Students Imagining “The World that Christ Desires” A Global Reflective Project!

As we announced earlier, this spring JECSE and Educate Magis initiated a European pilot around Educate Magis’ new online Ignatian Spirituality Course “4 Key Practices in Ignatian Spirituality”. It was quite an experiment, since not only was the facilitator Gellert Merza (Educate Magis) hoping to further refine the course, but also we were wondering if a ‘spiritual deep dive’ would actually work well online. We are now looking back with sincere gratitude on an 8 weeks’ experience with 40+ participants from all over Europe.

The Course was essentially an invitation to undergo a spiritual journey with Ignatius of Loyola, following his spiritual insights, practices and exercises, which are still fueling our Jesuit and Ignatian schools. Participants were invited to contemplate the story of Ignatius by reading theme-based excerpts from the book ‘Alone and on Foot’ by Brian Grogan SJ, by learning from experts in the field through inspiring instructional videos, and by reflecting on their own personal and professional journey. The course introduced and deepened the four key Ignatian practices: Ignatian reflection and the Examen of Consciousness, Ignatian Spiritual Conversation, Ignatian Discernment and Decision Making, and modelling the practices of a Contemplative in Action. Thus, we hoped this course would help (new) educators in a Jesuit / Ignatian school environment to engage in activities and conversations around these key Ignatian practices. We also hoped they would experience how these practices can be helpful to them in their personal lives.

We are happy and grateful to share some of the comments made by the participants:

Christine Rossi (Malta)

“I always appreciate the opportunities offered by JECSE for formators. It is the time when we are ministered to and when our wells are replenished. Even if it was online this year, I joined the pilot course eagerly and it was equally fruitful. It helped me focus on the essentials of Ignatian spirituality that we need to pass on to educators. I appreciated the small group sharing because we accompanied each other on a personal level. However, also on a professional level, as a formator, I felt that this course opened up new horizons how to offer formation to our staff which can be of greater depth and of connection with other educators all around the world. The live sessions made the whole difference because it brought the online input to life and made me more accountable to following the course with commitment and consistency. I look forward to adapting this course to the formation offered to educators in Malta.”

LLuís Ylla Janer (Spain)

“This Four Keys Course has been a broad experience to follow the paths of Ignatius of Loyola and relate them to the foundations of our educational model. It means to understand the raison d’être of the Jesuit educational service and discover the wisdom of some key tools that would help us a lot if they became part of our own culture, and that of the schools. Also, to realize that from different places of Europe we share a rich educational project that unites and strengthens us.”

Kinga Rivasz Tóth (Hungary)

“The pilot program titled ‘Four Key Practices in Ignatian Spirituality’ meant something special to me, not only because it was a new initiative, using new methods and combining individual and cohort learning tools, but also as the course provided me with the chance to deepen and strengthen my own spirituality. I gained real support from reading the texts on Ignatius‘ life and listening about his spirituality from the videos and above all this online sharing encouraged me and this experience gave me hope and joy, which I really needed these days.”

Xavier Lefèvre (Belgium)

“This course was for me an eye-opener: even if I thought that I knew the Ignatian spirituality from yearlong experience, this course gave me so many new insights into the fundamental inspiration and also the tools for applying it into daily life, that I cannot but recommend it to everybody who seeks to live his/her (professional) life to its full extend and in its unfathomable depth. The course takes you, step by step, into a journey of discovery both in yourself, your intimate desires and ambitions, as well as in what Ignatius would describe as ‘God’s loving eyes’. Far more than merely transmitting information, the course assisted me gradually in my daily reflection and meditation and enriched them both by many challenging questions as well as by sharing the fruits of them with fellow-participants. The course supports me, ever since, in my daily life to develop an attitude of caring attention and contemplative action. Let me express, once again, all my sincere gratitude for this extraordinary experience!”

This was a pilot course and the feedback from participants can help Educate Magis to further refine how it can be most helpful for educators in the different regions today. It has initially been developed as an international cohort course, inviting colleagues from different schools from all over the world to meet, share and learn together, which gives it a beautiful international and intercultural dimension. Besides, it can also be used for staff formation in a more local context.

For JECSE, this in-depth online course was a golden opportunity to offer our regular participants at the annual formators meetings an opportunity to meet, share and be inspired – at least online – around this beautiful program.

I would, finally, like to sincerely thank Gellert Merza from Educate Magis for our fine collaboration, as well as our two enthusiastic and skilled facilitators: Elisabeth Clarke (Director of Ignatian Formation and Service Programmes at Gonzaga College SJ in Dublin, Ireland) and Lourenço Eiró, SJ (Education Delegate for Portugal; Member of the Pastoral Team at Colegio das Caldinhas, Santo Tirso, Portugal; as well as member of the JECSE Steering Committee and Formation Task Force)