Ascoli Piceno, Italy. Wikimedia Commons

A School for the Person

For the first time in Italy, a state school was named in honor of Fr. Giussani, “an extraordinary protagonist of the civil and religious life of our times”
Adolfo Leoni

In Ascoli Piceno, Italy, there is a big district called Monticelli, with apartment buildings along the plain and town houses rising up the hills. Almost halfway between the former and the latter stands an enormous green building that blends in with the environment. This structure has served for twenty-five years as a state school that, like many others, is public and secular, but now it holds the distinction of bearing the name, “Fr. Luigi Giussani Didactic Administration, Nursery School and Primary School.” This institution of six hundred students is the first in Italy to be named for “the extraordinary protagonist of the civil and religious life of our times,” as Mayor Pietro Celani called this “priest and great educator,” praise echoed by Bishop Silvano Montevecchi a moment before two students unveiled the plaque affixed to the exterior of the structure.

This happened on December 15th. Many people gathered at the gates, parents of students, teachers, the Principal, Agnese Ivana Sandrin, the Mayor, the Bishop, Prefect Alberto Cifelli, Chief of Police Giuseppe Dimastrogiovanni, Police Colonel Sante De Pasquale, the President of the CARISAP Foundation, Vincenzo Marini, and other figures with various roles, together to represent the institutions and the territory. Many of them have worked toward this day, collaborating so that the name of Fr. Giussani might mark the school and its method of teaching.

Educative power
This day was the result of a complex bureaucratic procedure, initiated with determination by Principal Sandrin, accepted by the Municipality in the context of the “Name Your School” project, and facilitated by the Prefecture, which granted an exception to the normal process, which otherwise would have required ten years to pass from the death of Fr. Giussani before naming the school in his honor. The school, city, and territory united in saying “yes” to that name, and in doing so acknowledging the educative power in it, a power needed to face the multiplicity of cultures and expressions present. “Our school,” commented Sandrin, the true dynamo of the initiative, “could not have been named in honor of just anybody, even if he or she were a local figure, just in remembrance; we needed a witness who would give a dynamic sense to our action, not as self-congratulation of the past, but as outlook for the future.” Two years ago, the idea of naming the scholastic complex of Monticelli in honor of Fr. Giussani was inserted into the Plan for Formative Offering, and then in 2005 the Appeal on Education promoted and signed by Italian intellectuals contributed to having Fr. Giussani’s name introduced into the school–and accepted. “A kind of maturation took place over time in my school, a concurrence of experiences that produced a weft and woof, an interweaving of many situations and ideas united by a leitmotiv, that in the end came to a fulfilled meaning in choosing the name of Fr. Luigi Giussani.”

Passion for life
Also present on December 15th was the man who carries on the legacy of Fr. Giussani, Fr. Julián Carrón, President of the Fraternity of CL. In the conference auditorium jam-packed with parents, he spoke of education as a proposal to reason and freedom, and said he felt “moved by this event, the sign of a passion for the life of the young people.” This passion was also visibly evident: the institution’s logo says, “A School for the Person,” while on one wall next to a painting there are the words “Education is the introduction to the totality of reality,” and on another a banner says, “I care for everything…to seek, to know, to understand…,” and in the entryway there is the Matisse print of man seeking the infinite, and a large photo of Fr. Giussani. Passion was also evident in the voices of the children’s choir directed by Mario Giorgi, welcoming Fr. Carrón with “Povera Voce” and bidding farewell with an Andalusian lullaby. “Giussani brought a gramophone and records to the Berchet High School,” Carrón told listeners, “because music is an introduction to beauty, and beauty draws us in and transmits a meaning.” Inspector Teresa Mircoli, representing the Regional Scholastic Office, emphasized the importance of an educative proposal like that of Fr. Giussani in the schools, in order to dispel “the uncertainty of our day.”

It is a proposal that combines reason and experience. From Ascoli, an example; from heaven, a smile.