Representatives from 18 Sacred Heart Schools from 10 countries came together in February to share their hopes, actions and priorities for healing our wounded world. Our conference was designed to build on work already happening in our schools. We wanted to share best practice and learn from the excellent examples of support for the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) being modelled across our Network. We wanted to to show that we have a collective voice, all seeking to support the successful delivery of the SDGs, which coincide with so many of the priorities of JPIC. Hosted online by JPIC International and helped by our interpreters Ana and Marie Louise (Marielou), the students and their teachers heard from a variety of speakers.
Cynthia Caruana from EKO Schools Malta spoke passionately to the young people about how they are the ones that are urging on the older generation and gave many inspiring examples of projects being carried out with the schools of Malta. Two interns, Sasha Amelang and Lisabeth Kelly, who work with the Society’s NGO office at the United Nations explained how their deep commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly on gender, was rooted in their education at Sacred Heart schools. Then two current students, Helene Szauer and Melissa Plunger from Sacre Coeur Vienna explained how they grounded their sustainability actions in research and awareness. They detailed their participation in COP 25 (25th Climate Change Conference in 2019) and how their school is taking practical steps to help heal our world.
All this, and the preparation work beforehand by students and staff, resulted in two excellent breakout sessions where students shared the projects that had already taken place in their schools, discussed with each other which SDGs were, in their opinion, the most important for them and for the world and finally what would be their priorities for action in the future.
Yolanda Jimenez, Assistant to the Society’s JPIC Team, said, “As I was listening to the description of the projects the schools are carrying out to promote the SDGs, I felt fully seized by their stories. In their actions, motivation and enthusiasm prevails – attitudes that can certainly help to contribute to the reaching of the SDGs. I perceived a sense of union and team among the students that will surely assist their activism.”
For the final section of the conference, we invited a representative from each of the breakout groups to share one point from their discussions. The enthusiasm that Yolanda spoke of did prevail as each one reported the ideas, concerns and actions that they had shared with each other. The students were most articulate and convincing in their feedback. Many spoke fluently in a second language.
We were delighted that members of the JPIC International Team, Sr Joy Luz, Sr Rachel Guillien, Rena Bersola and Yolanda Jimenez were able to join us and several other RSCJ, including Sr Daphne Sequeira, from the General Council. We are most grateful to Sr Joy for her guidance and hosting and, of course, special thanks to the translators.
The European Network along with the students and staff will follow up this conference: teachers will share email addresses to facilitate inter-school collaboration, a Padlet, hosted by the European Coreteam, will showcase pictures, projects and stories arising from our conference. The schools involved have also been invited to contribute their projects to the Society’s Database of JPIC projects.
Increased access to technology for international conferences is one of the few upsides to the Covid 19 pandemic. The challenges facing our broken world are immense. The contributions of the students of Sacred Heart Schools across Europe adds to the prospect of a successful delivery of the SDGs. We are nurturing young talent, and, in awe of their commitment, we are hopeful for their future.
Sacred Heart Schools' Coordinator for the Irish, Scottish and Maltese Network
Sacred Heart Schools' and College Network Coordinator ENW