Monday, February 28, 2011
Pat Weaver, our director of Admissions and Development, and were in England this week, visiting St. Edmund's, the school with which we participate in the Loughlin Exchange program. It's a magnificent, old English school which began originally in Douays, France in 1563 when it was illegal to practice the Catholic faith in England. The English hierarchy, fearing that Catholicism would forever vanish in England if they did not continue to train priests, set up a monastery called "English College"in Douai, with the hope these new priests would re-evangelize England once the anti-Catholic bans were lifted. Long before those bans relaxed, however, these priests began filtering back into England to say Mass and minister to Catholics there, at great risk to their lives, since it was regarded as treason. Over 133 priests and lay faculty from English College were martyred during the span of 1563-1680, and 21 of those have been canonized saints. When the French revolution occured in 1793 and the Catholic bans in England were finally relaxed, they moved the school back to England, where it was renamed "St. Edmund's College" and has been there ever since. A school publication says quite credibly that St. Edmund's might be the institution most responsible for the fact that Catholicism did not extinguish in England altogether, something for which the school is rightfully proud.
JPII and St. Edmund's have been in an exchange school relationship since 2005, when my predecessor, Hans Broekman, began the program to honor the headmaster of St. Edmund's, Mark Loughlin, who was tragically killed in an auto accident in 2004. Since that time we've had 6 exchange visits, with happy results on both sides of "the pond" as they say here in England. It's been a fabulous thing for the students and both of our schools.
Bouyed by the success of the Loughlin program, we are now introducing a German exchange option, with a similar three week exchange with students from St. Mauritz Catholic School in Muenster, Germany. Pat and I met with the administrative team of that school on Wednesday and Thursday and all the parents and students who are coming over this spring around the Easter time (see picture, above). They're excited about the exchange, just as we are. One thing that truly stood out when we talked to these students and parents: their ability to speak English is generally very good. Communication, we do not believe, will be a problem.
These efforts are part of our strategic plan, Vision 2016 (read about it here), in which we make it a priority to expand our international travel program. We are convinced, I am convinced, that visiting foreign countries or (even better) living with families in these countries is a powerful way to broaden our students' perspectives and appreciate the distinctiveness of our own culture.