The European Webmasters and Communicators Network (JesWebCom)

JesWebCom 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 JesWebCom 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.


Communication officers from the various European Jesuit provinces met in London from 8 to 11 May. What challenges do they face?  In a pale London spring sunshine, small groups of communicators of the Society of Jesus in Europe put their chairs together to exchange what Jesuit communication is about. They are meeting in London for the annual JesWebCom three-day event. The first day is dedicated to Ignatian spirituality, with speakers including Damian Howard SJ, Paul Nicholson SJ and Nikolaas Sintobin SJ.  Communication in consolation  Paul Nicholson began the morning session with a guided meditation, an Examen, as it is called in the Ignatian tradition. This form of prayer is in a sense a training to discern daily where God is at work. The prayer asks: where have I experienced consolation; peace, joy, love, hope. And where desolation; emptiness, confusion, suffering. Without ignoring desolation, perhaps communication within and about the Society of Jesus can be about comfort? Telling stories about where God is at work and so helping to build the Kingdom of God. As Ignatius asked the Jesuits he was working with: write me letters about the work you are doing. Letters that were often circulated in large numbers and whose testimony moved many hearts, not the least of young men to become Jesuits and share in this mission.  Communication in desolation  But what to make out of desolation? With the suffering? With the evil? That question became painfully urgent and relevant when communicators of four provinces shared their experiences of communication around (sexual) abuse in their province. What important lessons have been learned? Three lessons were shared by all involved.  Victims always come first. Believe them, invite them to speak and listen to their stories. When communicating externally, invite other victims to come and tell their stories. Be proactive. Don't wait for journalists to come forward with stories. Know about the abuse cases in your province. Tell those who are responsible to keep you updated. And communicate transparently about it. The French-speaking province comes out with an update every six months on any new and ongoing abuse cases. Be humble. Admit mistakes were made. Recognize that Jesuits are no better than other people. Using social media  Another challenge widely felt is: how do we communicate on social media? Particularly on Instagram and TikTok. It all starts with a strategy, became clear in the experience of head of communications at JRS Britain and the workshop that followed. The first question is: what do we want to achieve on social media? What is our goal? In teams of five, the communicators enthusiastically set to work creating Reels, short videos for Instagram. A lot of lessons were learned in just an hour. It now is only a matter of time before Jesuits everywhere in Europe go viral.  Heartfelt farewell  The most emotive moment of the meeting was the announcement that Philip Debruyne will stop serving as webmaster of JCEP after 16 years of excellent work. The group honored with him a standing ovation for several minutes.   Overall, the meeting served as a platform for exchange, learning, and reflection on the challenges faced by Jesuit communication officers in Europe, with the goal of improving communication practices and fulfilling the mission of the Society of Jesus. Surely, everyone left London to their offices with fresh ideas, new cooperation possibilities and renewed energy.    Rick Timmermans  (Final remark by JCEP team) 
From May 9th to-12th, twenty-four Jesuits and collaborators from all over Europe gathered in Rodizio, near Lisbon, for the Jeswebcom Conference to reflect on the digital challenges in communicating Jesuit apostolic preferences and works.  Fr Antonio Spadaro (EUM) joined the conference virtually to share some insights of his experience with the emerging digital culture. “We cannot ignore the internet” he said, “the internet should not be considered a parallel world, but an extension of our daily lives and an experience, which is particularly important for young people”. Young people were also the focus of Fr. John Dardis’ presentation of a new digital platform, initiated by the General: The Global Ignatian Youth Network, planned to be ready for Magis2023  Development of digital culture Two guest speakers were invited to share their knowledge with us: Professor Fernando Ilharco from the Universidad Católica Portugal (Faculty of Human Sciences) spoke about the development of digital culture over the years, how perception has changed and how media has become an extension of ourselves. The digital marketing expert Rita Fevereiro, gave a very good insight into the digital space, which is very crowded and fast-paced. Therefore it is extremely important to be relevant and reliable when posting messages. Both talks were followed by exercises and discussions in small groups to exchange thoughts, challenges and ideas.  Brotéria & São Roque The agenda also included a visit to the Jesuit Church of São Roque in Lisbon, where an exhibition on the Ignatian Year is currently on display. Just across the road, we were invited to visit the Brotería, an innovative cultural centre with an open house concept, encouraging conversations, exhibitions, performances and coworking spaces.   Let's create a hope-filled future   Before the JesWeb conference came to an end, the Magis2023 team presented its marketing strategy for the 2023 Magis event, which will take place in Portugal under the motto "Let's create a hope-filled future". Young people of ages 18 to 30 are invited to gather in Portugal from July 22 to 31 July 2023.    After four very inspiring days, all participants returned to their home provinces with new impulses, ideas and plenty of learnings from this very well organised JesWeb Conference. A big thank you to the organising committee for all the effort and passion they have put into creating this fruitful conference.  Anna Principato (ECE Province) 
The last time Jesuit communicators were able to meet in person for their yearly gathering called JesWebCom was in 2019 in Madrid. A year later the get-together was scheduled to take place in Vienna, but due to the pandemic, eventually it was held online. Since the Covid situation had not become any better, the assembly this spring also occurred via Zoom from 4 to 6 May. The more than 50 participants met online every day for two hours to listen to the keynote speeches, then to share their experiences in breakout rooms. On the first day Nikolaas Sintobin SJ, internet pastor of the Low Countries Province, gave a proposal of a spiritual recap of the pandemic times.   The next day saw a talk by David Birchall SJ and Sarah Young titled “Alone yet in a Multitude” – Reaching Out Online in Lockdown. They presented a fascinating overview of the somewhat unexpected success of online retreats and individual guided retreats in daily life in Scotland and Wales during the Covid. On the third day, John Dardis SJ from the General Curia in Rome “took the screen” to speak about the strategy of his office of communications. He then answered questions, together with Pascal Calu SJ, coordinator of the Saint Ignatius Year at the Roman Jesuit centre. Beside pastoral work during Covid and the ways of online evangelization, it was the onset of the Jubilee Year that dominated the program and gave opportunity for the communicators to share their best practices. The participants represented most of the provinces in Europe and many from other continents. According to their testimonies, having been in the same shoes for more than a year, it was enriching to learn from one another’s examples as to how to cope with the extraordinary situation during pandemic times. And when the communicators said farewell to one another by saying “See you next year in Lisbon”, it was not a mere figure of speech. But also the expression of their sincerest hope that by 2022 the lockdown will be completely over, and they will at last be able to meet without any restrictions.
