They welcomed three new members to the group: Fr. Tom Renshaw who replaced Ms. Jennie Hickey for Australia; Fr. Ari Dy, who replaced Fr. Tony Pabayo for the Philippines; and Fr. Quyen Vu, who replaced Fr. Ashley Evans for Cambodia.
Also in the meeting were: Fr. Stephen Chow for the Chinese Province; Fr. Bert Boholst for East Timor; Fr. Rich McAuliff for Micronesia; Fr. Baskoro Poedjinoegroho for Indonesia.; and our host, Fr. Adrian Danker for Malaysia-Singapore. Mr. Kunio Otoshi was also there to represent Fr. Lee who couldn’t make it to the meeting, bringing the total of education secretaries to ten, including Fr. Johnny Go, the Asia Pacific education secretary.
The three-day meeting was packed with reports from the regions/provinces, as well as discussions of the issues and challenges that our schools face not only in our region, but in the world. The first part of the meeting was all about context, starting with the concrete contexts of our schools in the different regions and Provinces in Asia Pacific. It was an opportunity for each one to appreciate the great diversity of our schools not only in terms of history, but also in terms of culture, religious traditions, and socioeconomic demographics.
To provide the global context, Fr. Johnny cascaded the discussions and directions from the ICAJE meeting that he had attended in Rome last May. Moreover, the delegates took time out to watch and discuss previews of the keynote talks for the upcoming International Congress for Education Delegates this October in Rio de Janeiro: on the tension between tradition and innovation in our schools (Mr. David Laughlin), the need to work as a global network of Jesuit schools (Fr. Jose Mesa, ICAJE secretary), caring for the earth (Fr. Benedictus Hari Juliawan of Indonesia), and an interreligious mindset in our experience of God (Fr. Vincent Sekhar).
The last day of the meeting was devoted to planning for three more collaborative projects in the region. Aside from the ongoing Ignatian staff formation workshops every year, the education secretaries are hoping to launch four major projects:
- Leadership Mentoring Program: To coach and guide our newer school principals and upcoming administrators;
- Teacher Exchange Program: To provide short-term or longer-term opportunities for our teachers to learn from schools in other parts of the region;
- Strategic Spiritual Formation Meeting: To assist our schools with minority Catholic student populations (e.g., Cambodia, Japan, and the Chinese Province) in strategizing their religious and spiritual formation programs; and
- Project ABCD (The Art of Building Consensus and Dialogue): To train our students in active listening, dialogue, and consensus building and to offer them the opportunity to practice these skills through video conferencing across the region (courtesy of Educate Magis).
It was also a great time for the education secretaries to bond and deepen their friendships. As we saw again and again in our discussions, personal relationships play a crucial role in making our networks more effective. We had the chance to celebrate important milestones with two of our education secretaries: Fr. Quyen who started his term as the new Director of Xavier Jesuit School in Cambodia on 01 September, and Fr. Stephen, who was named the new Provincial of the Chinese Province.
Asked about his takeaway from the meeting, Fr. Rich of Micronesia commented, “Coming from Micronesia, which tends to be isolated, I thought it was great to connect with the wider Society, especially the Asia Pacific., and see all that is happening.”
First-time attendee Fr. Ari of the Philippines noted, “The meeting was a chance to get to know people and to see all the great opportunities for networking.”
Fr. Bert of East Timor, on the other hand, reflected on the process of the meeting and observed: “Ongoing conversations help us to think and reflect more deeply.”
Fr. Baskoro of Indonesia captured the entire experience well: “It was a very nice experience: We were open and free to talk about anything we wanted to share–not only our ideas, but also feelings. We were able to share from our heart. It was a happy meeting.”
We are grateful to Fr. Adrian and Kingsmead Centre for being our gracious hosts, especially to their volunteers, Linda, who made sure everything went smoothly from beginning to end, and Keith, who was our able tour guide on our last evening in Singapore.
Source: JCAP Jesuit Education Commission