EDUCATIONAL PROJECT OF THE MARIAMITE MARONITE ORDER
The hope in a better tomorrow calls for the organization of the present. Planning is a critical need for individuals and organizations looking for a stable and prosperous future. Organizations that operate with no specific clear objectives are doomed to failure, and as the wise saying goes: “lack of planning is planning for failure”.
The Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary has, since its establishment in 1695, worked hard to provide quality and affordable education for Maronites, Christians and Lebanese generations. This project is a step forward toward better ethical, academic, human and spiritual education.
At the beginning of a new millennium, we are globally and particularly in Lebanon going through quick changes, conflicting values, unclear transformations, new ideologies, invasion of materialism and media, broken families and communities… These modern life issues turn us away from God’s love and degrade us as humans. In such a conflicting world, the role of the Church as an educator and mother becomes more urgent. This project is a call to turn back to family values, to Christian virtues, to simple life in Christ, to God, the source of our peace, faith, happiness and love. This project aims to crystallize the mission of catholic education. It reemphasizes the words of Pope John Paul II, that “the only reason to have Catholic educational institutions is to teach catechism” Catechism means to become Christ-like in everything we do and 24 hours per day.).
This educational project is based on human values (Cf. page 9, 10, the Welcome to NDL letter of Fr. Naji Khalil), as understood in the Catholic Maronite Tradition. However, this project would remain a mere theory unless it is used to revive our schools curriculum, ceremonies and daily academic and social life.
This project discusses the following four educational key points :
I - Educational mission
II - Values
IV – Some relevant critical requirements for the success of the project
I. Educational Mission throughout the History of the Maronite Marian Order:
Ever since its foundation in 1695, our Maronite Marian Order (OMM) strove to provide an education that could secure our people a quality life, solid Christian faith, and success. To achieve this mission OMM started over 42 schools, as the following list shows (cf. Belaybil, L. 1924, pages 425, 426):
1) St. Moora in Ehden 1694.
2) St. Elijah in Besharri 1695.
3) St. John in Rishmaya.
4) Our Lady of Louaize, in Zouk Mosbeh 1707 (1682).
5) St. Anthony, Gazo D’Hayo.
6) School of Ben and Kafar Segab.
7) St. Peter and Paul in Kereim El’Teen (Bekfaya)
8) Our Lady of Tamish (Matin)
9) St Elias in Shoowaya,
10) Out Lady of Mashmooshi (South Lebanon)
17) Wadi Jazeen
18) Wadi Shahroor
22) Rasil Matin
23) Einel Zaytouni
42) End’kit and others.
Synod Mount Lebanon of Louaizé 1736
A major shifting event in Maronite education in the middle ages was the Synod of Mount Lebanon, held in 1736, in the Monastery of Our Lady of Louaizé (OLL). The Synod was orchestrated between Rome and the Maronite Marian Order, and it pushed for more Latinization in the Maronite Church. Mount Lebanon Synod reorganized the organizational structure of the Maronite Church, taking power from its patriarch and giving it to local bishops and religious institutions. It also mandated education for children and ignited an educational reform in the whole region. The Synod stated:
In the name of Jesus Christ we urge you all -the ordinaries of the dioceses, of the towns, villages and hamlets, and superiors of monasteries- to work together to encourage this undertaking (mandatory education), which will bear much fruit. The chiefs of the people must find teachers wherever possible, and take the names of all the children able to learn, and order the parents to bring their children to school even against their will. If they are orphans or if they are poor, let the church or the monastery feed them, and if it cannot, let it contribute one half of the cost and the parents the other (Cf. www.bkerke.org.lb/themaronites The Lebanese Synod, 529).
The Synod launched several Maronite schools and welcomed European educational missions in Lebanon, which brought more richness, balance and competitiveness. In the post Mount Lebanon Synod period and according to the web database of the Maronite Church published on Opuslibani.org.lb
Schools were opened one after the other, until there was one adjoining every Maronite Church (and monastery). Some, such as Ain Warka [and] Mar Abda [in Kiserwan] and Haouka [in North Mount Lebanon], flourished and gained a reputation for themselves. This education enabled Christian Lebanese to be at the forefront of Arab intellectual progress, and played a leading role in the cultural Renaissance of the Middle East (Cf. www.opuslibani.org.lb/egliseeng/002/antioch1).
