ADVENT REFLECTIONS: THE TREASURES OF VATICAN II
“All [people] of whatever race, condition or age, in virtue of their dignity as human persons, have an inalienable right to education. This education should be suitable to the particular destiny of the individuals, adapted to their ability, sex and national cultural traditions, and should be conducive to fraternal relations in order to promote true unity and peace throughout the world. True education is directed towards the formation of the human person in view of [one's] final end and the good of that society to which [one] belongs and in the duties of which [one] will, as an adult, have to share.”
(Declaration on Christian Education)
By Dr. Thomas J. Gamble
This wonderful quote, truly a treasure of Vatican II, could easily have come from Catherine McAuley herself. From the very beginning Catherine insisted that the Sisters would provide education to those who would otherwise have remained uneducated. Catherine fully understood the essential role of education, that through educating one, we respect their human dignity and through education their intrinsic dignity is allowed to more fully flourish. She understood that the essential nature of the human person calls them to learning and that the institutions of a just society have an obligation to answer that call in the language of the caller.
Catherine also understood that those on the margins of society needed both a practical and a liberal education. That education is a means to making a living, but also a means to deepen one’s understanding of oneself, one’s world and one’s faith. This Mercy approach to education – as a nuanced mélange of the practical with the aesthetic and the intellectual in the context of faith – is what we seek to create at Mercyhurst. It is good and appropriate in this season of hopeful anticipation that this quote from Vatican II calls us back to how what we do here every day is a reflection of Catherine’s vision from the 19th century as well as a faithful response to the 20th century call of Vatican II.
Thomas J. Gamble, Ph.D., became the 12th president of Mercyhurst College on March 1, 2006. He was previously vice president for academic affairs and a tenured associate professor of criminal justice and psychology.