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.