Education in the Jesuit Tradition
‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God’ (G.M. Hopkins SJ).
Jesuit Education is a global enterprise with a long and distinguished history. The involvement of the Jesuit Fathers in schools goes back to Messina in Sicily in 1548 and continues to this day. The story is some 466 years old and still unfolding. Today there are 3,897 Jesuit educational institutions in 90 countries teaching 2,928,806 pupils. It wasn’t by accident that they were called the ‘schoolmasters of Europe’.
What characterises and propels the Jesuit vision of education is best caught by the following reflections:
- God is at the heart of his creation, and God is at work in human culture and human history. This is the world which forms the object of our study and the context of our lives. Jesuit education is therefore conducted in a spirit of reverence and from a radically religious perspective: facilitating the discovery of and encounter with God is its core-value.
- Jesuit education sees the human person, understood in the context of his eternal destiny, as the central focus of the enterprise and insists on individual care and concern for each one (cura personalis).
- Relationships and pastoral structures reflect this focus. Through the curriculum, co-curricular activities and the environment of the school, our mission is to help each student to grow holistically and lay the foundations for life-long growth, liberated from ignorance and the other forces which inhibit growth, learning to think for himself, developing his diverse competencies, finding his own distinctive ‘voice’, becoming ever more fully his unique self.
- We are defined as persons above all by our values, by the habitual moral choices we make. Jesuit pupils are to be men of conscience, able and willing to stand up and be counted in the name of the truth, prepared to use their skills of self-expression and advocacy for those who may have no voice, and committed to choosing the path that is right, not the one that is merely popular or fashionable.
- This approach to education includes growth in realistic knowledge, love and acceptance of oneself and an understanding of the world we live in, the conflicting forces and values which operate in human society, and the unjust structures produced by sin, in which we can all be complicit and which diminish human lives.
- For Jesuit education, Jesus Christ is at once the human face of God and the model of all human life, responding totally to the Father’s love. His way of compassionate love is not a way but the way.
- This conviction is reflected in the provision of pastoral care for all involved, aimed at encouraging spiritual growth and the development of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is also reflected in the practice of communal prayer and worship and the celebration of the sacraments as constitutive parts of the school’s rhythm of life. Service programmes are consciously promoted as a way of imitating Jesus Christ, the ‘Man-for-Others’, in his complete self-dedicaton, and of helping to build the Kingdom of God.
- Jesuit education is intended as a preparation for a life of active social commitment. Jesuit students are encouraged to understand their own ‘place’ in the world, in terms of educational and socio-economic opportunities, and to use these opportunities in the compassionate service of others, especially those whose opportunities have been less than theirs or who are the victims of poverty and injustice. Religion is deeply personal but not private: faith which does not express itself in love for others and the passionate quest for justice lacks authenticity. We aim to facilitate the emergence of young men who will exercise leadership in terms of these values and seek to be agents of change, not more or less passive upholders of the status quo.
- The commitment to excellence – in terms of intellectual rigour and all aspects of the enterprise – is at the heart of Jesuit educational philosophy. The Jesuit motto is ad maiorem Dei gloriam (God’s greater glory) – Ignatius was always seeking ‘the magis’ (‘the more’).
- Jesuit schools are intended to be communities of life, work and worship. Staff, Jesuit and lay, collaborate in service of shared values, a common task and an overarching vision, as reflected in the Characteristics of Jesuit Education.
- Pupils are encouraged to respect and care for one another as friends and companions, in the spirit of the Gospel. The community of the Jesuit school embraces not only all those within it – pupils, teachers and members of the wider staff – but also, very particularly, parents, along with members of the Board of Management, past pupils, and others associated in any way with its operation.
Mr. Cyril Murphy
Director of Liturgy
“I see faith today as needing a decision: one cannot drift into faith anymore. The tide is too much against it” (Michael Paul Gallagher SJ speaking in 1980)
In 2011 Clongowes Wood College created a dedicated position for a specialist in liturgy and music to develop liturgies within the life of the College that speak to and engage the student body in their faith and their formation. This arose out of a need to move from “maintenance to mission” and to set the agenda for changes and risk and ambition that would hopefully mark out Clongowes in its liturgical life, as an authentically Jesuit Catholic school in 21st century Ireland. Our primary focus was to re-energise and catechise around the Eucharist for the boys, in a contemporary and inclusive manner, underlying their liturgical role as the baptised community of our church, whose full and active participation in the Eucharistic action is both sought and anticipated.
The celebration of the Eucharist, of Mass, is “the source and summit” expression of our Christian living. Clongowes is charged with the responsibility for the education and faith formation of a new generation of young Catholic men. A really good celebration of Sunday Eucharist is at the core of this mission – the meal must nourish and the guests must partake. Accordingly we moved our Sunday celebration of Eucharist to the stunning new Sports Hall, where, seated in the round, our communal identity and fraternity is underlined and our participation is sought. This is done by presenting the Scripture in contemporary language, gesturing our faith and joining in singing that asks all to sound their voices.
Another really important part of the work is to educate the boys in the sacramental aspects of what is going on when we celebrate the Eucharist. Each Thursday morning, during the early morning study period, the Director of Liturgy meets one ‘Line’ of the school (a third of the boys) to explain how, why and when we signify and understand our faith in the sacrament of the Eucharist through the rubric of a Eucharistic liturgy. The boys are remarkably open and respectful of this educative initiative and the hope is that in deepening their understanding and knowledge of the sacramental in the Mass that their willingness to be more open and receptive to “letting God in” will in time bear fruit.
