Carlos Esteban: "The Church's educational work deserves to be shared with society."

Carlos Esteban Garcés is a professor of Pedagogy of Religion at Centro Universitario La Salle and at the Pontifical Institute of St. Pius X. In this interview, he talks about the congress "The Church in Education", which will culminate on February 24, 2024.

Loreto Rios-December 29, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes

Carlos Esteban Garcés is a professor of Religious Pedagogy at the Centro Universitario La Salle and at the Pontifical Institute of St. Pius X, as well as in charge of teacher training in the Archdiocese of Madrid. He directs the Observatory of Religion in the School. He has published several books and numerous articles on the presence of religion in the educational system, and this year he has published his latest work: "La ERE en la LOMLOE", a work of four books on the new curriculum of Religion and the keys of its didactic programming.

In addition, it collaborates with the Episcopal Commission for Education in the organization of the congress "The Church in Education".The initiative, an initiative of the Spanish Episcopal Conference that will culminate on February 24, 2024, about which he talks to us in this interview.

Could you explain the proposal of the education congress that the Church will hold in 2024?

The congress "The Church in Education". is an initiative of the Spanish Episcopal Conference approved at its 2023 Plenary Assembly. The essential objectives of the congress are fourfold: firstly, to bring together all the actors, persons and institutions involved in Catholic education in its various fields in order to strengthen communion and the journey together; secondly, to assess the social and cultural impact of the various educational projects of the Church and its service to the common good; thirdly, the congress aims to recognize the challenges that the present moment poses to Catholic education; finally, it wants to celebrate the ecclesial presence and commitment in education by renewing it from the permanent novelty of the Gospel.

Ehe congress seems to have started before that date of February 2024.

Thus, the congress has been planned as an itinerary of participation that began in October 2023 and continues from then until February, culminating in the final session on February 24.

In its first phase, nine experience panels were held, one for each area in which the Church is present in its educational mission. In each of these panels, good practices from each of these scenarios were shared. Seventy-eight experiences were shared in the panels, the videos of which can be seen on the congress website; the texts of all the experiences presented can also be read. In addition, we are in a second phase of open participation in which we can all participate, both at a personal and institutional level, presenting other experiences and educational projects, also sharing the reflection through the questionnaires that are proposed in each of the areas. On the website there are tabs where you can share your experience and reflection.

With all the contributions of the participation process, we are preparing the celebration of the final session of the congress, on Saturday, February 24, 2024, in Madrid, where we will experience a meeting in which we can achieve the objectives of the congress to convene, walk together, evaluate the work done, and renew our ecclesial mission in education.

What are the most relevant conclusions of the panels and how is participation going so far?

The sessions held met the objectives of facilitating the exchange of experiences, the creation of collaborative networks among the participants and making visible the presence of the Church in many social and cultural spheres that usually go unnoticed.

I think that the presence of the Church in schools and universities, or through Religion teachers, is better known; but there are other presences that are not so well known in society, even in our ecclesial environments. I can give you some examples of what is hardly known and that the panels have highlighted: the panel held in Valencia made visible, in addition to the projects presented, that there are almost 400 special education centers of the Church that serve more than 11,000 students with various disabilities. Another panel, held in Barcelona, showed how the Church is also present in the field of non-formal education, among other projects, with its network of second-chance schools, which we learned about from La Salle. Some experiences were also presented that represented an enormous number of free time projects that from parishes, movements and schools accompany the free time of thousands of children and young people. And let me give another last example: transformative education and inclusion, the promotion of justice is present in many other projects, among them the more than 370 centers of the Church that take care of minors whose guardianship is not possible in their families of origin. These minors number nearly 50,000

What can the congress contribute to society?

I believe that the enormous educational work of the Church, in the many different areas in which it is carried out, deserves to be shared with the whole of society. The congress could contribute to making visible this presence, which is carried out precisely as a contribution to the common good. In fact, the economic dimension of this presence belongs to the so-called third sector, and its social contribution is evident, because all its projects are at the service of human promotion and inclusion. The congress should contribute to advancing the cultural perception that education is a public good, in which the presence of the State is essential, but that it does not have to monopolize all its management; the conclusions of the congress can better value the also essential contribution of civil society; and cooperation among the actors should take into account the principle of subsidiarity.

To conclude, what are why do you recommend attending the congress?

I have had the privilege of attending in person the celebration of all the best practices panels in October and it has been very edifying. Meeting the protagonists of the experiences that are shared and experiencing the synergies that are generated is a richness that is immediately transformed into renewed motivation and commitment to continue working. I have no doubt that participating in the congress will be a very edifying experience for everyone and that it will bear fruit on a personal and institutional level. I am convinced that it will generate networking among people and projects, renew our passion for education and humanization. I believe that the Church will be strengthened in the exercise of its educational mission, we will all be more co-responsible for it, and we will confirm our faith in it.

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