What is the context of Jesuit schools in Asia Pacific? How are they addressing the challenges in their local context? How can, for example, Xavier Jesuit School in Cambodia learn from the experience of Colégio de Santo Inácio de Loiola in Timor-Leste, and vice versa? These questions and more accounted for a large part of the discussion between the education delegates of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP) during their recent meeting in Singapore.
“The discussions of the issues and challenges that our schools face not only in our region, but in the world, and knowing the local contexts of our schools gave us the opportunity to appreciate the great diversity of our schools not only in terms of history, but also in terms of culture, religious traditions and socioeconomic demographics,” said JCAP Education Secretary Fr Johnny Go SJ.
JCAP Education Secretary Fr Johnny Go leads the discussion on challenges and opportunitiesFr Go supplied the global context by cascading the discussions and directions from the meeting of International Commission on the Apostolate of Jesuit Education (ICAJE) held in Rome last May. The delegates also discussed the previews of the keynote talks for the upcoming International Congress for Education Delegates in Rio de Janeiro in October, on the tension between tradition and innovation in our schools by David Laughlin, the need to work as a global network of Jesuit schools by ICAJE secretary Fr Jose Mesa SJ, caring for the earth by JCAP Social Apostolate Coordinator Fr Benedictus Hari Juliawan SJ, and an interreligious mindset in our experience of God by Fr Vincent Sekhar SJ.
The discussion also enabled the group to better plan collaborative projects within JCAP. Aside from the ongoing Ignatian staff formation workshops every year, the education secretaries hope to launch four major projects: the Leadership Mentoring Programme to coach and guide newer school principals and upcoming administrators; the Teacher Exchange Programme to provide short-term or longer-term opportunities for teachers to learn from schools in other parts of the region, Strategic Spiritual Formation Meeting to assist schools with minority Catholic student populations, such as Cambodia, Japan and the Chinese Province, in strategising their religious and spiritual formation programmes and Project ABCD (The Art of Building Consensus and Dialogue) to train students in active listening, dialogue and consensus building, and to offer them the opportunity to practice these skills through video conferencing across the region courtesy of Educate Magis.
Education secretaries meeting in SingaporeThe meeting was an opportunity for the education delegates to build personal connections. “We saw again and again in our discussions how personal relationships play a crucial role in making our networks more effective,” said Fr Go.
Fr Rich McAuliff SJ commented, “Coming from Micronesia, which tends to be isolated, I thought it was great to connect with the wider Society, especially the Asia Pacific, and see all that is happening.”
First-time attendee Fr Ari Dy of the Philippines noted, “The meeting was a chance to get to know people and to see all the great opportunities for networking.”
Fr Roberto Boholst SJ of Timor-Leste reflected on the process of the meeting, saying, “The ongoing conversations helped us to think and reflect more deeply”.
For Fr Baskoro Poedjinoegroho SJ of Indonesia, the openness of everyone helped make the meeting an experience of joy. “We were open and free to talk about anything we wanted to share–not only our ideas, but also feelings. We were able to share from our heart. It was a happy meeting.”
This year, the group welcomed three new members, Fr Tom Renshaw SJ who replaced Jennie Hickey for Australia, Fr Dy, who replaced Fr Tony Pabayo SJ, and Fr Quyen Vu SJ, who replaced Fr Ashley Evans SJ for Cambodia. Also present were Kunio Otoshi representing Fr Sung-il Lee SJ of Japan and Fr Adrian Danker SJ of Malaysia-Singapore Region, the host of the meeting, which was held from August 29 to September 1 at the Kingsmead Centre for Ignatian Spirituality and Counselling.
The delegates also celebrated important milestones for two of their colleagues: Fr Vu, who started his term as the new Director of Xavier Jesuit School in Cambodia on September 1, and Fr Stephen Chow SJ, who has been named the new Provincial of the Chinese Province.