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France Province: Guardianship and networking

F eventThursday, 29 February 2024

 "To be under trusteeship" and "to act in a network" could almost be antinomic in common language. In the words of Catholic teaching, these two actions are combined and move together. With the Religious of the Assumption, we are a congregational trusteeship. 

The Catholic school receives its mission from the Church, which is at the origin of the foundation of Sainte Marie-Eugénie. At the same time, we form a network of schools, spread over the whole of France, from Bondy to Montpellier from North to South, from Bordeaux to Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc from West to East. Let's take the time to decipher the words and then understand the dynamics of the structures in place.

It's true that the word "tutelage" is not very attractive, especially if we summarise it as the means of control available for monitoring. Even less so that of "network", if we think of the clandestine spy organisations that occupy so many screens of the 7th Art!

Let us then turn to the Statute of Catholic Education of 2013 which gives some more

encouraging elements of understanding. "Trusteeship is at the service of the growth of persons and establishments, which it calls to creative freedom in fidelity to the mission received." (art. 181) "It encourages the vitality of the educational community by paying attention to the relational climate of the establishment, to its capacity for pedagogical, educational and pastoral innovation, and to the participation of all in the implementation of the educational project. (art. 182) "The guardianship ensures that the educational projects are explicitly founded on the Gospel and lived according to its spirit; it ensures that the educational mission of the educational establishment is carried out with pedagogical and scientific excellence, in the search for dialogue between faith, reason and culture, and that the attitudes and relationships of the people in the educational community are inspired by the Gospel ethic. (art. 183) "In accompanying the growth and development of Catholic schools, the trusteeship ensures that they respond to the educational expectations of society, in a given social and cultural territory." (art. 184) "The trusteeship also contributes to the participation of each Catholic school in a common work which goes beyond it and which links it to the establishments of the networks to which it belongs." (art. 185)

We are reassured! The trusteeship guarantees the Catholic school, while the network is its implementation. The trusteeship is a guarantor, in the sense that it takes care of, it watches over (not over-watches) people, the project, relationships, quality, etc. The means to achieve this is the network, its strength, its trust, its unity. The network makes it possible to move from the "I" to the "we", from a school to a group of schools, which form a unity thanks to the project that brings them together. The network makes the project legible, visible and credible. For the Religious of the Assumption, this is the Apostolic and Educational Project (PAEA) which is broken down into 10 points (www.assomption-france.org).

Thus, the tutelage exists prior to the school establishment. One can be "under" tutelage, "against" tutelage, "with" tutelage, it does not matter, it imposes its guarantee. Nevertheless, if the tutelage exists, the network does not impose itself, it is constructed. The network has no antecedent, it makes sense and enables the project. For example, it was in 1990 that Sister Thérèse-Agnès and Robert Brun had the intuition of the network: "To realize that together, lay people and religious, embarked on the Assumption, spread out over the French territory, we are a sign, a force and a formidable hope. To bear witness, through our association and our partnership, placed at the service of the education of young people, to a new way of being Church. This is in a way the laying of the foundation stone.

Today, the Assumption France network consists of 14 schools and approximately 16,000 young people from kindergarten to post-baccalaureate level. The trusteeship service consists of a delegate and three people who together cover the competencies of pastoral care, management and formation. As written in the PAEA, it is always advisable to "give priority to the community dimension in all educational actions: work as a team, be attentive to what each person can contribute, learn from others. It is together that we accompany the establishments, that we can take care of the heads of the establishments, of their teams, and that we work to actualise the charism given by Saint Marie-Eugénie. A guardianship and its implementation in a network is like a respect, a vigilance, a particular attention, offered to each of our establishments, so that they are constantly on mission.

To this end, there are several bodies that help the trustees on a daily basis. In addition to the meetings of the heads of establishments or the seminars, which bring together the directors of the 1st and 2nd levels and enable the implementation of our 2019-2025 network project, there is also the Association Immobilière Assomption (AIA). It brings together all the properties of the establishments, allowing important investments and solidarity of the network. It is a place of expertise and essential logistical support, especially when it comes to implementing the Ad'AP (Agenda d'Accessibilité Programmée) or new constructions. In another area, we can count on the Association Assomption France - Animation et Formation. This is the original expression of how "the Assumption intends to share the spirit of its Apostolic and Educational Project with the people who work and exercise responsibilities in the establishments. The means will be exchanges, meetings, formation and any action tending to make visible and understandable the reality of this project at the service of young people, of Catholic education and of the Church", as the preamble to the Statutes states. Thus, it brings together all the members of our educational communities, staff, teachers, head teachers, presidents of management associations, parents and alumni. It is about promoting the values of the Gospel, faith and love of truth, which inspired Saint Marie-Eugénie's vision of man, society and the world. It is also a way of living out the lay-religious partnership at the Assumption, by leading animation actions for the whole network, adults and young people. Last but not least, the association hosts the Assumption training centre. Now Qualiopi certified, it develops more than fifty training courses per year for teachers, staff, parents and administrators; it is open to all and to other educational networks. In addition, it produces and disseminates publications through its thematic research groups.

In keeping with the founding intuition, the creation of the Assumption training centre followed that of the network of schools by a few years. Training is not superfluous! It is even essential to the life of the network and contributes to its unity. In fact, it allows the actors of the network to meet, share experiences and give each other examples. We all agree that training allows the charism to be transmitted and brought to life, while providing tools. In the long term, it is an instrument of transformation of people, of creation and progress.

As Sister Martine Tapsoba, a Religious of the Assumption, wrote at the opening of the 2018 International Education Meeting in Manila: "The task of education is so important and demanding that it implies constant renewal, so that the fire that burns within us does not weaken or die out. Let us therefore be strengthened by the marvels we have witnessed, and even more by the convictions and intuitions that have been born or confirmed by the work and sharing among us. We will always need to cultivate the patience of the sower, the insight of the artists, the creativity of the poets, the precision of the technicians, the freshness of the beginners... in order to preserve the search for the best for all. To be there, alongside, witnesses to the small beginnings, humble and daring, that nourish hope and love in our mission of education, in a commitment that takes us body, heart and soul, through the daily... this is indeed what "Being under guardianship" and "Acting in a network" are all about.


Anthony Odin

With Sister Anne-Flore Chocarne, Sabine Claudio and Philippe Gimanzane