[Concluding remarks to President’s Report, General Assembly, Davao Association of Catholic Schools (DACS), 17 July 2015]
Perhaps, by way of concluding this report, we may recall our shared mission not only to meet with the challenges of a changing educational environment as we participate in major educational reforms in basic and tertiary education, but to engage in genuine transformative education. This impacts on our students, but also on our teachers and staff, and on our communities. We bring students not only from ignorance to knowledge, but from unfreedom to freedom, from inability to participate in the workings of society to empowerment to struggle for social justice and the common good. In the process, as teachers and administrators, we too are transformed, growing in our commitment to educate not just for compliance with DepEd and CHED – as necessary as this may be – but for transformation of our local, national and global communities. As educational communities, we are committed to the transformation of the communities on which we impact, no matter how resistant they may be to change, ultimately because we share a commitment to the Kingdom of God, where we labor in our schools not abandoned to our own devises, but in the power of the Holy Spirit.
From this perspective, the challenges of Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium, addressed to the Catholic Community, and, more recently, of Laudato Si, On the Care of Our Common Home, addressed to all women and men on the planet, are our challenges as we face a new year. In leading ourselves and our school communities back to the person of Jesus Christ, to the compassion of his Father, and to the power of the Holy Spirit, we seek to return to the joy of the Gospel, the joy of feeling personally and deeply loved by God. This joy is transformative in our lives. It heals us of the sadness that we may have in persevering in our mission to bring our communities from superficiality to depth, from bondage to freedom, from a quiet pervasive despair that all is useless to hope.
There is hope, Pope Francis insists, even in facing the challenges of our common home, Mother Earth, whom we have abused in our compulsive ways of consumption, and which is now showing definite signs of breaking apart in global warming, climate change, loss of biodiversity, and serious shortages of clean drinking water. This compulsive consumption has fueled a global economy run by a run-away technocracy, that enslaves us in its logic of ever-more-powerful technology in order to produce all the goods that they determine the billions of our world must consume. The result is, according to Francis, not only a severely sick planet, but a severely sick human society. That is a major message of Laudato Si: the care for the environment cannot be disjoined from the care of human society. The destruction of the earth by our unbridled consumption impacts most seriously on the poor, who because of climate change are driven from their homes or do not have the resources necessary for the bare minima in food and water. All is connected, Francis insists, the care of our common home to the care for the quality of our human lives, the care of the quality of our human communication to the carelessness with which we squander our human relationships and values through soulless friending and unfriending, likes and dislikes, and the cool ability to shut real human concerns out of our lives by turning off the computer.
That defines a major challenge for us as Catholic educators here in Davao. We know of the excitement of our students and of ourselves in acquiring and learning the global lifestyle, of welcoming the wonders our smart phones do in keeping us informed and working wherever we are, and keeping us entertained, even when we are alone or isolated. But this lifestyle takes a toll on the quality of our human living, till suddenly we find ourselves sitting together at table and communicating not with one another, but with our smart phones. This sort of lifestyle ignores the creator God, ignores those who excluded, ignores even those accross the table who are included, and ignores the costs this pervasive ignorance has on our sick world. Pope Francis asks us then to step away from the “rapidification” of global culture, to pause, to think, to ask: where are we going together as a human community?
It is something we must reflect on as we educate for our region in working against even this kind of ignorance; it is something we must bring ourselves and communities to act on. Worship of God, respect for nature, the quality of human life, the throwaway culture, the plight of the excluded and throwaway poor, all are connected. The disengagement of our students locked in their cel phones, the small-scale mining with mercury, the large-scale mining that displaces the indigenous peoples and destroy their culture, the culture of the Mall on Sunday rather than the culture of worship, the driving need to acquire rather than the liberating need to give, the Christian difficulty to pray to the Muslim difficulty to fast, the inability of parents to say no to their children’s compulsions to acquire because they themselves are driven by the same compulsions, all are connected. Production is connected to destruction, over-consumption to deprivation, lack of spirituality to disrespect for materiality, war to peace. All is connected. This connectedness is part of the educational challenge we accept today in the joy of the Gospel and in the Care of Our Common home in DACS.