Rome (Italy). On 28 September 2022, during the International Congress “Contribution of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians to Education (1872-2022). Paths, Challenges, and Perspectives”, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Institute’s foundation, the exploratory research “To Educate. It is not given, but conquered”, led by an international team of 24 scholars belonging to various educational and formative institutions of the FMA Institute who joined the initiative, on the proposal of some Professors and Researchers of the Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences “Auxilium”.

The research was presented by: Sr. Martha Séïde, Sr. Enrica Ottone, Sr. Lucy Muthoni Nderi, Sr. Magna Martínez Jiménez of the «Auxilium» Faculty of Rome, and Sr. Ana Julia Suriel of the Superior Institute of Formación Teacher Salomé Ureña of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. An integral part of the group was also Dr. Francesca Fratarcangeli, Past Pupil of the «Auxilium» Faculty.

The survey involved about 500 FMA and lay people from 72 countries around the world who participated as partners and not just as an object of study. Through the online focus group tool, processes of common reflection on the Salesian education system were activated, with the aim of provoking a relapse at the level of formation as well as data collection. The research aimed to explore how, between the FMA and the lay collaborators, some nuclei of the Preventive System are understood and applied, that is some unique modalities of the Salesian educational and formative model, lived today in the Educating Communities that operate in educational and formative contexts with adolescents and young people.

In the months of January-March 2022, 76 focus groups in ten languages were therefore created in the five continents. The answers, translated and analyzed in three languages, are more than 3,182, for a total of 539 thousand words, 120 hours of transcribed recording.

The integral vision of the person and the purpose of education, the ‘preventive’ approach to educating, the choice for the educating community, and networking are the main areas explored.

From the research emerged the vivacity and variety of the Salesian educational model, with the awareness of the urgency of adopting an increasingly competent action in educating. While it is true that the educational charism is ‘given/received’, it is nevertheless to be ‘re-conquered’ every day, that is, to be re-sought and re-found together.

A relevant aspect is the experience that the participants had of the focus groups. In particular, they valued the fact that in the group they “strengthened” each other in reciprocal listening. In the answers, expressions were often found such as: “it made me think”, “it made me reflect”, also “it made me understand”, “listening brought to mind …”, “it made me understand better”, but also “it gave me strength”. Some used the term community to refer to the group that was created in the two online meetings.

Certainly, the centrality of loving kindness emerged, of the educational relationship between the educator and the young people, and also of presence, with the double dimension of presence that prevents and promotes, that is there to educate.

There is no shortage of challenges, in particular one, identified with the expression “competence in educating”, is related to talking little about certain aspects such as educational intentionality or planning.

Another interesting element is the proximity to children, in everyday life, in challenges, even contemporary ones. Although an explicit question was not asked about “what have you done to face the global challenge of the pandemic”, numerous responses tell how the participants lived this experience, which questioned all the educators, to which each context responded with creativity, with commitment, with tenacity, educating themselves and educating.

Nonetheless, a semantic aspect was found, as Sr. Grazia Loparco specified in the introductory talk to the Congress. “In the challenge of a transversal reading that implies the semantic mediation of languages, even the expressions that we usually use in Salesian jargon, for example assistance, loving-kindness, family spirit, must be recoded in meaning and content, and relocated in the languages mediated by communication, social networks, cultural affiliations, acting as evangelical leaven. In the complexity, it is a question of identifying significant educational paths, taking into account the different contexts”.

The speakers specified that the research has not ended. The analysis and interpretation of the data has just begun, but challenges each educator and the FMA Institute to increase the quality of the formative and planning dimensions.

Congress materials

Photos: Flickr FMA


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