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Looking at communications and vocations

Vocations director Myles O’Reilly SJ represented the Irish Province at a meeting in Malta recently, convened by the Jesuit Conference of European Provincials (CEP) to consider and plan co-operation between vocations promoters and province communications offices in Europe. He was joined by thirteen vocations directors from around Europe, including Fr Matthew Potter SJ of the British Province.

Delegates shared experience and heard about examples of good practice from the Irish Province and from the US Mid West Province. Myles O’Reilly outlined the Irish Jesuits digital vocation’s strategy that has led to an increase in vocations for the Province. Inspiring vocation stories from current Jesuits, and gentle help with discernment through video were shown to be effective tools.

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.

The British Province communications team attending were Jane Hellings, Director of Development & Communications, Ruth Morris, Digital Communications Manager and Emma Holland, Producer of Pray-as-you-go, the daily prayer podcast, alongside thirty others working in communications and online ministry from across Europe and further afield. Delegates from the Jesuit Conference for Africa and Madagascar (JSAM), Australia and North America also made the trip to Malta, where the conference was hosted at the Mount St Joseph Retreat House in Mosta.

Fr Power 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.”

Several European provinces are in the process of merging: France, Southern Belgium and Luxembourg become a single province in July. Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary and Latvia/Lithuania will be combining into a single province some time next year.

All attending agreed that it was truly worthwhile for the  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).