Jennie had been contemplating where to go in her teaching career in 2002, when she accepted a position at St Ignatius’ College Riverview. She had been working at a school run by the Good Samaritan Sisters where she became very familiar with the Benedictine spiritualty. “When I began at Riverview, Martin Scroope, a great mentor of mine, said “to learn about Ignatian spirituality, the first thing you need to do is the Spiritual Exercises’.
“I made the Spiritual Exercises in daily life over 30 weeks in my first year at Riverview under the direction of Fr David Strong SJ” remembers Jennie. “This experience, subsequent retreats, and spiritual direction from that time on have been transformative for me. They have taken me to that deeper level of seeing God in myself, others and in the activities in the world at large. My ability to find God in the positive and the negative, has been further developed by many people I am associated with as a result of embracing Ignatian Spirituality.”
“The Spiritual Exercises gave and continues to give me a backpack, filled with ways to pray, to find and communicate with God” says Jennie. “Sometimes, I find God easily, and at other times, with much more difficulty, but this is totally dependent on my own context. God is always there, whether I recognise or fail to recognise God, is determined by me, my own personal situation and what is happening in my world. But I have skills to help me, no matter what my particular situation is at any time.”
The daily Examen is a particular tool that Jennie has found useful. The five-step approach to examining her day provides a method that can be adapted to her context, taking into consideration available time and external distractions. “It’s not an ‘out-there’ prayer, it’s about critically reflecting on my own life and journey.” Fr Andy Bullen SJ describes the Examen, like running your fingertips over your day and becoming more acutely aware of what you are experiencing and what patterns are emerging over time.
Learning how to discern is another tool that Jennie has embedded into her own life. “Reflecting on what it is that God wants, has led me to places and given me experiences I would not have necessarily gone to, or undertaken, if left to my own devices. Learning how to be ‘free’ whilst discerning has meant that I have been able to reflect on what I do well, what I could do better and where it is that I can co-labour with God. I am constantly reviewing what I’m doing, and seeking to determine where God is leading me.”
“The opportunity to still be involved in Catholic education, Jesuit education is a gift I treasure. It allows me to work alongside fantastic educators and leaders who are committed to forming staff and students and building communities that lead people to God.”
The move to embrace Ignatian spirituality has been one that has graced Jennie with much and provided her the opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation of the active presence of God in her life. That decision she made in 2002 she says was “the move from Monserrat to Manresa and one that she is eternally grateful for.”
Jennie Hickey is acting Executive Director of Jesuit Education Australia and on secondment to Jesuit and Ignatian Spirituality Australia assisting with formation programs for leaders.