We are delighted to share this interview with Fr. George Nedumattam SJ, Principal at St. Xavier’s School (India), who participated as a facilitator in the Ignatian Global Citizenship Course. This course is a facilitator-led global course that offers a new synchronous global learning experience for Ignatian educators. A new course modality that allows members of our global community to learn together in global groups with educators from different Jesuit schools around the world.
George´s participation as a facilitator not only contributed to delivering on the holistic vision of education offered by Jesuit schools but it has also helped us, as a community, to keep growing as contemporary Jesuit educators. Thank you George!
Without further ado here is George´s facilitation experience.
If you are interested in knowing more about our facilitation opportunities, please contact Felipe Revollo at email@example.com
Q1. What is your full name, current job title, job responsibilities, school name, city and country where you work?
Fr. George Nedumattam, SJ. Principal. Ours is a new school established in July 2022 and that means, I am taking care of the construction of the school building, developing of the school campus and all other matters related to the establishing of a new school. St. Xavier’s School, Kaiserganj, India
Q2. Where were you born? Can you briefly share with us a special memory from your own biography that relates to your first interest (curiosity) in God or the Jesuit community?
I was born in Kerala, the southernmost state of India which claims its Catholic origins to St. Thomas, the apostle. Therefore, I was brought up in a complete Catholic atmosphere with all the activities related to an active parish.
As a young boy (maybe grade 7 or 8), I was part of the altar boy’s association in the parish and had many opportunities to be at the altar along with the priest offering the mass. I always wondered, how or what enabled the priest to transform the host and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and what was the special graces the priest had to do this. This question along with the regular catechism class in the parish helped me understand to some extend the mystery of the Eucharist, which has been part of me and is still part of me.
Q3. What is your relationship to the Jesuit community? How important is it for your life, your personal ethos, to work for or be part of the Jesuit community?
I believe that community life in the Society of Jesus itself is a mission. It is in the community that we live, grow and express ourselves in manifold ways through our ministries. I further believe that no ministry in the Society of Jesus belongs to an individual (even if only one person is directly involved in a particular ministry), but it belongs to the community and it is the community which guides, directs and celebrates every ministry.
I have to say that even when Jesuits live individually for reasons pertaining to the ministry, they belong to a community which enables the Jesuits to be fully immersed in the ministry without being overly concerned about one’s own personal space and wellbeing. In fact, the community fulfils the Jesuit, and the Jesuit completes the mission. Therefore, not being part of a community or being distanced from a community for personal or other reasons will greatly impact the efficacy of the mission and the efficiency of the individual Jesuit.
Being part of a community is very important to me as a Jesuit and I have had the opportunities to live both in small and large Jesuit communities and it makes immense difference in one’s life to be part of a Jesuit community and feel that belongingness. Where the bond among the members of the community is strong, the effectiveness of the ministry and mission is high. I would not hesitate to say that the effectiveness of a Jesuit mission is directly proportional to the depth of the union of minds and hearts of the Jesuits in the community.
Q4. Based on your personal experience, how do you define global education?… and what is the meaning of global citizenship in the context of the document “Jesuit Schools: A Living Tradition in the 21st Century”?
“Preparing students of Jesuit schools to be global citizens is to prepare them to truly see God in all things, to be driven by compassion, and to utilize the power of religion for justice and peace.” (Living Tradition, No: 180) The life and mission of the Society of Jesus has been truly global from the beginning. St. Ignatius had no hesitation to ask his companions to move to any part of the world, to fulfil the mission assigned even if that meant not being able to see the person again. For St. Ignatius and their companions, the mission was supreme and any sacrifice that was required for the fulfilment of this mission was acceptable to them. The reason for this commitment was to enable as many people as possible to encounter God in their own lives and help them to find God in all things.
Today when we talk about global citizenship especially in the context of Jesuit education and Ignatian spirituality, we are talking about helping persons to become aware of their own surroundings and while being rooted in their surrounding enabling them to find everyone else and everything else through the eyes of God. In other words, we are educating our students to understand that they are not individuals living in some part of the world, but they are an integral part of a global family. It is also to make them understand that the actions or lack of actions of an individual in the family affects the entire family, likewise the actions or the lack of actions of each one of us affects and impacts the entire global family. Therefore, I understand global education as a learning process which enables and activates every student, and everyone involved in Jesuit education to understand that everyone is a member of the global family no matter where we are at present. Thus, our actions or the lack of actions will positively or negatively impact the entire world in some form or the other. This leads us think globally and act locally knowing that each one of us is contributing to the life of the global family.
Q5. What examples of global education projects or intercultural initiatives can you share with us from your own past in which you have been involved?
