By Franziska Fleischer - Austrian Province
JesWebCom is the annual meeting that brings together communicators
and webmasters of the Society of Jesus in Europe. This networking effort
started 15 years ago with a small group of Jesuits and co-workers who
wanted a platform to exchange information on new technical possibilities
for their websites. In the meantime, JeswebCom has become much more. It
has grown to be a place for sharing, project development and global
networking in all areas that affect the public relations of the Society
of Jesus. The participants are mainly from Europe, but we also welcome
colleagues from Australia, Africa, the USA, Canada, and India. There
were 40 people involved this year.
The steering committee of four elected members of JesWebCom takes
care of the planning and content of the meeting, which takes place in a
different European city every year. In early May of this year, all
participants were invited to Vienna, Austria.
The programme entailed months of planning, meetings and Skype
discussions. We were looking forward to the finalised programme and then
to the meeting itself. Then came COVID-19. By mid-March, the Austrian
government announced the first cancellations of events in Vienna,
followed by a ban on gatherings. Travel warnings were issued until the
lockdown finally took place. After weekly video conversations within the
steering committee to evaluate the situation, we chose, with a heavy
heart, the only possible approach: the cancellation of the “physical
encounter” of JesWebCom 2020.
But we did not want to cancel the meeting completely. There were many
interesting and important topics on the agenda. New ways and
possibilities had to be imagined. Not everything was lost. As bad as the
situation is, there are positive aspects to be found. We changed our
three-day meeting to an online mode. It is no small thing that this
allowed us the possibility to welcome more participants from all over
the world who would not have been able to travel. For the first time in
the 15 years of JesWebCom, we welcomed participants from Russia.