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Vol. XVI, No. 5 20 March 2012
Interview to Father General. As we have been reporting in our previous Bulletins in the last few months, Father General has visited Vietnam and Australia (January) and three Provinces in the "tribal belt" of India, Jamshedpur, Ranchi and Hazaribag (February). On his return, we approached Father Nicolás with some questions. Here are his answers.
Q. In recent months you have returned twice to Asia during the assembly of the Provincial Conference of Asia-Pacific (in Australia) and South Asia (in India), two very different areas of the world. Could you describe briefly your feelings about the two regions?
A. It is impossible to answer "briefly" to such a question. I thought before that the plurality and variety of countries and cultures in Asia-Pacific made it impossible to speak of any kind of uniformity and that we had to accept diversity as the norm. After visiting the three Indian Provinces in the so-called "Tribal Belt" of India, I have to extend what I felt for East Asia to the Sub-Continent. No stereotype can do justice to the rich and varied reality of the people and their cultures. It is truly an overwhelming experience, that confirms in me the need to do research and study the different peoples and their lives with great respect and love for their different ways of life.
Q. In your journey to Australia, you stopped for a few days in Vietnam. What impressions do you have ?after ?visiting this young Province?
A. That the Jesuits in Vietnam have great challenges to face. That they are in a moment of great creativity, regarding the life of the Church, the style and structures of Religious Life, the Vietnamese incarnation of the Gospel and of Ignatian spirituality, which is one way of approaching, incarnating and living the same Gospel in the Church. My hope is that they are courageous enough to dare live the Gospel in its radicality, and reflective enough to do it in such a way that they become a living help to the Christian Community and the whole of Vietnam. I have great expectations for this young Province. These expectations are based on the way they have gone through suffering, war and all sort of difficulties in their life of faith; on the way they are managing to comunicate their faith from one generation to the next; on the uncanny ability to harmonize incredible gentleness with enormous personal strength; etc.
Q. In the Asia-Pacific Assistancy there are many countries that are very different in every respect, including East Timor, the new state that emerged after a long war and great suffering. How is the Society developing here?
A. The Society is developing in East Timor in a way that is every time more "normal". The screening of vocations is improving; Formation has been followed up with the needed changes; the Region has been going through a process of discernment and creativity regarding the new School being planned; Fr. Mark Raper, who is now the Major Superior of East Timor, is following up the major issues of the Communities and apostolates in a way that is very promising for the future.
Q. Briefly, what are the main challenges for the Society in Asia today?
A. On the one hand and on account of the 'de facto' globalization of systems and values, that we are going through in the world, Asia has the same challenges we all have in terms of meaning, values, depth, pluralism, creativity, etc. On the other hand, Asia is the privileged repository of great Wisdom that finds itself under threat. I think the Society cannot allow that the loss of this Wisdom happen without an all out effort at learning from Asian Traditions, Asian Wisdom and Asian Spiritualities, for the sake of the Church and of the whole world.
A great challenge for us Jesuits, which we share with all other Religious in Asia, is to be so deep and so consistent in our life and message, that we can be credible in the midst of Traditions characterized by depth, compassion, detachment and inner freedom. Just living in Asia as a member of a so-called "Religious" group is a great incentive to live the Gospel in fullness. I hope that we take this challenge with all its implications.
Q. What can we "old" Europeans (and I would say we "old" Jesuits) learn from this continent?
A. There is much that we, "old" Europeans and Jesuits can learn from Asia, Africa, or Latin America. After all, we are not that old: Chinese culture, wisdom, and even medicine are much older than any European claim at antiquity. Europeans have been great at some aspects of the human journey. But we have neglected other aspects, that other human groups in other parts of the world have nurtured and developed. To think that human progress and development have to follow the European model as the best, only indicates how deep and insensitive our ignorance of humanity can be. Fortunately I have always known Europeans who approach with great respect other Eastern or Southern Traditions, and who know that the best response to lack of understanding, when it happens, is silence.
2011 FACSI Report. In a letter dated March 7th, Father General presents the 2011 FACSI Report. Here, we present some data and reflections. "In 2011, we distributed a total of 801,539 Euros (compared to 908,794 Euros in the previous year). This amount was divided among 29 projects in diverse Provinces and continents, involving various works and initiatives of the Society. I received 48 project proposals in 2011. The committee which I had set up to examine these proposals had to reject many of them, especially early in the year, due to the lack of available funds. A number of others were not considered because they did not correspond to the purposes of FACSI . . . Considering the types of apostolates funded, education and intellectual apostolate are at the top of the list, with ten projects approved receiving 42% of FACSI's available funds. The pastoral sector came in second place, with ten projects approved, with these receiving 25% of the available funds. The social sector comes next, with 22% of available funds distributed among seven projects. Two projects, involving the means of social communication, received 10% of funds. There were some other projects of various kinds." Finally, this year, emergency help was given especially to the flood disaster areas in Tanzania and the Philippines. The letter concludes by detailing some data on the distribution of funds to different continents and the sources of these funds.
