With 117 participants from across the globe, this is the first International Congress for the Jesuit Education Delegates.
During the next five days, the participants will be working with the goal of establishing a common agenda as a global network of Jesuit education delegates, in which they will specify the challenges, priorities and responsibilities in order to guide Jesuit networking in secondary and pre-secondary education. While the two previous gatherings in 2012 and 2014 identified the common need and desire to create and consolidate this global network, the purpose of this gathering is to “walk the talk”. We are gathered here to take the next steps in forming this global network.
It is about a challenge which will be answered this week through the joint work and discernment of an ample group of representatives from our global network, including the education delegates of the Jesuit Provinces, representatives of the regional education networks, the Jesuit Secretariat of Secondary and Pre-Secondary Education, and other members of the global network of Jesuit Education (Cristo Rey Network, Fe y Alegría and Jesuit Refugee Service), and the presidents of three of the Jesuit Conferences and some staff from the General Curia in Rome. The Congress is officially in English and Spanish, but conversations are taking place among the delegates and invitees in variety of languages: French and Portuguese, just to name a few.
Day 1: Innovation Day at JESEDU-Rio Congress
Today began the first full-day of JESEDU-Rio2017. The previous gatherings in Boston and Manresa have set the bar high, but the atmosphere of yesterday’s inaugural day has allowed this Congress to have an ideal start.
The Congress began last night with the Inaugural Mass presided by Fr. João Renato Eidt, SJ, Provincial of Brazil, and this morning Fr. José Alberto Mesa, SJ, Secretary of Secondary and Pre-Secondary Education for the Society of Jesus, gave the official welcome to the Congress. His welcome address focused on our common responsibility for the global network, emphasizing that the work of JESEDU-Rio2017 will be centered on the challenge of creating a common agenda for our global educational work and the formulation of global responses to the four main topics of the Congress: innovation, interreligious dialogue, social justice and ecology, and networking. Fr. Mesa encouraged us to “think globally without losing local roots in order to accomplish our joint goals as a network.”
A key concern in the planning of JESEDU-Rio2017 was to provide a methodology that produces the greatest possible impact in the global network. To achieve this, our starting point was the lessons learned from SIPEI (Manresa, 2014), which served to develop the central methodological elements of JESEDU-Rio2017. First, it is intended that each participant be an active subject throughout the meeting, playing a specific role in order to prioritize active participation and interaction. A second element consists in the keynote talks already discussed this past March and April during the Virtual Congress, allowing the keynote speakers to now share their reflections based upon the comments and reactions they received to their original document.
Day 2: Interreligious dialogue at JESEDU-Rio Congress
The speaker today, Fr. Vincent Sekhar, SJ, member of the Institute of Dialogue with Cultures and Religions at Loyola College in Chennai, India, emphasized that interreligious dialogue should form an integral part of Jesuit Education in responding to a secular world and to growing fundamentalism: signs of the times that are increasingly shaping our current societies. With regards to this, he stressed that Ignatian spirituality facilitates the transformation of education in our schools and among all those who form part of our educational centers. Fr. Vincent also reminded participantes that interreligious dialogue and reconciliation run through the very veins of the Society of Jesus and its various ministries, and go beyond studying other religions. It involves being open to others and their experience of God and having a more inclusive attitude towards other religious experiences. It is a process of learning and of exchange, of tolerance and celebration that provides a peaceful and inclusive space in order to promote coexistence and mutual understanding.
Today’s discussion following Fr. Vincent’s presentation allowed us to see the wide variety of local contexts and realities where the participants have come from. Without a doubt, interreligious dialogue is a challenge. How to approach religion or how to address one’s experience of God depends significantly on one’s local context. Nevertheless, in a world increasingly characterized by globalization, how do we prepare our students to be a part of a global context? As a global network, it is an obligation and an undeniable reality that we need to always have present the global context.
Day 3: Pilgrimage Day
On Wednesday, there was a change to the general structure of the Congress. At the end of the sending Mass, presided by Fr. Hugo Alexis Moreno, SJ, president of FLACSI, the participants left the Congress location to partake in a day of spiritual experience and pilgrimage, with the invitation to contemplate our world with the eyes of God. While participants traversed Rio they were animated to reflect on our whole world in its complexity and diversity. The Jesuit education delegates divided into five groups, accompanied by Jesuit scholastics and lay collaborators who helped to facilitate the pilgrimage experience. They visited three places in the southern part of Rio de Janeiro, a city of 6.3 million people. The second pilgrimage site was the well-known Christ the Redeemer statue situated on the Corcovado hill. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro, from which you have a complete view of the city. On one side, you can observe the Bahia of Guanabara with its islands and surrounding area. On the other side, you can see the city between the mountains and the ocean: people, construction projects, streets, buses, the hectic life of a city that does not stop. Tourism plays an important role, as one of the largest sources of income for the city. Corcovado is an impressive place for visitors to have such a view.
