The Kircher Network: The Jesuit Higher Education network in Europe and the Near East

In an increasingly interconnected world, the Society of Jesus is aware of the challenges and opportunities that academic collaboration and networking imply for its institutions' apostolic mission. Thus, in 2018, the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU) was created to foster cooperation among the 200 Jesuit universities and colleges worldwide.

In July 2018, the Kircher Network was established to strengthen the sense of shared apostolic mission among its member Jesuit institutions in all aspects of academic life. It is a network of 29 higher education institutions linked to the Society of Jesus in Europe and the Near East. Our institutions aim to offer a different type of education. An integral formation of the individual based on the Ignatian charism that promotes four dimensions: utilitas, humanitas, iustitia, and most importantly, fides.

The network is named Kircher in honour of the German Jesuit Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680), a polyglot, scholar, and particularly distinguished for his knowledge of the sciences.

The Kircher Network has identified four strategic priorities to be developed in the coming years, namely.

  • To promote collaboration in research among its member institutions and with other Jesuit universities worldwide.
  • To increase academic collaboration between training programmes and scholars and students' academic mobility.
  • To support its members in their strategies and actions to strengthen their identity and mission as Catholic universities with an Ignatian charism.
  • To facilitate shared learning and the exchange of best practices in all university life areas among its members.

Visit the website of the Kircher Network here. Subscribe to the Newsletter here.

