During these unprecedented times presented to us by the global pandemic the third UAP, “To Accompany the Youth in the Creation of a Hope Filled Future”, has become even more important than before. Many schools are doing amazing work to accompany their students through these strange times. With the aim to echo and share some of the wonderful ways in which schools in the different Jesuit Provinces have been accompanying students over the last few months we invited Education Delegates from around the world to share some insights from their Provinces. In this article Tim Caslin, Provincial Assistant for Secondary and Pre-Secondary Education UWE / Jesuits West in the United States shares some of the work schools in his Province did to accompany their youth over the past few months.
1. What is your general opinion on UAP #3 now that our education system has been forced to adapt to a “new normal”?

The focus on listening to and learning from young people, our students, gets to the heart of the third UAP, it seems to me. They are our teachers, and God is at work in them. Our invitation is to not be deaf to God’s call being voiced through young people, calling us to something new, and to trust that we will continue to find God there.

2. Could you share some examples of how schools in your Province have been accompanying and caring for students? What steps have you and your Schools taken?

Our schools are responding so beautifully during this time of pandemic, having to basically reinvent the way we do school almost overnight. What does that look like? Teachers working so hard to adapt their teaching to the online world. Schools and benefactors
finding ways to get iPads or laptops to students who don’t have them or meals to families who are in need. Administrators working nonstop to come up with plans that then have to be adjusted and adjusted again as the situation changes. Counselors and campus ministers and many others finding ways to connect with students, to accompany them in their fears and worries, even when they can’t be together in-person. School staff making changes to the physical campuses to keep students, faculty, and staff safe. All of these are concrete examples of cura personalis in the midst of this pandemic.

3. What would you say the main challenges of this UAP have been and still are, for the schools in your region?

Perhaps the most fundamental challenge of the third UAP, more and more, is hope. In the midst of pandemic, climate change, resistance to the movement for racial justice, and a political environment that often seems to disregard the common good, it can be hard to be hopeful. How do we help our students hold onto hope? How do we create space for them to unpack these events and to find God right in the middle of them, walking with us and working for us? And, perhaps even more importantly, how do we allow ourselves to be led by the young people around us? How do we learn from their hope and their labor for justice, absorbing their courage and commitment so that, together, we don’t give up on this broken world of ours but continue to labor for God’s reconciliation and justice?

4. What would your advice be to other schools/provinces to consider, while using this UAP as a lens for their work? I.e., how can we better accompany our students or why do you feel this is so important?

As we continue to accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future, it will be important for us to keep listening to them. Sometimes we adults can drown out God’s voice in the young by talking too much instead of listening. God continues to call us to
something holy and new, often in the voices of the young. Let’s trust God enough to keep listening and to follow their lead.