JECSE - Jesuit European Committee for Primary and Secondary Education

Throughout history, Jesuit education has helped many young men and women become competent, conscientious, compassionate and committed persons. The education ministry is still very relevant for the Society of Jesus. JECSE is a network of interprovincial collaboration belonging to the Jesuit Conference of European Provincials. The Education delegates of the Conference support Jesuit/Ignatian education for more than 170,000 students in secondary and pre-secondary schools in 21 countries in Europe, the Near East and Russia.

By organizing formation seminars, conferences and meetings for the members involved in the education apostolate, JECSE:

- encourages collaboration and networking between education delegates, school leaders, formators and pastoral coordinators within its European network of schools;

- supports global collaboration and networking through active membership of ICAJE (the International Commission on the Apostolate of Jesuit Education).

- s linked to Educate Magis, the online community connecting educators from schools in the Jesuit network all around the world.


- JECSE website

- Educate Magis website

Ignatian Spirituality online; a collaborative JECSE  This spring JECSE and Educate Magis initiated a European pilot around Educate Magis’ new online Ignatian Spirituality Course. It was quite an experiment, since not only was the facilitator Gellert Merza (Educate Magis) hoping to further refine the course, but also, we were wondering if a ‘spiritual deep dive’ would actually work well online. We are now looking back with sincere gratitude on an 8 weeks’ experience with 40+ participants from all over Europe. The Course was essentially an invitation to undergo a spiritual journey with Ignatius of Loyola, following his spiritual insights, practices and exercises, which are still fueling our Jesuit and Ignatian schools. Participants were invited to contemplate the story of Ignatius by reading theme-based excerpts from the book ‘Alone and on Foot’ by Brian Grogan SJ, by learning from experts in the field through inspiring instructional videos, and by reflecting on their own personal and professional journey. The course introduced and deepened the four key Ignatian practices: Ignatian reflection and the Examen of Consciousness, Ignatian Spiritual Conversation, Ignatian Discernment and Decision Making, and modelling the practices of a Contemplative in Action. Thus, we hoped this course would help (new) educators in a Jesuit / Ignatian school environment to engage in activities and conversations around these key Ignatian practices. We also hoped they would experience how these practices can be helpful to them in their personal lives. We are happy and grateful to share some of the comments made by the participants: Christine Rossi (Malta) I always appreciate the opportunities offered by JECSE for formators. It is the time when we are ministered to and when our wells are replenished. Even if it was online this year, I joined the pilot course eagerly and it was equally fruitful. It helped me focus on the essentials of Ignatian spirituality that we need to pass on to educators. I appreciated the small group sharing because we accompanied each other on a personal level. However, also on a professional level, as a formator, I felt that this course opened up new horizons how to offer formation to our staff which can be of greater depth and of connection with other educators all around the world. The live sessions made the whole difference because it brought the online input to life and made me more accountable to following the course with commitment and consistency. I look forward to adapting this course to the formation offered to educators in Malta.  LLuís Ylla Janer (Spain) This Four Keys Course has been a broad experience to follow the paths of Ignatius of Loyola and relate them to the foundations of our educational model. It means to understand the raison d'être of the Jesuit educational service and discover the wisdom of some key tools that would help us a lot if they became part of our own culture, and that of the schools. Also, to realize that from different places of Europe we share a rich educational project that unites and strengthens us. Kinga Rivasz Tóth (Hungary) The pilot program titled ‘Four Key Practices in Ignatian Spirituality’ meant something special to me, not only because it was a new initiative, using new methods and combining individual and cohort learning tools, but also as the course provided me with the chance to deepen and strengthen my own spirituality. I gained real support from reading the texts on Ignatius‘ life and listening about his spirituality from the videos and above all this online sharing encouraged me and this experience gave me hope and joy, which I really needed these days. Xavier Lefèvre (Belgium) This course was for me an eye-opener: even if I thought that I knew the Ignatian spirituality from yearlong experience, this course gave me so many new insights into the fundamental inspiration and also the tools for applying it into daily life, that I cannot but recommend it to everybody who seeks to live his/her (professional) life to its full extend and in