The Synod of Mount Lebanon succeeded in launching a spiritual, educational and organizational renaissance in the Maronite community, and precisely in Kiserwan, which influence is undeniable on the history of education of Lebanon and the independence movements led by the graduates of these renaissance schools. Ain-Waraqa school in northwest Kiserwan, founded about the end of the 17th century in a Maronite monastery, is one among the most important schools of this renaissance, referred to as the “mother of Lebanese schools”. In 1792 it was enlarged to include elementary, secondary and undergraduate studies in literature, rhetoric, poetry, philosophy and theology, in addition to Arabic, Syriac, Latin, and Italian.
OMM educational mission
Since its establishment OMM has played a major role in Catholic education in Lebanon. “In his notes, its founder, Bishop Abdallah QARALI wrote that since the foundation of the first monastery of OMM, its monks have had the formation of the youths in the neighborhood at the core of their mission”, states Moukarzel (2002). As OMM spread out in early 18th century in south Mount Lebanon elementary schools accompanied the foundation of new monasteries. By late 1800s OMM was running over 60 elementary schools in Mount Lebanon major Maronite towns, and other five serving Maronite Diaspora. Today people continue to spontaneously call OMM members “ya Ma’almi”, that is “my teacher”.
Since 1695, social structure and life in Lebanon have changed enormously, and so have the OMM's educational institutions, adapting themselves to serve the modern needs of the Maronite population first and non Christians students second. Currently OMM owns and runs seven schools and one university with three campuses in Lebanon, serving the educational and spiritual needs of some 15,684 students. Five other schools in Cairo, Egypt, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo Uruguay, accommodate a total of some 3000 students.
These educational institutions operated by the OMM have become its main field of evangelization, wherein it throws the net for new vocations, I mean future members that could perpetuate OMM’s mission. Throughout its history, OMM has adopted as its own responsibility the mission of the Catholic Church, precisely as verbalized in Mathew 28:19, 20a, when Jesus urges his disciples to:
1) “Make disciples of all nations.
2) Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
3) Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you”.
This interest in education is explicitly expressed in the OMM Canon Code, article 193, §1, which demands that an Educational Counselor should be assigned, with the following responsibilities:
To activate the ecclesiastical doctrines in the Order’s educational institutions, and to ensure the continuous learning of their educators. He shall report every semester or annually to the Council of Assistants (CA). And at the end of each six-year period, he should present to the General Council a report of the accomplishments and projects of his office.
This statement was reinforced in the Irregular General Chapter (2001) and called for a new position in each of the OMM educational institutions. It demanded the assignment of “a full-time permanent chaplain at each OMM school, who should plan for and supervise a spiritual program, integrated with the academic annual calendar, in collaboration with the Spiritual Office of each of OMM’s educational institution” (Article 17, § 1).
With no exception, all OMM educational institutions are directly presided over by its members, who also occupy critical offices such as finance and human resources and report periodically to the Order’s Office of Education, General Council and to the General Chapter.
In Lebanon OMM is among the leaders in the private sector of education that accommodates about 62% of Lebanese students, whereas 38% are left to the public sector. About 500 students graduate every year from the OMM’s schools in Lebanon. OMM attempts to spread Maronite values among its schools’ students, who are primarily Catholic, secondly Orthodox, then Druze and Muslim. Through its educational institutions OMM lives its mission within the Maronite Catholic Church, exercising a spiritual parenthood over its students and catering to their spiritual needs. It continues to develop its educational services, accompanying the social, economical, and technical evolution of the Lebanese community. Following is a diagram of the
Daily practices and policies are not empty of cultural meanings; they are the incarnation of the organization’s values. Therefore disturbing them and trying to implement brutal change is often perceived as a direct menace to the value system in organizations, and would very likely be faced by a stubborn opposition.
