Meeting of the Western Europe South (WES) regional hub of the Uniservitate programme in Spain

On 29th, 30th and 31st January, the University of Deusto held the meeting of the Western Europe South (WES) regional hub of the Uniservitate programme in Bilbao, Spain. During these days, the participants visited significant places in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. They also attended the conference Institucionalización del Aprendizaje-Servicio en la Universidad: algunas luces y sombras [Institutionalizationation of Service-Learning in the University: some lights and shadows] which included the vision of the different agents involved: students, faculty members, community members, university management and administration departments.

On 29th January, they visited the birthplace of St. Ignatius (Loyola), the Basilica and the farmhouse where Brother Garate lived (Blessed Jesuit who worked for 40 years as a porter at the University of Deusto). Then, A Mass was celebrated there in the Chapel of the Conversion, presided by Patxi Álvarez de los Mozos S.J., and concelebrated by Juan José Etxeberria S.J. and John Dardis S.J.

On Monday 30th January, the conference began with greetings from Almudena Eizaguirre, WES hub coordinator, Juan José Etxeberria S.J., Provost for University Community and the 2030 Agenda of the University of Deusto, and the welcoming words of the Coordinator of the Uniservitate Programme, María Rosa Tapia. The opening speech highlighted the lines of work of the Programme and the interrelationship between Service-Learning (SL) and the Ignatian Pedagogy.

Afterwards, Elena Auzmendi, Vice-Rector for Academic Organization, Educational Innovation and Quality, presented the SL institutionalisation process at the University of Deusto, which is closely connected to developing cross-curricular competencies for the whole-person education of students. While its insertion is found in the social sphere, the institutionalization is accomplished through strategic projects, developed thanks to the management of two vice-rector offices: “University Community and the 2030 Agenda” and “Academic Organisation, Education Innovation and Quality”. 

After the presentation, the universities supported by the WES Hub of the Uniservitate Programme shared lights and shadows regarding their institutionalisation processes: Portuguese Catholic University (Luísa Mota Ribeiro and Vice-rector Isabel Vasconcelos), Sacro Cuore University (Elena Marta) y St. Marys University (Nina Langlie and Joey Oliva). 

Later, Ariane Díaz Iso and María García-Feijoo (Uniservitate Deusto) shared a Service-Learning Decalogue in Catholic Higher Education Institutions with the participants.

By the end of the morning, Ana García Olalla, Director of the Education Innovation Department of the University of Deusto, presented the collection Cuadernos de Pedagogía Ignaciana Universitaria [University Ignatian Pedagogy Handbooks]. She also shared the volume Cuadernos de Pedagogía Ignaciana Universitaria y Aprendizaje-servicio [University Ignatian Pedagogy Handbooks and Service-Learning], available in our repository.

During the afternoon, a round table moderated by Marian Aláez (Uniservitate Deusto) included the civil society organisations that are implementing SL projects with the University: Caritas (Susana Cuesta), Red Cross (Iñigo Portilla), Alboan (Mary Tere Guzmán), Down Syndrome Foundation of the Basque Country (María Iturriaga), Zehar-Errefuxiatuekin (Naiara Gutiérrez) and Oxfam Intermón (Nerea Basterra).

By the end of the day, members of CLAYSS-Uniservitate, the Deusto team leading the WES hub and the team members of the Latin America and the Caribbean hub (Catholic University of Chile) met to share the experiences developed during the first stage of the Uniservitate Programme and discuss future work guidelines and connections.

On Tuesday 31st, the first activity was an Ignatian visit to the University of Deusto led by Peio Azpitarte S.J., Director of the Deusto Campus. The visitors went on a tour around the institution and significant areas like the Chapel of Blessed Garate, the Main Hall, the Salón de Grados (former library) and the Gothic Chapel. 

Next, Juan José Etxeberria S.J., Vice-rector for University Community and the 2030 Agenda, gave a presentation moderated by Andrés Peregalli, from the CLAYSS-Uniservitate Team, entitled “Espiritualidad Ignaciana y Aprendizaje y Servicio Solidario [Ignatian Spirituality and Service-Learning]”. During his presentation, he referred to the experiences of engagement and spirituality that are part of the Ignatian tradition: “there can be service-learning without Ignatian spirituality, but there cannot be Ignatian spirituality without service-learning”. He stressed the importance of “being familiar with practice”, “the theoretical deepening”, “the option for social engagement”, and “the virtue-based training as an integral part of academic training”. He also analysed the importance of the spiritual exercises recommended by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Furthermore, he shared his personal experience, saying that “not in all spirituality there is experience and not all experience results in spirituality” and that the key to this is “helping to look globally and commit ourselves to something concrete, thus integrating the dimensions of the inner world and daily activity”.

At mid-morning, the Uniservitate Award-winning experiences were distinguished, in which professors and students from the Comillas Pontifical University, the University of San Jorge, the Catholic University of Portugal and the University of Deusto received a certificate in recognition of their winning prizes.

After that, two presentations delivered by their protagonists closed the event. Nilofar Bayat, an activist lawyer, gave the first one. From her own experience as an Afghan refugee, she urged the participants to promote students’ leadership and encourage them to engage in SL projects. Finally, the second presentation was a round-table discussion moderated by Ariane Díaz Iso, which included testimonials from the students who participated in SL experiences during their training: Laura Martínez, Ariana Román, Sara Iturriarte, Zoe Magaña and David Fernández.

The event brought together around 50 participants from Universities supported by the Uniservitate Programme (Italy, Portugal and England), Universities winners of the Uniservitate award (Comillas, San Jorge, Portugal and Deusto), members of CLAYSS-Uniservitate, members of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, professors and researchers of the University of Deusto, representatives of Porticus and the UNIJES (Jesuit Universities) and Zerbikas Networks. During the meeting, the phrase that Pope Francis said to Nieves Tapia in October 2022 in Rome was repeated more than once: “let’s keep making a mess”. This phrase resounded during a great onsite meeting and was an inspiration during those fraternal days, which, as mentioned by the Deusto team in their conclusion, reinforced “the conviction that it is possible to move towards a responsible and quality higher-education system that provides a whole-person training (…) on the path to implementing effective and quality interventions that shed light on the process of educating people and societies that are fairer and more sustainable”.



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