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On the 5th of November 2019 Fr. General Arturo Sosa SJ wrote a letter to the whole Society announcing the publication of a new document on education proposed by ICAJE (the International Commission on the Apostolate of Jesuit Education); Jesuit Schools: A Living Tradition in the 21st Century. An Ongoing Exercise of Discernment (in short, A Living Tradition). This new document, Fr. General said, was to be taken together with the two other contemporary documents (Characteristics of Jesuit Education, 1986 and Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach, 1993) also prepared by ICAJE “as the contemporary framework for Jesuit education”. Fr. General noted, too, that this new document was part of the discernment process carried out through the cycle of global gatherings which took place in Boston in 2012, Manresa, 2014 and Rio de Janeiro in 2017. Each of these gatherings produced a vision statement and the International Congress of Delegates in Rio de Janeiro proposed a global agenda covering four key areas with 13 actions to be incorporated into all Jesuit schools in the coming years. In addition, A Living Tradition responded to the challenges set out in the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) which Pope Francis had entrusted to the Society and which Fr. General Sosa himself had announced at the beginning of 2019.

This whole process of discernment has fostered an important moment of renewal and creativity in schools. However, it has also prompted many leaders to ask themselves some important questions:

Should we as a Jesuit school concentrate on the Action Statement agreed by the Education Delegates in Rio de Janeiro in 2017 and taken up by Fr. General? Or on the Universal Apostolic Preferences that inspire and energise us? Or on the new document A Living Tradition with its invitation to ongoing discernment? Or, on the 4 Cs (competence, conscience, compassion, and commitment) which describe the human excellence that guides and shapes our education? And, what about the challenge that Pope Francis has encouraged us to engage with through his call for a new Global Compact on Education?

In addition, the current health, social and political crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has put our schools in a delicate situation with many pedagogical, financial and social challenges. However, it is precisely because of these major challenges and the complexity of our reality that it is necessary for our schools to be clear about their aims and the holistic educational approach that guides us. This is the only way to stay focused on the mission and to maintain the creative fidelity of our educational tradition.

As a way of helping to clarify our holistic approach to education, the International Secretariat for Jesuit Education, in collaboration with Educate Magis, has created an infographic that presents an integrative vision of all the elements present in the aforementioned documents in a pedagogical way:

1.      The Mission that currently describes the purpose of the apostolic endeavour of the Society of Jesus and orients its apostolic work as presented at General Congregation 36 in 2016.

2.      A Living Tradition – with the 10 Global Identifiers that describe the characteristics of a Jesuit school today.

3.      The 4 Universal Apostolic Preferences that Pope Francis has entrusted to the Society as the way in which we can best serve our mission in the next 10 years within the Church.

4.      The 13 actions that the Education Delegates agreed in Rio de Janeiro in 2017 as a response to our current challenges and opportunities.

5.      The Human Excellence document (2015) which describes the 4Cs that describe the educated person we invite our students and educators to become. That is people of: competence, conscience, compassion, and commitment.

The purpose of the graphic is to show how all of these elements, which could be thought of as independently, are actually connected and pointing in the same direction: a more qualified apostolic service to the present mission of the Society of Jesus as a result of the ongoing discernment of educational institutions.

General Congregation 36 has expressed the mission of the Society in these terms:

“We are companions of Jesus in a mission of reconciliation and justice – reconciliation with God, within humanity and with creation.”

The graphic presented as a moving circle and best expressed as a complex web of relationships puts the Society’s Mission at the centre like a sun from which everything flows and to which everything returns. Along with the Mission the 4Cs are placed in the centre as an expression of the human excellence that flows from the Mission. This centre is surrounded by the first Universal Apostolic Preference “Showing the way to God” to emphasise what Pope Francis said: “the first preference is fundamental because it presupposes as a basic condition the relationship… with the Lord, the personal and community life of prayer and discernment… without this prayerful attitude the others do not work”. Arrupe had already expressed it clearly when, in his famous discourse Our Schools Today and Tomorrow (1980), he warned: “The radical idea upon which all my considerations are based is this: The school is a great apostolic instrument which the Society entrusts to a community or to a defined group of persons within a community, with a purpose which can only be apostolic”.

The other three UAPs, “walking with the excluded”, “collaborating in the care for our common home” and “accompanying young people in the creation of a hope-filled future”, form the next ring and connect with the 13 Actions of Rio de Janeiro which show concrete ways to implement these preferences and bring them to life in Jesuit educational institutions.  These actions are in turn related to the 10 Global Identifiers of A Living Tradition which are, so to speak, the external face of Jesuit education and which represent the most significant features of integral education as it is perceived in our schools today.

