Communicating the Jesuit Mission
The annual meeting of the network of communicators and webmasters of the Society of Jesus in Europe, JesWebCom, took place in Madrid from 14 to 17 May. More than thirty people from some twenty countries - mostly from Europe, but with representatives also coming from CPAL, the African Conference, and Australia - met at a retreat centre in Martinez Campos, La Casa de ejercicios espirituales Rafaela Maria. There, they dealt with three fundamental issues.
The first day was led by John Dardis SJ, General Councilor for Discernment and Director of Communication of the Curia in Rome. "What’s new in the UAPs beside the titles?" he asked, as guiding the group through a reflection on the communication of the Universal Apostolic Preferences. Additionally, personal considerations and work in groups served to set a communicative horizon for the next few years regarding the UAPs.
On the second day, José María Olaizola SJ, Secretary of Communication of the Jesuit Spanish Province, coordinated the conversation, focused on communication in situation of crisis. Starting with several examples of real cases from institutions of the Spanish Province in recent years, with the help of Elena Rodríguez Avial, of the Provincial Communication Office, and Carlos S. de la Cruz, from the Communication Office for the Comillas University, they explained some of these cases and generated an intense exchange of experiences, learning, and conclusions valid for many of the participants.
The question of protocols and guidelines for the Jesuit online presence was discussed on Friday morning, as presented by Jane Hellings, Director of Development and Communications of the British Province.
In addition to the work related sessions, the participants had the opportunity to get to know Maldonado, a Jesuit residence in Madrid, where they celebrated the Eucharist, met the Province’s communication office, and dined on Wednesday. They also had the chance to do a bit of tourism in Madrid on the afternoon of Thursday the 16th, as a sunny day accompanied their visit to the Prado, through the city centre, and enjoying Madrid’s gastronomy.
Provincial Antonio España joined the meeting on Thursday morning, presiding the Eucharist and sharing a meal with the group. In his homily, he told the participants the challenge of announcing good news today in a Europe facing serious issues such as migration, the lack of cohesion, and threats to the European project, the search for meaning of young people, the speed of contemporary culture, among others. He also spoke about the communication of the faith in a world closed to religion.
In addition to the central themes, there was time for other, more specific issues, such as the need to work as a network, with a presentation by Dani Villanueva SJ on Jesuit Networking's website. Half of day on Wednesday was dedicated to learning through practical cases: with the help of the digital office of Valladolid, a hypothetical scenario was posed with different tasks for the smaller groups to carry out. It was very interesting to recreate several crisis situations and see in a practical simulation the many errors and successes that can tip the balance towards chaos or the solution of conflicts. Some time was also reserved to share and updates about specific projects as they develop and progress in the Provinces.
Susan Dabbous, Communication Assistant at the Jesuit European Social Center in Brussels (JESC), writes: "We have received a call to talk about spirituality, ecology, youth, it’s true. But more widely I see this call as a mission for peace and reconciliation in our spiteful society."