In July 2021, 400 delegates from Jesuit colleges around the world came together for the JESEDU II Colloquium, the first time conducted virtually and only the second time this event has occurred, the first being in Boston in 2012. The delegates were asked to reflect on and discuss the question:
How do we accompany young people in the creation of a
hope-filled future in our education apostolic ministry?
At the Colloquium we explored four strands integral to the mission of Jesuit education today:
- Educating for Faith
- Educating for Depth
- Educating for Reconciliation
- Educating for Global Citizenship
The Colloquium statement from the JESEDU II Colloquium in July 2021 has now been released and includes the following vision statement:
We ought to educate for a hope-filled future
by educating for depth and global citizenship
In faith and in reconciliation
In the context of our Educational Integrated Holistic Perspective
The Four-Fold Mission of Jesuit Education Today
Throughout the conversations I was struck by the ability we have within JEA to speak with conviction about mission and identity in common with all our Colleges and companion schools. I was impressed by the passion of my colleagues and the opportunities we have together to shape the future of Jesuit education across the world.
We have a shared global mission but there are unique and sometimes geographical reasons why some areas articulate their mission in different ways. In some locations our schools cannot educate for faith as their countries ban the teaching of religion. And yet their commitment to our mission, to accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future, is undiminished. In other locations, there is conflict and social unrest and educating for reconciliation is a priority. But the common ground, “accompanying the young in a hope-filled future” is the powerful goal that unifies us all.
We are bound together by a shared identity but there are also differences within that identity. We are like a family who share common DNA and features, figures of speech, mannerisms or gestures of which we may not even be aware, but we are all unique human beings in our own way. So it is with our Colleges within Australia and globally, an intricate bond of identity that strengthens with each opportunity to gather together and converse with each other.
The first strand, “Educating for Faith”, explored how we educate our students in faith and bring this dimension to life across the curriculum. What are the challenges of educating for faith in an increasingly secular world? How do we share a compelling and powerful faith narrative to bring students into a closer relationship with God? In a time where the value and distinctiveness of a Catholic education is being explored, it is timely for us to animate and make faith explicit and show students the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and the practice of discernment.
The second strand, “Educating for Depth” invited us to remember our Ignatian pedagogical paradigm and the importance of reflecting deeply on experience and then being called to action. Educating for depth is not about having deep knowledge in a niche field. Nor is it about being overly introspective, to the point of being incapable of action. Drawing on the 2009 speech of Fr Adolfo Nicolas SJ I was reminded that educating for depth is more about the attention we give to forming our students’ inner persons: “Ignatius says what really matters in the business of becoming human and Christian is not many superficial bits of knowledge and information but a deep understanding and appreciation of what is most important.” To equip our students with the ability to “decide from the inside” and produce people of discernment who come to see God operating in the world is our goal.
Or from Fr David Tuohy SJ:
“Education opens the person to life as it is, and helps create a definite attitude to life as it should be. …. They learn to be attentive to their own experiences and those of others, and to recognise the fullness of life that is on offer in choices to be made”.
The third strand, “Educating for Reconciliation” brought to mind the many relationships we encounter that need restoration – including First Nations peoples, abuse survivors, those in relationships that are not respectful – as well as the global conflicts that create division and violence. On our home patch we have much work to do in the areas of gender and inclusion, on restorative justice and the social inequities highlighted by the COVID pandemic most affecting those in casual labour who didn’t have the luxury of “working from home”. Or the refugees and prisoners whom our JRS and JSS ministries support in their efforts to combat the pandemic and maintain their health and safety.
Finally, educating for global citizenship is top of mind for many given the pandemic and how it has brought global connections to the fore, with the ease of technology such as the Educate Magis platform. Or the statements from the recent COP 26 and efforts to curb climate change, a cause that rightly galvanizes the young. The Province’s recent commitment to the Laudato Si Action Platform, the efforts of the Reconciliation with Creation working group and the Sustainability Coordinators across all Jesuit schools bear out the ways in which we are already on the pathway to educating for global citizenship.
In the New Year we will decipher and apply to our Australian context the commitment to educate for a hope-filled future, by educating for depth and global citizenship in faith and reconciliation. I am heartened by Pope Francis’ recent message
“We need to use that sublime human faculty which is the imagination, that place where intelligence, intuition, experience and historical memory come together to create, compose, venture and risk.”
In our Jesuit education tradition, we are blessed with a spirituality that helps inform what we do, how we do it and why we do it, together with the many gifts of intelligence, intuition, experience and historical memory and I therefore look forward to the fruits of our collective imagination that will now follow.
 Challenges and Issues in Jesuit Education (Manila July 2009),
 Learning to Love the World as God Loves it: Jesuit Humanism in Education (from a lecture under the same title delivered at a conference on education in St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin 9, on January 22nd 2015)
 Video Message of Pope Francis on the Occasion of the Fourth World Meeting of Popular Movements, 16 October 2021