The European Webmasters Network (JesWeb)

JesWeb is made up of a group of Jesuits and lay people in charge of the websites of the European Jesuit Provinces and their major works in communication.

Every year, the meeting of JesWeb attracts communicators from different Jesuit Conferences, transforming it into a broad communication forum.

The goals of JesWeb are:

- to share and reflect upon the experience of being responsible for the web sites;

- to seek and foster cooperation among those working on the different Jesuit websites;

- to study and discuss the new technological issues in (digital) communication and their usefulness;

- to consider ways of improving the apostolic and technical quality of the web sites;

- to improve collaboration with other apostolic areas such as vocations or working with refugees.

 

Thirty-eight people working in Communications for Jesuit organizations in Europe and beyond met in Madrid from May 14 to 17 for the JesWebCom Conference. Among us, there are journalists, web designers, photographers, IT experts. We have different backgrounds, but certainly, we all face the same challenges and come from 18 different countries, a mix of Jesuits and lay. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon at “La Casa de ejercicios espirituales Rafaela Maria” a beautiful well kept convent in Barrio Salamanca, in the centre of the Spanish capital. José Maria Olaizola SJ,  Secretary of Communication of the Jesuit Spanish Province, took care of us from the very beginning. How to communicate the Four Apostolic Universal Preferences John Dardis SJ (General Councilor for Discernment and Director of Communication of the Curia in Rome) presented the video they recently made in the Curia about the four Apostolic Preferences stressed by Father General Arturo Sosa SJ. “What are the Preferences?”, he asked wearing casual jeans and a polo shirt. “Why didn’t we call them priorities?”. I know the answer “Preference is a way to do things that imply not excluding other topics”. Here a little reminder, it’s never redundant to repeat them: Promoting discernment and Spiritual Exercises. Walking with the excluded Journeying with the youth Caring for our common Home We reacted, telling what struck us the most. Communication crisis The second day we talked about the crisis in communications and participated at a very appealing role game. Elena Rodriguez-Avial the coordinator of the Communication Office of the Jesuits in Spain, made her message very clear: don’t miss a call from a journalist, and, if you do, call back. No matter how difficult dealing with the crisis might be. It could be sexual abuse case, an accident, a corruption case. Not answering the call means that we have something to hide and can also turn a simple piece of bad news into a big scandal. Sunshine at Prado Museum After a morning of “crisis” the participants deserved an afternoon of distraction, Madrid was warm and sunny and we went to Prado museum and we enjoyed masterpieces of Goya and Velázquez explained by an excellent guide. We then discovered the Habsburg heritage in the architecture of Madrid walking from Prado to Plaza Mayor. The third day some of the participants shared their experiences. Carolinne Silva and I, from JESC, decided to emphasize the European Leadership Programme. A unique training project in Brussels that combines a professional career with spiritual growth. After our conversation, our mission as communicators for Jesuit organizations it became more clear: we have received a call to talk about spirituality, ecology, youth, it’s true. But more widely I see this call as a mission for peace and reconciliation in our spiteful society. It was time to pack up, but we don’t leave Madrid without a spreadsheet for next JesWebCom (that will happen in Vienna on May 4-7 2020). We will focus on: Marketing and Fundraising, How to produce good contents, Promoting quality training for all of us, How to communicate with secular people. How do we reach more people? We ended the conference with a deep sense of gratitude and a desire to meet again.  The power of networking was felt again.
European Jesuit webmasters and European Vocation Promoters use to meet every year for some days, somewhere in our continent. This year, for the first time both groups planned their meeting in Malta, in different retreat houses, but spent a day together to share, pray and discuss their common interest. Delegates from the Jesuit Conference for Africa and Madagascar (JSAM), Australia and North America also made the trip to Malta, where the JesWeb meeting was hosted at the Mount St Joseph Retreat House in Mosta. Survey Fr José de Pablo (CEP Socius) shared with delegates the results of a survey into existing levels of collaboration between province vocations and communications teams which showed that there was a need and desire to work more closely together, to be more strategic and to evaluate the effectiveness of new initiatives.  A large majority of those who approach vocations directors have first found out about the Jesuits online rather than through our schools or other ministries.  A strong online presence, including social media, is therefore vital, but it can be a challenge to present the right messages in the right way to young people, especially if you are an older Jesuit.  Fr Mathew Power (vocations director BRI) said “it’s been really useful to find out how other provinces share some of our challenges, and to be inspired by ideas for future collaboration both within and between provinces.” Delegates shared experience and heard about examples of good practice from the Irish Province and from the US Mid West Province.  Inspiring vocation stories from current Jesuits, and gentle help with discernment through video were shown to be effective tools. Communication for the entire Society of Jesus On the agenda of the communication managers was also an analysis of the public work around the 36th General Congragation last year. The American Father Robert Ballecer SJ ("The Digital Jesuit"), who was responsible for video production and social media in Rome, reported on the work of the 12-man communication team. The head of the General Congregations Communication Office in Rome, Father Patrick Mulemi SJ, announced that the General Superior had meanwhile formed a "taskforce" for the further development of the communication of the Society of Jesus with the aim of establishing a new Internet presence for the Order world-wide. Social It was very useful for members of these provinces to meet together to plan for further co-operation, and also to spend time getting to know each other in social situations.  Delegates were very grateful to their Maltese hosts, who organised a boat trip around the historic harbour of Valletta, and Mass at the spectacular Cathedral of St John which was concelebrated by Fr José de Pablo, Fr Martin Stark (German province) and Fr Michael Bugeja (Maltese province).