St Ignatius of Loyola came to understand that in order to serve the Lord and the Church anywhere in the world, a central dimension of such service would be through the medium of education.
Jesuit education has a history of over 450 years – it is a whole approach to teaching and learning, in all its forms and activities, not only in the co-curricular dimension, the faith dimension, the social justice dimension, but also in the ordinary teaching and learning that takes place in the classroom.
Jesuit Pedagogy is something which has been developed over 450 years, originally referred to as the Ratio Studiorum, and more recently The Characteristics of Jesuit Education.
The phrase Cura Personalis is key to Jesuit Education. It is what mattered the most to St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. Cura Personalis permeates every aspect of Jesuit Spirituality. Cura Personalis is what characterises any given Jesuit school – and everything flows from that. It is seen in the relationships that exist in a school between Management, Teachers, Students, Parents, and Administrative Staff.
At the centre of education is the young person (girl or boy) who is being educated, though the effects are not exclusively seen in them. Out of any honest and loving human relationship that exists in a school, where the person is at the centre of attention, there flows openness to relationship with God and relationship with the world outside of the school. These relationships include justice and care for the earth also. From that, too, flows a desire for justice beyond ourselves.
I am deeply touched when I meet some of the students in our Jesuit schools during my annual visitation. When I ask them what matters most to them about being in their particular school, each group will tell me that the thing they value most in their school is the relationships they have with their teachers and peers. Upon hearing this, I know that the Jesuit experience of education is alive and flourishing.
Another significant dimension of Jesuit education is Reflection on Experience. This lies at the heart of Ignatian spiritual practice and is best illustrated in the Examen or Examination of Consciousness. Everything in our daily life is worth reflecting on. It is a simple activity that fosters openness to ourselves, toward others, and to God.
Jesuit Education is transformative. It transforms the whole person. It not only touches the heads but the hearts and hands of our students. It transforms the individual physically, academically, spiritually, socially, emotionally, and psychologically. Transformative education empowers the individual to care not only for oneself, but also for others and for the earth and the world they are part of.
Transforming an individual to reach his or her own potential and to become a fully integrated person not only for him/herself but for his/her family, community, country, and the world is what a Jesuit education aims to achieve. If we are only addressing the mind, then we are not changing the individual. We must address the head, the heart, and the hands of the individual. Namely, the academic skills and knowledge as well as the ethical and moral dimensions, plus the practical skills to address the global challenges of our times: social inequality, political and social divisions, and the ecological devastation faced in this modern age.
A Jesuit education is holistic, that is, it addresses the academic, the physical, the emotional, the psychological and spiritual dimensions of the individual.
Fr Quyen Vu SJ
Photo featuring Fr Nico Lariosa SJ distributing Communion at a Thanksgiving Mass. Photo provided by St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point.