During the morning session of the Synod, on October 16 th, Marek Solarczyk, the delegate of the Polish Bishops’ Conference for Vocations, spoke about the important role of religion lessons at school.
“Reflecting on the proposal that the Church addresses to young people concerning their faith and the discernment of their vocation, we must take into account the vast experience that has been going on in Poland for almost 30 years now—that is, the religion lessons at school. This is an incredibly valuable time; great work has been done by tens of thousands of teachers for so many years. Of course, it is important to convey the content that forms a person, while building his religious knowledge; yet, above all, and especially for the older students, it is an extremely important moment, when the teacher can be a life companion and share all the secrets that his students’ experience. For, these are moments of great responsibility, when young people seek the meaning of life, the love that enriches them, the value of God in their existence, and try to live their lives with Him. In this situation, the religion teacher, who not only through the information transmitted but above all through his or her life witness and by being a friend, a companion, father or mother, is extremely important in the young person’s life,” said Bishop Solarczyk, commenting on his speech.
The entire speech is published below:
I am a bishop from Poland, where religion lessons were introduced into the school curriculum 28 years ago. Currently, these classes are conducted by nearly 30,000 teachers across the country, including priests, consecrated persons, and lay people. I have been a religion teacher for 26 years and I have taught in the same high school for 25 years.
My presence at school and the religion lessons have always been and still are an opportunity to transmit religious knowledge to students, but they, above all, provide an invaluable opportunity to meet young people at a very important moment in their lives. The sequence of lessons, meetings, conversations, shared secrets of life at school, but also family and personal experiences, make the religion teacher a companion on the road of life and a guide on the path of faith. As the mother of one of my graduates said: we can offer the young the vestibule of heaven.
This is the time when young people are looking for answers to the most important questions about the meaning of life, a vision of love, readiness to accept responsibility for another human being and God’s place in their life plans. Students ask a lot of questions, but they can also criticize the answers they hear. They share the joy of success, but also need support in moments of failure and suffering. They ask for advice in simple matters, but also expect constant accompaniment on spiritual paths, through conversations and the Sacrament of Penance. All these experiences require that teachers be open and honest, but also attentive to how they are personally living the faith if they want to be responsible companions of the young and trustworthy guides to the mysteries of God. They cannot be discouraged by seeming indifference and outspoken opposition against the Church's teaching. They must be like a wise sower who, sowing the seed of God’s Word, knows how to wait for it to grow and is delighted by every harvest.
My many years of experience confirm that the time of religion lessons at school is, for many young people, the beginning of a common path that leads through successive stages of life and decisions. Sharing experiences builds trust and makes us become not only teachers of the truths of faith but above all witnesses of their personal experience. It is this attitude that often becomes an incentive for the mature decisions of our students and the acceptance of the vocation that the Lord offers them.
Every word I say today contains the secrets of the life of all my students, thanks to whom my priesthood and ministry as Bishop are constantly enriched. It is worthwhile fulfilling the mission that God entrusts to us in schools and to support students so that the stage of youth may be the time for them to discover God’s beauty and an opportunity for us to meet the Lord in the wealth of the young person’s soul.