Jesuit European and Near East Higher Education Meeting takes place at Centre Sèvres, Paris Are the challenges of our institutions and societies distinct one from the other depending on our context? Or are there common sets of challenges that we all need to face together? These two statements are non-mutually exclusive, so an affirmative answer could be given to both questions. However, the balance between them in different times in history is relevant. In the last century, the first statement (independent challenges depending on the context) had by far much more weight and thus it took more space in our minds and on the time we dedicated to address these local challenges, as individuals and as institutions. In this 21st century, the global challenges have gained far more importance and this calls us to review the way we do things. Traditional ways of governing our institutions seem to become each year more and more obsolete. An excellent metaphor for this is presented in a documentary called “In the Same Boat” released in February 2016. In this documentary the experts interviewed share the idea that every human being is currently travelling in the same boat and that we need to coordinate ourselves better to redirect it to go wherever we consider it needs to go. Imagine if someone wants to row in one direction and the other person on another direction. Neither one nor the other will ever reach their destination. We need to understand this dynamic and most importantly we need to agree on where we want to go, the final destination. This was one of the key underlying messages during the recent Jesuit European and Near East Higher Education meeting that took place at Centre Sèvres, Paris from the 9th to the 12th of July 2017. The participants of this meeting were Rectors, deans and people involved in the intellectual apostolate coming from institutions with and ignatian background. There were many highlights from the meeting, starting with the excellent inputs of Madame Sylvie Goulard (Member of the European Parliament) and Sébastien Maillard (from the Croix and the Institute Jacques Delors). These two experts gave an interesting look at the current context we are living in and the challenges we face and what Jesuit institutions can do to address these challenges. This is a very ignatian approach, starting by looking at the reality. Participants also had the opportunity to hear Father Michael Garanzini SJ (Secretary for Higher Education of the Society of Jesus), Father Friedrich Bechina (undersecretary for the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education), Susana di Trolio the Executive Secretary of AUSJAL and Jaime Oraa the president of UNIJES. These four people were responding and giving information to participants about the previous call from Father General to the Universities and Faculties of the Society of Jesus in Europe and the Near East. Father General sent a video to the participants asking them to consider new ways of collaboration and to do that he asked them to reflect on a possible structure for the Higher Education institutions in Europe and the Near East. We are talking about institutional conversion, words used by Father General in his first letter to the whole Society, to reviewing our modes of organization and to examine our institutions. He also reminds us the words of GC36, the governance of the Society is personal, spiritual, and apostolic (GC36 D2,1) From here the participants started working. Many good ideas came to light, which included the risks, and challenges, and benefits that a new structure and way of collaboration might entail. At the end, the participants decided to name a Steering Committee to look into it with more detail and to take into consideration all that was said during the meeting and come with a more concrete proposal in the Worldwide Meeting in Deusto 2018. The cherry on top of the cake was the presentation of the HEST programme by its coordinator José Carlos Romero. This links to our initial point made earlier about being on the same boat. The Higher Education for Social Transformation Programme tries to put institutions in touch and encourage them to work together to reflect on the shared challenges of our societies and to offer sound research and creative ideas to promote changes that will make ours a better world for those who suffer the most. The journey is long but in this meeting good progress was made and the reached agreements will allow our Ignatian boat to reach a safe harbour, our next stop towards our common mission.
Forty students from the Loyola Andalucía University distinguished. 40 students from Loyola Andalucía University have been distinguished by the Jesuit Honor Society 'Alpha Sigma Nu' at an event held at Seville. This first ceremony was attended by Daniel Hendrickson SJ, president of Creighton University; Scott Hendrickson SJ, Loyola Chicago University Graduate Program Director; Kate Gaertner, executive director of 'Alpha Sigma Nu' and Gabriel Pérez Alcalá, rector of Loyola Andalucía University. 'Alpha Sigma Nu' was created 100 years ago in USA and now has 80,000 members. Last year Loyola Andalucía University was accepted as a chapter, being the first European partner. Alpha Sigma Nu honors students of Jesuit colleges and universities who distinguish themselves in scholarship, loyalty to the ideals of Jesuit education, and service to others. As the only honor society permitted to bear the name Jesuit, the vision of the Society is the encouragement of Ignatian inspired lifelong leaders. It has more than 32 chapters, since it is present in all the Jesuit universities of the United States and Canada and now also in Asia, in Sogang University and Europe through the Loyola Andalucía University.
Jesuit Universities Meeting in Brussels We are in the middle of a crisis of vision and solidarity in Europe: Brexit, refugees, Ukraine war... The public discourse is polarised. There is a wide poverty both, economic and spiritual, a desert of religious feeling and a lack of capabilities to address the deepest human needs. People are really struggling. To this situation we need to ask ourselves: “how do we respond to all of this?” This is a question that Father John Dardis SJ asked the rectors of the European and Middle East Jesuit universities during a meeting that was held in Brussels (in Centre Avec) on the 21st of June. During the meeting there was an amazing atmosphere amongst the 13 participants, moved by the desire of deepening the sense of Jesuit mission and identity across the Higher Education Institutions. The meeting was planned to discuss the proposal of “Higher Education for Social Transformation (HEST): A Kairos for Jesuit institutions!” that proposes to link higher education institutions with social centres and reviews to address certain issues of relevance for the Society, the Church and the European and Near East societies. We are talking about themes such as: migrations and refugees, ecology, poverty, anthropology...  This project is a response to Father General’s letter to the whole society “On the Global Economy” in which he called Jesuits and lay collaborators to read the document Promotio Iustitiae #121 . Some of the proposals in it are: - We should leverage our commitment and reputations for sound research and clear positions through direct advocacy. - We should therefore utilize our network of institutions to turn a spotlight on significant policy issues and to pressure for greater international cooperation in reforms that would make the lives of the poor more humane and just. - Our professional schools should collaborate to address issues about which there is a special knowledge, a direct contact with the social reality and the capacity to impact change through faculty, student, and alumni action Participants were very supportive of the initiative and are willing to work together with the faculties of philosophy and theology, the social centres and the reviews to turn our institutions into instruments of economic justice and reconciliation. Next stop: Uppsala. On the 10th of July the faculties of philosophy and theology will discern and work to move this project forward.        
Last summer’s joint apostolic project between the Jesuits of the British, Irish, Dutch and Flanders provinces has given birth to a number of initiatives which are nurturing closer collaboration between individuals and institutions of the four provinces. From 3rd-5th June Campion Hall in Oxford hosted the third meeting of a group of Jesuits engaged in teaching and academic research. The delegates gave and received eight papers on a range of subjects including Laudato Si from Gerald Whelan SJ of the Irish province who teaches Fundamental Theology at the Gregorian University in Rome, Rene Girard from Michael Kirwan SJ, and from Frank Turner SJ, provincial’s delegate for the intellectual apostolate in Britain, a paper which prompted discussion on what it means to be human in the world today. This encouraged reflection on the challenges of secularisation, nationalism, technological change, environmental concerns, intolerance and mass migration. “This was a great example of Jesuits thinking together across institutional, province and national boundaries, getting to know each-others’ intellectual language” commented convenor of the meeting Fr Dorian Llywelyn SJ of Heythrop College “The meeting generated a lot of fruitful dialogue across a wide range of discussion topics and we came away feeling very energised and hopeful that in future we would be able to share resources and ideas in practical ways across innovative joint platforms”. A follow up meeting is planned in Leuven towards the end of 2016.