Formators Conference 2018
Being Ignatian in a secularised context

For the 2018 JECSE Formators Conference we welcomed 26 participants from Belgium North and South, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Spain and The Netherlands. 

The theme of our meeting was ‘being Ignatian in a secularised context’; a continuation of the conversation begun in JESEDU-Rio. Our purpose was to explore how – as Ignatian educators – we can find new ways to meet the ‘needs of the times’ in our European context. 

Helping us to ‘dive deeper’ into this theme was Renilde Vos, who served as a most articulate and prayerful animator of the main part of the programme. She introduced the group to her work with the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius and to the innovative approaches that she had developed with largely secular particpants in the past. 

Previously, Renilde worked both as a teacher of Religious Education and as Deputy Head of the parish connected to the Catholic University in Leuven, Flanders. During her work as an educator in an increasingly secularised and pluralistic context, she started to focus on the question of how to pass on Catholic faith in a way more connected to the existential experience of her students. As a spiritual guide she met people coming from very different religious backgrounds, some of them struggling with the language of the Bible.

Passionate about the Exercises and convinced about the strength of their dynamics – not only as a method for deep discernment, but also as a way to learn to be less self-centered and more connected to others and to God – she started looking for an alternative, more open way to work with the Exercises. That is to say, following their dynamics and opening up their language, to make them more accesible for people from diverse backgrounds so as to help them develop interiority and to give words to their inner experiences. 

During the conference Renilde explained her methodology and allowed us to experience part of her programme, using simple breathing and attention exercises and the imaginative meditation method published by Hieronymus Nadal. The focus was on the themes of passion and compassion. 

She also introduced us to a playful methodology for interreligious dialogue. 

A clear model for metareflection helped us afterwards to name specific spiritual competences achieved and to evaluate the pedagogical and professional relevance of the work done.

Besides enjoying the strong and open atmosphere within the group, participants began to appreciate how this methodology could be a very direct and powerful way to work with students and staff so as to help them move ‘into depth’.

Some reported how the input offered a refreshing and deeper understanding of the process underlying the Spiritual Excercises, and the value of structuring and meta-communication as such. 

There was also an appreciation of the creative approach of working with art and poetry.