The Service of the Society of Jesus in Times of Disaster. In a letter to all Major Superiors dated March 12th, Father General shares some thoughts on the service the Society of Jesus is called to give in times of natural disasters. After highlighting the examples of Saint Ignatius, Saint Francis Xavier and the first companions who "were committed to serving their neighbors both through Spiritual Exercises and works of charity", according to the Formula of the Institute, Father General writes: "We turn to our world today, where many continue to suffer in similar ways from unforeseen disasters." After enumerating a few of them, he continues: "These and other disasters have given rise to an impressive movement of compassion and solidarity among many groups, organizations and individuals. Moved by the love of God that we ourselves have experienced, we are invited to collaborate with others in order to contribute what we can to alleviate the sufferings of people affected by these calamities. Already, so many Jesuits and our collaborators are doing this." Eight practical guidelines follow to "help us render service that is both more effective and more evangelical." 1. "The first and most important guideline rests with the Jesuit communities and institutions present in a location or country struck by a disaster." 2. "Our care for disaster victims must be both practical and spiritual." 3. Collaboration: "Whether we take the initiative or whether we cooperate with others in their initiatives, Jesuits are called to be open to and, indeed, to build up forms of collaboration." 4. Share information. 5. Show and welcome international solidarity. 6. Transparency and accountability. 7. "Much support is often needed later after the immediate emergency phase, especially when other agencies have left the disaster area." 8. "When the most immediate crisis is over, it is important to reflect on root causes of the destruction, so as to prevent the repetition of these catastrophes." And then he concludes: "I invite Jesuit communities and works to reflect on these guidelines, with a view to action and implementation."
From the Curia
Commission for the Philosophical and Theological Studies. Father General has established an International ad hoc Commission that will study changes in the philosophical and theological studies of Jesuits in order to better prepare our men to accomplish the Society´s mission in the decades to come. The members of the commission are: Fr Yvon Elenga (Africa), Fr George Pattery (South Asia), Fr Bienvenido Nebres (Asia Pacific), Fr Joâo Batista Libanio (Latin America), Fr Jean-Marie Carrière (Europe), and Fr Richard G. Malloy (United States). The Commission will work from February 2012 to February 2013 to propose a plan of studies that prepares our men for "the defense and proclamation of the faith, which leads us to discover new horizons and to reach new social, cultural, and religious frontiers." (See GC 35, D. 1, nn.6-7). Father General has appointed Fr Nebres as Coordinator of the Commission.
The International Association of Jesuit Business Schools (IAJBS) met at the General Curia in Rome on March 8-9, 2012 to consult with Father General about his expectations from the IAJBS, as well as to deliberate on their regular agenda items. During the interaction, Father General emphasized the significant role that Jesuit Business Schools could play in today's context, especially in promoting business with conscience and business with responsibility. In commenting on the programs offered at our Business Schools, he said that they should be designed in such a way that the students need to become 'Better Persons' when they leave the school. He asked the Association to reflect on four points: partnership; knowledge; service; development. IAJBS has generously offered its support to establish business schools in Africa, one of the focus areas of the Society today, and it has been closely working with the Provincials of the African Assistancy for the last couple of years. IAJBS started in 1993. It is a global network of administrative academic leaders from Colleges, Universities and Institutes committed to management and business education. The Association aims to prepare men and women for leadership in the management professions in a global economy; in other words, to encourage an education which is focused on justice, leadership, profession and vocation, and deeply committed to Ignatian principles.
