President’s Corner: Seeing WSG from an International Perspective
Posted by Dr. Beth Reaves
I’m excited to share with you highlights of a special opportunity I recently participated in. This past week, I traveled to Mexico City with Sr. Mary Bourdon, WSG co-founder, to attend the Religious of Jesus and Mary International Encounter on Global Education. This conference brought together 190 people from 28 different countries, both religious RJM sisters and lay people, such as myself, who work in mission organizations supported by the RJMs. Over the course of five days, we engaged in discussion and reflection on the challenges facing the world today, specifically related to education. The RJMs ministry is worldwide, so I learned more about deeply challenged regions, such as the impact of the war in Syria, the extreme poverty and devastation in Haiti, the needs of immigrants coming over the border to the U.S. and the “disappeared” person crisis in Mexico.
One of the earliest messages presented that resonated with me came from the province of Africa, describing the concept of Ubuntu. Loosely defined, Ubuntu can be interpreted as “I am because you are”. It is the essence of our connectedness throughout the world, defining ourselves by understanding that we are always part of something larger. At WSG, yes I am the President of the school, but I am because we have students who come to school each day, we have teachers and staff who work to fulfill our educational program, we have families who trust us to educate our girls, we have volunteers who commit to our school mission. I don’t do this work alone at WSG – in fact I am only a small part. I am because we are.
I also shared great conversations with educators from schools in Ireland, India and England, among others. It was an amazing opportunity to place WSG and our school program on an international platform, to identify commonalities that we all face as educators of children.
Through small group discussion, topics such as the vast impact of social media on children, teaching empathy to students, concerns about mental health and the increasing stress placed on teachers arose as common themes across countries. And yet there was recognition of the value that we bring through our organizations to the students and families that we serve, and that continues to be critically important. The discussions were deeply spiritual and all grounded in our shared faith, knowing that God will continue to be with us on our journeys, leading us forward. The collective spirit was supportive and encouraging.
As you know, the Religious of Jesus and Mary is one of our three important founding organizations, and St. Claudine Thevenet is a WSG founding spirit. This experience also reminded me that WSG is still important to RJM as well, as we continue to infuse their spirit into our students each day. We are truly part of a larger community of mission work. I am looking forward to building deeper connections with several of the RJM international school leaders that I met, with the hope of creating partnership and travel or exchange opportunities for our students. I also would like to reaffirm with our students some of the core values discussed as critical for our future, including stewardship and caring for the earth, serving others outside of our school community and ensuring we treat each other with respect and build healthy relationships.
I am deeply grateful to Sr. Mary for this opportunity to both refresh my own spirit and join with others to reflect spiritually. It is exciting to think about the future of WSG and our students through a global lens and envision how we might continue to ignite joyful learning well into the future.