Every year on the eve of our patron saint Stanislas Kostka, we start our celebrations with a lecture for parents and others who are interested in Ignatian education in our schools. After this lecture we usually invite parents to come together and reflect on the way they and the school are joined together in de upbringing of the youth. We organize four evenings to reflect and talk together. We share our own childhood experiences, the things we would wish to give to our children, the things we can give them, and the things we feel uncapable of giving them but for which we ask God for help. Much like the dynamic of the Daily Examen but now spread over four weeks.
In the past these lectures and get togethers where organised at our six different schools by different teams. Because of this being such a tradition, when the organisation around it was handed over to me, I at first just wanted to ‘do it right’. Like it has always been done, and ever shall be, until the coming of the Lord. In the preparation for this year, however, we stumbled on the problem of the corona pandemic. The schools had to carry their part in these turbulent times. Times when people are desperate sometimes, lonely and insecure. Besides the necessary measures a school has to undertake to combat the pandemic, one must also think about new ways to bring messages of hope and solace to those who need them. New ways, because how could we organize our pastoral programs, in these times, when the one thing they all had in common, coming together physically, is not possible?
So, we found our way to the internet and started a podcast from which we now broadcast our program to teachers, parents, and all who want to hear (and understand Dutch, sorry for that). Using this medium is like the sower we know from the gospels: we spread something into the schools, this time all the six schools at once.
As for our usual lecture, we invited Theology Professor Monique van Dijk to tell us about her research on the religious values of teenagers in current times. She used an inquiry to question teens about their religious habits, their core values, the way they think about God and religion. She asked them where they find hope, love. Her research made it very clear that the traditional forms of religion are very much forgotten. But the values the youngsters hold in high regard are still, even if they don’t know it themselves, very religious or spiritual. Also, in a secularised society like the Netherlands, it is very important to learn to understand the language of the young. Yes, they do want to be happy, but this does not mean they just want to be rich. They also care for creation, the rights of their neighbours, their own culture, religion and those of others. Yes, they do want to be successful, but not at the expense of the poor, the weaker ones, close by and far away.
Parents, schools and governments can draw lessons from this study and be aware that there is a new generation coming, open to and ready for a holistic way of dealing with different things in life. The interview with Monique van Dijk was very interesting indeed! Also, two parents made themselves available to share their own experiences in following podcasts.
How will this be perceived, what effect will it have? We will not know right away: some of it will fall on deaf ears, some not. But one thing we learned from this corona time is that even if taking risks, leaving one’s comfort zone, is very scary, the objective – bringing comfort, solace, Ignatian Spirituality and inspiration to others – must continue. It might sound weird to say, but if there were no lockdowns, we would have continued our “old ways” which were good of course but did not provide the opportunities we’ve discovered now. This turbulent time brought us a new approach.