The Expanded Council of Fr. General met during the week of 12-16 September in Rome. This council is made up of the Counsellors of Fr. General, the Presidents of the Conferences of Provincials and the Secretaries of the apostolic areas of the Society. The theme of this council was the Catholic identity of our educational apostolate (educational institutions and programmes) in the current socio-political context.
The Council began, in keeping with our tradition, by contemplating and praying about some of the major socio-political trends in our contemporary world. To do so, we drew on the book The Revenge of Power by Moisés Naím in which he proposes three keys to understanding the current proliferation of autocrats who try to weaken democracy from within. These three keys are populism, polarisation and post-truth. However, this was not a merely academic exercise, since the Council was conducted in the spirit of discernment proper to the Society and, therefore, was done from the gaze of God that Ignatius suggests in the Spiritual Exercises. What we sought was to perceive the action of the Lord at this moment in history and understand how we can collaborate in his mission.
The Council then focussed for several days on the enormous educational effort that the Society of Jesus is carrying out in the world and on how it can best collaborate in the mission that God has entrusted to the Church. This has to be a mission that is carried out in the context of the faith and the spiritual experience that animate the Society, which must, as Father Arrupe explained, lead to the formation of people for and with others. Enlightened by Christ, the true men and women for others are capable of being agents of change and committed to the construction of more just and humane societies. This process led us to deepen the meaning of Ignatian pedagogy, the importance of critical reflection, discernment, openness to the experience of God, and faith formation in the multi-religious and multi-convictional contexts of today’s societies.
The last day of the Council was devoted to reflecting on the recent instruction of the Vatican Congregation for Education on The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue. This instruction seeks to clarify the meaning of the identity of the Catholic school in a multicultural and multi-religious world like ours. To this end, we listened to the opinions of a canonist, a theologian and an educator.
As in other meetings of the Expanded Council, the discernment on the educational apostolate was lived in an atmosphere of personal prayer, spiritual conversation, and Eucharistic celebration where we really wanted to listen to the Lord. Personally, and as Secretary for Jesuit Education (Secondary and Pre-Secondary), I felt that we truly contemplated our educational endeavour, with its lights, challenges and shadows, through the eyes of Jesus. This led us to recognise with gratitude the enormous efforts of so many Jesuits and apostolic companions who passionately make it possible for our schools, universities and other educational centres to carry out their mission of education and evangelisation.
We were also able to recognise the enormous challenges so that our educational institutions can truly contribute to the hope and fraternity to which Pope Francis has called us in Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti. After all, our works, like us Jesuits, find themselves immersed in a context that is often inimical to the values and the vision we seek as servants of the Gospel. However, we feel once again that faith in the crucified and risen Christ leads us in all things to love and serve, to continue to preach by our lives, works and words the kingdom of God. The important thing is to put Jesus at the centre of our apostolic life, the only one who can make it possible to build a true human brotherhood and sisterhood. As Jesuits we have experienced the healing and liberation that Jesus offers us, and it is this same experience that continues to encourage us to become and educate other people to be men and women for and with others.
This article was originally published in jesuits.global