From being a student in formation, first at the Archbishop’s Seminary and subsequently at the University, to becoming an impactful Christian educator himself, Rev. Carl-Mario Sultana has had plenty of time to understand, form a valid opinion on and most of all, share with others the aspects of what makes a good Christian educator in current times.
Now that he leads two courses at the Faculty of Theology, namely the M.A. in Christian Faith Formation and the M.A. in Catholic School Leadership, Newspoint has interviewed him with the aim of finding out more about his beliefs on evangelising through education.
- How long have you been part of the Faculty of Theology?
I joined the Faculty in September 2007, however my link to it started back in 1994, when I enrolled as a student. It was a natural path to follow since at the time I was also in formation at the Archbishop’s Seminary.
- How does Christian Education, as an area of focus and an influential branch of Theology, manage to pass on knowledge in a way that many would understand it?
The fundamental mission of the Church is to evangelise. This is done amongst other things through education. Indeed, education is one of the ways in which human dignity is acknowledged and offered to all.
However, the Church would be presumptuous if it were to think that it has all the knowledge in all the science. When speaking about Christian Education, we are always taking for granted that this is done in conjunction with the Sciences of Education and of Communication.
It is only in this way that the educational mission of the Church does not fail, and it remains relevant for the contemporary human being with all the worries and anxieties. Once the Church fails to be relevant, whatever is uttered by the Church becomes stale and more of the same.
- As a lecturer, you obviously inspire some of your students to become teachers. What traits should an impactful Christian educator have?
A phrase I like to repeat is that “Nobody is born a teacher, but we become teachers.” This opens the educator to a myriad of characteristics which can be acquired by time.
I would say an impactful Christian educator is one who doesn’t direct the interlocutor to him/herself but to Jesus Christ and all the traits that Jesus had – encountering the human being where he/she actually stands, listening to the real needs of others, putting the other at the centre and not oneself, and most of all serving others as Christ served the human being.
- What do you mean by faith formation? And do you feel that, in current times, we need to grow our relationship with God more than ever?
Faith formation is erroneously thought of as the dishing out of contents to the other who is listening. However, this way of seeing things is simplistic, totally outdated and irrelevant today.
Faith formation has to do with entering into dialogue with the interlocutor in such a way that you prepare the terrain in the other person's life where the seed of faith can not only be sown, but also find fertile ground to grow and develop. It is ultimately the decision of the interlocutor whether or not to accept God's invitation to enter into communion with him, and to answer to this call through faith.
- Since the M.A. in Catholic School Leadership if offered on part-time basis in evenings, have you had students who were already practitioners, perhaps? And how many students have you welcomed so far?
This course is specifically directed to those who are, or aspire to be part of the Senior Leadership Teams (Heads and Assistant Heads) of Church Schools. However, having said this, we have also had students who come from Independent Schools and even State Schools, since the course is equally recognised for those who would like to lead State Schools.
This course has been offered twice and a total of 26 students have read it.
It is offered part-time since in the morning, the target candidates of the course are usually at school, either as teachers or as heads or assistant heads. This makes it impossible to offer such a course as a day course. The majority of the students who decide to read the M.A. in Catholic School Leadership are in fact already in leadership roles in schools. This helps them to focus more on those areas of formation which would be more useful for them in their daily work. This is usually done in the form of research in their dissertation.
- The general perception is that an M.A. in Christian Faith Formation prepares students to lead ministries in churches or congregations, but we don’t have these in Malta. What career prospects do those enrolled into this course have?
This course is addressed to all those engaged in some form of faith education ministry; we can mention catechists, teachers of any subject in Church Schools, who would like to help in their school ethos through their presence at school, and any other person who in some way or another is engaged with educating others, even at a parish level, or within a group or movement.
- Part of what makes someone entrusted with passing the teachings of faith on to others, is their presence in society. They also need to engage with the people they’re targeting. How important is this in keeping faith alive in today’s society?
Faith is something transmitted to others primarily not through books, but through personal contact. A school ethos is not passed on to students through abstract concepts, but through personal contact, and more than this through example.
If we truly need our schools and faith formation centres to be truly imparting the faith in an articulate way, we need to treasure this personal contact by being present in the world of the people whom we are seeking to educate, and to form.
You may also apply for the courses through this link.