The European experience of II Colloquium JESEDU-global2021 (by Ilse Dekker, JECSE Director)

More than 80 European representatives paricipated in the second JESEDU colloquium, intended for colleagues in leadership positions in our Jesuit Global Network of Schools, just before the summer holidays. This colloquium, originally intended to take place in the summer of 2020 in Indonesia, now took place online with around 400 partucipants worldwide. With four strands – on educating for faith, for depth, for reconciliation and for global citizenship – the colloquium circled around the main theme of ‘Discerning for a Hope-filled future’. The Asia-Pacific Region designed the program, containing 8 interes0ng key-note speeches and some beautiful video’s animated by students and alumni, in close collabora0on with the Educate Magis Team which facilitated two rounds of global as well as regional (European) discernment circles.

As for their main takeaways from the experience of the colloquium in general, our European par:cipants men:oned that, whilst it would have been be>er to meet in person, there was s:ll great excitement in mee:ng so many people from around the world and engaging in conversa:on with them. The Discernment Circles were rich and made it possible to really live the experience, and it was consoling to feel part of this global Igna:an family, sharing similar challenges and hopes. It was mainly a precious opportunity to reflect on our ministry and to widen our perspec:ve, reaching out to other reali:es in our world, and the (really challenging) strands were very well selected. Making available the pre-recorded keynotes, with the pre-colloquium :me to reflect for ourselves first, was very helpful. Last but not least, the methodology of the spiritual conversa:on was experienced as an inspiring and powerful method for deep listening and discerning our mo:ons, even online!

On the four strands

For our regional conversa:ons our European par:cipants engaged themselves with the strand they considered most relevant in their local and the general European context today. It was strongly felt though, that all four are very important for our educa:on and very much interconnected.

Educating for Faith

Par:cipants repeatedly commented that ‘Educa:ng for Faith’ was what made Jesuit schools dis:nc:ve; without this faith dimension the schools would be no different to any other school. The Catholic tradi:on offers a wonderful narra:ve and sees the educa:onal project from an eternal perspec:ve. The Chris:an narra:ve transcends the small worlds and limited perspec:ves that dominate the lives of our students. It offers a vision of life that is filled with hope and purpose. Furthermore, the narra:ve is inclusive and reaches out to everybody. The insights and prac:ces of faith have something very prac:cal to offer young people. In fact, they provide an an:dote to many of the nega:ve aspects of young people’s life experiences. Some:mes, we can be shy about presen:ng our narra:ve, preferring to speak about values instead. But we need to speak about God, about the transcendent; the challenge is to do so in clear and a>rac:ve terms. We are challenged as educators to be authen:c and to be a witness ourselves in this way. Related to this is the on-going need for staff forma:on, providing opportuni:es (and resources) for staff to encounter God.

Educating for Reconciliation

Around ‘Educa:ng for Reconcilia:on’ it was men:oned that modern society is very fragmented; there is no longer a strong sense of societal cohesion and social solidarity. The gap between rich and poor is growing as is the frustra:on and anger that this inevitably gives rise to. Thus the need to bring people together, to bridge the gaps and reconcile differences, has never been greater. Leadership in many of our countries is very populist and the quality of poli:cal discourse is coarsened by simplis:c slogans and hate-filled policies. There is a real need for our students – armed with the Chris:an world view and the values of Catholic social teaching – to consider being poli:cally ac:ve. This larger and more generous and hope-filled perspec:ve is badly needed at the highest

poli:cal levels. In our schools it would be important to be>er listen to the students themselves ,who can surprise us by their depth!

Educating for depth

Although ‘Educa:ng for depth’ is very much connected to the other three strands, most European par:cipants feel that depth is key, since a meaningful landing of the other strands would only be possible through an in-depth process. Depth is the power of Jesuit educa:on and our responsibility; our counterpoison to superficiality. Depth is the doorway to seeing God in all things amidst everything distrac:ng us. It offers an integrated way to work from the Gospel, bringing meaningful (and reconciling) experiences to students and teachers. Depth is part of our spiritual and faith life but also part of (inclusive) personal life in general; thus it is also a way of building bridges between people with different beliefs.

Living in these fast :mes, depth is all the more important and, in this context, it is also a social challenge. Teaching, learning and rela:ng can be like a superficial puzzle, very wide but very flat; in educa:on we can decide to either just widen the puzzle or to help teachers and students to teach, learn and relate in a different, deeper way. We feel this is cri:cal for Europe, were we now have a very poor understanding of educa:on (as if it would just have to do with making money and being successful). Our schools too are too much focused on academic results, which brings in compe::on and does not help to bring in more depth. We need to find ways for deeper types of evalua:on. This is especially true during this :me of the pandemic, which is calling for a slower, deeper kind of spiritual life and for discovering new ways of living and leading, rela:ng and reconciling, to overcome the globaliza:on of superficiality. Depth will transform the whole school and be>er care of both teachers and leaders in our schools; to help them ask deep ques:ons as a key point in life.

Educating for Global Citizenship

Educa:ng for Global Ci:zenship, finally, is considered a core project with great poten:al as a framework for our renewal. What we call global ci:zenship must coincide with global thinking; we need to think globally and act locally. A challenge is to find a good equilibrium between reflec:on and ac:on. What can be integrated in the curriculum is helpful, but ac:vi:es on their own do not create the narra:ve. Global Ci:zenship is a project of the three H’s: Head, Heart, and Hands, not just focussed on academic excellence. When the project become the tools and the engagement we are pu^ng into prac:ce the IPP.

We therefore need more :me for reflec:on in our schools, and we also need to take care of our employees. The discernment circle strongly sensed the need to educate for depth from a deeper faith and to accompany the teachers on this path of faith forma:on and reconcilia:on, in openness to teach from the perspec:ve of the Spiritual Exercises. In general (our very busy) teachers are worried that we demand more work from them, but Global Ci:zenship is something that can be integrated within their curriculum.

To conclude

Finally, there would be a desire to create more similar opportuni:es, at the global as well as European level. The themes were relevant, and we would need more :me to deepen them. These mee:ngs help improve our understanding of how our Igna:an schools work and make us aware that we have a common language while at the same :me celebra:ng our diversity.

We need to reach out to other schools through Educate Magis, which makes it possible to walk as a network despite our distances, to have deep conversa:ons in this digital way, to offer this experience to our students as well, and to address these deep topics which can be truly transforma:ve!