Global exchanges among the Jesuit schools have always inspired me and from the beginning of Educate Magis, I have been part of some of the activities taken up by the global team. I was fortunate enough to be part of the task force which developed the Ignatian definition global citizenship and the lessons on global citizenship which is being used by many persons today. I also worked with the team for the video presentation during the online colloquium and presented the Global Citizenship Examen. These were wonderful experiences but one experience that stands out was the online global Christmas celebration we had. I think the school where I was working joined the first such programme and it was a lifetime experience for our students. They had no such experiences before and considering that it was a school, which was not in any major city or an urban environment, the students were exposed to the possibility of interacting with students from all the six continents.
Q6. Could you please try to explain the connection between the life/message of Jesus and … global education/citizenship?
“I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” (Lk4:43) The life of Jesus or the message of Jesus was not intended for a particular group of people. The good news of the kingdom is for the entire world and no one is excluded from it whether it be gentiles, Samaritans or the tax collectors. Jesus during his mission included everyone including those despised by the community. He went to the extent of saying, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Lk 5:32). These messages of Jesus are sufficient for us to understand that in the Kingdom of God, no one is excluded and everyone no matter what status they have in the society is a member of the Kingdom of God.
When we understand this dimension of the life and message of Jesus, global citizenship, looked at from a faith perspective can be easily understood as a secular understanding of the Kingdom God. It is this connection between the life of Jesus and His message that we are trying to inculcate in our students and everyone else associated with us when talk about global citizenship in Jesuit schools.
Q7. What has been your experience so far (positive/challenging aspects) in promoting Ignatian Global Citizenship in the cohorts organised by Educate Magis?
I was very glad when the Educate Magis project was announced during SIEPEI in Manresa, and I envisaged that this platform and the resources will rejuvenate and greatly enrich the Jesuit education ministry globally. I also believed that this will open the way for many collaborations and interactions among the Jesuit schools from across the world. I should acknowledge that Educate Magis has provided the platform as well as amazing resources for the Jesuit Educators from all over the world.
I am happy that we are promoting Ignatian Global Citizenship in the cohorts organised by Educate Magis. But it has not garnered the required enthusiasm among the Jesuit educators. The responses have not been to our expectations and maybe the responses from some geographical areas maybe more than the other. In this context we need to think of various ways of promoting this activity and also other activity among the Jesuit educators.
I make the following suggestions. We need to make the conference secretaries of education an integral part of the activities conducted through Educate Magis.
All the communication regarding the resources available and the activities need to be done through the conference secretaries so that it becomes an activity of the education ministry. If possible, make a folder or a brochure of all the resources and activities of Educate Magis and share the same among the Jesuit educators. The cohort programmes need to be communicated and widely circulated so that the Jesuit educators make use of this programme.
Q8. Why is it important for students in Jesuit schools around the world to learn about global citizenship, intercultural communication, and discernment?
The Society of Jesus is a universal society on a universal mission. The mission of the Society as entrusted to a community in one place may not have immediate impacts on the global situation. But it is to be understood that every value that is inculcated in the young minds will have some bearing on the life of the society wherever they are and that is the dimension that we are focusing on when we talk about the global dimension of our mission.
We talk about the whole universe being a global village. That is to say that an event taking place in one part of the world is immediately known and shared with people from all over the world and it has its own impacts. Some of the events will have repercussions in various parts of the world as well. The environmental issue is one such matter which had global impact. We could consider religious dimension of people’s lives, politics, geo-political conflicts, etc. as issues which has global impacts. Global citizenship is something which will inspire and influence the young minds to deeply understand that every action of theirs will have an impact in the wider world. It will also generate in them a concern for the wellbeing of the citizens of the world and help them initiate actions in this regard. It is also possible that such an action initiated by an individual or a group could become a pathbreaking initiative for the welfare of the entire world. Therefore, our students in our schools should have a deep understanding of global citizenship and it should prompt them to actions.
Discernment is a spiritual tool that St. Ignatius gave to the world to make choices after having considered every aspect of an issue and make choices which will have positive impact on the person’s life and the life of the world. When we analyse the socio – political scenario around the world today, we find that most of the decisions are made with very little or no concern for the welfare of the entire world, but in a very limited and narrowed understanding of the world. The understanding is very limited, and it caters to the welfare of the immediate community that is involved, forgetting that such decisions will have lasting impact on the entire world. In this context, discernment in the life a person will help the person to make the right choices which will have positive impact and will benefit everyone.
Even when we look at these dimensions from a very pure secular understanding of these, we can easily decipher that a proper understanding of global citizenship, intercultural communication and discernment is a need in today’s world rather than these being something additional. The Jesuit School Network can easily contribute to this awareness among the people with its vast network and outreach and therefore, students in Jesuit schools should learn about these.
Q9. What is your favourite quote/phrase related to global citizenship, or simply to education, from a historical figure that you admire?
“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible, but I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.” (Mahatma Gandhi)