The pilgrimage concluded in the Botanical Garden where the five groups gathered together for the final moment of reflection in a vast green space, emphasizing the importance of ecological consciousness and caring for our common home.
Day 4: Caring for Our Common Home: Ecology and Social Justice
During the fourth working day, at the JESEDU-Rio2017 Congress, the Delegates of Education engaged in a deep reflection on the formation in social justice and integral ecology in the framework of Jesuit Education. The conversation uncovered a felt sense among the participants that ecological education and global citizenship should be pillars in the curriculum in order to contribute to the formation of conscious individuals.
Fr. Benny Juliawan, SJ, Secretary of the Social Apostolate and Coordinator for the Migrants Network in the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific, gave the Congress’ third keynote presentation, in which he emphasized the importance of forming students to promote social justice and integral ecology. Throughout the conversation a specific reference was made to the challenge we have to go beyond the notion of education as a business, which is an approach used by many educational networks. Jesuit Education represents a viable alternative to this conception, offering an integral proposal that privileges the formation in counter-cultural values, emphasizing social justice and integral ecology. How can we be innovators in education and formation?
Part of the morning session was joined by Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, and his assistant for Latin America South, Fr. Claudio Paul, SJ. Tomorrow Fr. General will celebrate Mass with us and will deliver a speech to the Provincial Assistants for Education and the representatives of the Jesuit educational networks.
Final Day: Global Network Day
After three years of preparing the JESEDU-Rio 2017 Congress we have arrived at its conclusion. This is the end of a conversation of the discernment about what we want to achieve as a global network that began in the International Colloquium for Jesuit Secondary Education (ICJSE) in Boston, Massachusetts (USA) in 2012. We received Fr. General Arturo Sosa who presided over the final Mass and who gave a speech where he mentioned some of the specific challenges that educators and educational institutions of the Society of Jesus should take on.
In his speech, after offering a brief historical review of the educational tradition of the Society of Jesus, Fr. General located our educational initiative in the universal mission “to be companions in a mission of universal reconciliation and justice” as described in the 36th General Congregation. In light of this, he stressed that “this Congress is an expression of the thanks we give to God and our benefactors in this area, an affirmation of the importance of the educational apostolate and a push to seek the audacity of the impossible that can carry us even further.”
Fr. General mentioned some of the specific challenges that we should take on as educators and as educational institutions of the Society of Jesus: (1) for our institutions to be spaces for educational investigation, true laboratories in innovation in teaching, from which we can draw new teaching methods or models; (2) without excluding any social class from our educational offering, we need to continue to make progress in educating for justice; (3) respect and care for our “common home” demands that our institutions train our students in the environmental dimension of reconciliation; (4) It should be evident that our institutions seek to protect minors and vulnerable individuals, preventing harm and acting immediately, effectively and transparently when needed; (5) the offering of religious training that opens students up to the transcendental dimension of life and that cultivates an experience of Christian faith that can transform personal and social life; and (6) although the concept of the “global citizen” is still under construction, our education should be a creative actor in this.
He also emphasized the importance of networks, highlighting that “it would be impossible to move forward without them.” Networking is part of how we do things, which “means that our schools need to organize into local and regional networks, in addition to being open without reservation to the global network we need to complete. We should not be afraid to share programs, experiences, materials and even resources to put together our international network.” Networking among schools is not exclusive to the schools alone, but rather it means working as a network with the entire apostolic body, that is, with universities, centers of investigation, parishes, etc. “Only if we think and act in a joint, coordinated way, welcoming and incorporating the wealth of our local diversity, will we be able to use the network to take on global challenges that affect our local conditions.”
Fr. General encouraged the educational delegates in their provinces to be “partly responsible for the proper operation of the networks, on every level, [contributing] to the development of the global Educate Magis platform, and work in favor of a global citizenship that cares for the planet and embodies solidarity.”
The participation of other educational networks engaged in innovative educational work in different parts of the world enriched the conversations during the Congress. These networks include the Cristo Rey Network, Fe y Alegría, Jesuit Refugee Service and Nativity Schools. In addition, the presence of the presidents of three Jesuit Conferences of Provincials stressed the significance of this gathering in the Society’s mission today.
The conversation about this network now moves on to the next level: the launching of a common agenda as a global network of Jesuit secondary education. In the coming weeks, the Jesuit Education Delegates will review the action points and subsequently confirm the commitments reached to continue building and consolidating the global Jesuit network of education.
Información completa extraída de la comunicación diaria llevada a cabo por Eduate Magis.