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    Vol. XVIII, No. 26 04 December 2014

    FATHER GENERAL


    The Region of Jamaica Incorporated into the New England Province.  By a 30 October decree, taking effect on 23 November, Father General integrated the Region of Jamaica of the Society of Jesus into the New England Province.  In the decree, Father Nicolás briefly summarizes the history of the Jesuit presence in Jamaica.  This began in 1837, when Fr Roothaan was Superior General.  Then he adds: "In recent years, local legislation, emigration, and the declining number of Jesuits available to serve in Jamaica have led to substantive changes in how the Society can accomplish its mission; however, pastoral presence, secondary education, and solidarity with the poor remain priorities for Jesuits in Jamaica."

     

    USA: The Northeast Province.  On 3 December, the feast of St Francis Xavier, the New England Province and the New York Province were united to form the USA Northeast Province (UNE).  This amalgamation took place after many years of strategic planning, and with the approval of Father Adolfo Nicolás, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus.  The recently appointed Provincial of the New York Province, Fr John J Cecero SJ, became the Provincial of this new Province.  

     

    Puerto Rico with the USA. In order that the Society may offer greater apostolic service in both Puerto Rico and the United States of America, Father General has decided to unite the members, houses, and apostolic works of Puerto Rico with the USA Central and Southern Province (UCS) of the Society of Jesus.  On 3 December 2014, at the request of the Regional Superior of Puerto Rico and the UCS Provincial, the formerly independent Region has become a house of UCS.

     


    FROM THE CURIA


    Hospitality on the Frontiers.  On 20 November, JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) and Centro Astalli organized a conference in the Aula of the Congregation at the General Curia.  Its theme was Hospitality on the Frontiers.  In the presence of a large gathering, Father General responded to three issues raised by Fr Federico Lombardi: (1) The Reception and hospitality of refugees and displaced people: "We Jesuits believe that opening one's door to the displaced is not only a Christian value, but also a human one.  Our understanding recognizes the claim that all of us have a right to be welcomed, not because we are members of a specific family, race, or faith community, but simply because we are human beings who deserve welcome and respect."  (2) Reconciliation: "Reconciliation remains an urgent issue.  Everyone has a part to play.  Confronted by a divided and suffering world, in which violence and hatred proliferate, we continue to believe in the need to build bridges and to work for reconciliation at all levels."  (3) Access to education for every child of the world: "Only through education can generations of refugee children have the opportunities offered to others, to build communities of peace in which differences are respected."  The third question was particularly relevant, because the meeting coincided with International Children's Day.  JRS is especially committed to the education of refugee minors: this is one of its principal areas of operation.  Fr Peter Balleis, the JRS international director, and Fr Camillo Ripamonti, Centro Astalli director, introduced the colloquium.  Testimonies from Tareq Al Jabr, a Syrian refugee living in Italy and Fr Mourad Abu Seif, a Jesuit from Aleppo, were challenging.  Fr Abu Seif spoke about how he serves all people, regardless of class and religion.

     

    Meeting of New Major Superiors.  The meeting of "New Major Superior" is presently taking place in the General Curia from 1st to 13th December 2014.  This one is in English.  Its participants are fifteen recently appointed Major Superiors from around the world.  During this time, they reflect on the mission of "Major Superior" in today's Society.  The issues discussed concern not only the regular government of the Society, but also the way of living the mission, especially as it concerns collaboration.  Two similar meetings will be held during 2015: one in March 2015 (in Spanish), and another in April (again in English).  These three meetings remind how many new Major Superiors have been appointed in recent months.

     


    FROM THE PROVINCES


    ECUADOR: The Mobile School

    In October, Fe y Alegría's Mobile School completed two years of service in Quito's Avenida 24 de Mayo district, one of the most deprived areas in the city's historic center.  The anniversary was marked with expressions of appreciation, solidarity, and recognition for what has been achieved.  The Mobile School offers a form of non-formal education to children and teenagers who find themselves in vulnerable situations.  Its most visible component is a small vehicle which brings a variety of teaching and learning resources to the disenfranchised youth.  A host of groups and individuals support the project: university volunteers, young members of CEFA (Campamentos Ecuatorianos Fe y Alegría)), the Pichincha municipality, the city's museum foundation, and the neighbourhood associations of the historical center.  The Mobile School offers the area's children and teenagers educational and recreational activities, formation in values and rights, and tutoring.

