Ateneo hosts meeting of JCAP's new Jesuit school leaders
18 Nov 2022
The Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific held a three-day conversation with four new Jesuit school leaders from November 7 to 10, 2022 at the Ateneo de Manila University.
The attendees were Fr Park Jin Hyuk SJ and Fr Kim Tae Jin SJ, Director and Vice-Director of Cambodia Xavier Jesuit School, Fr Isaias Abilio Caldas SJ, Director of San Inacio in Kasait Timor-Leste, and Fr Stanley Goh SJ, Principal of St. Joseph’s Private Secondary School Malaysia.
Through a variety of onsite and online sessions, the four Jesuits got the opportunity to meet various school leaders from around the Asia Pacific, who shared their significant leadership experiences and valuable lessons learned.
Fr Ross Jones SJ, Rector of St. Aloysius’ College in Sydney, spoke of the unique Ignatian gift of leadership that is anchored in Ignatian Spirituality. At the core of this brand of leadership is “a sense of connectedness to self, to others, to the created world, and to God.” The talk inspired the new leaders to embrace their role as “the keeper of stories”--not just the Jesuit Story or their school’s Story, but also the stories of individual students and staff, present and past.
The participants were also treated to an intimate in-person conversation with Fr Bienvenido Nebres SJ, President of the Ateneo de Manila University (1993-2011), which they have likened to the experience of novices sitting at the master’s feet. For Fr Ben, building trust and personal relationships are at the very heart of being an Ignatian leader.
“This might mean,” he told them, “attending birthday parties, departmental get-togethers, singing at the Karaoke, doing sports, and playing games. Doing the mission will be so much easier after.”
Another interesting session was the online panel discussion among three lay collaborators who spoke of what they expect from Jesuit school leaders. Ms Jennie Hickey, Formation and Education Officer of the Jesuit Education Australia, started the ball rolling by saying, “I expect that you want your mission and that you want to be where you are.” This translates, “to showing an interest if not knowing the Ignatian Pedagogy.”
Ms Annie Abucay, Senior High School Principal of Ateneo de Cebu – Sacred Heart School, took it upon herself to conduct among teachers in her school, and the following were the top responses: animating the Ignatian vision, caring for individuals, modeling Christian leadership, building community and fostering collaboration, and discerning the way of proceeding.
Mr Jerry Tang of St. Aloysius Technical School in Taiwan expressed his hope that the Jesuit leader would communicate more before making a final decision, consulting the faculty, administrators, and parents.
Asked for their reasons why they have stayed with Jesuit institutions, Jennie replied that it was having a strong sense of mission and being enabled to “do good things.”
Annie mentioned cura personalis, which she experienced powerfully firsthand. “My former director, Fr Manny Uy SJ was one of the first people who appeared at my home after the typhoon struck us in Cebu. Seeing his face that day reassured me that everything would be okay.”
For Jerry, it was to give back and give thanks for the opportunity given to him: “We were poor, but I was given an opportunity to receive Jesuit education from the ages of 15 to 18. It changed my life and my family’s life forever. I am paying forward what I received.”
There was also a dialogue with heads of Jesuit mission schools: Mr Matthew Smith is the Principal of Redfern Jarjum in Sydney Australia, ministering to children of the aboriginal people, and Fr Ambrosio Flores SJ who represented the mission schools in the Bukidnon Mission District in the Philippines. The joys and challenges Matt and Fr Bros experienced in walking with the youth offered the young Jesuits a sense of common mission across the region and inspired them in their own mission.
One of their major concerns in running their schools, where Christians are a minority, is how to share Ignatian Spirituality in a meaningful and effective way with their students and faculty. For this reason, educators from Mindanao were invited to share their wisdom.
The session with these three devoted lay partners proved to be most inspiring and enlightening: Mr Jan Leven Betinol, SHS Campus Minister, Ateneo de Davao, Mr John May Enriquez, Director of Office of Social Development, Ateneo de Zamboanga University, and Mr Al-Johan Ilacad, SHS Campus Minister for Muslim Studies, Ateneo de Zamboanga.
They discussed creative Ignatian practices in their schools. After all, Ignatian values are compatible with those of other religions like Islam and Buddhism. Embracing these values could actually lead to a deeper commitment to other faith traditions as well.
A similar response was given by the 3 panelists when asked if conversion across Muslims and Catholics happen. They were unanimous in saying that exposure to another faith leads to asking the whats, the whys, and the hows, thereby deepening the knowledge of one’s own faith. Conversion rarely happens.
The purpose of sharing our spirituality, the three panelists agreed, is not to convert others to our faith, but to help them appreciate all religious traditions and respect others more deeply allowing people of different faiths to co-exist and live as a community.
The final session was on Ignatian Pedagogy with Ms Rita Atienza, Director of Ateneo Teacher Center and co-author of Learning by Refraction. With her, the Jesuit leaders learned how this unique pedagogy can be practiced in the classroom to enhance and maximize the learning of our students.
It wasn’t all talk for our participants. They also got to spend time with students and faculty of the campuses they were able to visit. In Ateneo de Manila, they were graciously welcomed by Fr Joaquin Sumpaico III SJ, Vice-President of the Ateneo Basic Education who toured them around the Ateneo Grade School.
After their visit to Xavier School San Juan and Nuvali, they got the opportunity to sit down for an informal but informative discussion with Fr Aristotle Dy SJ, President of Xavier School.
At the end of the meeting, the four Jesuit school leaders expressed their consolation over the much-needed reminder about the Source of their mission: God, Who, ultimately, is He who leads. Taking a step back from their daily routine allowed them to appreciate the gift of their Ignatian leadership.
As Fr Johnny Go SJ said in their final session, thanks to God’s graces, the meeting has been “an embarrassment of riches.”
For the closing Eucharist, the participants joined the community of the East Asian Pastoral Institute (EAPI). Fr Tony Moreno SJ, President of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific, led the community in giving these four school leaders a special blessing for their mission.
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