April 20, 2006
Dear friends in the arts and communication,
I find myself almost finished with my sixth year in Rome as Secretary for Communication. By now I have friends all over the world, which still seems pretty big even after criss-crossing it again and again. A major part of my work for the Society of Jesus involves visiting communication works sponsored by the Society; I think of this as a kind of "apostolic tourism." Concretely it means getting to know people who make movies, broadcast radio, publish books and magazines, create web sites, paint, sculpt and do many other creative work. It would be impossible not to be interested by the variety of cultures in which these Jesuits and lay colleagues work.
My own background as a graphic designer who has worked for a university, a province and an assistancy prepared me well to do this job. I think my journalistic experience as editor first of the Jesuit Bulletin and then of the National Jesuit News provides me with a good approach of looking for the story everywhere I visit. And there are lots of stories, which I try to offer on these web pages.
Another responsibility is offering advice to our superior general, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, who receives a rich perspective on Jesuit activity from his assistants who focus on one apostolic area (as I do in communication, and others do in education, Ignatian spirituality, social apostolate, and interreligious dialogue)as well as the assistants who handle all the business that comes from apostolates in one geographic area. The Society of Jesus pursues activities in so many places that the challenge comes in looking for the future directions that are just emerging: where should we be placing our resources and what will likely yield greater good for the Church?
On a personal note, my interest in art remains strong and I get to my studio regularly for painting in oil. I usually take a sketch book along with me on my travels, as well as a digital camera; the only problem is finding time enough to process and place all the images I collect. Travel is not so good for music, or at least for playing the guitar; by the time my fingers get properly calloused, I leave Rome long enough to have to start all over again. The rhythm of working in the office in Rome and being on the road is good for keeping your mind fresh. There is so much to see, and so many new friends to make.
Tom Rochford SJ