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Ignatian formation in schools

A meeting of the Jesuit schools Ignatian Formation Group (IFG) took place in Milltown park, Dublin on 7 June 2019. The purpose of the day was for staff to come together to share ideas and explore a collaborative programme of formation that can be used in each of the schools in Ireland. Brian Flannery, Delegate for Education, led the workshop which was attended by Elisabeth Clarke (Gonzaga College), Ann-Marie Dolan (Clongowes Wood College), Grainne Delaney (Crescent College Comprehensive), and Pádraig Swan and Eoghan Keogh (Belvedere College).

The meeting was particularly relevant in that each of the schools are in transition from having either a full-time Jesuit presence to a situation of reduced presence and contact with Jesuits. The impact of this is that staff and students miss out on the lived witness of a Jesuit in the day to day engagement in the classroom, staff room, boardroom or simply on the corridors or canteens of the schools. A Jesuit presence is a daily reminder of what lies behind the schools’ story, and the formal and informal conversations with Jesuits is a constant voice to the richness of the Jesuit tradition.

Pádraig Swan, Director of Faith and Service Programmes, said: “The challenge therefore is for teams of lay people to find ways to keep the Jesuit story and ethos alive, i.e., to continue to bring the gospel of Christ to staff, students and parents through focused induction programmes on Jesuit education and Ignatian spirituality. Formation programmes like retreats, pilgrimages, academic courses, liturgies and involvement in social outreach activities best support what it means to be part of a Jesuit school”.

Critical to each programme is the practice of reflection on the experience. Through reflection those involved learn the importance of the reflective process itself, but more importantly they pay attention to what they are learning about themselves, their faith, and their relationship with the world in which they live.

Pádraig continued, “At the Milltown Park gathering, participants shared the formation programmes that are working well in each school and shared ideas of new programmes that can be rolled out. A particular emphasis was given to developing programmes to share the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius with staff. A pilgrimage on the Ignatian Camino based on the Spiritual Exercises was looked at as one model, in addition to school based programmes”.

The group gather twice per year and will continue the conversation at their next meeting in Belvedere College on 7 and 8 November 2019.