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This April 2018, from the 2nd to the 8th, 39 Ignatian educators from Jesuit schools in Asia Pacific (JCAP), gathered at the Seven Fountains Jesuit Spirituality Centre for a week of learning and sharing about discernment and leadership.

Buddhist monks and novices carrying alms bowls gather outside the Seven Fountains Jesuit Centre

Leadership by discerment program

The workshop, offered through JCAP’s Ignatian Initiative for Teacher Excellence–or IGNITE–Program, is called “LEADERSHIP BY DISCERNMENT: Nourishing the Contemplative-in-Action Within.”  The workshop was facilitated by Ms. Jennie Hickey, Executive Officer of Jesuit Education Australia, and Fr. Johnny Go SJ, the JCAP Basic Education Secretary.

Johnny and Jennie

The group was a very diverse group, rich in experience and expertise: The participants came from seven Provinces and Regions–namely, Cambodia, Taiwan,  Macau, Hong Kong, Philippines, and Indonesia–and for the very first time, Malaysia-Singapore, from the Jesuit-run school in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. As expected the diversity of the group and all the gathered expertise and experience made the group sharing a powerful piece of the workshop–the language factor notwithstanding.

The workshop was designed in a way where aside from the “conversation pieces” provided by the facilitators, the participants were provided ample time to engage in individual reflection and sharing in groups, both mixed and local.

Fr Go offers the group some provocative conversation pieces for reflection and discussion.

Jennie Hickey responding to questions from a small group during their sharing.

Of course the ice breakers, courtesy of our participants from Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu, were a big hit and allowed the participants to let their hair down and to begin establishing more personal relationships–so essential to networking, one of the major goals of these JCAP workshops.

It’s amazing how a simple children’s game like rock-paper-scissor can break the ice.

Participants were encouraged to share and report in their mother tongues–as long as interpreters were available to convey what they meant to the group.

As always, the Jesuits attending the group provided much needed support and input, whenever needed. Fr. Vincent Liu SJ from Macau, Fr. Clement Tsui SJ from Hong Kong, and Bro. Damo Chour from Cambodia offered the extra service of interpreting for their fellow participants.

From L to R: Fr. Salty dela Rama (PH), Fr. Johnny Go (PH), Bro. Damo Chour (CAMB), Fr. Vincent Lin (MAC), Fr. Ari Dy (PH), and Fr. Clement Tsui (HK)

Of course the daily Eucharist was an important component of the workshop, a time to gather before the close of the day to reflect over the learnings for the day and to thank the Lord for the graces received. Special thanks to Ben (MAL-SING) for the beautiful music that he provided.

The participants make their offering one after the other.

The workshop is historic in the sense that for the first time, we had the privilege of having delegates from the Jesuit-run school in Sarawak, St. Joseph Private Secondary School, thanks to their principal, Fr. Alvin Ng SJ and their education secretary, Fr. Adrian Danker SJ.

Ben Lo and Lucilla Chin from St. Joseph Private Secondary School (Kuching, Malaysia) flanked by Fr. Johnny and Jennie

We asked Ben and Lucila about their impressions about the workshop. Here’s  what they had to say:

From Lucilla:  “The most important insight I learned is how important feelings are in discernment. While I think I am a logical person, upon reflection I realized that I am also intuitive. I am happy to be given a framework in which I can allow my feelings and intuitions to work with my reasoning so I can be more free to make my choices. I will also remember to take baby steps and start somewhere rather than being hampered by constraints and give up without trying…. I am also rejuvenated by the shared passion I see and feel in my fellow participants. When I am discouraged, I will think back on the stories shared and how important is the work we do. ”

From Ben: “This workshop has been very insightful and helpful for me as an educator/teacher as well as in my personal vocation and Mission in my life. This one week workshop has allowed me or rather, forced me to look deeply into myself, to be fully aware of my inner landscape and be at peace with my true self and feelings. This self awareness may not always be the easiest road to take but it is necessary and vital because it will have great impacts on my decision making as a leader and educator. I was reminded of the time when I have made hasty decisions without much discernment and now resolute to be more sensitive to myself as well as others in the discernment process. The Ignatian way of discernment and leadership which was discussed in the workshop is very practical and appealing for me. This one short week has truly reaffirmed my vocation to be a teacher and reignite my passion of being a better teacher, leader, husband, father, friend and child of God. I am now better equipped to be able to discern and response to God’s will in my daily life.”

The workshop ended with a meaningful closing ceremony, where the participants shared the effect of the workshop on them. Each participant received a JCAP IGNITE Certificate of Completion, with much applause and picture taking. Fr. Ari Dy SJ, President of Xavier School (PH), shared this insight: “We use Ignatian language all the time, but I appreciated the time at the workshop to reflect on whether I practice Ignition discernment in my leadership style. It was also refreshing to make so many new friends in the Jesuit family.”

Saying goodbyes and sharing blessings

“Every embrace has a story.” (Rick Flores)

True enough, by the last evening of the workshop, it was quite clear from the tearful goodbyes as well as the laughter during the celebration that many new friendships have been formed.  As we learned so well during the workshop, these friendships are so essential to networking and collaborating with one another.

Special thanks to Rick Flores (PH) for being the impromptu party organiser!