This period of the coronavirus pandemic is particularly a tough time for the entire world. The pandemic has many of us very anxious and worried, uncertain about what is going to happen next, uncertain about what to do, how to act. As a country, Zambia has encounters similar uncertainties and anxieties which resulted in the indefinite closure of all learning institutions in the country, St. Ignatius Jesuit college included. However, on June 1, 2020, we opened our doors to accommodate and prepare the children in Examination classes. This move by our leadership gives us hope.
Inspired by Ignatian tradition and charism, St. Ignatius Jesuit College (SIC) has, in the few years of its existence (since 2012) become an invaluable centre for the academic and spiritual development of all the students and families that have walked through our gates. This success is attributed to the Jesuit values instilled in the students and staff, and which students’ families are now beginning to enjoy and appreciate.
As Jesuit school, we envision a world with young leaders empowered in Ignatian tradition working toward a just and humane world. We will continue to make our contribution to attain this a reality by forming responsible leaders who embrace diversity, are emotionally intelligent, environmentally conscious, spiritually reflective and engaged in academic rigor for a lifetime of service.
The recent coronavirus pandemic has presented some challenges in our ongoing efforts to achieve our dream. These challenges range from socio-economic challenges to physical, psycho-spiritual and emotional challenges. Challenges also come with opportunities. Thanks to the offerings of Ignatian Spirituality, SIC has been able to journey together as a community in proving the individual and community support for all members of our community-Students, staff and families alike.
Here are a few Ignatian gifts that we have found helpful in the spiritual accompaniment of our students and the entire community of SIC:
The gift of Daily Examen
This is the golden thread in our spirituality as a school community. The experiences of this pandemic have yielded some tendencies to behave and act in irrational ways and sometimes in selfish ways. The examen has given us that opportunity to pause. As individuals, as a community, we notice the gifts of God, we notice our failures, our opportunities for growth and transformation and we concretely make decisions to become the best versions of ourselves- God’s desire for us all. All staff and students have community Examen every day at noon.
The gift of Cura Personalis
Ignatius Loyola provides us with wonderful opportunities for Cura Personalis in times of Covid 19- looking after one another in whatever way we safely can. We have developed and enhanced our cura personalis programs to respond to the pandemic- we continue to emphasise the need to care for each person and for each other, paying attention to the needs and challenges of each person, cultivating respect for individual circumstances and concerns, in these confusing times. Platforms for individual and group spiritual counselling, community prayer, staff and student Ignatian conversations are created for support.
The liturgies, community prayer (morning and evening) is important in creating a sense of community- establishing and strengthening relationships, accompaniment and an appreciation of the gift of love. Students have time for prayer alone, staff have time for prayer alone and at other times the whole community gathers for prayer. In God’s presence we are all united.
The gift of Gratitude
An attitude of gratitude is emphasised in our community. Lately, we emphasise it strongly among our students and staff. The changes and consequences of the pandemic has moved us away from our comfort zone. Changes made within institutional structures and processes may be challenging to accept, may take time to get used to. There is tendency to complain and over complain. Gratitude gives perspective. There is always something to be grateful for- our health, seeing each other, conversation, shared meals, a good laugh.
These Ignatian gifts have indeed always been present in our school communities but maybe not as emphasised as they should have been, or may be their real essence and place in our hearts was slowly fading away. We are reminded in these times of Covid 19 to relearn what matters most and unlearn all that strips us of our humanity, our being true Ignatians.