Finally, the graphic presents a last ring highlighting the most characteristic elements of the contemporary way of proceeding in the Society of Jesus, that is, the how or the means to develop the educational proposal, as presented in recent Jesuit documents: conversion, discernment, collaboration, networking, intellectual depth and Ignatian pedagogy. All of these elements express the how of the educational proposal of the Society of Jesus and point towards the path we should follow in order to achieve consistency between the educational goals and the means by which we can achieve them.

The elements presented in the infographic are presented in a dynamic relationship with each other. We could say that each element is a door that invites us to walk through and get to know the other elements. None of the elements, on their own, are sufficient to understand the proposal of integral education; only when they are taken as a whole and in their dynamic relationship can the complex and fascinating challenge of Jesuit education today be understood. Each school may enter through a different door, but the graphic points out that the entrance door must lead to all the other dimensions if we really want to achieve the integral education that we all dream of for the new generations.

For example, Global Identifier No. 1: Jesuit schools are committed to being Catholic and to offering in-depth faith formation in dialogue with other religions and worldviews is a central element of our integral formation. All schools need to work on this Identifier… and in entering through this door, so to speak, schools will encounter UAP No. 1, Showing the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and Discernment. In this way the schools clearly connect with the mission of reconciliation and justice and their commitment to human excellence especially in their dimension of being people of conscience who are invited to develop a spiritual life. However, Global Identifier No. 1 is not isolated from the other elements. Entering through this door will lead to the others, for example, Global Identifier No. 4 Care of all creation, or identifier No. 3 Global Citizenship, or No. 2 Commitment to creating a safe and healthy environment for all. In this way schools develop and engage with the other UAPs. Responding to Global Identifier No. 1 leads to the Action Statement of the Rio Congress and specifically to Actions No. 1, 2 and 3 which call for incorporation of the Examen of Conscience, Inter-religious education modules and making Ignatian Spirituality accessible to all members of the educational community.

The graphic shows that, although the documents respond to different moments and contexts, they are indeed pointing in the same direction. The striking coincidence and seamless integration of their elements should be understood as the result of the fact that, although they come from different documents and different times, they all respond to discernment processes that have been guided by the same Spirit. It is the same Holy Spirit who has guided the whole process throughout the years.

The graphic is an invitation both to dream and to “walk the talk”. It is to be understood as a platform that reflects the current state of the ongoing process of discernment necessary to be able to respond to the rapidly changing context we live in. In this sense the graphic, similar to A Living Tradition, responds “to the acceleration of change we are experiencing today and, therefore… invites the educators in our schools to enrich it with their reflections, experiences and contributions”. (Fr. General Sosa, Letter introducing the document A Living Tradition, November 5th, 2019).

It is also important to note that the proposal for integral Jesuit education presented in the graphic clearly responds to the spirit of the Global Compact on Education that Pope Francis has been promoting for some time in the face of the great challenges we face as humanity. The Pope recognises that it is through education that it is possible to respond to these great challenges, and that this requires a concerted effort to ensure that quality education is accessible to all people and truly becomes a right for all. The graphic shows the Society’s response to this common challenge. In his invitation last October, the Pope outlined seven keys to implementation.  It is not difficult to relate these keys to the elements in the graphic and to show, as we said before, that it is the same Spirit that is moving through all of these common efforts. The new educational pact proposed by the Pope also reaffirms the invitation of Fr. General and A Living Tradition to a continuous exercise of discernment in the face of the rapid cultural, anthropological and technological changes we are living through.

The integral education proposal presented in the graphic points us in the right direction to embrace the proposal of the new Global Compact on Education and walk together with many others, on this path of providing quality education for all.

The graphic has different versions which can be viewed and downloaded at Educate Magis, here is the link: Jesuit Schools at the Service of Our Universal Mission: An Integrated Perspective

  1. An interactive version where each of its elements is explained in accordance with the source document.
  2. A printable poster version that can be hung in our schools for all to see, especially in staff rooms to help our apostolic partners understand our educational approach.
  3. A pocket version soon to be published
  4. An introductory video
  5. An instructional video explaining and developing the graphic further.

The graphic shows us the fascinating path of Jesuit education today and invites us to walk it together!

Original version in Spanish. Translated into English by Educate Magis.