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FCJ Education Conference: London, 9 May 2009

On Saturday May 9th the Thistle Hotel in London was the venue for a gathering of over 50 people involved in FCJ education. Participants included staff in positions of leadership and governors from each of the FCJ schools in the  British Province.  In addition there were representatives from the two other provinces of the FCJ European Network, Maria Dunne and Geraldine Lennon from the Irish Province and Marie-Geneviève Renaud  from the Continental Province.  Claire Sykes fcJ from the British Province gave input and Frances Kennedy fcJ, a general assistant to Sr Katherine Mary O’Flynn, General Superior, facilitated the day.

Participants at the Conference.

In her opening presentation, Claire situated us in the wider context of our world with its growing inequalities, economic downturn and propensity for violence.   This scenario was given hope though, by her reference to the growing calls for society to reclaim its moral base and by reference to the power for good among so many.

Participants at the Conference.

Quoting Dr Rowan Williams, Claire highlighted how the qualities needed are in fact the Gospel values revealed to us by Jesus. She used a modern translation of the Beatitudes [Matt 5] and her PowerPoint gave us a new and inspiring insight into these Be- Attitudes. She pointed out that the living of these qualities is the core purpose of Catholic education.

Participants at the Conference.

Claire then helped us look at our FCJ schools and all that we hope them to be – places where the desires expressed in the General  Chapter Decree 2009 and the booklet, Companionship in Education, are lived – not  taught. As she spoke about the ethos in our schools, we learned that it is FCJ spirituality, so strongly rooted in Gospel values, that will create the ethos of love and respect for all – that it is  this that will enable us to be the ‘gentle, human face of God’.

Participants at the Conference.

In our final session Claire focussed on God’s gifts to the Foundress of the FCJ Society, Marie Madeleine d’Houët, gifts given not simply for the FCJ Society, or for FCJ schools, but gifts given for our  world. Claire made particular reference to  the gift of gentleness, a characteristic of FCJ spirituality and explored some scriptural references to this virtue.  As participants were in their school groups at this time, they were then able to spend time discussing how the fruits of the day could be taken back to their staff and pupils.  The level of energy showed clearly how involved everyone was and the news that Claire will visit each school in the Autumn for a week  to share in a similar way was greeted most enthusiastically.

Participants at the Conference.

The Thank you given at the end of the day certainly expressed the feelings of the whole group. It had been a most worthwhile and privileged 24 hours. Margarita was thanked for having called the Conference, Jo for the excellent organisation that enabled the gathering, Frances for her gentle but firm facilitation and Claire for her challenging, pertinent and inspiring sharing.

Participants at the Conference.

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Unsere kleine Gemeinschaft hat das Ziel,
      mit allen Mitteln ihrer Macht
           das Herz Jesus zu ehren ...     (Marie Madeleine)