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Posted: January 30

A steady rhythm for the congregation

(Rome) The house is settling into a rhythm now that the delegates to the general congregation are immersed in the second phase that focuses on the business they have to attend to, deciding what documents to write or what actions to mandate. A general congregation is a legislative body, but it still functions in the spirit of prayer that made the election process of a new general so special. My friend Fr. Don Doll went back to the States last week after helping photograph the big liturgies at the start of the congregation. He is a whirlwind of energy and his presence made the first weeks of the congregation a special time for me, but his photographs also enabled many people to get a sense of what was going on here in Rome. We could not talk much about the election, but his photos were worth thousands of words. Everyone became so used to him walking around with his camera that they accept me as well, so we are continuing to document the congregation.

Two other Jesuits have settled into my office which now has three desks for working on the web site. Frs. Dani Villanueva and Pierre Bélanger are doing great work on a steadily expanding web site that has a prayer room, blogs and a section called “Echoes” for people to post their own comments on the congregation. At times it gets crazy with three of us working in English, French and Spanish on multiple projects, but even that has its own rhythm. A general congregation that lasts two months is more of a marathon than a sprint race. Endurance is important.

Even meals in the Curia are becoming more normal. We have swelled from the normal 35 or 40 people for the main midday meal to almost 120. Instead of two community members taking turns waiting table, now we have four; and the visitors are starting to volunteer to help out. I was waiting table on Tuesday with two delegates who were doing it for the first time and were a bit nervous. The heating cart with serving plates was full until we started passing out the food. Finally there was just one small covered container left, which I immediately recognized: it was the special diet for Father Kolvenbach, our former superior general. In the rush we had overlooked it, something that never happened when he was the boss and everyone kept a special eye to take care of him. But he has quite clearly chosen to slip out of the limelight and let his successor take center stage. What a difference from politicians who do anything to hold onto power and prolong their careers. His example made me think how much the readings at Mass recently have spoken of God calling us to be servants. It is a theme that Father Nicolás underlined in his first homily as superior general, and that Father Kolvenbach is teaching by example.

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