How do we accompany young people in the mission of reconciliation and justice? How do we engage students in this digital age? Who are we in what we do? These were some of the questions discussed in the first JCAP Meeting of Chaplains and Campus Ministers.
The four-day meeting held in Singapore from May 21 to 24 brought together 31 Jesuit and lay educators from schools across the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific. JCAP Education Secretary Fr Johnny Go SJ said that one of the goals for the meeting was to establish a network of school chaplains and campus ministers for possible collaboration in the future.
Jennie Hickey, Education Delegate of the Australian Jesuit Province, found the meeting very relevant from both the Province and Conference perspectives.
“The opportunity for attendees to share best practices allowed for chaplains and campus ministers to be able to access many useful and practical ideas,” she said. “The workshop provided a chance to acknowledge the common issues that are faced by all chaplains and campus ministers in different countries and to establish a support network amongst the group.”
Hickey was also one of the resource persons. During her session titled “Who am I in what I do?”, she had led the participants to reflect not only on their work but also on their persons. “We teach who we are,” she reminded them.
A lot of the learning came from the mixed small group discussions, where the participants heard from their peers from other parts of the region. For many, this was the best part of the meeting.
“Participants from different provinces and regions were sharing their best practices and challenges with each other as well as learning from one another,” said Fr Stephen Chow SJ, Chairman of the Commission for Education of the Chinese Jesuit Province. “These are developing intra-provincial and inter-provincial networks of chaplains and campus ministers that we would very much like to encourage and sustain.”
Fr Chow, who had led a session on “The Joy of being a missionary for young people”, was also encouraged by the fact that there were many lay participants in the meeting. “Among the participants, around half are our lay companions and half are Jesuits. The composition in itself is a strong statement vouching for the encouraging reality of Jesuit-lay collaboration,” he said.
The group also visited St Joseph’s Institution (SJI), a top La Sallian school in Singapore, where Fr Adrian Danker SJ is Principal. Welcomed by SJI students, the participants saw how the school had been shaped not only by the La Sallian spirit, but also by Ignatian and Franciscan spiritualities. This underscored the need for them to be more inclusive in their collaboration and to be more creative in their youth ministry.