With 200 years experience of educating young men, Clongowes is clear about its aims regarding formation. Cura Personalis (a concern for the individual person) remains a basic characteristic of Jesuit education, and in Clongowes particular attention is paid to the welfare of the boys entering first year. Teachers, Prefects, and Spiritual Fathers are seen as more than academic guides – they are closely involved with the lives of the boys and how they both live and learn. While they respect the boys’ privacy they are ready to listen to their concerns, share their joys and sorrows and help wherever possible.
In addition to the Prefect, each boy has a range of responsible adults to whom he can turn in moments of need:
- The Academic Year Head assisted by two tutors, takes responsibility for monitoring the academic progress of each pupil in a year group. He/she liaises with parents when necessary.
- The Spiritual Father is the boy’s confidante or anamchara. He is independent of the administrative structure of the school and is available to listen to the boy’s anxieties or worries, to encourage and to offer advice.
- Other members of staff, the Assistant Pastoral Coordinator in particular, play a valuable role in this regard.
The Pastoral Assistant to the Headmaster
The Pastoral Assistant to the Headmaster plays a leading role in the implementation of Pastoral Care in the school, especially the keeping of the Jesuit Ethos. For students this is encapsulated by retreats (including the Kairos Retreat), chaplaincy and social outreach work including:
- Our ongoing overseas project with the developing world (Lesotho in Africa)
- Pilgrimages to Lourdes and Taizé.
- Exchanges with Portora Royal School and The King’s Hospital.
- An annual Duck Push to raise funds for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital
- The Clongowes Special Children’s Holiday at the school.
The sacramental life of the school in relation to pastoral care is central and we have recently appointed a Director of Liturgy to take responsibility for this. We celebrate all the liturgical points of the Christian year from Advent through Christmas and Lent to Easter. We also mark Catholic Schools Week every January as well as individual Jesuit Saints feast days. Every morning begins with a short pause for Morning Prayer presented by a healthy mix of both students and staff.
Students are also encouraged to take part in the Pope John Paul II Awards and encouraged to engage with cultural programmes such as the Camino de Santiago and trips to sister schools in Eastern Europe.
The pastoral care of parents and staff is also important and is met through Parents’ Days, a Parents’ Retreat, Ignatian Pilgrimages and Staff Induction Days.
Clongowes and Portora
Since 1979 Clongowes has had a long and proud association with the Royal School, Portora in Enniskillen. The partnership was established between the two schools, in response to the tense political and religious divide that existed in Ireland. Twinning was made official in 1980 as evidenced by two mounted plaques displayed in the entrance hall in Portora and on a signed cricket bat in the Clongowes trophy display area. Activities initially included rugby and cricket, followed by debating and ‘historical’ exchanges and each year the respective Past Pupils’ Unions share Annual Dinner invitations.
Historical links between the two schools are to be found in the person of Fr John Sullivan, ‘The Servant of God’, who attended Portora as a Trinity scholar, and then ministered in Clongowes between 1907 and 1933. The connection is also mirrored in the friendship of James Joyce with Samuel Beckett, past pupils of Clongowes and Portora respectively. To mark this latter a literary competition is held each year between pupils of the two schools for the honour of the Beckett-Joyce Literary Award.
Today, the link between the two schools remains strong, vibrant and meaningful. Every November, staff and students from Clongowes travel to Enniskillen to attend the school’s annual service of remembrance for those killed in the World Wars and ‘troubles’ of Northern Ireland. Students from Clongowes lay a wreath to remember the fallen from their own school and as a sign of mutual respect and understanding. It’s an important day, whereby both schools remember those who have gone before us in the cause of freedom.
In response, Clongowes hosts some staff and students from Portora for an overnight visit to Kildare in the spring. It’s a time for students to get to know each other, take part in shared lessons and – for the boys from Portora – to ‘live in’ a boarding school!
Special Children’s Holiday
Since 1990, Clongowes has come alive for a week in July to offer a very special holiday to young kids with special needs. The holiday is a unique experience for the boys from Poetry (5th year), who, along with students from St. Wolstan’s school in Celbridge look after approximately 20 kids from KARE over the course of a week.
It’s a fun-filled time with visits to attractions such as the Viking Splash in Dublin, the Zoo and the Garda stables at Áras an Uachtaráin. While the trips away from Clongowes are fun, it’s action-packed in the school as well, with activities from arts and crafts, sports, music, dancing, BBQ’s and drama all making for some very busy and entertaining days and nights.
The annual holiday is a highlight in the Clongowes calendar a time when the boys come back for a week in summer to give of themselves so that some very special kids get a holiday, and their parents a well-earned spell of respite. Every year, the sun seems to shine for that week in July, and every year a lot of fun and memories are made by this unique and special event.
Clongowes is an inclusive school and, as such, provides Learning Support to students to help them reach their full academic potential. Learning Support practices are developed to improve the learning experiences for students with educational difficulties and this includes a solution-based framework of assessment and intervention.
We promote positive attitudes, values, and open relationships which lead to open communication with students, parents and teachers. While engaging with students, making learning meaningful and enjoyable, we are able to set attainable standards of achievement in a flexible teaching environment.
We operate in a relaxed atmosphere, where students feel welcome to drop in, and discuss any perceived learning difficulties, which they are experiencing. Collaboration with teachers, prefects, and external services is fostered and an essential part of the process. The Learning Support staff is also involved in the co-curricular life of the school where we are actively supportive in areas such as debating and drama.