SHU Hosts 2nd Annual Communion Breakfast for Educators
|Dr. Stiltner presented his
talk during the CAPP
Educators from throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport, area public schools and members of the Sacred Heart University community gathered in prayer and for a cross-pollination of ideas on Sunday, March 7, for the second annual Communion breakfast.
The event began with Mass at Sacred Heart’s new Chapel of the Holy Spirit celebrated by the the Most Rev. William Edward Lori, S.T.D., of Bridgeport followed by breakfast and a lecture by Brian Stiltner, Ph.D., associate professor of religious studies at Sacred Heart and director of the Center for Catholic Thought, Ethics, and Culture.
“We owe a great debt of gratitude to our educators,” said Bishop Lori. “They do so much for the church and for the common good, and to have an event to highlight their calling and service seems to be a very good idea.”
A noted religious scholar, Dr. Stiltner is the author of two books, Religion and the Common Good (1999) and Faith and Force: A Christian Debate about War (2007).
The special event was sponsored by Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP) of Fairfield County along with Sacred Heart University’s Isabelle Farrington School of Education. CAPP is a lay-led, pontifical organization founded by Pope John Paul II as a vehicle for lay education and evangelization of the social doctrine of the Church as contained in the Holy See’s 1991 encyclical, Centesimus Annus.
The Diocese of Bridgeport is one of three pioneering dioceses in the country to establish a chapter.
The Isabelle Farrington School of Education is the largest independent educator of teachers and administrators in the state, and it annually recommends about 300 students for certification. A part of the University’s College of Education and Health Professions, the school sponsors a vigorous internship program for students who are completing their initial certification after they have earned their bachelor’s degree; it places more than 200 interns in schools each year.
Dr. Stiltner began his lecture titled “Catholic Schools, Public Schools, and the Common Good” by drawing from author Charles London’s book, One Day the Soldiers Came: Voices of Children in War. He reflected on a little boy named Justin from war-torn Africa, a former child soldier and refugee who is given the dignity of education in which he is taught basic human rights and learns about a life he could live beyond the calamities he had experienced.
“This captures in a dramatic way how important education is and how important it is for human dignity and development of individuals and for the common good of society,” said Dr. Stiltner.
According to Dr. Stiltner, “Education throughout the lifespan is a major resource that citizens need if our society is to flourish.” All schools -- public, private and parochial engender a vital service to the common good, “due in no small part to the commitment of their teachers and staff.”
Achieving the common good, Dr. Stiltner asserts, is no easy feat. “The American Catholic Bishops have described the common good as ‘an old idea with new urgency.’ There are few needs more urgent than improving the quality of education. Educators who take to heart the message of the Catholic social teaching have much to offer to this important task,” said Dr. Stiltner.
What is the common good in Catholic teaching? Dr. Stiltner said it stems from ancient Greek philosophy and then gained ground in Christianity, first through Aristotle’s writings and then through Thomas Aquinas who “claimed ‘a government will be just and fitting to free persons if the ruler orders it to the common good of the people.'"
Both public schools and Catholic schools contribute to the common good. According to Dr. Stiltner, both institutions steadfastly believe in the notion that every child deserves an education and pursue society’s values such as fostering citizenship, freedom, individuality, creativity, tolerance, resolving conflicts peacefully and understanding and relating across differences.
These pursuits are performed despite challenges they face from language barriers with ESL students to students from poor households and children who have learning disabilities. Dr. Stiltner said that while Catholic schools and public schools may approach things differently, both institutions are needed.
“Both contribute to the common good and have ways that they can do so better,” he said. He quoted noted Catholic educator Robert Muccigrosso, who said that Catholic schools and public schools shouldn't be aligned as competitors but rather, they should learn from one another.
“Ultimately, we need to remember that education matters to all of us -- that is the common good,” said Dr. Stiltner. “So whether we send our children to Catholic schools or don’t have children, it matters to the health of our society and we need to be ready to contribute.”
Ann Clark, Ph.D., superintendent of the Fairfield Public Schools who was among the attendees, said that Dr. Stiltner’s lecture on the common good was timely. “With so many people and nations needing help," she said, "it is time to think about making a stronger and renewed commitment to the common good.”