its unfathomable depth. The course takes you, step by step, into a journey of discovery both in yourself, your intimate desires and ambitions, as well as in what Ignatius would describe as 'God's loving eyes'. Far more than merely transmitting information, the course assisted me gradually in my daily reflection and meditation and enriched them both by many challenging questions as well as by sharing the fruits of them with fellow-participants. The course supports me, ever since, in my daily life to develop an attitude of caring attention and contemplative action. Let me express, once again, all my sincere gratitude for this extraordinary experience! This was a pilot course and the feedback from participants can help Educate Magis to further refine how it can be most helpful for educators in the different regions today. It has initially been developed as an international cohort course, inviting colleagues from different schools from all over the world to meet, share and learn together, which gives it a beautiful international and intercultural dimension. Besides, it can also be used for staff formation in a more local context. For JECSE, this in-depth online course was a golden opportunity to offer our regular particpants at the annual formators meetings an opportunity to meet, share and be inspired - at least online - around this beautiful program. I would, finally, like to sincerely thank Gellert Merza from Educate Magis for our fine collaboration, as well as our two enthusiastic and skilled facilitators: Elisabeth Clarke (Director of Ignatian Formation and Service Programmes at Gonzaga College SJ in Dublin, Ireland) and Lourenço Eiró, SJ (Education Delegate for Portugal; Member of the Pastoral Team at Colegio das Caldinhas, Santo Tirso, Portugal; as well as member of the JECSE Steering Committee and Formation Task Force). Ilse Dekker JECSE director
JECSE Education Delegates Meeting 2020. We could not meet face to face in Lyon as intended, but nevertheless, in an atmosphere of friendship, education delegates in the JECSE network met online (November 18-20) for our annual gathering. Our main theme and focus for the three days of the virtual conference was on how to deepen awareness of our Jesuit mission – amidst all the challenges of our European context – by starting an in-depth reflective process as companions on the same journey. Moving into depth together Matthieu Daum, our facilitator, took us through such a ‘discerning process’ following the ‘Theory-U model’ for awareness-based change. Through deep listening and intentional speaking (an interior attitude close to our well-known Ignatian spiritual conversation) this U-model encourages a deep sensing together of the current context first. Resisting the temptation to immediately jump to solutions, it then invites us to explore what we’d need to let go of (in ourselves and in our current system) to open up – as a community – to what wants to be born anew. This requires opening the mind, heart and will (which means suspending initial judgment, cynicism and fear) to be receptive to how the spirit moves us. A core mission of reconciliation As for our mission in education, we feel the need to paint a more coherent horizon. Over the past decade there have been a number of important new statements and a series of different events on the theme of Jesuit Education at the global level. This has given rise to a renewed awareness of being part of a global Ignatian family, of different provinces sharing the same mission and pedagogical paradigm, albeit adapted to local needs and possibilities. Collaboration and networking have become the new way of proceeding. Educate Magis has enabled the emergence of an online community of schools in the Jesuit network by facilitating the sharing of stories and best practices, of new initiatives and inspirations. Read more   
On February 3rd to 6th, 2020, over 30 educators from nine European countries attended a four-day Conference on “Learning by Refraction,” a 21st-century approach to Ignatian Pedagogy proposed in a book of the same title by Fr. Johnny Go SJ and Ms. Rita Atienza of the Ateneo SALT Institute in Manila. The four-day conference, organized by Mr. Brian Flannery, Education Delegate of the Irish Province, was held at Mount St. Anne’s Retreat Centre in Killenard, just a couple of hours’ drive from Dublin. Half of the participants were from Jesuit schools in Ireland, while the remaining half  flew in from Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. The European delegation was led by Ms. Ilse Dekker, the Education Secretary for JECSE (Jesuit European Committee for primary and Secondary Education). Introducing a novel approach Fr. Johnny Go, one of the authors  of Learning by Refraction, introduced the novel approach to the participants, walking them  through the framework of the new approach and selected exercises from the workbook. The participants were encouraged to focus on the context of their work, to reflect on their teaching practice, and to exercise their own judgment as to which of the strategies discussed could help them promote better learning among their students. The discussions were frank and rich, and while coming from different contexts, the participants