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On June 5th, 2020 the global community of Educate Magis gathered online to participate in the Webinar “Cura Personalis in the Crisis: How Can We Take Care of Ourselves and Our Students?” Educators from Jesuit schools in India, Philippines, United States, Mexico, Nepal, Spain, Argentina, Ecuador, and many other countries listened and reflected during this fabulous experience led by Irish Jesuit, Brendan McManus, a former teacher who has written widely on Ignatian spirituality and mental health.

Fr. Brendan offered his Ignatian tips for teachers adapting to the Covid 19 crisis based on the Spiritual Exercises. He explained how self care is fundamental to being able to teach well in the crisis and to take better care of students and how emotional awareness, discernment of spirits, agere contra (acting against), and good decision making are key in finding a way forward.

The webinar was carried out in an interview style. Below are some of the questions which were asked and the insights shared.

Brendan, you wrote an article in March about the Ignatian response to the Covid crisis, could you sum up the main points for us? (Link to article here)

  • Remember that God is with us in this, in the middle of this. God is in the real.
  • Face your fear. Allthough fear, worry and anxiety are normal responses it is important not to let them take over.
  • Work out what you can do within the limits of the situation.

In terms of Cura Personalis, what is the Ignatian starting point?

Cura personalis originally came from the care of a superior for a Jesuit. It is very personalised and customised

  • It is important to care for ourselves first before we can care for others.
  • To do this I need to have a basic awareness of my emotions – what am I feeling?
  • And then process these emotions – what does this mean? what am I being invited to do?
  • I also need to have an awareness of others and understand the pressures and stresses they may be feeling.
  • I need to secure my own position (lifesaving) in order to be able to help others.
  • If someone is in a hole, don’t get in with them, tie yourself to a tree to be able to help.
  • Brendan has written more about this here

What are some of the supports which might be helpful for us to secure ourselves before we can help others?

  • Some kind of prayer or meditation practice.
  • The Examen is a very effective tool for reflecting on what’s working or not, particularly at challenging times like these.
  • Some kind of spiritual direction or counselling.
  • A good friend or support group you can share your worries with.
  • Journaling can be a great way of expressing and processing feelings.
  • Most important: don’t be afraid to ask for help!

You wrote on the Irish Jesuit blog about the ‘U’ shaped curve in tough times, tell us about that? (Link to article here)

  • The dynamic of the Exercises and most human experiences is a U shape.
  • We have to go through difficult/challenging experiences to grow and move.
  • The key is understanding the process and how to hang on when it gets tough. It can help to visualise this U shape.
  • This is an experience of the Cross, the apparent absence of God and then the resurrection, the process of slowly coming back to life and recovering the joy of simply being again.

After Brendan had answered the first few questions, we took a short break to reflect on our feelings: grateful, tired, anxious, hopeful, happy, enlightened, stressed but hopeful, blessed, creative, supported, courageous, were some of the words shared by the participants, educators from Jesuit schools in various contexts around the world.

After 30 minutes, the participants were then invited into small break-out rooms where they had the chance to reflect on and share their responses to 3 questions posed by Brendan:

  1. What struck you most?
  2. What does this mean for your work and/or life?
  3. What one decision or practical step could you take?

This experience of sharing with a global group seemed to have been particularly enriching and exciting for educators of our global community who participated in this webinar. We would like to share some of the comments that were mentioned:

“Thanks Fr. Brendan for hosting this webinar.. very nourishing… appreciate the insights🙏👍”
“Thanks for connecting us from different nations…”
“It was amazing to hear the stories of life in different countries and how different it is to Dublin. The gift of this global community is powerful”
“thank you to Brendan for his enlightening presentation and for the companions in the small group for their sharing”
“a nice experience to listen to others and be heard too. Thank you!”
“thank u for the points for reflection fr McManus sj”
“That U shaped curve really touched my heart. Thanku Fr. Brendan”
“Gracias a todos por compartir y especialmente a los organizadores. Uno se siente parte de una gran familia”
“thank you very mucho from Fe y Alegria Uruguay”
“A wonderful experience of our global community united in a common vision.”
“Gracias por tanto y por todo, desde Perú.”

We invite you to watch the webinar recording and to comment in the comment box with any reflections or insights you would like to share with your colleagues around the world. If you have further questions for Fr. Brendan please also leave them in the comment box below.

The Global Ignatian webinar “Cura Personalis in the Crisis: How Can We Take Care of Ourselves and Our Students?” was organized by Educate Magis together with Fr. Brendan McManus SJ, Spirituality Delegate for the Irish Jesuits, Spiritual Director and retreat giver in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

If you would like to attend more webinars like this one or have a particular topic that you would like us to develop for a future webinar please send us an email to info@educatemagis.org