Jesuits hold first worldwide education conference

BOSTON - For the first time since St. Ignatius of Loyola formed the order in 1540, Jesuit educators came together from all over the world for the first International Colloquium on Jesuit Secondary Education, with the theme "The World is Our House."

According to organizers from the host institution, Boston College High School, 400 educators associated with Jesuit schools descended on the campus of Boston College from 61 countries on six continents.

The five-day colloquium offered 52 workshops addressing concerns and topics relevant to Jesuit education, discussion opportunities including panel events and breakout sessions, and keynote talks from eight authorities in Jesuit education.

After a video welcome from Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Society of Jesus, Jesuit Father Jose Alberto Mesa, the order's secretary for secondary and pre-secondary education, opened the conference with a talk titled "An Eye to the Future: Our Continued Collaboration."

"This colloquium, the Society of Jesus hopes, is the beginning of a new way of proceeding, a new way of being schools, in the Jesuit tradition," he later told The Pilot, Boston's archdiocesan newspaper. "That probably means that we need to take networking and global networking very seriously, and that we need to incorporate that global dimension into our education."

In another keynote address on "Jesuit Identity in the 21st Century," Jesuit Father Daniel Patrick Huang, general counsel and regional assistant for Asia Pacific, asked participants to consider a series of questions raised by Jesuit delegates during a recent conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

"How are we bridging the gap between young people and our church, between our school community and the church?" he asked.

Other speakers include the Vatican's spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who told participants that while the Jesuits' education apostolate is an integral part of the church's missions, it is not the "exclusive property" of the Jesuits and be "shared and lived by others who feel the call."

"Jesuits may be the animators and custodians of a certain spirit and a certain tradition, but this spirit and this tradition can be subsumed by others who can act with no less conviction and passion," he added.

Workshops at the colloquium included broad topics such as "What Makes a Jesuit School Jesuit?" and more specific regional concerns such as "How Can We Guarantee a Jesuit Ethos in a New African School?"

John Mark, the director of campus ministry at Boston College High School, spoke about the value of retreats in the life of students enrolled at Jesuit schools.

"Ignatian spirituality should be an open gift. It should be a way of interpreting life. It should be a means through which we just live, through which we just connect to the world," he said.

His workshop on campus ministry placed the prayer life of students at the center of establishing a Jesuit identity at an educational institution, even when students come from multiple religious backgrounds.

"A lot of things on retreat will speak in more God-language than Catholic-language, per se. Especially when we know that we have Muslims and Jews on the retreat along with Catholic students. We try to expand the wording, the understanding, that takes place," he said.

Priests, principals, headmasters and educators filled every seat at a workshop on fundraising presented by Jesuit Father Kenneth Boller, president of Fordham Preparatory School in New York.

Father Boller stressed the need to not be afraid to ask donors for money to help schools do the work required by the mission of the society.

"Our founder, whose feast we celebrate today, wrote something over 6,000 letters in the course of his generalate," he said. "Of those, about 5,000 were written to get support for the various foundations of the new society. So we have a deep spirituality of fundraising going on here in the society."

On the second day of the colloquium, Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston celebrated the Mass for the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

After celebrating Mass, the cardinal told the Pilot that he was pleased to host the Society of Jesus in Boston for the historic occasion.

"I am sure that it will redound to the wonderful Catholic education that is being provided in our schools, and hopefully will inspire people during this Year of Faith to recommit themselves to the ideas of St. Ignatius," he said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970