The Leadership Message of the Ignatius Year 2021

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The theme of this year’s Ignatius Year – which also marks the 500th anniversary of the conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s– is one of renewal. More principally, the Jesuits are reaffirming their ability to seeing all things new in Christ.

This adage of seeing all things new in Christ can also carry through to a new source of leadership. There will be a grand opportunity to see many new things in the coming years – particularly as the world recovers from the ferocity of the coronavirus pandemic – something we might have thought more relevant to the day and age of St. Ignatius himself. However, that is not the only parallel that can be drawn.

St. Ignatius and His Leadership Style:

As our thoughts are focussed on the lessons of St. Ignatius’ life we can see a tradition of leadership at the heart of his story. His leadership tradition is one that can be described as a model of collective leadership, of company, and of teamwork. It is distinctive that during St. Ignatius’ time, when Christianity in Europe was atomising, and new names were chosen to distinguish these groups: followers of St. Ignatius were not called ‘Ignatians’. Instead, they called themselves the Company of Jesus, or Amigos en El Señor, meaning ‘Friends in the Lord’.

While we rightfully celebrate and learn from St. Ignatius and his life, it is also important to remember his personal trajectory: one of devotion to God, and that of leadership which sought to credit all who joined him to direct their efforts towards the same. His leadership tradition ultimately spawned a strong and purposed organisation that would survive for posterity. This is where we are today.

 

St. Ignatius’ Leadership – Discernment, Learning, and Leadership:

St. Ignatius’ leadership style is also one of discernment and continued learning. In St. Ignatius’ story we become familiar with twists and turns and with lessons learned through hardship and reflection. This can be applied to today’s challenges more than ever. As we recover from a pandemic on a global scale, we can all share this lesson of leadership: to reflect on our hardship, and where we can work together to collectively rebuild our world.

Fr. General Arturo Sosa has spoken of the importance of learning – but he went further – and posited that we must learn from the new generation. Why? St. Ignatius also struggled with finding meaning in his life, eventually finding a meaning which also brought many people together. As the pandemic will undoubtedly degrade or irreversibly change the trajectory and opportunities of the pre-pandemic world, we must allow ourselves to learn from the style and vision of the new generation. This will in turn inform our new opportunities – together.

St. Ignatius’ Leadership – A Rebel Renewing the System:

It could be said that leadership has always a purpose – a goal. For St. Ignatius it was clear that his mission was to lead to a renovation of the Church; and to encourage the discovery of God in all things. While many lament the fraying of our current world system – some even calling it broken – St. Ignatius’ leadership ultimately led to a collective influence. This influence sought to work within the system to affect reform. Drawing this to today’s pandemic, it will be important for St. Ignatius’ leadership to inform how we work together to fix what is broken. The Ignatian legacy is prospering in schools and in missions around the world – this means that St. Ignatius’ lessons and leadership are in prime position to navigate this worldwide rebuilding of our system.

How This Ignatian Year is Being Celebrated Throughout Jesuit Higher Education Throughout (or Around) the World:

As Fr. General Sosa has stated, there are many events celebrating St. Ignatius in this Ignatian year. Importantly, however, this is not just on a national scale. The backbone of these celebrations are in the hearts of our local communities.

In higher education, we have the example of Santa Clara University in California, where an event centred on ‘Getting to know Ignatius in Word & Image’ is being hosted. This is being combined with an overall theme of embracing ‘cannonball moments’. Effectively, therefore, students are being asked to consider what can be learned from St. Ignatius’ life, and how the cannonball in St. Ignatius’ story broke down an obstacle between him and his path towards God. In this, questions of confronting poverty, humility, and rejection are being asked – reflecting the educational environment in which the university and its students are placed.

Similarly, at Loyola Andalucía University, workshops are being organised to focus on Ignatian spirituality – particularly in the context of this year’s theme: seeing all things new in Christ. In this, a message of gratitude as well as of confronting the vices which can exist in all of us. So to, a reflection on how we can meet our objectives in life – following the example of St. Ignatius.

 

Ignatian communities around the world, in addition to those institutions dedicated to higher education, are hosting events to mark the Ignatian year. One such is Educate Magis’ community that has organised a course focussed on the ‘Four Key Practices in Ignatian Spirituality’. The Macau Ricci Institute in Asia has created a symposium to draw together businesspeople and theologians alike in order to discuss how St. Ignatius’ lessons can be applied when dealing with the current pandemic and other crises.

In this Ignatian year we can identify something which all of these events hold in common: an adaptation of our efforts and celebrations to the current pandemic. In this, there is once again a collective leadership lesson which is intimately linked to St. Ignatius’ story. Coming together to meet and discuss through online video conferencing while other online tools are delivering thorough and enlightening courses. The global community is invited, and through this global community a St. Ignatius’ inspired leadership tradition will inspire us to reflect, to work together, and to rebuild.


Paul Angelo Deans

Administration Intern