In early September, Pope Francis gave a speech to members of the Italian Association of Fathers in the fifth-year-old of his foundation. In his words, the Supreme Pontiff stressed the need for family and school to act as an educational community and both to rely on mutual help for the growth of children and students.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning:
I am pleased to welcome all of you, representatives of age, the Association of Italian Parents, which this year celebrates its 50th. Anniversary. A good result! It is a precious opportunity to confirm the motivations of your commitment to family and education: a commitment in accordance with the principles of Christian ethics, so that the family is an increasingly recognized subject and protagonist in social life.
Many of his energies are dedicated to supporting and sustaining parents in their educational task, especially in reference to the school, which has always been the family’s primary ally in the education of children. What they do in this field is really meritorious. Indeed, when we talk about an educational alliance between the school and the family today, it is done above all to denounce its decline: the educational pact is in decline. The family no longer appreciates, as it has long ago, the work of teachers – often paid poorly – while they feel the presence of parents in schools as an annoying meddling, and end up leaving them out or considering them adversaries.
To change this situation, it is necessary for someone to take the first step, overcoming each other’s fear and reaching out generously. That is why I invite you to always cultivate and nurture trust in school and teachers: without them you run the risk of being left alone in your educational activity and being less and less able to face the new educational challenges that come from contemporary culture, society, the media, new technologies. Teachers are engaged, day after day, like you, in your children’s educational service. If it is fair to complain about the possible limits of their action, it is our duty to consider them as the most precious allies in the educational enterprise they, together, perform. Let me tell you an anecdote. I was ten years old, and I said something ugly to the teacher. The teacher called my mother. The next day my mother came, and the teacher went to receive her; they spoke, and then my mother called me and in front of the teacher she snarled at me and said, “Apologize to the teacher.” I did. “Kiss the teacher, ” my mother told me. And I did, and then I went back to class, happy, and the story’s over. But no, it wasn’t over… The second chapter was when I came home… This is called “collaboration” in a child’s education: between family and teachers.
Their responsible and available presence, a sign of love not only for their children but also for that good of all that is school, will help to overcome many divisions and misunderstandings in this area, and will make recognition of the main role of families in the education and instruction of children and young people. In fact, if you, the parents, need the teachers, the school needs you too, and you cannot achieve your goals without establishing a constructive dialogue with those who have the primary responsibility for the growth of your students. As the Exhortation Amoris laetitia points out: “The school does not replace the parents, but complements them. This is a basic principle: ‘Any other collaborator in the educational process must act on behalf of the parents, with their consensus and, to some extent, even on their request'” (n. 84).
Their associative experience has certainly taught them to rely on mutual help. Let us remember the wise African proverb: “To educate a child you need a village.” Therefore, in school education, there should never be a lack of collaboration between the various components of the educational community. Without frequent communication and without mutual trust, the community is not built and without a community it is not possible to educate.
Contributing to eliminating the educational loneliness of families is also the task of the Church, which invited them to always feel at their side in the mission of educating their children and making the whole society a place tailored to the family, so that each person may be welcomed, accompanied, oriented towards true values and able to give his best for common growth. They therefore have a double strength: that which comes from being an association, that is, people who unite not against someone but for the good of all, and the strength they receive from their bond with the Christian community, where they find inspiration, trust, support.
Dear parents, children are the most precious gift you have ever received. Take care of it with tenacity and generosity, leaving them the freedom to grow and mature as people who, in turn, will one day be able to open themselves to the gift of life. The attention with which, as an association, they ensure the life-threatening dangers of the little ones does not prevent them from looking confidently at the world, knowing how to choose and indicate to their children the best opportunities for human, civil and Christian growth. Teach your children ethical discernment: this is good, this is not so good, and this is bad; who know how to distinguish. But this is learned at home and learned at school: together, both.
I thank you for this meeting and warmly bless you, your families and the whole association. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer. And you too, please don’t forget to pray for me. Thank you.