The mission of the Global Network of RSHM Schools is “to foster and develop the work of education initiated by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary.” Comprised of nineteen schools, the Global Network “unites all its schools in a common purpose to foster the gift of internationality and to promote and deepen the commitment to the transformation of the world through the RSHM educational vision” (Mission Statement). The approximately 30,000 students educated each year in the Global Network are prepared to become global leaders who value differences between people and who manifest mutual understanding for the common good. The “transformation of the world” into a more just community based on Gospel values and the charism of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary is the goal of every school of the Network.
In September of this year, I was invited to work with the students, staff, faculty, and administrators of three of our schools: Marymount International School, Rome; Marymount School Medellin, Colombia; and the school in Barranquilla, Colombia which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. In Marymount Rome, I worked with faculty and staff on the topic of Interculturality – a new educational term that aims to create teaching/ learning environments that honor, promote, and celebrate the differences among us. I used the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob from John’s Gospel to gain insight into how even in Jesus’ life he encountered people of different backgrounds and was challenged to engage with the Samaritan woman in a way that enhanced his self-understanding and broke down traditional boundaries between different communities – such as Jews and Samaritans. The very purpose of intercultural teaching/learning is to create communities that foster respect for difference and take action on social justice issues – values that the Global Network of RSHM Schools has always fostered.
In Marymount School in Medellin, I spoke with 550 students about the RSHM community’s identity and educational mission as well as encouraged the development of each student’s unique gifts while responding to their unique needs as Father Gailhac had always insisted that the sisters do. Later I met with faculty and staff to share Father Gailhac’s approach to educational ministry.
Marymount Barranquilla School is celebrating its 70th anniversary of “educating leaders who make their mark.” As part of their celebration, they hosted an educational forum, “Differences Unite Us,” which was open to students, faculty, parents, and educators throughout the region around Barranquilla. As a Roman Catholic theologian with a great interest in the relationship between the Divine and human persons as well as with sustained work on culture and cultural diversity, I presented evidence from the Scriptures that God delighted in creating the cosmos and delighted in the vast diversity that marks our Earth community and the Cosmos in general. In so many situations where diversity is the cause for division, I tried to provide the foundation for celebrating our common humanity as well as celebrating the cultural diversity that human communities have shaped as they interact with the diverse environments that make up our Earth. The call to Christian discipleship is a call to celebrate unity in difference as well as to labor toward achieving that goal. “Differences Unite Us” is given to us as a task.
Finally, I met with 25 religion teachers and counselors from the Marymount schools in Colombia and Mexico and shared with them new insights into shaping ethical decision-making among students. According to ethicist Father James Keenan, the preconditions for making ethical decisions are the development of vulnerability in its positive aspect and the development of responsiveness to the needs of the other as persons worthy of our time, effort, and concern as demonstrated by the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is these preconditions that arouse us to act on behalf of the other in need.
It was a privilege to work with so many dedicated lay educators who are committed to the RSHM educational values and who cherish the RSHM heritage and the many sisters who founded and staffed these schools. As the number of sisters in these ministries has declined or even ceased, it is clear that through the Global Network of RSHM Schools, our heritage is in very good hands in the many laity who now administer, staff, and support schools founded by the RSHM.