shared the same strong desire to understand this Ignatian approach to learning and teaching, and to allow it to inform their teaching. Reflection and action The conference focused on the two defining ingredients of “refractive  learning”: Reflection and Action. The teachers were challenged to design their courses in such a way that students would  be empowered not only to construct meaning by reflecting  on what they have learned, but also to use them and apply them in the real world. Bellarmine Centre for Learning and Teaching The participants took a break on the third day to visit the oldest Jesuit school in Ireland, Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare, founded in 1814, where they visited the newly built Bellarmine Centre for Learning and Teaching, a  space especially designed for innovating learning and teaching. The visit showed the participants the possible innovations they themselves  could undertake if they promoted the practice of Ignatian Pedagogy. As pointed out by Gabriel Codina, former Jesuit education secretary: “The first Jesuits went to ‘the supermarket of education’, to find the best ingredients and recipes for an educational approach consistent with their spiritual experience.” One of the key takeaways from the conference is that we who are teachers in Jesuit schools are expected to do the same today. IPP – Ignatian Pedagogy Paradigm Among the things best appreciated about the workshop was its practical approach. One participant said, “In my country we speak a lot about IPP, but we don’t know practical examples.” Another noted “a much deeper insight regarding the IPP, and – as a consequence – a higher esteem for this approach of teaching and learning. IPP has become more concrete for me and more accessible, less ‘artificial’.” Future Already there are discussions about a possible  trainers’ training workshop especially after the publication of the Spanish and French versions of this teacher’s workbook. This Conference on “Learning by Refraction” was also a great opportunity for the participants to reflect on–and  discuss–the Jesuit mission of education in light of the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus.  It enabled them to discuss, in particular, what it might mean “to accompany young people” and “to show them the way to God” in today’s world.
European Primary School Heads reflect at JECSE Conference. In Loyola 80 colleagues, mainly Principals of Primary Schools, met this January for the JECSE Conference around the theme of ‘(How) can we talk about Jesus in the secularized and multi-convictional context of today?’ In its conferences for different audiences JECSE has been focusing on this question during some years now. The diversity of our European context is enriching but also challenging, and for some – both within and outside of our catholic tradition - the very mention of Jesus becomes an obstacle to dialogue, a reason to disengage. Yet the spiritual journey of Ignatius of Loyola shows us how the encounter with Jesus dramatically changed the course of his life. The still, life-giving dialogue with Jesus, engaging all the aspects of his person, opened Ignatius’ eyes (conscience) and heart (compassion) and mobilized his intelligence (competence) to act in a diversity of ways, always adapting to meet the needs of time and place (commitment). The aim of JECSE’s conferences over the last years has been to show how Jesus, far from being an obstacle to dialogue, can become the source and the means of an open, deep and fruitful dialogue in a multi-convictional context. The Society of Jesus: what's in a name?  One of the keynote speakers assisting the Primary Heads in their reflections was our well-known speaker Fr Adrian Porter sj, British Education Delegate. He talked about why the Jesuits didn't name their Society after its founder but after Jesus Himself: what is the spirit behind this, how is this connected to Ignatius’ own spiritual development and to the dynamics of his Spiritual Exercises? And how can we, in creative fidelity, build on this tradition in our own context? Answering questions risen, Adrian emphasized how at the moment there is a real danger of religion being driven out of the public sphere, but how all philosophies deserve attention and how we should not be afraid to stand up for this. And how religious education often ends up teaching only abóut religion, while we should instead dig deep down into our shared human experience, because it is at this deep level that we meet each other in the universal human themes. Nurture a sense of interiority in young children Danièle Granry, our second keynote speaker, told us how, during the her years as Principal of the pre-school and primary Jesuit school ‘Le Caousou’ in Toulouse, she devised - together with  her pedagogical team - a program to nurture a sense of interiority in young children. A program stimulating their breathing, senses and emotions, and thus enabling that 'intimate understanding and relish of things' that Ignatius speaks of. And which – even in a time where religious role models have vanished and we have to translate the gospel from scratch - allows children to meet Jesus as ‘the man with the mission’, and to grow in knowledge of self, of