Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 30, 2002
Vatican official defends Catholic Education
Choose poverty over watering down the faith, says Pittau
By RENATO GANDIA
"We don't want our tradition to be watered down."
- Archbishop Joseph Pittau
"If we are not allowed to show and be who we are as Catholics, it is better to be poor than to lose our identity."
The more than two-hour public talk, sponsored by Newman Theological College, Edmonton Catholic Schools and the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association, was attended by educators from Calgary, Edmonton, Fort Saskatchewan, Hinton, Sherwood Park and other places.
The author of five books in Japanese, Pittau, an Italian, studied philosophy at the University of Barcelona, theology at the University of Sophia in Tokyo and holds a doctorate in political science from Harvard.
In his address, Pittau stressed, "The greatest treasure we have in Catholic education are the people. Each student is a unique gift from the Lord. We must take care of them, guide them and form them for the good of our society."
In the latest Vatican survey, 58 million people are involved in Catholic education. Some 50 million are students.
"You are not alone in Canada. You are part of a big system in the world," Pittau told the educators.
He also traced the history of Catholic education, beginning from the small schools opened by the monks in medieval times to the universities in Europe and later in other parts of the world.
"We have a great tradition and we should be proud of our history," said the Jesuit archbishop.
To deliver a better Catholic education should be the top priority. Formation of an informed conscience is integral to education, which should never be reduced to an intellectual enterprise, said Pittau.
With sadness, Pittau underlined that in today's society, "the law makes the decision" and people's consciences are not consulted.
Catholic education should teach that some things are good and some things are bad, he emphasized.
"If we don't do it, who is going to do it?" he asked. "Catholic educators have great responsibilities given to them by the Church to teach more than principles."
It is critical to teach the students how to become good neighbours to one another and to others so we can have peaceful and loving communities, he said.
Many educational institutions only want to prepare people to get jobs. Pittau is convinced that approach does not serve the people or society at large.
But Catholic education should form people not only to understand but also how to live together peacefully, he said. "Form people who have moral standards and people who have a sense of religion."
Advising the educators, Pittau told them, "First of all be very good teachers, then be very good Catholic teachers."
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