To commemorate the legacy of Saint John Baptist de La Salle, patron saint of teachers and founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, the mission officers of the Lasallian Association of Colleges and Universities (LACU) will present “Justice in the World and the Mission of Lasallian Education Today: Enacting the Common Good” on April 7, the feast day of De La Salle. This virtual symposium will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Justice in the World, the 1971 Synod of Bishops’ social teaching document, and address Circular 412, The Educational Service of the Poor and the Promotion of Justice (1980), of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
Faculty, staff, administrators and students from all Lasallian ministries, not limited to those involved in higher education, are most welcome to join what promises to be an engaging and informative online symposium.
The symposium will take place April 7, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. EDT / 6:00 p.m. CDT / 5:00 p.m. MDT / 4:00 p.m. PDT.
This event is presented by the mission officers of LACU who minister at Bethlehem University, Christ the Teacher Institute of Education, Christian Brothers University, Ethiopian Catholic University – La Salle, La Salle University, Lewis University, Manhattan College, Saint Mary’s College of California and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, in collaboration with the Office for Lasallian Education at Christian Brothers Conference.
Kevin Ahern, Ph.D., serves as an associate professor of religious studies and faculty advisor to the Just Peace organization at Manhattan College. His research focuses on the significance of Catholic institutional ministries and Christian social movements. He has authored Structures of Grace: Catholic Organizations Serving the Global Common Good and God’s Quad: Small Faith Communities on Campus and Beyond.
Carol Ann Gittens, Ph.D., serves as the dean of the Kalmanovitz School of Education at Saint Mary’s College of California. Dr. Gittens has dedicated her career to her strong commitment to social justice, inclusive excellence and transformative learning in support of education equity, collaboration, community engagement and academic excellence.
Jerry Kavouras, Ph.D., serves as the biology department chair at Lewis University. Additionally, he directs the Environmental Science program, teaching numerous courses and mentoring students in undergraduate research. Outside of Lewis University, he serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education and as a manuscript reviewer for scientific journals.
Ernest J. Miller, FSC, D.Min., serves as vice president of mission, diversity and inclusion at La Salle University. Brother Ernest co-led the Lasallian Higher Education Colloquies on Racial Justice in January 2017, 2018 and 2019. Brother Ernest was the convener of the Lasallian Convocation on the Rights of Children at the United Nations (2010).
About the Symposium
By Kevin Ahern, Ph.D.
In one of the most cited passages from Catholic social teaching, Justice in the World, the 1971 Synod of Bishops articulates a challenging mission for the Catholic Church with the claim that “action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world is a constitutive dimension” of the “Church’s mission.”1 This claim that social action for the poor is a core dimension of Catholic identity and practice has deeply shaped the Church over the past 50 years. For many religious congregations, including the Brothers of the Christian Schools (Lasallians), the promotion of justice became a critical dimension of their own understanding of mission. Circular 412 of 1980, for example, calls for a deeper integration of social justice in Lasallian schools and universities worldwide, and today many of these institutions point to social justice as a defining element of identity.
The 50th anniversary of Justice in the World offers us a chance to evaluate these commitments and their relationship to Catholic identity. Is “action for justice” really a defining feature of Lasallian educational mission and identity today, particularly in the face of racism, militarism, classism and anthropocentrism (ecological injustice)?
This presentation will explore the nature and meaning of Catholic education through the lens of the 1971 Synod document and the recent teachings of Pope Francis. After introducing the document and the debate surrounding the text, this presentation will examine the possibilities and risks for Lasallian educational institutions to take seriously the justice mission articulated in Catholic social teaching.
1Synod of Bishops, “Justicia in Mundo, Justice in the World (1971),” in Catholic Social Thought: The Documentary Heritage, ed. David J. O’Brien and Thomas A. Shannon, Expanded Edition (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010), Introduction.