Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview, is a Jesuit school in Sydney, and like many Jesuit schools across the globe, is conscious of the importance of the educational project of which it is a family member. One of the ways that the College has attempted to articulate the distinguishing ethos and identity of a Jesuit school is by asking staff to lead the students in their classrooms in the Examen, or Examination of Consciousness, at midday each school day. This notion came from the Ignatian Team, the group charged with the Ignatian Formation of staff and students at the College.
A generous benefactor donated a carillon of bells to the College, giving us the capacity to provide a signal for the whole of the school to stop for 5 minutes a day to pray the Examen.
The Rector of the College at the time, Fr Ross Jones SJ, a recognised expert in the practice of the Examen, published a booklet which provided a range of expressions of the Examen that teachers, and in some cases, student leaders, could use when leading groups of students. These include:
- An Examen for younger or older students.
- The Monday Examen (Reviewing the Weekend Sport and activities of the weekend)
- A number of Examens adapted from Reimagining the Examen (Thibodeaux, M, 2015)
- Review of the Day for Managers
Many teachers use this booklet as a guide to leading the Examen – others may use other resources provided, such as the audio files of student / teacher voices leading the prayer. At present, we are working on updating these resources and adding a visual resource, of a teacher leading the prayer, for those who would be grateful for further support.
So, once the bell sounds at midday, (now aided by electronic bells so that all areas of the College are guaranteed to hear it) teachers are asked to lead the students in their care at that time in the Examen. Each leader brings their own gifts to the prayer, and students are given the opportunity to stop in the midst of what is a hectic school timetable. Isn’t this always the way with schools? Of course, some teachers are very comfortable in taking this invitation on; others not so. This experience is thus a real opportunity for Ignatian Formation particularly for teachers new to Jesuit Education.
For many teachers however, this invitation has proved challenging. Can I allow the boys silence instead of leading the Examen? Can I play a song, or a youtube clip? How can I fit this in with such a busy / important curriculum?
We continue to focus on improving our Examen experience and upskilling teachers to lead students in what Ignatius called the most crucial prayer of all. One of our responses has been to provide audio clips of senior students and a range of staff leading the prayer, so that any teacher can access these resources from any learning space, and play these through the AV system in the school.