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  The Memorandum and Articles of the Spiritan Education Trust (formerly Des Places Educational Association (DEA)) state the two main objects to which the Association is committed. They are: "to ensure and foster the advancement of education." and "to further the aims and purposes of Roman Catholic education." The Memorandum directs that these main objects are to be pursued in accordance with the ethos and educational philosophy of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit.

The ethos and educational philosophy of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit is therefore an integral part of the ethos and vision of the Association. Moreover, since the Association, by its main objects, is committed to the advancement of education in general and of Catholic education in particular, there are two further sources for its ethos and vision. The first is the ethos and tradition of the Irish education system; the second is the ethos and tradition of Roman Catholic education philosophy. The Holy Ghost Congregation, or Spiritan, ethos is a particular expression of the Catholic ethos.

It is worth noting that "Catholic education" does not mean education for Catholics only. Spiritan colleges in Ireland and elsewhere have always welcomed students of other religions. Parents are attracted by the caring community ethos of the schools which respects the religious beliefs of all students and bridges ethnic differences.

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  The Holy Ghost Congregation
 Tradition and Ethos

In any organisation, vision and ethos are central to its identity, because they
give it inspiration and direction. Where an apostolate has been given a civil law identity separate from its religious sponsor, by virtue of its establishment as an association registered as a non-profit company, its identity is affirmed by means of its Memorandum and Articles of Association and its Mission Statement,
which incorporate the ethos of the sponsor. This is the case with the DEA,
which incorporates the education ethos of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit.

Vision and ethos are two sides of the same coin. "Vision" refers to how the leadership and members see the role and purpose of the organization, whereas "ethos" refers to how the vision is lived out in daily practice.
In education other expressions are often used for ethos and vision.
Some educators speak of "ethos and educational philosophy," which is the expression used in the Memorandum and Articles of the DEA. The Mission Statement of the DEA uses the expression, "education tradition of the Congregation." The Education Act refers to school ethos as "the characteristic spirit" of a school (Art. 9-d), while others speak of it as the school "climate." In the business world, "corporate culture" is often used in the same sense. By means of this statement of ethos, the Members of the DEA wish to articulate our understanding of the education ethos of the Congregation, with particular reference to the Irish context.

Another term often associated with ethos is "charism." One definition of charism is: "an inspiration from the Spirit of God which urges the individual to perform a special role in the community" (Iglesias, 1984).

Rather than being a set of directives, a charism is a vision which is handed on by the individual recipient to his or her followers, as in the case of the founders of religious orders and congregations. The Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education notes that in Catholic schools belonging to religious congregations, "each congregation brings the richness of its own educational tradition to the school, found in its original charism" (The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988).

The Spiritan tradition is understood here as a lived reality which embodies the charism or vision of the Founders in different ways in different times and circumstances. It is nourished by reflection and dialogue. The DEA is one embodiment of the Spiritan tradition. The main thrust of this statement, therefore, is not so much to attempt to identify the differences between the Spiritan tradition and that of other congregations, but rather to heighten our awareness of the Spiritan tradition and education ethos.

This statement attempts to answer the question; "What is the ethos of Spiritan education?" Three sources of Spiritan ethos are referred to: the inspiration of the Founders, the lived tradition throughout the three hundred years that the Congregation has been in existence, and the Spiritan Rule of Life (SRL). Education is recognised as an apostolate within the mission of the Congregation because it meets the following general criteria. It furthers the spiritual and moral values of the Kingdom of God, meets an urgent need in today's world and is a means of empowering the neediest people on a worldwide scale.

Constitution 13 of the Spiritan Rule of Life emphasizes the universality of the Congregation's mission. This is another constitution of a general nature which nonetheless has implications for education.

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The five aspects of mission to which it refers may be applied to education as follows:

Universality:   Education for global co-operation and the fulfillment of global human aspirations.
Proclamation:   Education proclaiming the spiritual and moral values of God's Kingdom.
Service and Liberation:   Education offering service to society and access to empowering knowledge, skills, and means of expression to the poor and powerless.
Dialogue:   Education for dialogue, fostering respect for people of other religions and cultures.
Inculturation:   Education for peace and harmony between cultures by offering opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue.

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The Spiritan Rule of Life refers to education in the context of service to the local Church by fostering Christian communities, listing its principal activities as:

1.   The education of a committed and responsible laity;
2.   Training for ministries and for the missionary and religious life;
3.   Engaging in educational work in line with the Spiritan calling;
4.   Awakening an understanding of the universal mission, of justice, and of kinship between peoples;
5.   The education of young people, because the present situation is crying out more than ever for social and educational works;
6.   Educational work with refugees, with immigrants and with those who are on the margins of society.

It also emphasises the need for ongoing or continuing education of the members of the Congregation: "It is a necessity for all of us to re-train ourselves without fail if we are to remain true to our calling in the world and in the Church" (SRL 142).

The revised Rule of Life, therefore, confirms the traditional role of education in the mission of the Congregation, as an apostolate worthy of the dedication of its members and as a service to the local Churches and to peoples throughout the world. In addition to the Rule of Life, other forms of the written tradition include biographies, histories, theological and philosophical works and the mission statements of our educational institutions, including that of the Des Places Educational Association.

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  Mission Statements

The mission statements of the Spiritan colleges in Ireland incorporate and interpret the ethos and educational philosophy of the Congregation. The format of the mission statements is in two parts: a preamble and the statement of mission either as a continuous text or as a list of aims and goals. The preamble refers to the history of the school and its commitment to the ethos and vision of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. The second part, containing the statement of mission, varies somewhat from college to college in emphasis and to a lesser extent in content.

The following list shows the main aims mentioned in the mission statements.

1.   An environment supportive of Christian faith
2.   Harmonious development of the whole person
3.   A caring community environment
4.   High academic standards
5.   Social and moral development
6.   Community service and social justice
7.   Preparation for a career
8.   Cultural and physical education
9.   Partner

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