Encyclopedia of Teacher Education

Living Edition
| Editors: Michael A. Peters

Catholic Teacher Education in Romania

  • Dancă Wilhelm Email author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-1179-6_146-1

Catholic education in Romania began almost 1000 years ago as part of the evangelizing mission of the Church. The peak of the Romanian Catholic education was initially represented by the monastic orders of the Franciscan and Dominican Friars and later on by religious congregations from Western Europe. During modern and contemporary times, Catholic education at all levels, from kindergartens to universities, exists both in private confessional forms and in public institutionalized forms financially supported by the state. Both forms of education in the Catholic Church are functioning according to the Romanian law of education and issue graduation diplomas and certificates recognized at national and European level.

From Cathedral Schools to Urban and Rural Schools

The first Catholic school on the Romanian territory, as it is today, was “St. George’s Capitular School” in Cenad, founded in 1030 by St. Gerard, Bishop of Cenad [Marton 2020]. The first “teacher” of the school was called Valter and his assistant Henric. There are several historical documents that confirm the existence of this school up to the fifteenth century. Following the example of the school in Cenad, other capitular schools were established at the episcopal cathedrals in Oradea (1374) and Alba Iulia (the first documents are from 1496) having as their main purpose to form the future clergymen. Later on, beginning with the fifteenth century, they also took over the Catholic education of lay Christians.

Besides “capitular schools,” there was another factor that contributed to the spreading of Catholic schools, namely the educational policy of the Saxon communities in Transylvania during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This policy triggered the founding of the so-called urban schools and rural schools. Several ecclesiastic and royal decrees insisted that the clergy ought to go beyond cathedrals and monasteries and take an active part in the education of lay faithful in town and village parishes. Thus, we have the first “urban schools” at Oradea (1347), Sebeș (1352), Baia Mare (1387), Brașov (1388), Bistrița (1388), and later on in other 15 towns in Transylvania. From among the first “rural schools,” we only mention several of the oldest ones, such as the one in Jucu (1332), Baraolt (1331), Teaca (1403), Almașu (1488), Tașnad (1494), Cristian (1510), and Râșnov (1510). After the Protestant Reformation, many of the Catholic urban and rural schools in Transylvania were turned into protestant ones. Counter-reformation within Catholic education was first promoted by the Dominican Friars, who in 1526 opened in Sibiu a monastic superior school, studium generale that only lasted until 1530. Several years later, other monastic orders arrived. The first fathers that opened Catholic schools in Transylvania and Moldavia, from primary schools to gymnasia and academies of superior studies, were the Jesuits: Alba Iulia (1579), Oradea (1579), Cluj (1581), Odorheiu Secuiesc (1593), Caransebeș (1627 – until 1632 the schoolmaster was the first Jesuit of Romanian origin, Gheorghe Buitul), Satu Mare (1636), Cotnari (1641), Sibiu (1692), Iași (1700), Brașov (1700), Târgu Mureș (1712), Timișoara (1725).

Some of them functioned intermittently (the Jesuit Academy în Cluj) and others disappeared completely (the gymnasium in Timișoara) or were taken over by other monastic orders, such as the Pauline Fathers (the superior gymnasium in Satu Mare) and Premonstratensian Fathers (the gymnasium in Oradea). Undoubtedly, the Franciscan Friars founded their own Catholic educational institutions. Thus, the Observant Friars established several schools in the Western and Central part of Romania: Șumuleu Ciuc (1626 – here was a renowned teacher János Kájoni [1629–1687], a Franciscan Friar of Romanian origin), Călugăreni-Mureș (1635), Arad (1708; 1873 – Vasile Goldiș and Ioan Slavici were students at the Franciscan gymnasium), Timișoara (1733), Radna (1738), and Caransebeș (1742). The Conventuals founded primary and gymnasium schools: Șimleul Silvaniei (1744), Lugoj (1823), Arad (1873). Besides the Jesuits and the Franciscans, the Piarist Fathers had their own successful educational initiatives in Romania, establishing and managing Catholic schools, especially gymnasia, at Carei (1727), Bistrița (1729 – Gheorghe Șincai was a student at this gymnasium), Mediaș (1741), Sântana (1751), and Cluj (1776 – they took over the Jesuit Academy).

