Dean Represents Gonzaga at World Congress

September 06, 2017
Last November, Dean Alfonso was honored to be invited to the World Congress “Educating Today and Tomorrow: A renewing passion,” held in Rome. He and delegates from 10 Jesuit universities in the United States, in collaboration with bishops, delegates from other universities, and religious congregations serving over 250,000 Catholic schools throughout the world, met to examine the fundamental issues of education. The central theme was the future of Catholic schools related to identity, mission, communities and challenges for the future.

Dr. Alfonso said, “The days at the conference were exhilarating, exciting and rejuvenating. Listening to dozens of speakers, conversing with colleagues, and spending time with hundreds of people from around the world helped me regain perspective on the importance of Catholic education. Our session with Pope Francis was without a doubt the highlight. I will never forget him running down the center aisle touching the faithful and always stopping to kiss and embrace a child he spotted with eagle eyes. Pope Francis’s presence and his thoughtful, deliberate, and inspiring words were wonderful to hear, and quite an emotional transformation for me.”

The conversations in Rome paralleled the same conversations that take place at Gonzaga, the School of Education (SOE), and the Catholic Diocese of Spokane. There are approximately 1,861 Catholic colleges and universities worldwide, and approximately 12% of the world’s Catholic colleges are in the United States. The Dean believes that we need to be intentional in supporting our universities’ future teachers and providing a path for them to want to teach in Catholic schools.

The World Congress and the planned Center for Catholic Education (CCE) are consonant with the SOE’s and University’s mission of preparing men and women for others. Approximately two years ago, we created a work group to deliberate how we can serve our schools. This group that included Bishop Thomas Daly, leaders from the community of Catholic organizations, the Diocese, Spokane business leaders, SOE and the School of Business Administration (SBA), and a private donor were instrumental in creating a mission statement, vision statement and pillars for the CCE. The SOE, also the CCE, and most recently, the SBA have been providing a variety of services to principals, teachers and students in our Catholic schools for the past three years.

The World Congress was a testament to the responsibility for all of us to understand that the future of Catholic schools lies within ourselves. The work that is going forward at our university is intentional and an affirmation of this responsibility. Dr. Alfonso said. “The mission of the CCE is to renew and strengthen our K-12 Catholic schools so they may flourish through a community that nurtures the heart, mind and soul of our children. This community acts collectively through God’s love and the Church’s teachings.” The vision of the CCE is to be an international leader in transforming lives through faith formation and intellectual inquiry within our Catholic tradition.” When we reach the goal of establishing this Center, we will have accomplished a great feat.

There are four great challenges that should be confronted today in Catholic universities: identity, integral education, formation and faith, and peripheries. So, Jorge Humberto Peláez, S.J., rector of the Pontifical University of Javeriana of Colombia, synthesized the hundreds of responses to questions sent to the Congregation for Catholic Education from all over the world.