
“We work together.” There is no doubt that systematic teamwork makes educators build, day by day, a “relational” way to be educators. And this completely marks the school’s climate, and it makes a lot of good things emerge in school.
“Educational innovation that highlights the human and the supportive,” which we are driving so strongly in our schools, is part of these vibrations of the school soul. Learning-service, “charity school,” “cooperative learning,” “I can” and so many other dynamisms that we’re driving in schools are more than just a method. They set up the school’s treasure and build it day by day.
The Continuous Prayer that is lived in so many of our schools, in which students and educators pray together, gradually goes about doing their work in this task of “giving Calasanctian life” to the school. There is a strong commitment of the Order to carry it forward, and I am convinced that this dynamic will gradually strengthen the Calasanctian identity of our works and the connection of educators with our educational proposal.
The Calasanz Movement. I have visited schools where most of the students are part of the Calasanz Movement. This is a growing reality, which is called to transform the profile of our schools. Gradually a more global vision of “Piarist School” is consolidated, in which everything we do in it is part of the school, not just the classes. The Calasanz Movement is a formidable tool to accompany students in an integral way and not to leave them abandoned when they finish their studies. We must continue with this bet, in each and every school of the Order. In none of them we should steal this treasure from our children, teenagers and young people.
In “COEDUPIA” I realized how diverse and how the same we are. This expression is one of the best synthesis I have heard of what we live in the Congress of Piarist Education that was held in Santiago de Chile in April 2017, on the occasion of the Calasanctian Jubilee Year. It’s absolutely true. The Piarist identity was very clear to all, as clear as the great diversity from which this identity is embodied and carried forward. Putting in common our ways of doing and living our ministry helps us to learn, respect, value and build together. One of the keys to the soul of the Piarist schools is that they see more and more clearly that they do not suffice themselves and that belonging to a universal network gives them added value that reaches the concrete exercise of our ministry in the classroom. Membership and bonding is not a theoretical experience or a sociological finding. It’s an experience of identity.
“When I heard that Calasanz is not only the patron of educators, but of all those who make their dream possible, I was excited.” Many people who work in our schools need to feel summoned and taken into account when we talk about our schools. Not just educators. We are talking about the staff of the Secretariat, Administration, Cleaning, Maintenance, Communication, Library, Dining Room, etc. Everyone makes the school possible, and everyone should feel it, know it and listen it. Calasanz cleaned the classrooms, kept the financial bills, accompanied the children to their homes, etc. All tasks are important, and all make Calasanz’ dream possible. Our Holy Father is the patron of the school, the whole school.
“My father and grandfather also studied here.” The memory of the children reaches their grandfather; it is not easy for him to go further. However, there are many who have this experience. It’s beautiful, and it’s indicating something very valuable. Many families feel that the school is part of them, and this is passed down from father to child. These families knew how to discover the soul of the school and they don’t want to lose it.
The Piarists who gave their lives for the school and are no longer among us. I could cite many names, but I would always lack justice by forgetting some. Nevertheless, among the “palpitations of the soul of the school” always appear the names of those Piarists who spent so many years in school and that marked the lives of so many generations. Today that is no longer so prevalent, because mobility is much greater. However, it’s lovely to hear the educators or alumni of those Piarists who forever marked their lives and that of the school. This helps us understand the importance of the presence of a Piarist who is “always there”, and that students know will never fail them.
The “soul of the Piarist School” needs to be expressed, visibilized, built and enjoyed. It is becoming increasingly clear among us that the Piarist Christian Community (Rules 103) is one of the privileged spaces from which that soul is configured, and that the celebration of the Eucharist within that community is the central moment and of it.
I could continue to cite many more experiences, some simple, others very deep. But I don’t want to go any further. However, I would like you, in the process of reading this Salutatio, to do the work of continuing the list and completing it, giving name to that “I don’t know how to say it” that makes our school special for those who live and work on it.
I conclude with a short quote from Calasanz, taken from the Memorial to Cardinal Tonti, which reflects very well that, within the Pious Schools, from birth, there is “something different” that must be named and cared for. I do not quote the full paragraph: “After showing the usefulness and need of this work, that welcomes all individuals, conditions and places and provides a complete instruction in the fundamentals of learning and the necessary means to make a living, it logically follows the need to establish it as a Religious Order to prevent it from disappearing in the future (…) as well as by the need to expand and propagate it according to the needs, desires and instances of many. All this cannot be done without many workers, which cannot be achieved if they do not have a great spirit and are called with a particular vocation.”
Receive a fraternal embrace
Pedro Aguado Sch. P.
 In Spanish; “un no sé qué que qué sé yo”.
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