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Communications conference in Drongen

  • June 25, 2018

Our Communications Officer, Stephanie, joined thirty other people from the British, Irish and European lowlands Jesuit provinces for a three-day Communications training conference in Drongen, Belgium from the 13th-15th June.

I was lucky enough to spend a few days last week staying in the beautiful Old Abbey (Oude Abdij) in Drongen, just outside Ghent, Belgium. It has belonged to the Jesuits since 1837 when they bought it to house the novitiates of the Belgian province, and it is now used as an Ignatian spiritual retreat centre.

The conference was split into four workshops, with participants being able to choose out of a possible eight, which allowed us to cover a variety of practical training looking at different ways of effective communication in the 21st century. Each was run by someone from within the provinces including Jesuit scholastic Stephen Noon SJ who had flown over from Toronto to give a workshop on the importance of the language we choose for our audiences.

“We ran the conference for the first time last year,” explained Jane Hellings, Director of Development & Communications for the British Province, “and having considered the feedback decided to expand the offer, with a wider range of workshops and capacity for more trainees. It was our particular hope that more Jesuits would participate this year and we were very pleased with the response.”

The workshops were conducted in small groups allowing them to be interactive and they offered a chance to put into practise what we were learning with immediate feedback on our work.

Two quotes stood out for me from the workshops:

One, is that Love is at the centre of all communications. Stephen Noon SJ, Jesuit Scholastic, used the example from 1 Cor. 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Second is that which Pat Coyle, Communications Director of the Irish province, used by William Randolph Hearst, “The news is what somebody somewhere doesn’t want publicized, all the rest is advertising.”

The conference was also a great opportunity to meet other people from within the Jesuit networks across the three provinces who are working in social justice, youth and spirituality ministries. We were able to discuss how we could collaborate our work together in the future.

Photos credit: Paula Nolan-Art Director at Messenger Publications, Ireland