Report of the meeting of Province Coordinators of Higher Education in South Asia

On March 7, 2019 at JDV, Pune.

Twenty-two delegates attended the meeting of the Province Coordinators of Jesuit Higher Education in South Asia and the Directors of Jesuit Theologates and Indian Social Institutes, in JDV, Pune on March 7, 2019. Meeting started with a prayer and welcome by Joye James, Secretary of JHEASA. After the sharing of activities by the participants, Fr General joined us accompanied by General Assistants, Frs Lisbert and Vernon, and POSA, Fr George Pattery, for 90 minutes. Fr General appreciated the works of Jesuit Higher Education in South Asia and thanked the Province Coordinators for continuing this mission of the Society. Apart from the prepared talk he often made spontaneous reflections during the interaction.

The following are his reflections:

We Jesuits are called to animate people; we should not be occupying spaces. We should not hold on to our organizations and institutions no matter how nostalgic they are. We must engage more in animating people and processes, the young especially, in order to fulfill our mission. He also stressed that the mission is not ours. It is Christ's mission of which we have to be servants. And we receive this Mission from the Church, the Holy Father.

Institutions need not be permanent; they can be abandoned; they can be given up especially if they do not serve the purpose; if they do not promote Gospel values. We are not committed to Institutions but to the Gospel. We cannot maintain Institutions at the cost of Gospel values and our commitment to do Justice and bring about peace and reconciliation.

Institutions have a long history, tradition and those in them find it very difficult to 'move', to change, to respond to the new challenges, the future. Institutions become too heavy. They want to retain what is old. They think they have already established a name, a reputation. They do not feel they should change. They hold on to that name, that identity. But that is not our true Identity, the brand name. Our identity is connected to our Charism, Values and Ethos which ask us to respond to the new challenges. Personal conversion may be easy, but institutional conversion is difficult. We must realize that Institutions are meant to respond to the new and upcoming challenges; they should not be reduced to Museums.

We need to prepare the young people to take up good politics, we need to make them good citizens; need to give them political education and encourage them to take up politics as a career to promote the common good. For some, politics could become their vocation and we should help them in this. We need to promote democracy and protect and defend democratic institutions. Democracy is under threat all over. Yes, we must take a stand. This will cost us, just as it cost Jesus his life. Suffering is part of the process that leads to Resurrection, to liberation. We cannot wish away the Cross.

We should not expect people to come to us and collaborate with us. We should be going out and collaborate with them. This is a better way of witnessing and being humble. We do not have all the answers and resources. We must learn from others. No, there is no way we can lose our identity when we collaborate. On the other hand, our identity could be further enhanced, and we better appreciated, when we collaborate with others, rooted as we are in our tradition.

What is important today is to genuinely 'accompany' the youth. It is not enough to have some programmes and inputs. It should be noted that when we reach out to the youth, we also reach out to the poor because many of our youth come from poorer families. It is a challenging ministry and we need to invest in it. (Summary by Tony Dias).

At 12.30 pm Fr Francis Xavier (AND) thanked Fr General for his profound reflections and the session continued till 4 pm with lunch break 1 pm.

During the business session, the following decision were taken:

  1. Next JHEASA annual conference will be at St Xavier’s College, Kolkata on Oct 6-7, 2019.
  2. Only one delegate from each college will be allowed to attend it.
  3. Vice-Principals’ Training will be at Sirumali Hills, near Dindigal on May 4-6, 2019.
  4. Students Camp will be in August 2019 in Consultation with AICUF House, Chennai.
  5. Young Jesuits in HEIs will be in November 2019. Venue is not fixed.
  6. A meeting of Jesuit Social Scientists will be held in Bangalore in July 2019.

(Prepared by Joye James SJ, JHEASA Secretary)