European conference on ‘magis’
The Jesuit European Committee for primary and Secondary Education (JECSE) Formators Conference 2019 took place from 25 to 28 March 2019 in Manresa Jesuit Centre of Spirituality, Dollymount, Dublin. The event, hosted by the Irish Province, brought formators of Jesuit schools together to share in a common Ignatian mission and it was an opportunity to showcase Ireland’s rich culture and heritage. JECSE promotes Jesuit education in creative fidelity to the Ignatian spirit, representing 180 Jesuit schools throughout Europe receiving more than 198,000 students.
The theme of this year’s conference was on ‘Educating Magis: Between Academic and Human Excellence’ and it included presentations by Irish and European colleagues throughout the course of the four days. The Latin term for ‘more’, Magis is often referred to in Jesuit schools denoting quality education for the ‘greater glory of God’.
Gráinne Delaney, Co-Ordinator of Ignatian Ethos at Crescent College Comprehensive SJ in Limerick, took part in the event. She said: “We came from 10 different Provinces with so much to share; rich experiences, common vision and curiosity, in a spirit of comradeship, companionship and fun. Having our European colleagues in Dublin was so special for the Irish Province and we were grateful to return the hospitality we have enjoyed in Drongen, Milan and Manresa for other JECSE gatherings.”
The typical style of JECSE is to share the leadership of the conference and this time was no different. Members led the group in prayer and reflection to set the tone of the days while keynote speakers inspired them on the topic of Magis.
On the first evening the tone was set in a relaxed and cheerful manner as different formators told a story of a picture they had chosen which was unique to their context. These stories varied from the richness of their work with students, to ‘sleep out’ stories with homeless people to ‘reality TV’. The following morning, the keynote speaker, Nikolaas Sintobin SJ presented three characteristics of excellence in relation to Magis.
Fr Nikolaas, Flemish Jesuit and internet pastor who focuses his ministry on the internet, used videos to help the group deepen their interior knowledge of Magis. He showed that: 1) Magis is strictly personal, 2) Magis is the equivalent of personal desire, and 3) Magis is an invitation to ‘decentration’ or to lose oneself. “Nikolaas’ intriguing style of illustrating the points using Youtube clips brought humour and clarity to his words,” said Gráinne.
The Irish Province was involved in hosting various activities over the course of the four days. For example, Gellért Merza and his Galway based team at ‘Educate Magis’ – an online education community that connects teachers and educators from Jesuit and Ignatian schools – brought the group on a virtual tour of this exciting (more than a) website with opportunities for classrooms from around the world to meet each other and discuss common themes. The team offered a useful tool for the group to connect and talk into the future.
Krizan Vekic, Justice Co-ordinator for the Irish province, challenged participants to define ‘Global Citizens’ and quickly reminded them that they make Global Citizenship Ignatian when they are in relationship with God. Krizan highlighted that prayer life is what makes them better, more committed, Global Citizens.
Gráinne Delaney reported on the trip to Glendalough. “We were especially proud during our conference, to showcase beautiful Glendalough, County Wicklow, one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland, a deep immersion in Celtic Spirituality. Fr Michael and Fr Pat in their different styles guided us through the pathways, towards the round towers and amidst the lakes in this overwhelmingly beautiful place.”
With the Irish sunshine, the monastic site convinced people to sit in deep wonder and awe, ‘because the only time is Now and the only place is Here’. This day came to a high point with outdoor Mass in the Women’s Church. Bernard Peters SJ ensured at every chance that they raised their voices in song.
Regarding the in-depth learning process of the conference, Gráinne said: “Informal conversations had a richness and sharing we could not have expected. As I discovered more about the programmes that the 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'”.
The experience of bringing together formators of the Jesuit schools enriched participants once again and reminded them of the value of JECSE as a platform for widening their perspectives while building on a common purpose. The stakeholders of the Jesuit Colleges of Europe will all benefit from the enrichment of its formation personnel, after the days spent in Ireland considering their commitment to the Magis.