Last October 24 to 27, over one hundred directors and leaders of European Jesuit Schools gathered near Rome for JECSE’s conference focusing on the topic “He sent them two by two … Accompaniment; walking with our colleagues from and into the heart of our Ignatian tradition”. As one of the organizers of this event I feel very grateful for the opportunity to be together in person and for what I consider a very fruitful encounter. In this short text I try to gather some of the most consoling fruits of this activity as well as my reflections on them.
Meeting people from all over Europe, even if they all have similar roles of leadership Jesuit secondary schools, is always eye opening. The variety of contexts and perspectives, the richness of the different strategic and personal approaches to directing a school in the Ignatian tradition, and the mere diversity of personality and style were clearly palpable.
I appreciated the variety of answers given by a panel with three School Heads each sharing about their experience of leadership and accompaniment in their own schools. This led me to a very meaninful, and stimulating conversation with people I had never met but who clearly were eager to share their own experiences and to learn from mine.
I noticed how participants enjoyed and benefited from the three very different, and very complementary presentations by keynote speakers. They rekindled our sense of being called by Jesus to a vocation of leadership and accompaniment, they helped us realize the importance of connecting well with the oftentimes wounded reality of our young students, and they provided many examples of how we can help our schools become communities of accompaniment.
I was particularly impressed with the openness participants showed to the proposed rhythm of input, silent reflection, group work, and prayer. Each day was packed with new content which participants then engaged with in extended period of prayerful silence, followed by group sharing or group work. The seriousness with which people devoted themselves to the process proved very fruitful, and I am convinced we each brought home new ideas, new connections, a renewed sense of being part of a supportive network, as well as a consoled heart with which to continue the challenging mission of leading our schools.
Throughout the conference we had several intense moments of prayer in community. I enjoyed both the singing and the silence together. This culminated with a very well-organized visit to the Heart of Jesuit life in Rome with a concluding Eucharist in the Church of the Gesu. I deeply enjoyed listening to the Gospel, the prayers, and the responses in several languages. And I felt grateful to be with my new brothers and sisters recommitting to the mission in the place where it all began.
We cordially invite you to read the post-conference reflection on accompaniment prepared by our colleague Louis Lourme: