Throughout my Jesuit journey, I have spent many years as an educator.
It all began in 1959, in my final year at Christian Brother’s Leederville when Fr Lou Lachal SJ visited our class. Lou was back from India at the time and spoke to us about the Mission in Hazaribag. He made a big impression on me and in April 1960 I joined the Novitiate in Watsonia.
Since then, I have worked in many schools and educational formation centres across India, Nepal and Australia, but it was my experience in Myanmar which was perhaps the most formative.
Paul in Yangon, Myanmar.
The Universal Apostolic Preference, ‘Journeying with Youth – Accompanying young people in the creation of a hope-filled future’ calls upon us to not only to give them a set of academic skills but by our commitment and professionalism to inspire them to want to use those skills for the good of the communities in which they will live and work.
I see this reflected in my time in Myanmar.
Paul in a spoken English class of Bhutanese Refugees in Nepal – 2008.
I taught Spoken English at Campion Institute in Yangon and from October 2018 to March 2020 at St Aloysius Gonzaga, Taunggyi, which is about 200 miles north east of Yangon in Myanmar. Despite the hardships in their lives, the students there had a real yearning to learn and were incredibly hardworking. I know of a number of students who, beyond the courses they were doing at Campion and at SAG, were also taking extra courses in Chinese or Accountancy or some other subject.
Paul with SAG Taunggyi teachers on Inle Lake.
Looking back over the journey, the things that stand out are the joy I got from the companionship and the camaraderie of my Jesuit companions and the satisfaction I got from teaching in the classroom. I am also grateful for the skills I learnt at the Hindi Language School, which stood me in good stead teaching Spoken English in Nepal and in Myanmar.
When I reflect on what it means to journey with youth, I don’t think that it is something that you’re conscious of day-to-day, nor is it something that you can pin down to a single action. Journeying with youth is about the ongoing care, companionship, friendship, support and commitment that you show to them in the joint pursuit of their dreams and goals.
Fr Paul Horan SJ
Main image: Scenic view of mountainous landscape at countryside near Hsipaw, Myanmar – Getty Images