From the Provinces
BANGLADESH: Jesuit Alumni Association
The Alumni Association of St Xavier's College (Autonomous), Kolkata has opened yet another international chapter, this time closer home in Dhaka (Bangladesh). This is the fifth international chapter of the Association, after those in Singapore, Dubai, Bangkok and London. "It was great to see over 60 Xavierians gather together at the inaugural programme", said Firdausal Hasan, the honorary secretary of the Alumni Association. The function opened with readings from the Bible, Bhagavad Gita (one of the sacred texts of Hinduism) and Koran. In his speech, Manzur Elahi, who was appointed head of the local team, remembered his old days and called for a strong chapter in Bangladesh. "The inauguration was well organised. It was very cordial, and the spirit of 'Nihil Ultra' was thriving. We look forward to the active participation of the Bangladesh chapter and hope that it will further the cause of education", said Father Felix Raj. During is visit, the Principal took time off to explore the possibilities of academic exchange with Notre Dame College (Dhaka), run by Holy Cross Fathers, and of setting up a St Xavier's College in Bangladesh. "Further study and planning is required before drawing up a proposal for the approval of a college", said Father Raj. See: www.sxccaa.net
HUNGARY: The "Silenced History"
In February, Ocipe Hungary ("Jesuit European Office in Hungary") launched its new historical program: Silenced History. The series tells of the long-hidden crimes of the communist dictatorship: these are still not well-known, nor much discussed. Generations have grown up without having access to accurate information. Generations have had to hide their wounds and memories of the terrible crimes against humanity. Each section of the series starts with an historical introduction, which is followed by a movie about the time. Fr Forrai Tamás Gergely SJ writes: "After the film, we organize a discussion with our guests. We also invite the producers of the films, witnesses, and survivors of the horror. The initiative has met with outstanding success, and shows the hunger in people for accurate information, and the need to discuss recent history". Around 130 participants arrived in the House of Dialogue in Budapest for the launch of the series, an on-going discussion was started, and radio interviews about the program have been broadcast.
PAKISTAN: Fifty Years of Jesuit Presence
The close ties between Australia and the Jesuit mission in Pakistan were evident in the closing celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Mission. This took place in Lahore on 9 February this year. The celebration of the anniversary was marked by the Eucharist attended by the Bishop of Lahore and the Provincial of Sri Lanka, which has responsibility for the Mission. The Urdu Mass, translated by Fr Dan Madigan SJ, formerly of the Mission, was used in the Eucharist. The following day, Jesuit scholars of Islam, Frs Christian Troll, Klaus Vathroder and Hermann Roborgh, who had also spent much time in the Mission, spoke of their experiences and insights into Islam. Br Kevin Huddy SJ has recently been appointed to the Mission. There he joins his fellow Australian Jesuit, Renato Zecchin, and he presented a history of the mission through photographs. Among other Jesuits remembered in the display was Fr Edward (Ned) Riordan - before his time in Pakistan, he was for many years the Novice Master of the Australian Province.
SPAIN: Spiritual Film Festival
On the 17th and 18th of February, the Centro Arrupe (Valencia, Spain) hosted the Spiritual Film Festival. It was organized jointly by the Catholic Schools and Archdiocese of Valencia. This was the first time that the festival was held in Valencia, and an appreciative audience welcomed the initiative very warmly. On Friday the 17th, the Spanish-produced film, It Could Happen to You, directed by Juan Manuel Cotelo, was shown. This documentary film presented the testimony of people from a variety of countries, professions and social status, whose lives were changed after their meeting with God. The director presented the film and led the subsequent discussion. On Saturday the 18, the second day of the festival, the film, The end is my beginning (directed by Jo Baier), was screened. It was introduced by Agustín Domingo Moratalla, Professor of the University of Valencia. The film is about the spiritual will of Tiziano Terzani, a war correspondent and author, who lived through some of the great events of recent history. With the Spiritual Film Festival The Centro Arrupe enters a new mode in the dialogue between faith and culture. We would like to repeat the Festival next year.
Spain: The Death of Fr Estanislao Olivares. At the beginning of March, Fr Estanislao Olivares died in Spain. Throughout his life he worked in the field of the Society's law, and in particular on preparing the notes to the Constitutions and Complementary Norms which were approved by the 34th General Congregation. Fr Urbano Valero, former Procurator General at the Roman Curia, remembers him: "Upon receiving the news of the death of Estanislao, I want to express my affection, esteem and gratitude for his wonderful and always generous collaboration on the "review of our law" in preparation for the 34th GC. I am pleased to see that the obituary note makes explicit mention of this. I recall that there were four or five periods of work, each lasting several weeks, which he spent in Rome preparing for the Congregation. This was on top of the work he had previously done in Granada. I do not exaggerate when I say that, without his work, we would hardly have been able to do what was accomplished. He is especially remembered for the notes to the Constitutions, and the review of our "privileges". His work was always thorough and precise. He did the groundwork, which might not be immediately evident, which enabled the public work to get done. I know that Fr Kolvenbach very much valued his work and person, and he wore his appreciation publically. Fr Olivares was happy to work in, and felt very comfortable at the Curia in Rome. Personally, he was very good to me. I thank God for being able to work so closely and so thoroughly with him."