others and of God. Her story is also one of personal commitment as a Principal, to create a loving community together with all colleagues in the school, and on behalf of this to really dedicate time and attention to all children. Interiority, she explained, is the cement that holds everything together, building an atmosphere in the school that can help open up to many things in life. A symbolic object During the conference inspiring morning prayers helped us to deepen the awareness of our mission in our European schools. As celebrating Mass in the Conversion Chapel, and spending some meditative time in this and other special places in Loyola, helped participants discover the spiritual meaning of the venue. Bernard Peeters sj invited us to express our experiences through a symbolic object we then offered on the altar during Mass. During one of the evenings Enric Puiggrós sj and Oscar Santos, presented MUNDOSI Producciones, a group linked to the Society of Jesus that wants, through the use of everyday language, to communicate the values and experiences of Ignatian spirituality in dialogue with society and especially young people. They prepared an engaging musical performance for us, as a testimony of songs that can be live giving for young people. Workshops Besides there was a rich and much appreciated presentation of workshops, so participants could learn about valuable programs and share best practices. Our keynote speakers generously made double contributions as Danièle Granry offered a lively, creative approach on the same conference theme of talking about Jesus. And Adrian Porter presented the Examen, a key tool in the spirituality of St Ignatius for becoming aware of one’s experience and the way in which God is present in our lives. He explained how the practice of attentiveness that it encourages leads to the art of discernment, another core aspect of Ignatian spirituality. Participants looked at how the Examen can be used individually and in schools, and how it can become more than a review of the day. During a wonderful workshop on Godly play, by Spanish teachers and official Godly-play-narrators Itziar Barrenetxea and Miguel Martínez Bruneti, we could experience for ourselves the deepening effect of this means of spiritual direction and discovery based on the principles of the Montessori method and Christian worship, aiming to present the stories of the Bible in an imaginative way. The Godly Play approach helps children explore their faith through these narratives and through giving a free and personal response to them. Spanish teachers and pastoral coordinators Antonio José Gordillo Romero and María López Castellanos introduced participants with great enthusiasm to the Spanish ‘Lineas de Fuerza’ program, giving ‘guidelines’ (with a pastoral team of teachers and Jesuits working in EDUCSI, the commission for the Education apostolate of the Spanish Province) for presenting an annual Ignatian motto to all the schools in the network in Spain and Portugal. Around this pastoral motto they create all kinds of activities for both primary and secondary education, and a lot of materials to make this motto alive: posters, videos, songs, celebrations, tutorials, prayers and materials for different campaigns like Ignatian weeks, Peace day and Solidarity weeks. Since the schools in the Southern Belgium Province adopted and further developed a similar program, Bernard Peeters sj presented this variation during the conference as well. Transformation Model to become a real 21st century school One of the workshops was repeated during a very interesting visit participants could make on the last day of the conference, to the Jesuit school in San Sebastián. Amaia Arzamendi, former Principal of this school and now Education Delegate for the Spanish North Zone, and Regina Ariceta, Project Manager, presented their Transformation Model to become a real 21st century school. They explained the strategy developed ‘to dream the Jesuit school of the future’ and to turn those dreams into reality. They showed the transformation of the pedagogical project in terms of curriculum and organization of the schedule and the new organization of the teams of teachers. Participants making the school visit were warmly welcomed by current Headmaster Jon Arruti, and they could see the wonderful transformation of the learning spaces in the primary school - and even the visionary rearranging of the canteen - with their own eyes. Most admirable is the way in which the management team is step by step building this project together with all their colleagues, honoring the process and learning on the way; a truly innovative work of ‘co-creative leadership’! Likewise, another group of European Primary School leaders was welcomed at the school in Durango by Principal Eva Rodriguez. It was a great opportunity to get to know their educative program. After a brief explanation of the main projects that support our common mission in this school, participants visited the Nursery school, Kindergarten and Primary school classrooms and they had the chance to share the morning with teachers and students. My sincere gratitude goes to all colleagues who contributed to this conference and to our precious learning community.