With respect to the educational activities promoted by religious congregations, we should mention the prophetic engagement of nuns in the civil and Catholic formation of girls independent of their social condition. Thus, the Franciscan nuns from Mallersdorf took over or established Catholic schools from kindergarten to high schools in order to offer girls both theoretical and practical knowledge: Sibiu (1864), Petroșani (1888), Brașov (1895), Șimleul Silvaniei (1899), and Sfântul Gheorghe (1915). The same educational activities were conducted by the Sisters in the Ursuline Congregation: Sibiu (1733) and Oradea (1772). A pivotal role in the Catholic education from the Western part of the country was also played by the Sisters of Mercy from Satu Mare, who either established or took over Catholic schools for girls in Satu Mare (1842), Odorheiu Secuiesc (1864), Gheorghieni (1876), Baia Sprie (1885), Oradea (1891), and Carei (1892). From among all the religious congregations, the Sisters of Nôtre Dame de Sion were the most active and present in the Catholic education in Romania. They established Catholic schools in important cities of the country, such as: Lugoj (1847), Timișoara (1858), Arad (1873), Dej (1906), Cluj (1911), Iași (1866), Galați (1866), and Bucharest (1898).

A remarkable contribution to the promotion of the Catholic education in Romania was that of the Greek Catholic Church in communion with Rome that in 1738 opened the first schools with teaching in Romanian for all forms of education. At Blaj, the Romanian intellectual elite in Transylvania was formed, especially until 1848, as here was the only Romanian superior school. Important personalities of the Romanian culture taught here: Gheorghe Șincai, Petru Maior, Samuil Micu Klein, Ion Budai Deleanu, Timotei Cipariu, Aron Pumnul, and others. The most important role in modernizing the Romanian popular schools in Transylvania was played by the normal school or “Școala obștească,” namely the pedagogical high school established at Blaj in 1778. The first headmaster of the normal school in Blaj was Gheorghe Sincai, appointed by the Government in Vienna as Inspector of the Romanian schools in Transylvania. During him the number of Greek Catholic primary schools in Transylvania reached 300, and finally in 1915 they reached a number of 1146.

From Parish Catholic Schools to Theological Institutes

Being less numerous and of various ethnic origins, the Catholic faithful in Moldavia and Wallachia opened Catholic schools near the parishes of urban centers or larger rural communities. Parish urban or rural schools in Moldavia followed the example of formative parish schools in Italy [Doboș et al., 2020]. This model was brought by the missionary Conventual Franciscan Friars. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, in this Romanian province Catholic education was coordinated by the De propaganda fide Congregation in Vatican and financially supported by the Pontifical Actions in Lyon (France). Catholic schools in Moldavia developed better in villages, while the ones in Wallachia developed in towns and cities. In 1816, the first Catholic school was founded in Bucharest, the teachers being Redemptorist Fathers. Later on, other Catholic schools were opened in Bucharest and in several cities in Oltenia, Wallachia, and Dobrogea, organized by Franciscan Friars, by Sisters from the Congregation of the English Dames (beginning with 1852), by Sisters from the Nôtre Dame de Sion Congregation (the beginning of the twentieth century), or by religious brothers from the Congregation of the Brothers of Christian Schools (beginning with 1861). Among the characteristic features of these schools we mention the multiethnic and ecumenical openness and the social promotion of children originating from poor families. The fact that there were no normal schools, pedagogical schools for teachers within parish schools led to the closing of certain Catholic schools after the Romanian educational reformation in 1864. Some of these reopened at toward the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. The first Catholic school in Iassi was established in 1817. Other similar schools follow in 1835 at Galați, Săbăoani, Grozești, Bacău (1843), Fălticeni (1845), Botoșani (1846), Piatra Neamț (1878), Roman (1879), and in many villages.

