The Living Tradition (2019) is not only the latest official text on Jesuit education addressed to the Whole Society, it is also a document that provides a framework for all that has gone before and which proposes a clear methodology for the future.
The good news is that this is NOT another document – one to be read in addition to all that has gone before. This text is very much the culmination of a discernment process that has been taking place over the last 40 years or so. It incorporates texts that are already at the heart of our understanding and practice – The Characteristics, the IPP, the 4Cs, the Rio statement, the UAPs – but now integrated into a framework that allows us to respond to our changed and changing context.
The structure and the text are readily accessible and the simplicity and directness of the message may actually disguise the strength of the challenge they pose. But it is an exciting challenge and one that most schools are responding and witnessing to already.
The first section of the document reminds schools that Jesuit education, at its best, is always engaged in an on-going discernment process, enabling deep conversations in our school communities about how best to respond to the needs of our students. As Jose Mesa, Fr General’s Secretary for Education says:
Jesuit Education, as human history itself, is a living tradition that calls for open eyes, ears and hearts. This document wants to be an invitation to continue this conversation at all levels in our schools and school networks.” (Mesa sj )
The invitation to discernment then is about our facilitating creative efforts to engage in a process of ‘renewal, innovation and re-imagination’.
The document then goes on to explore our global reality. In broad brush strokes it describes the various challenges facing mankind and our Church; this is the world that our schools are preparing the students to enter and the one they are being asked to configure ‘… in a way that is more compassionate, and therefore more divine’. (Fr Sosa, Rio)
Finally, a new and exciting feature of this document is that it provides a number of identifiers for Jesuit schools. These are designed to help schools respond to the global challenges that have been described and to offer ‘horizons’ for reflection about what makes a Jesuit school today Jesuit. Every school that wishes to be identified as Jesuit is encouraged to engage with these perspectives and to use them as a guide for planning and review. They are the means by which all schools in the global Jesuit network are enabled to be a ‘universal body with a universal mission’. (GC 36)
Indeed, so central are these identifiers to the new statement of mission that Companion schools, wishing to be recognised as fully Jesuit, are asked to actively engage with them.