First of all, this first worldwide meeting for the Education Delegates has clearly been of major importance to the delegates themselves. During the first European delegates meeting following the Rio conference the delegates expressed their enthusiasm and there was more awareness of both our global and regional interconnectedness.
To those who were in their first global conference it gave a wide international perspective of Jesuit primary and secondary education and the stimulating dynamics of ICAJE and the first cycle of worldwide conferences. Delegates expressed they brought home a lot of inspiration to share with teachers, students and parents in the local context. In Poland for instance being able to show people the wide horizons of Jesuit education after JESEDU-Rio2017 enabled their active and open engagement.
At the regional European level, the emphasis during the period following JESEDU-Rio2017 was and is on enabling interiority and the experience of God, which is a real challenge in the European multi-convictional context and askes for pastoral renewal in creative fidelity to our Ignatian tradition. The European head masters conference (Spring 2018) as well as the coming conference for chaplains and pastoral coordinators (January 2019) both circle around the theme of how to speak about Jesus in our specific context; and during our formators meeting we focused on action number 3: to find ways in which Ignatian Spirituality (the Exercises) can be actively adapted to the school setting so that students learn the habit of stillness and the practice of discernment (materials can be found on the Educate Magis platform).
In the schools, in general, the Action Plan is well received and embraced. The document is considered important and fundamental. The proposed concrete actions offer guidelines for the assessment of current activities as well as define a core set of priorities for new strategic plans. In some Provinces there was more emphasize on the challenges.
In many of the Provinces and schools Jesuit identity itself is considered the central part of the Action Statement.
In a school in Flanders (Brussels), teachers realized that the first action point is essential – actually serves as a basic condition – for the whole project: “to promote the Examen of Consciousness, to help students listen to their inner voice and learn the path of interiority.” This focus on interiority was seen as the soul of the Action Statement and one that is as valuable and relevant for the teachers as it is for the students. Schools are busy places and teachers as well as pupils experience a lot of pressure during the school year. Whilst events like retreat days and opportunities to celebrate Eucharist are very much appreciated, they are – after all – on the margins of ‘normal school life’. So an experiment is started in this school in Brussels to create room within the curriculum itself for developing interiority. All the students involved in the experiment will receive a small notebook and during the 10’ Examen, they will use this notebook as a diary: 10’ of silence, reflection and writing within the teaching hours. The teachers involved in the experiment will participate in the experience themselves. All this will be done under the title ‘breather’.
At the end of the school year this experiment will be evaluated. We hope, of course, that students will experience these 10 minutes Examen as strongly connected with their school life and as a grace; an opportunity to stand still, to reflect and to focus. Moreover, we hope that this experiment can be a sign for the whole of the school that reflection and interiority are essential parts of the learning program in an Ignatian school.
In the Euro-Mediterranean Province too (Malta, Italy, Albania) interiority through the Examen was chosen as the first priority to work on, introducing all teachers and the Senior Management Staff to the practice of the Examen, starting from what already exists in terms of experiences of reflection within the schools in which one can find a diversity of contexts and sensibilities.
According to the context the experience of the Examen process is exercised among the school staff with the aim to provoke motivation among the students to help them adopt a reflective attitude.
A system to evaluate and document the process will be set up to identify the best practices which can be shared with other schools
In Lithuania there are interesting ideas like integrating some moments of silence in the Mass, inviting students to stay in silent reflection for a few minutes or to do the Examen of consciousness during Mass.
Students in the Lithuanian schools are already encouraged to keep spiritual journals, which gives them a significant opportunity to reflect on their prayer life and personal struggles, to re-examine unique, valuable experiences gained during retreats and to search for God’s presence in their everyday life, but also to discover new things while looking back in the journal through the years of studies. This spiritual journaling clearly is a great tool which helps students to uncover their thoughts and feelings as well as enables them to make connections between seemingly unrelated fragments of their lives. After Rio the schools are looking for more creative ways to do reflection in the future.
In the Netherlands, during the academic year following JESEDU-Rio2017, there was an emphasis on being part of a Global Network. In January, there was a big conference for all the staff of all the schools by way of saying goodbye to the last two Jesuits leaving the schools. We wanted to make known that though the Jesuits were leaving, we’d go on facilitating and strengthening the rediscovery of our Ignatian roots and that an important part of our way of doing this, is by being part of our European and Global Network. The theme of the conference was ‘Growing in Community’, in line with the first cycle of worldwide conferences for Jesuit Education, starting with ‘The world is our house’ in Boston in 2012. The keynote speakers spoke about ‘magis’ and about the importance of growing into a compassionate commitment towards the others in our schools and in the world around us. We also used the opportunity to emphasize the importance (and inspiration!) of networking by inviting Ciara Beuster to introduce the Educate Magis online community platform to the teachers.
Of course other action points were mentioned as well (like environmental education) but interiority is obviously the number one priority in Europe.
Last but not least delegates expressed their appreciation and gratitude to the organizing committee.