In 1967 the 31st General Congregation (GC 31) re-affirmed: “Let Jesuits have a high regard for the apostolate of education as one of the primary ministries of the Society, commended in a special way by the Church in our time” (D.28, #6) and created the International Secretariat for Education to help Fr. General in fostering the apostolate of Education. Fr. Arrupe, who was elected as Fr. General during this Congregation, later in his well-known address Our Schools Today & Tomorrow (1980), made clear that the schools were confronted with the danger of inertia; and therefore, urged them to “become aware of the changes that have taken place in the Church and in Society, and aware also of their need to keep pace with these changes.” (#54)
As an answer to Fr. Arrupe ICAJE (International Commission on the Apostolate of Jesuit Education) prepared two important documents that have guided our schools as they keep pace with our ever-changing contexts: Characteristics of Jesuit Education (1986) and Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach (1993). However, as Fr. Sosa more recently reminded our schools:
“Renewal is an ongoing task in educational work. We need to go a step ahead of what we know and imagine today. Our educational models need to prepare young people for the future. We cannot lie stuck in educational models in which we as adults feel comfortable, and therefore we need to take a step forward. We need to be alert to the danger of the institutional inertia that prevents discernment and needed renewal.” (#44 JESEDU-Rio2017)
In recent times GCs 35 and 36 have contributed important elements to this ongoing effort to renew, to adapt, to reimagine and in a way to reinvent Jesuit Education. In 2008 GC 35 made a very specific call to realize that
“Serving Christ’s mission today means paying special attention to its global context. This context requires us to act as a universal body with a universal mission, realizing at the same time the radical diversity of our situations. It is a worldwide community-and, simultaneously, as a network of local communities-that we seek to serve others across the world. Our mission of faith and justice, dialogue of religions and cultures, has acquired dimensions that no longer allow us to conceive of the world as composed of separate entities; we must see it as a unified whole in which we depend upon one another.” (D.2, No. 20)
Our schools usually have very strong local roots since they serve not only their students but also the larger local community. However, GC 35 makes clear that we need to look beyond and become aware that “In this global context it is important to highlight the extraordinary potential we possess as an international and multicultural body. Acting consistently with this character can not only enhance the apostolic effectiveness of our work, but in a fragmented and divided world it can witness to the reconciliation in solidarity of all children of God.” (D.3, No.43)
Our schools have been challenged and they have been looking for ways to respond to the challenge. It is in this context that the leadership teams of our schools met, for the first time, at an International Colloquium in Boston 2012 recognizing our global potential and exploring ways to develop it. This first global meeting started a cycle of global gatherings that have helped our schools, little by little, to discover that together we are more and better. Educate Magis began in 2015 as a response to this process creating an online platform through which our schools can grow as a global community.
In 2016 GC 36 continued discerning how to better serve our mission of Justice and Reconciliation with God, within Humanity and with Creation. This General Congregation went some steps further than the previous one, describing the contemporary way of proceeding to respond to the challenges and opportunities of our time: discernment, collaboration and networking in the context of the new technologies that “make it possible to mobilize human and material resources in support of mission, and to go beyond national borders and the boundaries of Province and Regions.” (D. 2 #8) In this sense, the Congregation has highlighted the extraordinary potential of working together and the ways to develop our global collaboration.
Our schools are responding appropriately. In 2017, the International Congress JESEDU-Rio committed to an Action Statement where all these three features are emphasized: collaboration at all levels and among all the stakeholders of our schools; networking at all levels and especially working together in our Jesuit Global Network of Schools to develop our global potential; and a special commitment to adapt Ignatian Spirituality to school settings so that a culture of discernment can be implemented.
In 2019, ICAJE proposed a new document, A Living Tradition, to strengthen the responses to GC 35 and 36. A Living Tradition invites our schools to engage in an ongoing exercise of discernment that must continue at all levels: schools, provinces, conferences and globally. In this sense, the cycles of global gatherings initiated in Boston in 2012 must continue…