Until 1948, when all Catholic schools in Romania were closed by virtue of law by the Communist Government, many Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic priests functioned as teachers of religion. They had been formed in diocesan seminaries, either high school seminaries or faculties, as it was decided at the Council in Trento. Therefore, in modern times, Catholic Bishops in Romania insisted on founding minor or major seminaries, as they wished to offer the faithful local priests for the people and for administering the Sacraments, but also in order to provide enough teachers that could teach Catholic doctrine in Catholic schools. Thus, in 1741, the Roman Catholic Church opened the first major seminar for the formation of the clergy in Oradea. There followed others, in Alba Iulia (1753), the Theological Institute here being the only major seminar that functioned without any interruption, even during the Communist regime; Satu Mare (1804); Timișoara (1806); Bucharest (1870); and Iași (1886). The Greek Catholic Church established several seminars for the formation of the clergy: Blaj (1760), Oradea (1792), and Gherla (1859) [Mârza, 2002]. The Observant Franciscan Friars can boast with having the first school of philosophy (the first part of the major seminar) in Romania for the members of their Order in Radna (1738). Later on, a Theological Institute for Franciscan Friars was founded in Hunedoara (1909). With the same purpose, i.e., the formation of the clergy, the Piarist Fathers opened in Cluj a Theological Institute “Kalazantinum” (1894).

In 1918, the 1146 Greek Catholic schools became public schools financially supported by the Romanian state, while the Roman Catholic schools (almost 500) with teaching in Romanian, German and Hungarian remained private. In 1948, the Catholic schools were closed and their educational patrimony became the property of the Atheist–Communist state. During the Communist period, only two Catholic schools remained open: The Roman Catholic Theological Institutes of university level for the formation of the clergy in Alba Iulia and Iași.

From Catholic Schools to Catholic Teachers

After the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, the Catholic Church in Romania of both rites had numerous and praiseworthy initiatives of reopening the Catholic schools of all levels. We can identify two time periods that marked first the development and then the regress of the Catholic education in post-Communist Romania.

The first period lasted from 1989 to 2010, the year in which Romania completely adopted the educational program “The Bologna Process,” after signing the Declaration of Bologna in 1999 and after entering politically and economically in the structures of the European Union in 2007. From all the Catholic educational institutions, the kindergartens were extremely successful during this period. This success was mainly due to the hope of many religious congregations from abroad that wished to support the process of enriching human resources within the Catholic Church in post-Communist Romania. Even if it evolved in a less impressive way than the Catholic kindergartens, the initiative of establishing primary and secondary schools or Catholic denomination classes within state schools, and several high schools and superior educational institutions was widely embraced. The great number of students that attended these schools was equal to the enthusiasm of the teachers who, despite frequent material, logistic, and technical shortcomings, were accomplishing their educational mission with dedication for the sake of human and Christian formation. Meanwhile, Catholic schools enjoyed the appreciation of Romanians, most of whom were Greek Orthodox. Several aspects favored the image of Catholic schools: well-formed teachers, ecumenical openness at the entrance exam, the spirit of dialogue between reason and faith present in textbooks, and the attention manifested toward Christian values in the programs of study.

The second period, between 2010 and up to the present, is marked by lights and shades and hope and disappointment. The Bologna process meant for Catholic schools of all levels a great challenge. Kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools, and high schools were all concentrated in a single educational institution labelled as college. Thus, educational programs had to be altered so as to facilitate their integration. These laws intended to offer more freedom of movement within the European educational space, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to propose educational plans that would ensure a certain unity within the diversity of study programs. However, these changes that were made in the Romanian public education wasted so much the human and financial resources of Catholic schools, that some could not keep up with these transformations. From the perspective of someone who was a witness of all this restructuring of the educational system, I can say that they arrived in schools without being publicly discussed. Their philosophy failed to be understood, which caused their being often rejected. Consequently, certain Catholic schools were closed, others preferred to close some of their study programs and to include them within institutions that could ensure educational quality and compliance with the law as the process of Bologna required.

