The Jesuit Education Network of Pre-Secondary and Secondary Education is the largest in the world: 1660 Jesuits working with nearly 49,000 Partners in Mission provide education to 876,500 students in 845 schools.
In addition, 4400 JRS personnel and faculty provide 175 educational projects in 20 countries to 121,000 beneficiaries and students, while 26,000 personnel and faculty from Fe y Alegria — a federation of local organisations which offer educational opportunities to the poorest sectors of society — provide 1300 educational projects to 1,200,000 beneficiaries and students in 22 countries. The potential reach for transformation for those engaged with Jesuit education across the world is extraordinary.
From 16 to 20 October, 117 representatives from Secondary and Pre-Secondary Education, JRS, Fe Y Alegria, the Nativity Schools and Cristo Rey schools across the world participated in the first International Congress dedicated to the Delegates for Education held in Rio de Janerio.
Fr Jose Mesa, Secretary for Pre-secondary and Secondary Education, opened the congress with a challenge to delegates to create a common agenda for the global educational work and the formulation of responses to the four main issues addressed throughout the congress: innovation, interreligious dialogue, social justice and ecology, and networking. The challenge called us to ‘think globally without losing local roots in order to accomplish our joint goals as a network’.
This congress was the third experience in a cycle of renewal of Jesuit education that began five years ago in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2012, for the first time in history, a meeting of over 500 leaders in Jesuit secondary schools across the world met to affirm the need and desire to create a global network among Jesuit schools.
In 2014, 80 participants met in Manresa in Spain for the International Seminar on Ignatian Pedagogy and Spirituality (SIPEI). An additional 4000 participants engaged with the seminar via social networks and live streaming. This seminar focused on the goal of Jesuit education as summarised by Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach in 1993: Jesuit education must form men and women who are people of conscience, competence, compassion and commitment. This Congress in Rio de Janerio is the third stage of the cycle of renewal.
Father General Artutro Sosa, in his address to the congress, reminded us that our educational institutions stand on the rock of Christ’s call for us to be intelligent and to educate people who are intelligent, who understand the complexities of the world, who hear the cries of all people, and the earth, and to creatively search for ways to build a more just world that proclaims the Good news ‘in a way that is pertinent, attractive and transformative’; not just immediately, but for the future.
Fr General challenged the education apostolate to develop global citizens who are conscious of and have a critical vision of their own culture and roots while at the same time being open to other cultures, realising that the world is diverse and complex. He challenged us to work collaboratively within the Society’s education network and with other apostolic sectors of the Society. He called us to become people who are proactive rather than reactive to our current context, to walk the talk of the gospel, to make the impossible possible and to overcome our fears and move into frontiers that should help us achieve our greater mission.
This congress provided an opportunity to identify the diversity that exists among the educational institutions across the globe. Yet this experience provided an opportunity to review and reflect on the common mission that unites us in a global network and is the fire that kindles other fires.
Jennie Hickey, Province Delegate for Education