"Do not be afraid to take risks"

The Holy Father Pope Francis was the key guest during the overnight announcement of an agreement between ACU and Fundación Scholas Occurrentes (Scholas) that will enable universal teachings of encounter to enrich education programs and promote interdisciplinary research and practice.

The partnership agreement and launch of Scholas in Oceania was part of the global event ‘A well to continue being born – Scholas and creativity’, a celebration of the creative power of young people, on Thursday 20 May. The partnership connects ACU to the global Scholas network established in Argentina by Fr Jorge Bergoglio before he became Pope Francis. With this new partnership, the network now spans all six continents.

A face-to-face and virtual event, with the Pope visiting the new Scholas headquarters in Rome, the occasion was used to announce the opening of other chapters in addition to Australia, such as Washington, in the United States, Valencia, in Spain, and the beginning of educational experiences in the El Impenetrable region, in the province of Chaco, Argentina. The Australian Ambassador to the Holy See Chiara Porro was present at the Vatican.

From Rome, the Holy Father addressed a few words of gratitude to all the participants: “Thank you to all who were close to this meeting, thank you for taking the risk. Scholas is not understood without this attitude of taking risks, of always going further, because only by risking can one experience gratuity and reach that ‘third level’ of the University of Meaning, which is the ‘celebration’. Thank you for the courage, the bravery, the path traveled. Do not be afraid, just fear being fossilised,” he joked, thanking the students once again “for cheering up beyond the limits”.

Attending in Australia were ACU Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Zlatko Skrbis, ACU Executive Dean of Theology and Philosophy Professor Dermot Nestor, Jacqui Rémond, Laudato Si animator within the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy who has been instrumental in establishing the connection with Scholas, and four students.

During the ceremony, ACU alumna Ms Theresa Ardler offered a traditional Welcome to Country to Pope Francis and Scholas while ACU students Deanna Uremovic, Lachlan Sibir and Ayman Hill presented earth sourced from each of ACU’s eight Australian campuses. The gesture paid homage to the “well of continuous birth”, which creates a space for seeds to grow. This is a tradition that Fr Jorge Bergoglio established for Scholas in 2001 to signify emergence from a difficult social environment, and to signal the prospects for renewed courage and hope. Ms Clare Stevenson, a Wiradjuri woman and Year 11 student boarding at Loreto Normanhurst, offered her hopes for the future to the Holy Father.

Professor Skrbis said the announcement of the partnership during Laudato Si’ Week and as Catholic organisations gave renewed focus to their commitment to care for our common home was a sign of the Holy Spirit at work amongst us and on our behalf.

“We must never lose sight of our role to safeguard creation and pass it on to future generations. Through this agreement ACU plans to offer experiences and education for academics and practitioners to share knowledge and wisdom about our relationship with God’s ongoing work of creation – in our context this includes ‘salt-water country’ that connects us in our region of Oceania. We hope to achieve and enhance this through understanding the traditional ways people have cared for Oceania and how integral ecological research and practice can create pathways for greater protection of our island homes throughout the region.

“Joining with Scholas enables education and research pathways at ACU that are a direct response to Pope Francis’ call for ‘Universities of Meaning’ that respond to the health, social, cultural and ecological crises of today.”

The partnership between ACU and Scholas commits to foster education and promotes collaboration amongst the university’s students on issues related to citizen awareness and politics, value cooperation and solidarity.

The collaboration will include training and advice, research, technology transfers, consulting, programming, technical assistance projects, and internships. It will focus on improving education and achieving educational inclusion for underprivileged sectors through art, sports and technology.

Dermot Nestor Ayman Hill Theresa Ardler Clare Stevenons Deanna Uremovic Jacqui Remond Lachlan Sibir
Pictured: Dermot Nestor, Ayman Hill, Theresa Ardler, Clare Stevenson, Deanna Uremovic, Jacqui Remond and Lachlan Sibir.


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