Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic). From 11 to 13 January 2024, the city of Santo Domingo hosted more than 1,200 participants from different countries at the XXVIII Inter-American Congress of Catholic Education, organized by the Inter-American Confederation of Catholic Education (CIEC). The aim was to “generate and intensify initiatives in the Catholic School of America in order to accelerate the progress needed to achieve a sustainable future.”

The Congress was attended by a hundred participants of the Salesian Family, including 40 Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Salesians of Don Bosco, Daughters of the Divine Saviour (HDS), Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (HHSSCC),  members of other Groups, and lay people involved in the Salesian Charism in America.

Sister Ivone Goulart Lopes, collaborator of the Youth Ministry Sector of the FMA Institute, in charge of the Salesian School in America (ESA) and of the Institutions of Higher Studies (ISS-FMA), also participated.

“Educate for a sustainable future” was the theme of the Congress, in which numerous conferences were organized in order to outline the current situation of the planet and try to identify strategies to respond to the urgent call for action. Some of the topics covered were: the Sustainable Development Goals (ODS) and Education for Sustainable Development (EDS); integration of ODS into public policies; pedagogical approaches and learning methods for ODS; learning environments; teacher formation;  mobilization of children and young people;  evaluation of the learning outcomes of ODS and the quality of programs;  communication of ODS; transformative actions for sustainable development in the School; Global Educational Pact and Education for the sustainable future; the contributions of the Catholic School of America to a sustainable future.

During the opening of the event, through a video-message addressed to the participants in the Congress, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendoça, stressed the crucial importance of the ecological question in educational sector.

The Salesian Family had active participation in this event:

  • Sister Ana Julia Suriel, FMA of the Dominican Republic, St Joseph Province (ANT), Sister Laura Guisado, FMA of the Uruguayan Immaculate Conception Province (URU), and Fr. Horacio Macal, SDB of Guatemala, participated as members of the CIEC Council.
  • In the cultural moment, the girls of San José Educational Center of the FMA of Santo Domingo performed a floral dance and Cristo Rey Educational Center presented a theatrical moment of mime.
  • Sister Ana Julia Suriel, Cardinal Óscar Maradiaga, SDB of Honduras, the Auxiliary Bishop of Santiago de Chile Msgr. Alberto Lorenzelli, SDB, and Fr. Horacio Macal, SDB received the Jesus Master Prize, CIEC’s recognition for the contribution and career of 15 educators and Catholic institutions, “for the educational and evangelizing work of particular national or regional importance”.

Presiding at the inaugural Eucharist was Cardinal Oscár Rodriguez Maradiaga, SDB, who in his homily said, “History can and must be different. We’re here to build history through education. The strength of education lies in the power of the Word that informs, expresses, challenges, opens to transcendence which confers unity and meaning on existence. This is the soul of every educational process. To feel the whole School of America present in this Congress impels us to live education as an act of hope that from the present, looks to the future”.

On the 2nd day, Msgr. Alberto Lorenzelli presided who encouraged Catholic educators to persevere in compassion and teamwork.

The concluding Eucharist was presided over by the Auxiliary Bishop of Santo Domingo, Msgr. Ramón Benito Ángeles Fernández, who said these words, “Our mission  to serve the originality of every human being is possible only in love. Sharing is a wealth that is never lost, because it remains guarded in the heart. The Congress contributes to the realization of our mission: to be formed educators.” The Celebration was animated by the Colombian FMA (video).

Cardinal Maradiaga in his lecture, proposed a decalogue of “principles for sustainable education”, inspired by the magisterium of Pope Francis, and in particular Laudato Si’. He said that “sustainability does not happen automatically, but is the result of an educational process through which the human being redefines the range of relationships  with the universe, with the Earth, with nature, with society, and with oneself.”

At the conclusion of the event, Sister Laura Guisado presented 12 key conclusions, affirming in the last one, “Educating for a sustainable future will be an expensive journey, a process with going back and forth, until it becomes the most sensible path that can save us as a species and preserve the integrity and vitality of Mother Earth.”

Gratitude was also expressed to the Province of Saint Joseph (ANT) for the welcome given to  FMA and lay people from different Countries, who returned to their realities bringing with them some stimuli to act concretely in the American Schools, in response to General Chapter XXIV and following in the footsteps of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello. What is the future of Salesian education in America? What must we do to respond to the great educational needs of our continent?


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