BLOOMFIELD – Dale R. Hoyt, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Hartford, attended the World Congress on Education in Rome Nov. 18-22 at the Vatican and Castel Gandolfo. It drew upon the theme “Educating for Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion.”
“There was a constant theme among speakers about maintaining a strong Catholic identity in our schools,” given the move today toward secularization, said Dr. Hoyt. “I came away very hopeful about the future of our schools.”
He was one of 80 delegates from America among about 2,000 educators from Catholic schools and universities around the world there to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Vatican II’s Gravissimum Educationis and 25th anniversary of Pope Saint John Paul II’s apostolic document Ex Corde Ecclesiae.
Gravissimum Educationis, issued by Pope Paul VI, underscores the universal right to an education, true liberty in choice of schools and the church’s duty to provide education. Ex Corde Ecclesiae focuses on the mission and identity of Catholic colleges and universities and emphasizes their communion with bishops and the local churches.
Dr. Hoyt, whose doctorate is in education, said that participants could choose among scholarly presentations on Catholic schools or universities with translations in English, Spanish, Italian and French.
Speakers included Archbishop Vincenzo Zani, secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, who Dr. Hoyt said synthesized the themes of the congress: “First, educating is love – it is an issue of the heart which involves knowledge and relationship. Second, education is dialogue: it is an open house, a project that has Christ at its center. Third, education is service: offered in the search for truth, beauty and what is right and good.”
Also speaking was Dr. Elinor R. Ford, former superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of New York and a former professor at Fordham University, who spoke on the importance of research.
“She emphasized that if we are to advance the mission of Catholic education, we really need to be engulfed in educational research,” said Dr. Hoyt.
Another presenter spoke on formation for teachers and principals, and “forming the formators … as we look at strengthening Catholic identity,” he said.
The congress concluded with an audience with Pope Francis, who he said highlighted the themes of the congress.
“The Holy Father told us, ‘Education involves introducing students to the fullness of truth. Catholic identity is about God becoming man, and our efforts to teach attitudes and values that are fully human,’” he said.
Dr. Hoyt noted that Pope Francis also outlined the benefit of formal education and “warned against all forms of education that emphasize only the head or acquisition of knowledge, especially if only for the sake of money.”
“Pope Francis said that ‘we need new horizons and new models. We need to open up horizons for an education that is not just in the head. There are three languages: head, heart and hands. Education must pass through these three pathways. We must help students to think, feel what is in their hearts and help them in doing so that these three languages must be in harmony with each other.’”
In response to a question from the audience about the biggest temptation today for education, he said that the pope replied, “It is walls. The greatest failure for education is to educate within the walls, the walls of selective culture, the walls of a culture of security, the walls of a social class.”
Dr. Hoyt noted that Pope Francis also mentioned the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and stated that educators can’t be too rigid in their approach to education. Pope Francis, he said, suggested that rigid teachers and building walls lead to a loss of humanity in education and are a tremendous threat to authentic Catholic education.
He said the pope also told educators, “Where there is rigidity there is no humanity. Where there is no humanity, we cannot let God in because the doors are shut. The tragedy of closure begins in rigidity.”
He said highlights from the congress included celebrating Mass at the Tomb of St. Peter, sharing ideas with bishops and educators from other countries and visiting the Embassy of the United States at the Holy See, where he met Ambassador Kenneth Hackett, former executive director of Catholic Relief Services, who is a native of West Hartford and one-time attendee of the Catholic Youth Spectacular.
The delegates from America, who were coordinated by Fordham University, included New England representatives from Boston College and Sister Mary Grace Walsh of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Hartford archdiocesan provost for education, evangelization and catechesis.
Inspired by the world congress, Dr. Hoyt said, “I’m going to be working with the principals on strengthening the Catholic identity of our schools.” Already, he said, he has set the theme for the next school year: “Culture and Charism: Developing a Strong Catholic Identity in Our Schools.”
“I’m also hoping to invite a research practitioner to discuss the theme of educational research, and invite some of our parents to be in dialogue with administrators on how we can bridge our Catholic schools with the home,” he said.