Communicators, Webmasters, Content Producers and Community Managers from all over the world participated in another edition of JESWEBCOM. Due to the current circumstances, this year’s meeting was done in a special way: online. Once a year we have an annual meeting of the network of communicators and webmasters of the Society of Jesus in Europe, the so-called JesWebCom. It all started 15 years ago with a small group of Jesuits and co-workers who wanted to have a platform to exchange information about new technical possibilities of their websites. In the meantime, JeswebCom is much more. JesWebCom has grown to a place for exchange, project development and global networking in all areas that affect the public relations of the Society of Jesus. The participants come mainly from Europe, but we also welcome colleagues from Australia, Kenya, the USA, Canada, and India. This year’s meeting was planned to be in Vienna and its preparation went on for several months. Unfortunately and regretfully the meeting in person had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. But the event was not cancelled. Instead the program was adapted to an online concept, taking all the possible advantages of it.  This offered the chance to welcome more participants from all over the world who would have not been able to travel to Vienna for the meeting. After 15 years of JesWebCom we were able to welcome participants from Russia for the first time. About 40 people participated this year. The program consisted of 3 sessions of around 1 hour each split among 3 days. “How to Communicate in an Ignatian Way” On the first day, Nikolaas Sintobin SJ from the ELC Region talked about: “How to Communicate in an Ignatian Way”. He approached several important aspects like the importance of always being aware that proclaiming the kingdom of God should always be the goal of our job as communicator.  "Creating a communication structure - Apostolic body of communicators" On the second day, we were awarded by Robert Ballecer SJ, member of the communication team of Fr. General Arturo Sosa SJ in Rome, with inputs related to "Creating a communication structure - Apostolic body of communicators". The last day was very interactive. The participants were split into 4 groups, each group adapted to an area of communication: Social Media, Public Relations, Webmasters and Digital Content Producers. The groups had some time to get to know each other, share some common issues and possible ways to solve them. The response to COVID-19 was also approached, but the largest emphasis was given to the Ignatian Year, which will take place in 2021/2022. It commemorates two important moments in the life of this religious Order: 500 years of the conversion of Ignatius of Loyola and 400 years of his canonization. The meeting ended with an open discussion with all the participants present. The feedback on this form of meeting was positive and we were very grateful that we were able to set up JesWebCom online. It was good to see colleagues again - even if only online - and to network and exchange new ideas. All in all, we can look back on a successful JesWebCom 2020 despite the circumstances. New aspects for our meeting have opened up and in retrospect we have to think about which new ways we can go for future meetings. 
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.
Thirty-four Jesuit communicators from nineteen countries around Europe and further afield held their annual meeting in Brussels last week.The JesWeb group was started in 2005 by a group of Jesuits and co-workers responsible for maintaining province websites.  Philip Debruyne SJ, Communications Officer for the Jesuit European Conference, is the longest standing member of JesWeb, this year attending his 12th meeting.  What changes has he noticed over the years?“At the beginning it was more charismatic and less professional. Webmasters were often scholastics who had built the province website in html and wanted to exchange technical information and solve problems.  Now almost all provinces have employed professional communicators. Our meetings are now more about strategy, creativity and collaboration.”By contrast Pia Dyckmans was attending her first JesWeb, having joined the comms team for the German province just last year. Pia commented “I have found it creative, constructive and inspiring. I hope to be back next year.”The meeting was launched with a personal video message of encouragement from Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ, who reminded delegates that “for Saint Ignatius communications was almost an obsession. It is in our DNA…. Our mission is to “go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News”.  JesWeb was preceded by a meeting in Rome of communications representatives of each of the six Jesuit conferences worldwide (Jesuit conferences roughly equate to continents).  Patrick Mulemi SJ, Head of Communications at the Jesuit Curia in Rome, observed, “At last week’s meeting  in Rome of the six conferences’ comms managers, four were lay women.  I say a special prayer of gratitude for our female collaborators.” The Jesuits in Britain were represented by Jane Hellings, Director of Development and Communications, Frances Murphy, Editor of Thinking Faith and Emma Holland, Producer of Prayasyougo daily prayer podcast. Martin Stark SJ, Socius of the German Province, has been the Chair of JesWeb for the last three years. “The digital communications world has changed so much since 2005,” he observed “and to reflect the new professionalism of integrated comms the committee proposed to change the name of the group to JesWebCom.  So 2018 was the last JesWeb, but welcome to JesWebCom next year!” As well as sessions on reaching young audiences and compliance with new data protection laws, delegates took part in practical training  to improve their skills in video making and photography. Patrick Mulemi SJ concluded “It is such a good idea to have opportunities like this to share best practice and ideas. This year is important because of the message from Father General missioning the group.  Comms is in the DNA of the Society and using all tools available to us is what St Ignatius would have wanted.”