For their annual meeting, the JECSE Education Delegates were invited in Albania this November by Fr Jimmy Bartolo sj, delegate for the Euro-Mediterranean Province. In Tirana we received a warm welcome, prepared by Fr Zef Bisha sj and the Jesuit communities’ wonderful assistant Ms Nevila Zeneli. They explained the complicated history of their country, as it has been struggling through long periods of Ottoman invasion and devastating communist suppression; and the impressive role of the Jesuits, among which their works of reconciliation among families caught up in matters of blood feuds. Today holistic education, interreligious dialogue, and strengthening lay-Jesuit collaboration are part of their dedicated mission. In Tirana, still a colourful intercultural place, we visited among other interesting spots the cathedral that in communist times was hidden by a concrete wall and turned into a social centre, hoping that people would forget its history and meaning as a sacred place for Catholic religious. For the delegates this was a unique opportunity to get to know the unfamiliar context of the Albanian college that is part of our network. Shkoder Our actual meeting took place in the Seminary in Shkoder, in the North of Albania. An important topic was the role of the Education Delegate, who is indeed in a position of major importance if it comes to supporting different colleagues in the local network (heads, teachers, pastoral coordinators and formators) ánd strengthening the link between important developments at the local, regional (European) and global level. Delegates and a number of coordinators reflected and shared on their specific (sometimes very different) settings and mandates, on their inspiration and challenges, on what they consider key-aspects of their role, and on what may support them in their work. Their reflections are an important ground to proceed from, not only in JECSE but also in ICAJE, to review the role of the delegate at the global level. Also the three JECSE Task Forces (started during last years’ meeting) presented their proceedings. In line with last years’ reflections of the Task Force for Formation on what would be a first need within JECSE, Mr Paul Yperman was asked to present the North-West European (cross-sectoral) lgnatian Leadership Program which he facilitated, and which the Task Force thinks can be of huge importance within JECSE to offer in-depth formation for people in leadership positions in our schools (including the delegates themselves) during many years to come. The focus of the program is very much on learning ‘a style of discernment and spiritual conversation’, that can deepen personal experience but also be transferred to the school community as a way to deepen reflection and sharing on how to shape Jesuit education in the context of today. Universal Apostolic Preferences We feel there is a strong coherence here with Fr General Sosa’s suggestion to ‘start and accompany processes’ linked to the new Universal Apostolic Preferences through this dynamic of ‘leadership and discernment’. And also with the new document on ‘Jesuit education – A Living Tradition’, that Fr José Mesa sj presented during our meeting as ‘ a living document’; and that, as Eamonn Mc Guinnes, director of Educate Magis, emphasized, is unique and extra valuable since it will develop in time through the input and involvement of our school communities. A document that will also be helpful during the virtual colloquium preceding the next global colloquium on Jesuit education in Yogyakarta, in the summer of 2020, on the theme of ‘Education for depth’. Global citizenship Task Force The Global Citizenship Task Force invited Ms Josephine Vassallo, one of the European members of the global team developing this project, to take us along not only in her own enthusiasm and conviction, but also in the good materials now developed - and made available on Educate Magis - presenting Global Citizenship as the key project it actually is in Jesuit education nowadays (in line with Father Generals’ notions on humanization and interculturality). Helpful resources are offered for different stakeholders, that the ‘whole school project’ can be started from. In addition, JECSE’s Task Force asked the delegates to find persons in their schools or networks who would be happy to monitor global citizenship projects in their schools, but also to be a contact person for Educate Magis. JECSE will then organize a conference in the spring of 2021 for these colleagues, together with Educate Magis, to offer them a platform for sharing and learning, so they can support the schools. Safeguarding Likewise, the Task Force that wants to support the schools in the difficult but important field of Safeguarding presented its plans for a conference in the same period, to be organized together with the Centre for Ignatian Pedagogy in Germany (ZIP). For this conference Headmasters from all of our European schools will be invited together with one other (expert or support-) person from their schools to deepen reflection and help implement truly living protocols and training models. As Fr Franck Janin sj emphasized during his introduction of the topic, it is very important not to narrow the subject to prevention