From 2nd – 6th October 2016, over 200 teachers, Christian Brothers and Network Members from the international collection of Edmund Rice educational organisations gathered in Kolkata, India for the latest Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders Congress.
This latest event had a tough act to follow given the overwhelming success of the 2015 Congress in South Africa, but a week of intense immersion experiences across India certainly made the delegates feel right at home in this amazing country.
India is a nation of diversity, from the golden sands of Goa to the melee of Mumbai and the chaos of Kolkata. Never was this more apparent than at the Call To Congress reception at St Joseph’s College during which, along with an inspirational address from Dr Wayne Tinsey (Edmund Rice Education Australia), the guests were treated to cultural demonstrations from every corner of the country. The fact that these wonderful dances, songs and poems were performed by students who encouraged plenty of audience participation made this a truly special evening and set the tone for the rest of the Congress.
We would return to St Joseph’s, fittingly, on the final evening to celebrate our gathering, but not before the EREBB Leadership Team had taken us on an inspirational journey through both this unique culture and our incredibly dynamic international Network. With keynote addresses from, amongst others, the amazing and profoundly spiritual Br Philip Pinto and his successor as Congregational Leader Br Hugh O’Neill, as well as numerous workshops and presentations showcasing the rich tapestry of Edmund Rice Education globally and the considerable early achievements facilitated by EREBB, the feelings of ‘inclusivity’ and ‘potential’ stirred twelve months earlier in Johannesburg were once again tangible amongst the delegates.
However, these sessions were only a part of what made this Congress so special; shared meals, time to travel the streets, subways and River Hooghly, daily reflections, and a profoundly moving visit to Mother House, the home and place of work of St Teresa of Kolkata, all helped us understand the sense of community that lead to Kolkata becoming known as The City Of Joy. Whilst there is no escaping the abject poverty that so many people in India endure, to witness the preparations for the colourful Hindu festival of Puja could only serve as a reminder of the faith-inspired resilience of people in the face of adversity.
Of course, this was not a holiday! The responsibility now lies on the delegates to return home and put into practice what they learned in India. For the European Province that means inspiring others to join the EREBB family and inviting students in our schools to understand what being part of this global network should mean to them. Plenty to be getting on with!
Roisin Maguire, Principal
St. Joseph’s College
O God, we thank you for the life of Edmund Rice.
He opened his heart to Christ present in those oppressed by poverty and injustice.
May we follow his example of faith and generosity.
Grant us the courage and compassion of Edmund as we seek to live lives of love and service.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.