‘The Living Tradition of Jesuit Schools’
About 60 people attended the Annual Gathering of the Boards of Management of 8 Jesuit Schools and Colleges in Milltown Park, Dublin on Friday, 27 January 2023. It was their first in-person gathering since before the Covid-19 pandemic. The theme for the day was ‘The Living Tradition of Jesuit Schools’.
Members of the boards of management from the schools discussed the launch of the Jesuit Education Trust later this year when the Irish Jesuit Province will transfer patronage of the schools to this new legal entity, thus reshaping its relationship with the schools. It is considered an important milestone in the history of Jesuit education in Ireland. Priorities for the future include introducing The Living Tradition document, a deepening focus on Ignatian Pedagogy, and the role of discernment in how the Trust does its work and makes decisions.
Fr Shane Daly SJ, Irish Jesuit Acting-Provincial, addressed the assembled board members in the morning session. He began by referencing the educational challenges that had to be faced during the Covid 19 pandemic, and acknowledging the great work that was done by all in tackling them.
“A profound note of thanks is to be offered to boards, principals, deputies, teachers, support staff, pupils, and parents for what was achieved – learning continued but we know schools are so much more than places of learning, and a lot was lost over these past years, especially in regard to the students.”
Referencing child safeguarding and the sexual abuse crisis he said that the past two years had been painful for members of the Jesuit Order but not in any way comparable to the pain of former pupils who had suffered abuse. He said he wanted to reassure board members of the Order’s ongoing commitment to the protection of students in the schools noting that the Boards are a vital component of the Safeguarding infrastructure now firmly embedded in the schools.
He spoke of the ecological crisis, noting that those interested only in short-term economic gain and material enrichment continue to hamper an adequate response to the environmental crisis. He welcomed the engagement of Jesuit schools in environmental protection initiatives and raising of awareness on ecological matters.
Referencing the theme of student well-being and good mental health Shane Daly SJ noted that “There is an awful lot being thrown at our students; much through social media that parents cannot protect their children from. I think growing up today is harder than in the past.”
He also spoke of the challenges that exist for schools that espouse a faith that proclaims God has entered the human story. “Jesuit education is schooling for active citizenship in the Kingdom of God,” he said, “through teaching justice, delight, gratitude, and discernment.”
Finally, Fr Daly SJ encouraged each member of the Boards of Management to answer the following question for themselves: “What is it we would like our students to be and to do as a result of their engagement with us?”
Throughout the day a variety of guest speakers crystallised their input around the chosen theme of ‘The Living Tradition of Jesuit Schools’. Dr Mike McShane Director of National Research, EdChoice. explored The Five Tensions Shaping Education at Home and Abroad, whilst Director of Jesuit Education Jonathan Tiernan spoke about the global identifiers of Jesuit schools. Dr. Eilis Humphreys, CEO of the Association of Patrons & Trustees of Catholic Schools, gave an overview of governance issues in Irish Catholic education. And a presentation on Student Leadership in a Jesuit School was delivered by Hugh Johnston, Jim O’Keeffe, Seanie Bowles, and XuanHe Shi, all Belvedere College SJ Students.
There was ample time for conversations and discussions over the course of a fruitful day which concluded with Mass in Gonzaga College followed by dinner in the Arrupe Room.
Reflecting on the day Education Delegate Jonathan Tiernan said ‘”The aim of nourishing people both spiritually and intellectually seems to have been achieved given the very positive and generous feedback received in the days following the event”. He reiterated his thanks to those who serve on the Boards of Management of the schools who play a vital role in furthering the Society’s mission in education.