On the 20th and 21st of January, the deans and delegates from 16 Kircher Network’s faculties of Theology, Philosophy, and Religious Studies gathered online for their annual meeting, which was chaired by the President of the Kircher Network, Philip Geister, S.J. The President of the JCEP, Franck Jannin, SJ., attended the meeting, and stressed the importance of reflecting on such important topics, and congratulated the network for organizing the event.
The meeting had two objectives. First, to discuss the most pressing challenges (internal and external) that their institutions are currently facing and are likely to encounter in the following years. Second, to exchange information on how the centres prioritize and cope with these challenges and possible future initiatives.
Despite the different contexts and situations faced by the different institutions, as well as the meeting’s time constraints, the gathering was outstanding thanks to the implemented methodology, the excellent moderation and our facilitator’s support.
The participants identified three main clusters of challenges and strategies: those related to Staffing, especially difficulties in recruiting professors of Theology, student enrolment level, and the challenges associated with the role of theology and philosophy in society and the public sphere and in other disciplines.
The deans also reflected on new initiatives to address these challenges together in a more efficient way than doing it alone. First, they agreed on developing a joint online catalogue of professors of theology and philosophy as part of the infrastructure services provided by the Kircher Network. Second, to continue promoting webinars, online lectures, and the development of joint hybrid courses (e.g., Online Graduate Course on Christian-Muslim Dialogue), and to explore other formats such as microcredits while maintaining academic quality. Third, they also concurred at the possibility of offering courses on theological and philosophical perspectives and reflections to students from other disciplines (e.g., social science and psychology) as part of their programs. For instance, to offer the Online Graduate Course on Christian-Muslim Dialogue to non-theology students.
To advance these initiatives, the deans stressed the need to open the Inter-Institutional Online Course Project to all students to facilitate the cross-registration and the recognition of credits.
Finally, they insisted on fostering the mobility of faculty members and students, primarily through the facilities of Erasmus +.