Values are defined by Scott, R. W. (2003, page 18) as the “criteria employed in selecting the goals of behavior”. Organizational values are the last thing that new leaders want to challenge or compromise when attempting to change. They are often untouchable, and gain a sacred cachet, especially in a religious setting like the NDL institution, where values extract their legitimacy directly from God.
Lebanese and particularly Christian families value education, and see in it a ladder to claim up to a higher social class.
To understand the value system of Notre Dame of Louaizé School (NDL) one should observe its outcome (graduate students), and where the school is investing its human and material resources. Another approach to study the values of the NDL is to look at its owner; I mean the OMM, and study the values and philosophy that are leading the OMM. To look at the main people in power at the NDL, who influence the decision making process, and to observe what the dominant color of its staff is, and who are the different interest groups in there. The curriculum at NDL offers us another perspective of the school’s values, and how they are implemented. Through observing the curriculum we can notice that more teaching-hours and therefore more human and material resources are invested into foreign language, I mean French, English and Arabic in the early grades (preschool, plus grade 1-6); second come the empirical sciences like mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry and computer science; and third are civil education, history and geography; and fourth fall social sciences, and fifth sports activities and religious education.
NDL invests relevantly big money into Catholic activities. Beside catechism classes, the NDL offers its students, staff and their families the opportunity to participate in various religious activities like daily mass said at the NDL chapel, and other periodical liturgical ceremonies like Ash Monday, Christmas carols, and Holy Week rituals.
Another approach to assess the real values that drive the NDL, is to observe what values, and factors are considered when hiring, promoting, recompensing or firing teachers and staff, or when admitting or dismissing students. Thus the need to empirically study the established formal and informal rules applied in these cases. In this sense Scott (2003, page 18, 19) wrote that values are the criteria employed in selecting the goals of behavior; norms are the generalized rules governing behavior that specify, in particular, appropriate means for pursuing goals; and roles are expectations for or evaluative standards employed in assessing the behavior of occupants of specific social positions. A social position is simply a location in a system of social relationships.
1. To bring up faithful, committed and active Maronite Students,
At NDL and other OMM educational institutions, the objective for students is to know God, the ultimate good, truth and beauty. To live by Christian faith, that is to:
a) To love God and one’s neighbor. This means to love our Church first and our country, and all people made after God’s image,
b) To be a peace maker at home and in the broader environment,
c) To free from sin and whatever vices or behaviors that degrade or enslave the human person (such as 1) hatred, 2) ethnic, racial, sexual or religious discrimination …)
Living these values requires from students to live like Jesus a life of prayer, of active love toward their neighbor, especially the needy ones.
As for non-Christian students, the Order urges them, with all its respect for their particularities, to live their faith and values deeply and faithfully and turn these into good deeds by giving, sharing, forgiving and opening themselves to others.
2. To bring up responsible citizens, conscious of their rights and responsibilities,
Again OMM aims to educated students to love their country Lebanon, and actively participate in building it up, and therefore contribute to make their families, towns, country and the whole planet a better living place, through adhering and spreading out the following values: freedom (religious, intellectual, political, cultural), social justice, equity, peace, tolerance, and dialogue.
3. To bring up a psychologically, intellectually, culturally, morally and physically balanced person.
OMM aims to educated students to accept and love themselves, as created by God out of love, and saved in history by his Son, Jesus Christ. In practical terms students are expected to: to love and be loved, forgive and seek forgiveness, be transparent, honest, loyal, generous, disciplined, respectful, altruist, trustworthy, dedicated, and happy in their life and relationships. On the physical level students need to respect and well treat their bodies (be clean, fit, athletic, avoid whatever harms their and others health).
IV – Some relevant critical requirements for the success of the project
For this project to be doable, it requires the coordination of many efforts, on different levels: 1) OMM, 2) its educational institutions, 3) students, 4) faculty, 5) staff, and families of these institutions.
Finally this project urges everyone working at any OMM educational institution to:
1) Know and love our students,
2) To help them discover and appreciate their gifts and strong points and put to a good use, at the services of themselves, their families, Church and country,
3) To assess the weakness of our students and the problems that hinder their growth and work constantly to treat them.
4) To continuously seek self improvement, through working diligently to develop our human and technological resources.