In fact, all the saints have, in various ways, benefited society as well as the church. They have played a prominent role in the church’s contribution to the development and well-being of society over the past two thousand years. This is most obvious in areas such as education and health, welfare and social development. All of these were pioneered by the church. St. Pachomius (292-345) started the monastic movement in Egypt and his monasteries developed agriculture and helped the poor. But it was St. Benedict (480-543) who greatly developed this movement in the western church, and he has had a profound and lasting influence not only on the church but also on the wider society.
The many monasteries which St. Benedict and his followers founded became the centres of civilization and education, and of loving care for the sick and the poor in the ancient world. Through their manual work the monks pioneered the development of agriculture, turning wilderness into fertile, productive land. Along with this they promoted the different trades and skills as well as the various areas of culture such as religion, literature and music; mosaics and icons; sculpture, carving, painting, architecture etc. Having started the first schools, the church further developed her role in education in the following centuries, by pioneering the great universities of Europe some of which are still leading centres of research and learning. These laid the foundation for the great modern scientific and technological achievements.
Among them are Bologna (1088), Paris (1150), Oxford (1157), and Cambridge (1109). By the middle of the 15th century the church had established more than fifty universities all over Europe. This deep involvement in education has continued to the present day, with over 50 million students in various educational institutions run by the church in numerous countries around the world. Just as in past centuries the church still seeks to impart more than just knowledge and qualifications. She tries to help in the character formation of young people through human and Christian values, and thus equip them to become responsible citizens who will promote the common good of society.