The Church has convoked a synod to examine “how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to fullness of life and love and … identify the most effective ways to announce the Good News today.” This is an important task in a world where youth have taken a leading role in many areas previously thought to be reserved for older generations.
The digital age has seen the surge of younger generations impacting societies in a way difficult to imagine some years ago: Facebook, Twitter and many other mass media/social networks have been founded by people in their 20s or 30s. The impact of these new ventures has certainly contributed to some of the most important changes in recent history. We have seen young students inspire and maintain social and cultural revolutions using these new multimedia social networks in many parts of the globe.
This is, no doubt, a new social phenomenon that requires the necessary discernment of the Church because “by listening to young people, the Church will once again hear the Lord speaking in today’s world.” The reality is that young people are shaping the world through their creativity, social activism and imagination. It is good for the Church to find the Lord’s message in all of this. The preparatory document (PD) defines youth as persons between 16 and 29 years old. The present reflections on Catholic education respond to this age group; nonetheless, most of the statements can also be extended to younger age groups.
Catholic education: ‘come and see’
The Catholic Church has devoted, over the centuries, much creativity and effort in building a large network of schools at the service of her mission and as a way to participate in civic life: “Education and school and university education were always at the center of the contribution of the Catholic Church to civic life.” Catholic schools have served all levels of society but in many cases have provided education to groups not served by others: indigenous populations, homeless children, the underprivileged, minorities, etc.
Many other Christian Churches and religious organizations run schools; however, it is safe to say that the Catholic Church has the largest and most extensive network of schools in terms of numbers and countries served. Furthermore, Catholic education is recognized, for the most part, as offering some of the best quality education available. Parents from other religious backgrounds, and even those with secular values, see Catholic schools as institutions with high standards and distinguishing quality.