Miles to go before we sleep....(JAAI National Council Meet)

JAAI NC in St. Stanislaus School, Bandra, Mumbai (07 June 2015)

Welcome everybody! We are glad we are here sharing our ideas, hopes, challenges and responsibilities in the portals of St. Stanislaus’ Jesuit history. Thanks to the Organizers for providing us with this unique opportunity to come together and look for creative ways to respond to our mission today and to face, with hope and faith, our own challenges and conquer our own frontiers. We believe that it is really God who has invited us here and thus we have to rise to the occasion as one time students of Jesuit education.

We have received the responsibility to carry on our mission to the society through JAAI. Today I appreciate the effort, however limited and small they are, through you all from institutions old and new. JAAI is the result of great effort, generous faith and hard work of generations of Jesuits and Jesuit students like you and many lay people who, as Saint Ignatius himself, have seen as strong pillars of Jesuit educational Mission.

The Jesuits are aware that this potential is still alive. Our schools are part of a living tradition that challenges us not to be too comfortable with our current accomplishments. We must leave the “comfort zone” of our present moment that can paralyze us and makes us blind to the new frontiers; we need always to discern what God is asking from us and how God wants us to respond to the ever changing historical context. In some ways, our Jesuit tradition impels all of us to move and change, of course not for the sake of change but always as the result of a spiritual discernment that seeks and finds God in all things.

So during this meeting we need to keep our hearts open to what He wants to say to us. We have come to share our concerns but more significantly to give our whole being to God’s voice.

For me this meeting I place ten goals to seriously look into and act upon:

1. To meet as a global network to respond together to the challenges that the world face. National boundaries must no longer define our ways of working together.

2. To reflect together what is JAAI’s mission and Identity today so that through a common understanding we can be more effective and more creative in recognizing and responding to our challenges.

3. As we have in our JAAI constitution, the objective is to uphold and propagate secular, democratic, humanistic values by enabling us to think critically and respond constructively.

4. You as experts in various fields can lend your helping hands to make our young Jesuits more effective in leadership, and expertise.

5. Help us for empowering our untrained teachers in the remote areas by sharing your knowledge with them. I shall dream of a hand-holding mission with them.

6. Plan out help the needs of the area/people especially the underprivileged in consultation with the Principal of your school. Form groups of experts to be available for the needs of the province and the zones.

7. Institute awards and scholarships in the name of your local Alumni Association to encourage children as well as to make known your activities to all.

8. Get all the outgoing 10thers and 12thers in to the association. For that in consultation with the principal, meet them and orient them the need for joining it.

9. Partake in the common programmes of the schools as far as possible.Reach out to the school with your resources of knowledge.

10. Be grateful what you have received from your school, from the Jesuits and do not hesitate to speak out the good things in public. Show your solidarity to the institute especially when it is faced with crisis.

Many of our schools are very strong, they are schools recognized locally and nationally for providing strong academics combined with a sound education of the whole person, usually accompanied by excellent athletic programs, challenging education while stressing multiple intelligences yet our vision of men and women for others rooted in social justice and critical thinking. I am deeply impressed by the fact that everywhere I go I always hear our students and faculty highlighting the fact that they feel very much at home in our schools; that they find themselves respected and cared for. Cura personalis is still one characteristic of our education. Recently, visiting a Jesuit school in the North East, a non-Catholic student told me that he could not think of a better place for him. He felt respected and recognized and he was also grateful for the high academic standards of the school and the many programs and the opportunities provided to students to build up self confidence. I ask you to take a minute to reflect and see is there an inner voice in you telling somewhat similar story?  This is what you felt when you were in schools, this is what you all want today’s children should experience in our schools. Without any doubt, an environment we want to keep, to strengthen and to cultivate.

Thus Fr. Arrupe invited us to shake our own walls, look outside and open our spirits to change and development, to keep pace with the changes.  Ignatian Charism and the new context of ours warrant us to be more of that men and women for others!

I conclude with the words of Chris Lowney. He writes that we need a network: “Where Jesuit institutions and individuals in them understand themselves as participants in a greater Jesuit mission that transcends the boundaries of their school or country, and are willing to lend their talent, time, or treasure as part of this broader mission.”

In this task, I assure you the full support of our POSA and I. Let us awake arise and act!

May God Bless you!

Sunny Jacob SJ

National Advisor, JAAI.