On 28 January, Cardinal Vincent addressed the CATSC/CES Secondary Leaders’ Conference in London.
In his speech he talked about the increasing use of social media by terrorist groups to recruit young people. He said: ‘What was most chilling was the view that the key age for contacting and influencing these potential recruits was 14-15 years old. We are talking about the age of children in your schools, in your care.’
The Cardinal went on to discuss the role of education, and specifically Catholic education, in supporting young people as they develop and find purpose. He pointed out that often people are in search of ‘guidance and direction and are ready to attach themselves…to someone with credibility’. Recruiters are skilled at offering this sense of coherence, credibility and purpose to young people who are still forming their beliefs, searching for guidance and a sense of belonging.
He went on to say that ‘Education today cannot just deal in fragments. It must deal in the whole. Education cannot serve our humanity if it lacks the courage to present, explore and develop a vision which is going to grip a young life and act as a point of integration and meaning for all that will occur.’
At the heart of this challenge is to foster a sense of vocation, of purpose, in young people’s lives. Schools must help students ‘to see how their personal experience or contribution is indeed part of a greater whole, a contribution to the overarching vision in which we will find our fulfilment and not just as an individual experience, isolated from all else.'
Cardinal Vincent concluded: ‘The service a school can give, the school which you are leading, is that of enabling youngsters to find their place in the world, in their relationship, in their future…They do it best when they see themselves as gifted contributors to a wide and embracing vision of truth and purpose.’
The full text of the Cardinal's address can be found here.