2. A “josephan” educational style
Through the texts of our tradition will identify the characteristics of the theoretical values and our educational style, so how was maturing and was refined over time. They are: the apostolic purpose as the heart of our journey of religious called to holiness, a journey that has as an icon and model of St. Joseph embodied in the social, political, religious, cultural of his time sharing the lives of young people next to each other as a “friend, brother, father”; construction of a family spirit. The Josephite gives himself putting the young man at the center, which testifies to the love of God acting with sweetness and mercy. Can not miss the professional look because you are convinced that “good is to be done well.”
P. Giovenale Dotta
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2. A “josephan” educational style (Fr. Giovenale Dotta)
N.B. We can consider the Josephan “educational style” along tracks that are very different from each other. One could be, for example, the analysis of the evolution of our “pedagogical thinking” and how our educational practice lived it through the works undertaken and the methodologies implemented in the course of our history . Here, however, we limit ourselves to the theoretical aspect, the one concerning ideals or values, if we may say so, considering some documents of our tradition. Having made this choice, you could outline two roads: one of a historical approach, in a diachronic way, analyzing the synthesis of it that the various official documents developed or even just the hints they made here and there. Or the road of theme combination, starting from a few constants that have always subtended, in a more or less marked way, the theoretical clarification of Josephan pedagogy. We have chosen this second option, in order to highlight the main inspiration of our educational activity without neglecting due attention to their evolution over time. Since we talk about “educational style”, attention will focus on the attitudes of the educator, with some mention of the methodological attentions, while it is assumed as already acquired reflection on the recipients of the educational action, its purposes and scope of intervention.
1. An “educational spirituality”
The apostolic purpose of our congregation was entrusted to us in the first Regulations (1873) in unity with our very essence of religious: “The aim of the Congregation of St. Joseph is the sanctification of its members through works of education of poor or naughty young people.”
“Committing to his own sanctification, [each confrere] will have to work according to his strengths and capabilities to the long and difficult ministry of education of the poor or naughty young people, being for each one of them a friend, brother and father, […] with the sole intention to save the souls redeemed by the most precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Chapter Documents of 1969-70, spoke of “unifying vision of the inner and apostolic aspects of holiness” (no. 59) and described apostolate as “expression and essential element” of our consecrated life (no. 764) .
The last General Chapter (2012) therefore was able to say that “ours is an educational spirituality” (GC XXII, nos. 21, 27) .
“This certainly means that, for us, the educational activity, that is the relationship with young people, our dedication to them, our concern for their earthly and eternal wellbeing characterizes and fills, so to speak, all areas of our lives: our prayer, our relationships, our interests, our struggles and our hopes: everything, in our daily existence, falls into this deep storyline which constitutes “education”. The educational Josephan mission, in fact, is the “structure”, the soul, the generating principle of our consecration, and includes at the same time being with the Master (spirituality), with the brothers (community life) and with young people (apostolate).”
We breathe therefore “a spirituality that is nourished in service to young people” (GC XXII, no. 59) and which at the same time “enlivens and gives meaning to our commitment” (GC XXII, no. 69).
2. In the footsteps of St. Joseph
Our lifestyle and the way of our being with young people then assume the typical colours of St. Joseph, who “lived all for Jesus” , was his “excellent educator” , a model of life and action for the Josephites who see in young people that same Jesus that Joseph welcomed and educated . These traits are rooted in our tradition and the General Chapter of 2012 wanted to propose them again as characterizing our educational style (GC XXII, nos. 8; 10).
Also in St. Joseph and the Family of Nazareth, the confreres find the inspiration for the two characteristic virtues of the congregation, humility and charity, which visibly permeate both the being and the work of the Josephites , and become “typical traits” of our educational relationship, based on the “pedagogy of love.”
3. With attention to the social, political, religious and cultural background
It is an attitude that St Leonard Murialdo lived so clearly and that, while not forgotten, has re-emerged especially with the renewal brought by the Second Vatican Council and, for us, also after the canonization of our Founder. The Guidelines for Josephan ministry (1996) describe it as “listening to the signs of the times; […] attention to the cultural dimension of education; ability to affect the socio-political causes of educational problems; effort to understand the ongoing cultural evolutions.”
4. Sharing the life of poor young people as “friends, brothers and fathers”
“The congregation […] live in the middle of the youth most in need of relief material and moral” and “not […] is alien to the spirit come to the aid of adults belonging to the working classes and by teaching and preaching.”
The Rule of 2007, returning to the 1873 Regulations, states that “the confreres love to live among youth as their friends, brothers and fathers” (art. 50) and continues even alluding to that first legislative text that spoke of a presence in the midst of youth characterized by an always cheerful face and an always joyful heart for the mission they have received from God .
5. In the family spirit
The desire to form, in the congregation, “one and well-knit family in Jesus Christ” was extended by L. Murialdo himself and the later tradition to the whole “educational family” , called to converge in its goals (“One thought: to do good to us and to the young”), spirit and motives (“One heart: charity”), passing from collaboration to harmony and friendship (“Unity of action and friendship, not only harmony”) .
The 1969-70 Chapter Documents spoke about the educational community, even though by then only within the school, highlighting how the laity could enrich it with “their knowledge of the world and their experience” (no. 866).
