Juan Luis González Ríos: Interiority is an Augustinian value that "both students and teachers demand"

The month of January, as part of the celebrations of the Fourth Centenary of the Province of Saint Nicholas of Tolentine, will be dedicated to education, so educators will be the main agents of the commemorative activities that will be published on the Internet throughout this month. We begin with this interview with Juan Luis González Ríos, principal director of the College Saint Augustine of Valladolid.
News | 2021 Jan 05

We know that there are many years that you have been  a teacher and manager in the schools that the Province Saint Nicholas  of  Tolentine of  the Order of Augustinian Recollects has in Spain. I'm sure visitors to this page will like to know the general features of your resume.

My life has been linked to education, because since my priestly ordination in 1982 in Marcilla (Navarra) I have been immersed, in one way or another, in the field of education. I started my career as a teacher at the seminary in Lodosa (Navarra, Spain) from 1982 to 1988. I spent a year at the school in Chiclana (Cádiz, Spain) and spent three years in Colombia, where I obtained a degree, collaborating at the Augustinian school in Saint Nicholas. I returned to Spain in '92 destined for Valladolid as a teacher, tutor and pastoral manager until 97, when I was assigned to the Romareda school in Zaragoza with the same functions. In 2000 I was appointed director of the school and prior of the community until 2006, who returned again to Valladolid, where I follow and of which I am principal director since 2009, combining him as advisor to the educational apostolate and president of the Ownership Team.

 

Since 1992, uninterruptedly, you are dedicated to education in schools in the Province of Saint Nicholas of  Tolentine, Order of Augustinian Recollects. Do you feel satisfied as a person and as a religious in this educational work?

Completely. Education requires dedication and commitment, sacrifices and good doses of patience and perseverance. It burns a lot of work and relationship with educational administration, attention to parents and the management of the centers, but you are filled with joy in dealing with students, in their expectations and projects, in seeing them grow and mature thanks to your contributions. You feel like a mother who sees her children being happy for her successes and accomplishments. You achieve a joy and inner peace that is difficult to explain.

Religious congregations have seen their number of religious educators decline very sharply, almost alarming way, including the Augustinian Recollects What assessment do you make of this fact?

Unfortunately it is a reality and is one of the great inconveniences that we have had a hard time faced. In the end we had to accept the "Shared Mission" more out of necessity than out of conviction and it is not being negative. In some areas we have gained, because the laity bring a special energy, closeness to daily problems and generous dedication to the centers, but we have lost strength in the charism and vitality in the dedication.

 

Given the decline of religious dedicated to the educational apostolate and the transfer of functions and responsibilities to the laity, what measures are being taken to ensure that the character of a centre of "recollect" ownership is preserved, adapted and consolidated?

It is one of the keys and strategic lines that are being enhanced from the Ownership Team to face the coming future. It goes through training, understood not only academically but through knowledge of our values and the real and direct participation of the organizational structure of our centers. The problem is also generational, as many of our veteran teachers, who were a human reference of paramount importance, have retired, and our schools have been populated by young teachers, with concerns other than those known and with different problems, not so ingrained in the center and with the center, and more volatile and dynamic than their predecessors. To the extent that we secure this departure, we will be able to successfully address the concerns of the future, which are not few.

 

Given the data with which you count and join us in the Augustinian Recollect Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine, what future do you see the educational apostolate in this Province? What challenges do we have to face?

The future is uncertain, but I keep alive the hope that it will retrace difficulties and be imposed by its values and by the life force it encloses.

As for the challenges, the first has already been pointed out: the scarcity of religious dedicated to this ministry, not so much because we are necessary in the classroom, but because our presence is vital and our commitment and contributions to the ministry are fundamental, from consecration to witness and from religious celebrations to stay in the courtyards. Parents claim religious and feel safer if they perceive us by their side.

Another is the consolidation of the management teams led by lay people, the incorporation of the Ownership Team or similar body and not forgetting the training of our agents, both in the field of spirituality and in the strictly academic.

Finally, it would put the economic viability of our schools and the possibility of facing the future in the face of laws contrary to the character of the centers.

 In the same way that in the  history of the Church there have been ministries that have disappeared because they were no longer necessary in society because of the evolution of things, will not the same happen in the ministry of the educational apostolate or do you consider that this ministry is so important that the Church cannot abandon it?

I believe that this ministry is of fundamental importance and every effort must be made to keep it in time, because the Church and society need it. In many areas it will be the only possibility for the Church to proclaim her message and, today, it is an appropriate springboard and the most appropriate platform for evangelization to proclaim our values and educate the young people of the future. Losing education would be a failure and a great tragedy.

What values of Augustinian Recollect spirituality and tradition do you think can have a greater impact and influence on today's society?

First and for all, without a doubt, the interiority, which is becoming more and more necessary and which is demanded by both students and teachers. It is like the matron who turns into childbirth the truth that we profess and that each one discovers within him. And I would add the two that are the axis of the motto and objectives of this course: "seekers of truth" because, as St Augustine did in his day, today's young people must also be tireless seekers of that truth that can satiate their life of meaning and meaning. Interiority, search and truth are permanent.

The Province Saint Nicholas of  Tolentine, of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, is celebrating the Fourth Centenary of his birth –1621-2021–, head of five schools. What most noteworthy commemorative events are planned within the framework of this Fourth Centenary?

 

Regarding the Fourth Centenary and, taking advantage of the new technologies, we have already held a couple of meetings between the directors general and heads  of our five schools - the three of Spain,  Mexico and  Costa Rica.  We will start with biographies in honor and remembrance of our deceased teachers and continue with two talks for the teachers of our schools. There will be meetings between pastoral, guidance, directors and level coordinators departments and one more to engage the religious currently working in this apostolate. As a colophon, each center will plant a tree, a symbol of our ecological commitment in tune with Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato si'.

Recently the LOMLOE, called the Celaá Law, has been approved, what impact will the application of this organic law have on the lives of social initiative schools that are concerted?

Many and unfortunately very negative, because it directly violates the freedom of choice on the part of parents, who will not be able to bring their children to the school they want but to the one offered by the administration, therefore, together with the decline in birth, will lead them first to public education and, if left over, to the concerted one, eliminating social demand and making the concerted subsidiary of public education , limiting the rights of centre holders and families and subjecting freedom of choice to strictly administrative planning, jeopardizing for the continuity of numerous agreed units. This law is a waste and a real calamity, you look at it wherever you look at it.

Thank you, Juan Luis, for your comments; that your desires-forecasts are carried out and that the Celaá law loses social strength and goes and is not applied, as has happened with other educational laws.

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Augustinian Recollects Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine.

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