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Par Jose Mesa
Oct 2nd, 2019

Our schools must respond simultaneously to different levels of responsibility and agency. Jesuit schools are locally rooted and enculturated within the local reality that surrounds them. But our schools also need to respond to their national/provincial and broader regional context and more recently to the broadest global context. I will concentrate my reflection on this latter aspect: the global dimension and responsibility of Jesuit schools.

GC35 in 2008 made clear that the current global context also had consequences for the way we should understand our mission within it:

Serving Christ’s mission today means paying special attention to its global context. This context requires us to act as a universal body with a universal mission, realizing at the same time the radical diversity of our situations. It is a worldwide community-and, simultaneously, as a network of local communities-that we seek to serve others across the world. Our mission of faith and justice, dialogue of religions and cultures, has acquired dimensions that no longer allow us to conceive of the world as composed of separate entities; we must see it as a unified whole in which we depend upon one another.” (D.2, # 20)

GC35 also stressed the apostolic potential of such global context:

In this global context it is important to highlight the extraordinary potential we possess as an international and multicultural body. Acting consistently with this character can not only enhance the apostolic effectiveness of our work, but in a fragmented and divided world it can witness to the reconciliation in solidarity of all children of God.” (D.3, No.43)

How can our schools respond to these challenging statements, discover and develop their full apostolic potential in the global context of our time? How can we re-image our Jesuit schools in this new global context? The answer leads us to consider ways of proceeding suited to our times. For GC36 these ways of proceeding are “discernment, collaboration and networking” (D.2, #3). Thus, the question now becomes, how Jesuit education as an international body of schools, can integrate these ways of proceeding to develop their full global potential?

The answer to this question has been the construction of a global network of schools through an ongoing discernment that leads to new levels of collaboration at the international level. GC 31 established the Secretariat for Education with the aim to aid Fr. General in fostering the apostolate of education in the Society of Jesus (D.28, #31). GC34 asks the Secretariats of the General Curia to play an important role in the development of global networks at the service of the mission (D.13, #14). In this context Fr. Generals Adolfo Nicolas SJ and Arturo Sosa SJ have asked the secretariat to assist in the promotion, animation and coordination of the Jesuit worldwide secondary and pre-secondary education network. In order to respond to this mandate, the secretariat has conceived a cycle of global gatherings that aim to identify, raise awareness and develop the global apostolic potential of the schools. Important to acknowledge is that the cycle has been the result of learning by doing and the continuous discernment about how to respond to the challenge of building a global network at the service of the mission. The understanding we present today is the result of the process itself… in many ways the cycle, as any authentic discernment about complex matters that are in constant change and development, is a work in progress.

Jesuit Education is born out of the Ignatius’ Spiritual experience who learned that any authentic knowledge or understanding must lead to personal and social transformation. Knowledge that is only “academic” is not real knowledge. As the IPP (Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm) teaches us, any educational experience requires reflection that leads to transformation (action). In this sense, the idea of the cycle of global gatherings is a CALL TO ACTION!!!

The first cycle (2012-2020) was named “Discovering Our Apostolic Global Potential.” The three global gatherings of the cycle aimed to call the attention of the schools to the fact that we all together conform a global network present in all corners of the world and with immense potential to serve the mission if we consciously decide to leverage this potential and find creative responses to the challenges it implies.

This cycle was composed of three important gatherings, each with different targeted groups, methodologies and specific goals:

1. ICJSE (International Colloquium on Jesuit Secondary Education) held at Boston, USA in 2012. See the Vision Statement

2. SIPEI (International Seminar on Ignatian Pedagogy and Spirituality) held at Manresa, Spain in 2014. See the Vision Statement

3. JESEDU-Rio2017 (Congress of Jesuit Education Delegates) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2017. See the Action Statement

We are very aware that meetings alone are not sufficient in our quest to serve our universal mission, but they provide valuable opportunities to develop their global apostolic potential, build a sense of direction and allow for the necessary human interaction that is fundamental in our network building. Similarly, as the first Jesuits discovered that Jesuit Education cannot flourish without personal connection and trust between teacher and pupil; we believe that the kind of network we desire cannot happen unless people in our schools can meet and develop the connection and trust required for an apostolic network to be effective.

The 3 gatherings ended with a vision or action statement that captures the spirit of what happened and that wanted to inspire our schools to move to action, provide a common language and a platform to build the global network, Educate Magis: the online community platform to build the network and develop its apostolic potential. The following infographic shows the areas in which Educate Magis is building the global network and the way it is organized.

One of the great challenges of the cycles is make sure that their impact really touches schools, administrators, educators, families and of course students! This enormous challenge requires that regional and local networks really commit to cascade the experience and pass it on to all. Only when teachers and administrators make their classroom practices and the school environments “breathe” the same spirit of the cycle we can truly walk the talk of Jesuit Education as a living tradition!

Fr. General also reminds as that the apostolic responsibility of the schools go beyond the school network, all Jesuit institutions and works are called to work together and develop our full international apostolic potential:

I should state that the network we are called to form is not just to connect us to other schools. We need to be aware that schools are apostolic platforms in dialogue and collaboration with the Society’s other apostolic institutions: universities, social projects, spirituality centers, parishes and other apostolic presences. That way, we will all grow and be able to provide greater and better apostolic service (JESEDU-Rio2017, 2017).

A new cycle: Walking as a Global Network at the Service of the Mission, will start in 2020 with the II Colloquium JESEDU-Jojga2020 in Jogjakarta, Indonesia. The message for our schools is clear: “Our institutions need to be aware of the anthropological and cultural change we are experiencing, and they need to know how to educate and train in a new way for a different future.” (Fr. General Sosa, JESEDU-Rio2017, 2017) We live in an era in which change is the new normal and we need to be in a continuous discernment to be able to respond to it.

This new cycle is framed within the recent announced Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) for the next decade (2019-2029):

·  To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment.
·  To walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice.
·  To accompany the young in the creation of a hope-filled future.
·  To collaborate in the care of our Common Home.

The UAPs reinforce the JESEDU-Rio Action Statement since the 13 actions easily aligned with them. However, the UAPs are not actions but really “a spiritual path. They do not seek merely to establish static apostolic ends or actions but, rather, they are dynamic means for us to continue to be led by the Spirit of renewal that inspired GC36… [they] are orientations not priorities… [they] are not just about doing but about being; they involved our entire life.” (Fr. General Sosa, Letter to Major Superiors, April 21, 2019). In this sense, the UAPs require our schools go deeper into their discernment and discuss how they can truly be a way to God, who are the outcasts in their midst and how they welcome them; how we can accompany the young students in our schools, listen to them, learn from them; how schools are places that encourage the care for our Common Home. No doubt, the JESEDU-Rio Action Statement put us in the right direction but the UAPs challenge our schools even further to embody the mission we claim to follow and to lead by example. The UAPs are not a checklist or additional “actions” to add to what we do, rather the UAPs are the lenses that invite to embrace the mission of the schools (companions in a mission of reconciliation and justice) through 4 specific focuses that challenge and enrich the ongoing process of discernment.

These are exciting times for the world and for Jesuit Education. Our Tradition encourages us to see the possibilities and discover God working on the world and responding with creativity and audacity:

By renewing our trust in God, we want to move forward as a global network with a universal mission. The challenges before us are many, but the apostolic possibilities can be greater. We need to detect them. God continues to work to create and save. The missio Dei continues. This faith encourages us to take on the path of apostolic audaciousness that makes the impossible possible. (Fr. General Sosa, JESEDU-Rio2017, 2017)