Continuing on the same road, the Chapter of 1988 now saw the laity “partakers of the one mission,” “challenging” element for the community and “constitutive” for the apostolic works and demanded their presence “in the formulation, management and verification of apostolic projects.”
In 1996 the Guidelines for Josephan ministry reiterated the “great educational value” of family spirit among educators and with the boys and again referred to participation style “in planning, implementing and monitoring the apostolic initiatives together,” with the laity and with the young people .
The General Chapter of 2000 looked to the Family of St L. Murialdo “as a new reality in which the spiritual and apostolic charism of the Founder expands and enriches” (no. 48). The congregation is not the only custodian of this charism, but it is expressed in many situations of life and apostolate involving religious men and women and the laity “in situations of secularity” (GC XX, nos. 52-53 ).
This new awareness has been taken by the Rule of 2007: “The confreres […] feel their identity strengthened within the larger Family of St L. Murialdo where the Founder’s charism expands” (Directory, Art. 41). It was better defined in the Road Map document (2008) and finally was reaffirmed by the General Chapter of 2012, when it recalled the “new ways of sharing the charism with all those who, in various states of life, are inspired by Saint Leonard Murialdo” (GC XXII, no. 39). The landing place may be the “Murialdine educational community,” expression “which does not indicate a cohabitation or a common life, but a spiritual, charismatic and vocational bond between religious and some lay people, who live the same mission and share the same charism, in different modalities and forms”(GC XXII, no. 51).
6. With the youths at the centre
The pedagogical attentions recommended by the 1873 Regulations (art. 183-187) have gradually refined, in our tradition, the awareness that education, being “matter of the heart,” requires an individual interest for each young man , “in his unique and unrepeatable reality and the concrete situation in which he is,” respecting the progression taking into account the individual times and skills, “with different levels and adequate opportunities for growth in responsibility and autonomy,” involving the young in first person and making him the protagonist of his growth.
The centrality of the young implies “global” attention to his life, in its various dimensions (physical, intellectual-professional, relational-emotional, social, moral and spiritual). It is the discourse on the objectives of education, which is not addressed here, but only evoked, to remind the ne perdantur of our tradition, the primary importance of education in the faith, also in the present context of new evangelization. Temporal and eternal salvation of youth requires the integration of evangelization and human promotion. For the Josephites, and for those who operate according to the inspiration of the Murialdine charism, the purpose of education is the salvation of the young (ne perdantur): “but if it is true that all their activity is crossed by religious concern, it is also true that, for this reason and in the logic of the Incarnation, they takes care of all the boy’s life (need of bread, work, education and family relationships). L. Murialdo speaks to young people about the love of God, making them experience it, offering welcome and sharing.”
These concepts are confirmed by the Rule of 2007, when it states that in apostolic work, each confrere “shall be concerned about […] the whole formation [of the youth], helping them to achieve human maturity and to grow especially in faith and in the joyful certainty that God loves them personally” (Art. 49).
7. Living and witnessing sweetness and mercy
The Directory of 1936 exhorts the Josephites to love all the boys in their charge, without preferences and without discriminations, “learning to excuse a lot and to forgive a lot, recognizing their fragility and weakness” (no. 381). It then points out that “only through sweetness they will win over the hearts of their pupils to lead them to the practice of virtue and the salvation of the soul” (no. 411) and notes that “hardness of manners and excessive rigor” do not correct, but worsen the boys’ defects, pushing them to react, or to fake (no. 412). It also calls for “being good even with the bad and touchy ones” and to overcome evil with good (no. 413), yet accompanying the dutiful sweetness with a right firmness (no. 422), without forgetting “that you have to prevent a lot so to have very little or nothing to repress” (no. 426). It finally urges to relive in themselves, towards the “rebellious and stubborn” youths, the caring and loving attitude of the Good Shepherd (no. 449).
The Josephite “assumes, in dealing with young people, a way of patience, calm and optimism,” in a climate of trust and shared responsibility, because he “believes in boys, even in the most difficult ones; he is able to get, beyond the limit, the positive potential that is in each of them basing on it the educational relationship.”
“Having been touched personally by God who loves us with infinite, free and merciful love leads us to interpret the educational relationship with the key of welcome” which is expressed in goodness and mercy.
The General Chapter of 2012 summarizes these traits mindful that “the pedagogy of love” and “the education of the heart” are “known characteristics of our identity” (GC XXII, no. 12).
8. Doing well the good
The quality of the educational service we carry through our apostolic mission requires a constant commitment to the “better” that for L. Murialdo was not reduced to a simple upgrade, but involved the whole person and the whole life: spiritual growth, improvement of one’s character, professional enhancement in order to “do well the good.”
The Chapter Documents of 1969-70 reminded that the Josephites, following the examples of the Founder, “keep up-to-date in pedagogic culture and art.”
The General Chapter of 2012 extended this perspective, emphasizing its links with other aspects of our tradition, such as the family spirit, which involves a process of mutual formation: “Our educational style, characterized by familiarity and sweetness, implies the community dimension of ministry and quality in the service to young people: ‘Let us do good, but let us do it well’“(GC XXII, no. 67). The Chapter therefore proposes an “ongoing formation process,” deemed necessary for the vitality of our mission (GC XXII, nos. 73-74).
To do this, the Chapter recommended “formation courses on our pedagogic spirituality” for Josephites, educators and collaborators (GC XXII, recommendation no. 13).
Fr. Giovenale Dotta