of sexual abuse, but to learn to be aware of different kinds of abuse and to establish a true ‘culture of integrity’ in our schools. The plan is to have a follow up procedure to support the schools after the conference. For schools in need of resources in the meantime, various materials developed by - or in collaboration with - the ZIP were made available, like a list of minimum standards, a risk analysis and an introduction and road map to help schools work with both. Collaboration and reflection Apart from the work done in the Task Forces, JECSE’s progress during the last year was focussed on strengthening collaboration and reflection on its further direction. In the coming years, regarding its conferences for different audiences from our European schools, JECSE will be moving into the important theme of ‘accompaniment’. How accompaniment can be truly lived, we witnessed on our last day in Shkoder, when we visited the Atë Pjetër Meshkalla school, where Headmaster Fr Giangiacomo Ghiglia sj told us about past and current challenges, while Sr Valentina told us about the inspiring program the school is providing in spite of these. After some students showed us around, others surprised us with a beautiful Albanian song and a colourful traditional dance. We finished our journey with a moving Eucharist near the confronting museum on ‘Totalitarianism in Europe’, at the very place where the 34 martyrs who remained faithful during captivity in times of a severely brutal communist regime, were held prison or were executed. When we left the country, we could not suspect that within two days it would be hit by a severe earthquake. As Fr Ferenc Holczinger sj, Hungarian Education Delegate, expressed: “This is very sad. I came back feeling blessed and with deep sympathy for the Albanian people. We walked on holy ground, in the country of the martyrs. I pray with them for those affected by this natural calamity.”
JECSE Formators Conference 2019, Manresa, Dublin. This Wonderful Experience of bringing together Formators of the Jesuit Schools has enriched us once again and reminded me of the value of JECSE as a platform for widening our perspectives while building on our common purpose. The stakeholders of the Jesuit Colleges of Europe will all benefit from the enrichment of its Formation Personnel, after these special days when we spent time considering our commitment to the Magis. We came from 10 different Provinces with so much to share; rich experiences, common vision and curiosity, in a spirit of comradeship, companionship and fun. Having our European colleagues in Dublin was so special for the Irish Province and we were grateful to return the hospitality we have enjoyed in Drongen, Milan and Manresa for other JECSE gatherings. On the first evening the tone was set in a relaxed and cheerful manner as different Formators gave us their context, by telling a story of a picture they had chosen. These stories varied from the richness of our work with our students, to ‘sleep out’ stories to ‘reality TV’. The following morning, The Keynote Speaker, Nikolaas Sintobin S.J gave us Three Characteristics of Excellence. Magis is strictly Personal Magis = Personal Desire Magis is an Invitation to ‘Decentration’ – lose yourself. Nicholas’ intriguing style of illustrating the points using Youtube clips brought humour and clarity to his words. We were especially proud during our Conference, to showcase beautiful Glendalough, Co.Wicklow, one of the most important Monastic sites in Ireland, a deep immersion in Celtic Spirituality. Fr. Michael and Fr. Pat in their different styles guided us through the pathways, towards the round towers and amidst the lakes in this overwhelmingly beautiful place. With the Irish sunshine, this monastic site convinced us to sit in deep wonder and awe, ‘because the only time is Now and the only place is Here.’ This day came to a highpoint with Outdoor Mass in the Women’s Church. Bernard Peters S.J ensuring at every chance that we raised our voices in song. The third morning brought us to ‘ Educate Magis’. With his Galway based team, Gellert Merza brought us on a virtual tour of this exciting (more than a) Website with opportunities for classrooms from around the world to meet each other and discuss common themes. Thus giving us a tool for connecting and talking. Krizan Vekic, Justice Co-ordinator for the Irish province challenged us to Define ‘Global Citizen’s and quickly reminded us that you make Global Citizenship Ignatian when you are in relationship with God. Of course, this is what makes us better, more committed, Global Citizens.  The typical style of JECSE is to share the leadership of the Conference and this was no different. Members led us in prayer and reflection to set the tone of the day while keynote speakers inspired us on the topic of Magis. And yet informal conversations had a richness and sharing we could not have expected. As I discovered more about the programmes which colleagues are directing in their schools the words of Nikolaas resonated with me, ‘There is no point having all these experiences, if there is no Reflection. (On Reflection, I agree!) Gráinne Delaney. Co-Ordinator of Ignatian Ethos, Crescent College Comprehensive.S.J. Limerick, Ireland