Therefore, the transformations implied by the Process of Bologna led to a significant decrease in the number of Catholic schools in Romania, a decrease also greatly influenced by the phenomenon of migration. Thus, today in Romania there are 21 kindergartens with 1900 children, 3 primary schools, 2 secondary schools, and 23 high schools with 9417 students under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church. All these represent 0.29% from the whole number of students enrolled at Romanian schools. The changes we are speaking about also led to the closing of Catholic theological institutions in our country. Today only one institute is temporary authorized to function, namely the Franciscan Theological Institute in Roman, while all the others were either closed or integrated within various faculties of Catholic theology belonging to the main universities in Romania. The Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj has integrated the Catholic Theological Institutes of both rites from Transylvania in two faculties of Catholic theology. One is meant for the Roman Catholics of Hungarian language, having two departments, one in Cluj for didactic theology and one in Alba Iulia for pastoral theology. The other faculty is for Greek Catholics and has three departments: one in Blaj, one in Oradea, and one in Cluj, where they have programs of didactic theology, theology and social assistance, and pastoral theology. The “Al. I. Cuza” University in Iași, in Moldavia, has integrated the Catholic Theological Institute within the Faculty of Roman Catholic Theology where they have two programs of study, one for pastoral theology and another for theology and social assistance. Finally, the University of Bucharest has integrated the Roman Catholic Theological Institute where there are two programs of B.A. studies, one of theology and social assistance and the other of religious studies, and three programs of M.A. studies, with specialization in communication, social assistance, and European heritage. We should mention that within this faculty, there functions the only School of Doctoral Studies for Catholic Theology in Romania, the Doctoral School of Theology and Religious Studies. Several common features of these faculties: none of them is pontifical; all of them enroll lay students, both men and women, of any denomination, with the exception of the pastoral theology programs that are reserved to the formation of future clergymen; low number of students enrolled. The total number of students attending these four faculties of Catholic Theology in our country is around 800. As the number of teachers depends on the number of students, these faculties have relatively great difficulties in ensuring the activity of accomplished teachers in favorable conditions.

Despite the fact that the number of Catholic schools of all levels in Romania has decreased, the didactic activity of Catholic teachers for the classes of religion taught in state schools is guaranteed by law, as this is part of the main body of school disciplines. According to the law of education, the teachers of Catholic religion in schools and high schools have to receive the approval of ecclesiastic authorities before being able to teach in schools. In a certain way, the Catholic school has been integrated within the public state school through the teachers of Catholic denomination who teach other school subjects than religion and through the teachers who teach religion to Catholic students. The teachers in the Catholic university system can belong to other denominations or to other religions, still in order to teach within a Catholic faculty they need the approval of ecclesiastic authorities.

The Catholic formation of students comprises didactic activities and extracurricular Christian educational activities: classes of formation and monthly conferences, the free participation to the Holy Mass or to other events with religious or liturgical character.

The Future of Catholic Teachers in Romania

The future of Catholic education in Romania depends on the answer that the Catholic teachers will give or not to several present challenges.

The first of these refers to the primate of teaching quality in relation to the number of students. Today the existence of the teacher, and implicitly that of the school, depends on the number of students. How are the teachers going to revert this relation and to achieve a formative role in a uniformed world where competences are evaluated only under the quantitative aspect?

The second challenge is connected to the spreading of teaching techniques that partially or totally make use of electronic platforms. The advantage of using these techniques within rural areas with few students and long distances between their families and schools is obvious. However, in Romania the usage of these platforms is not accessible to all children in the countryside. The human aspect of the educational process, the relation between teacher and student, is left aside and many teachers, not only Catholic ones, fear that the online teaching system is going to produce a kind of Fachidioten, instead of educated human beings. Are Catholic teachers going to say anything about this?

The third challenge refers to neglecting one of the three objectives toward which our Catholic education is oriented in the modern world, namely the formation of the moral character. Today, the stress is only laid on qualifications and competencies, but to these we should also add our endeavor to shape the human character. Catholic education is comprehensive only when it bears in mind the achievement of these three aspects: qualification, competence, and character. How are the Catholic teachers going to draw the attention toward the urgency of recuperating the place that the shaping of the human character deserves?

These three challenges could merge into a single one: will the Catholic teachers in Romania succeed to share their belief that a fully realized human being is an educated being?


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  2. Marton, J. (2020). “Ars didactica christiana”, in Braga C. (ed.), Enciclopedia imaginariilor din România. Patrimoniu istoric și identități cultural-lingvistice, vol. IV, Enciclopedia imaginarului religios românesc. Iași: Editura Polirom (currently being published).Google Scholar
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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BucharestBucharestRomania

Section editors and affiliations

  • Jānis (John) Tālivaldis Ozoliņš
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.University of Notre Dame AustraliaFremantleAustralia
  2. 2.University of LatviaRīgaLatvia
  3. 3.School of PhilosophyAustralian Catholic UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Catholic Theological College, University of DivinityMelbourneAustralia