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To educate is a work of infinite love



Our educational commitment in Cuba

11/01/2013: Cuba

Cuba is living times of cautious opening in certain fields : economic (recent appearance of private work), social (loosening of the immigration laws), political (some articles here and there criticizing inefficient institutions), and also educational and cultural. It is hoped this trend goes on growing. In his last intervention before the Congress, the president Raul Castro declare: « To guarantee success in implementing the guidelines (new arrangements of an economic type with repercussions in other areas), it is absolutely necessary to overcome the colossal psychological barrier caused by a mentality rooted in the habits and concepts of the past » (14/12/2012).

We, Marist Brothers, with the Cuban Church, want to offer our contribution, in this difficult time for the country, for the construction of a society with higher levels of development and for the integral formation of teachers, children and young people. Here are a few of the fields where we freely offer our collaboration, devoting not a little energy and time.

Accompaniment of Cuban teachers, Catholic and non Catholic, in order to support their human and professional growth.

We do this through the « Summer schools » which operate in all the dioceses except Ciego de Avila (for the duration of a week), and through WORKSHOPS for teachers, touching on specific themes such as : human development, models for transmission of values, the teacher’s point of view in the educational process, the teacher’s identity, to educate with emotional understanding, how to make education personal, etc. (these are weekend workshops, from Friday evening to Sunday midday).

Accompaniment of Catholic teachers to help them establish the faith-life, faith-culture dialogue
We try to attain this goal through the animation of small groups of teachers functioning at parish level and through Days of Reflection on the « Educational Project of the Catholic Church in Cuba ». This is an open and bold document, drawn up thanks to the participation of a good number of Catholic educators and recently published with the support of the Episcopal Conference (2012). It offers, among other things, the Profile of the Catholic teacher, and presents paths of human, professional and Christian growth ; it also proposes a series of challenges to take up in the daily task : to educate to promote the dignity of the person, learn to think, encourage social development in solidarity, develop the culture of gratuity and participation, remember national, Latin-American and international history, educate in the meaning of the family, educate in being open to transcendance while respecting the secularity of the State.

Collaboration with centres of humanistic and theological formation at the higher level for laity
These centres are interesting and very promising platforms for dialogue and setting the self new targets, which not only allow those who attend to strengthen their formation in certain domains : anthropology, philosophy, psychology, social sciences, theology, but also help them to grow in tolerance and legitimate pluralism. Our Brothers in Havana collaborate with the Centre « Félix Varela », animated by the archdiocese of Havana ; those of Cienfuegos do so with the Basic Course put in place by the diocese’s Secretariat of Education in Faith.

Projects of outside school education
A fourth space open to Congregations with an educational charism and to Caritas is that of projects of education outside school which foster art, sport, the teaching of English, computers, manual trades, the accompaniment of the handicapped, human development groups, school support. These groups have multiplied all over the island. This is a need felt by the society to which the Church responds in a discreet but creative way, armed with the agreement of the parents.

At Cienfuegos we have a Youth Centre, while the brothers of Havana collaborate in the Centre run by the Daughters of Charity.

The fields mentioned above have surfaced gradually, some the fruit of utopia – with short steps but looking far ahead – over the last fifteen years. We Marist Brothers have decided that one of the motivational axes of our missionary engagement with this people and the Church – besides catechesis and youth ministry – will be education. May Jesus, the good shepherd who gives his life, Mary, attentive and eager educator, and Marcellin, audacious and creative formator, inspire and sustain our 'dreams' and desires.

José Martí – poet, writer, patriot and educator who knew how to fight for justice – is without doubt the central figure of Cuban history. It was he who wrote these simple verses : « With the poor of the land / I wish to share my fate / and the stream from the hill / pleases me more than the sea. »

His too is the phrase which inspires numerous Cuban educators and which I borrowed to give this reflection a title : « To educate is a work of infinite love ». Two challenges which join with the message of the Gospel and the Marist charism which we the Marist Brothers of Cuba want to welcome as stimulants and as horizons.

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