A review from Australia
Intelligent Use of Liberty: Dominican Approaches to Education
Edited by Gabrielle Kelly OP and Kevin Saunders OP
Adelaide: ATF Press, 2007.
It is rather fitting that this book about the educational approaches
of an Order founded in the ‘old world’ of medieval
Europe should be published in a ‘new world’ country
about as far away as one can get from Europe. Fitting too that
the book should draw on authors from around the world for this
enterprise, because Australia, founded as an English colony, is
rapidly becoming a multicultural society—as is the case for
so many countries today. The future is exciting but enormously
challenging. A book that draws on the rich heritage of the order
as well as the wide experience of its current members to promote
the ‘intelligent use of liberty’ is timely.
All branches of the Dominican
family are represented in the 33
essays of the book: laity, sisters, contemplative nuns, friars.
There are noted experts in various fields of education, artists,
preachers, and those with long experience in one or more endeavours
of Dominican education. The book is divided into two sections.
The first, comprising 14 essays, identifies the foundational principles
and values of Dominican education and the contribution that a number
of major figures in our tradition have made by living and thinking
about these principles and values (Aquinas,
Albert the Great, Catherine of Siena, Eckhart, Las Casas, Rose
of Lima). The second section,
comprising 19 essays, could be said to continue in the contemporary
world the witness of these great figures. Authors from around the
world report and reflect on how Dominican education has been implemented
in a wide variety of socio-political and ecclesial contexts.
The number and scope of the contributions cannot be commented
on adequately in one brief review. Some samples will hopefully
give readers a taste of what the book contains. There are forewords
by the Master of the Order, and by Margaret
Ormond, the immediate
past Coordinator of Dominican Sisters International (DSI). The
Master sees the various approaches to Dominican education as manifestations
of the Order’s preaching mission and as opportunities to
develop that mission. Margaret Ormond’s identification of
resourcefulness, solidarity (particularly with the poor) and imagination
are key values for developing the Order’s preaching mission
in ways that respond authentically to a rapidly changing word.
Within the first section, Timothy
Radcliffe, the former Master
of the Order, identifies a number of challenging new opportunities
that ‘Preaching to the Young’ presents: the internet,
chat rooms, blog sites, sporting venues. On a more sombre note,
Radcliffe identifies ‘an imperative to be joyful that they
cannot sustain’ as one reason for the current epidemic of
suicides among the young. ‘The primary witness to good news
is therefore our joy’ (147). For Chris
McVey, writing on ‘Dominican
Values’, Dominican education begins ‘with a perception
of real need, and the response is a merciful compassion’ (124).
A Dominican who is not filled with the joy of the good news is
unlikely to be a compassionate ‘educator/preacher’.
Editors, Fr Kevin Saunders OP,
Sr Gabrielle Kelly OP, and Sr Sandra Ede OP of Brazil who
assisted with some of the Portuguese and Spanish translations.
Guido Vergauwen tackles the role of study in Dominican education
(‘The Charism of Study in the Education of Dominicans), insisting
that ‘Studies themselves are an apostolate, an integral part
of the (Dominican) mission’ (89). Vergauwen asks ‘for
what mission are we forming Dominicans?’ and answers that
he/she should be a reasonable and wise person, well informed, aware
of limitations and open ‘to the foolish wisdom of the cross’.
A Dominican will not be the one with easy answers but difficult
questions that are inspired by a passion for the truth. Philip
Smith, in ‘A Dominican Philosophy of Education’, identifies
4 themes that characterise Dominican education: the relation of
faith and reason, the role of philosophy, the goodness of creation,
an appropriate method/approach.
The second section offers readers an opportunity not only to inform
themselves about the wide variety of Dominican educational ventures
but to experience ‘at first hand’ as it were the life
and work of these ventures. The essays are not only informative
but also engaging, communicating something of the passion and conviction
that drives each venture. . Marian O’Sullivan (Dominican
Education in an Evolving Universe) makes the important point that
the degradation of God’s good creation means also the degradation
of the interior world of the human person. There is an essay
on the Emaus Spiritualities Centre in Peru from Maria Julia Ardito,
essays on evangelisation/education initiatives in Brazil and, very
welcome, two essays on the work of Dominican sisters (Dutch and
Indonesian) in Indonesia, as well as an essay on the impressive
tradition of education fostered by the university of Santo Tomas,
Manila. Africa is represented by an essay from Albert Nolan in
the first section, and another by Sheila Flynn in the second section.
Other essays, each well worth reading, are: on Le Cerf publishing
house by Eric de Clermont-Tonnerre, on Theological Education (Kathleen
McManus of the US), on Education in the area of the trafficking
of women (Helene O’Sullivan of the US), and on the contemporary
university (Erik Borgman of the Netherlands). There are essays
by Dominican Sisters of Australia and New Zealand on various aspects
of their extensive involvement in education in both countries.
In an afterword (The Fish that Got Away) the editors, Gabrielle
Kelly and Kevin Saunders, regret that certain parts of the Dominican
world are not represented in the collection (India, Pakistan, Eastern
Europe, the Middle East). Some areas were unable to contribute
essays for a variety of reasons. Hopefully, these areas of the
Order will be able to make their valued contributions in a second
volume. This second volume could also serve as a response to the
first—the fruit of reflection and critical debate. While
the Order’s involvement in education is impressive and valuable,
there are no doubt areas where we can improve. We are limited human
beings after all and criticism, in its educational sense, means
taking what is there and identifying its shortcomings in order
to make it better.
John Neill OP
St. James Priory
2 Woolley Street
A description of the book can be found at http://www.atfpress.com/atfpress/book.php?ID=74