Discerned excellence and shared leadership

The JECSE Formators Conference 2019 brought together the formators of Jesuit Schools across Europe in Manresa, Dublin, at the end of March. This wonderful experience aimed at enriching all the participants, forming the teachers on identity and mission. It was also an opportunity to remind everyone of the value of the Jesuit European Committee for Primary and Secondary Education as a platform for widening perspective while building a common purpose.

There were representatives from ten different Provinces, with so much to share, with a spirit of comradeship, companionship and fun. The majority of them were lay people. Fr Tim Byron SJ, assistant in the Jesuit Institute and currently based at Wimbledon College, attended from the British Province.

Having their European colleagues in Dublin felt really special for the Irish Province, which could return the hospitality received at the previous gatherings in Drongen, Milan and Manresa.

On the first evening, the tone was set in a relaxed and cheerful manner, as some formators described the context of their work, through a picture of their choice. These stories varied from their projects with students, to sleep out and reality TV adventures. The following morning, the keynote speaker, Fr Nikolaas Sintobin SJ, Superior of the Jesuits in Amsterdam and who is leading an internet apostolate there, gave to the group three characteristics of Excellence:

Glendalough

- Magis is strictly Personal
- Magis = Personal Desire
- Magis is an Invitation to ‘Decentration’ – lose yourself.

“It was a very good talk on how easily Magis can be included in our programmes and everyday’s attitude”, commented Fr Tim. “It further enlightened on the fact that Magis is more about a discerned excellence, which means it doesn’t entail only grades and sports: it is really all encompassing, for the Greater Glory of God. Nikolaas talked about how St Ignatius first has learnt that in his life, and how then Magis has become a subtler concept, that can be included in all aspects of our lives without difficulties.”

Nikolaas’s intriguing style of illustrating the points using Youtube clips brought humour and clarity to his words.

The group could enjoy some time outdoors as they spent the second day of the conference on a trip to Glendalough, just outside Dublin, one of the most important Monastic sites in Ireland, deeply immersed in Celtic Spirituality. “We meditatively walked around, slowly, reading some extracts from Laudato Si’, contemplating the nature around us” explained Fr Tim Byron. Fr Michael and Fr Pat, two Irish missionaries, guided the attendees through the pathways, towards the round towers and amidst the lakes of this magnificent place. With the help of warm Irish sunshine, the monastic site invited the group to sit deep in wonder and awe. The day came to a highpoint with the outdoor mass in the Women’s Church, during which Bernard Peters SJ ensured at every chance that the voices were raised in beautiful chanting.

The following morning, with his Galway based team, Gellert Merza brought the group on a virtual tour of the exciting website Educate Magis, which offers opportunities for classrooms from around the world to meet each other and discuss common themes.

Krizan Vekic, Justice Co-ordinator for the Irish province, finally challenged the attendees to define ‘Global Citizen’s and quickly reminded them that it is possible to make Ignatian Global Citizenship when involved in relationship with God: this is what makes all better, more committed, Global Citizens.

The typical style of JECSE is to share the leadership of the Conference and this was no different. All the members led each other, in turns, in prayer and reflection to set the tone of the day while keynote speakers were a great inspiration, especially focusing on the topic of Magis. Gráinne Delaney, coordinator of Ignatian Ethos at Crescent College Comprehensive SJ in Limerick, Ireland, said: “as I discovered more about the programmes which colleagues are directing in their schools the words of Nikolaas resonated with me, ‘There is no point having all these experiences, if there is no Reflection. (On Reflection, I agree!).”

This article was based on a piece on the Jesuits in Europe’s website.