     

    INDIA: Goa, "Strokes of Faith"

    For the first time ever, Goa's best artists from different faiths have come together for a two-month long exhibition associated with the exposition of the relics of St Francis Xavier.  The enterprise began in late November.  On 11 November, Dr Eduardo Kol de Carvalho, Director of Fundação Oriente, opened the art exhibition in the auditorium of the Pilar Theological College.  The exhibition is entitled, 'Strokes of Faith.'  It reflects on St Francis Xavier through the medium of art.  Rudolf Ludwig Kammermeier gave the keynote address.  He showcased the life of St Francis Xavier in a visual documentary.  He reiterated that all art requires inspiration.  Jesus continues to inspire artists by providing them material for reflection.  This is the second art exhibition organized by the Pilar Theological College.  The first was organized almost a decade ago.  It reflected on the Gospel through the work of the Goan artist, Angelo Fonseca.  St Francis Xavier is the focus of this second exhibition, which brings a number of artists together.  The exhibition also includes a rare collection of artifacts from various ethnic communities with whom members of the Pilar Society continue to work in the mission areas.  Also on the program, on 28 November, was a musical presentation on the life of St. Francis Xavier, entitled Mission Japan.  A further six performances are planned in Old Goa, with the last performance at Kala Academy, Panjim, on 16 December.

     

    IRAQ: In Iraqi Kurdistan

    The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has established a project in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region.  This project provides assistance to recently displaced people.  Unprecedented numbers of families and individuals have been displaced across Iraq and Syria as the Islamic State has spread in recent months.  Currently, JRS is engaged in a needs assessment, and initially, it has provided psycho-social support to displaced Iraqis and Syrians residing in Ankawa, a neighborhood of Erbil.  Home visits are already underway.  Through accompaniment, JRS is able to not only know the exact needs of the families, but is also able to foster a community spirit.  Many families are living in informal tent settlements, unfinished shopping malls, and apartment blocks.  Pre-fabricated campers are being set up to provide improved shelter during the winter months, and to serve as schools or psycho-social centers.  Many international organizations contributed in some way to help provide support.  As winter approaches, temperatures are set to drop to below freezing, and heavy rains and snowfalls are likely; yet many people do not have adequate clothing or shelter to cope with these winter months.  Aid agencies have launched appeals for funds to provide assistance during the cold winter months.  If help arrives only after December or January, it will be too late, because too many of these remote mountainous villages will be cut off from Erbil.  Roads will be inaccessible because of the heavy rain and snow.  For more information: www.jrs.net

     

    ITALY: Popoli Magazine is to Close

    Popoli the international missionary magazine of the Italian Jesuits will close after the December issue. Founded in 1915 as Missioni della Compagnia di Gesù (Missions of the Society of Jesus), it would have celebrated one hundred years in 2015. The news was given in recent months by the publisher, the Fondazione Culturale San Fedele, which indicated at the origin of the decision the small number of subscribers compared to the high costs, plus the general economic crisis. Unfortunately it is a page of history that closes, although Fr. Costa, president of Fondazione San Fedele, ensures that "The mission of Popoli continues, and this is crucial and very important. On the one hand, the missionary commitment and the missiological reflection of the post-Vatican II continues, together with what it means to announce the gospel 'ad gentes' in today's world. At the same times it has to continue this attention to internationality, to information about what happens in the various regions of the world, an attention non-aligned and free to challenge, to stimulate a reflection on justice, dialogue and on the relationship between cultures." This continuity will be ensured, according to Fr. Costa, through other means the Society of Jesus in Italy has at its disposal.

     

    KENYA: Promoting African Theology

    Fr Yvon Elenga SJ, the professor of Systematic Theology at the Institut de Théologie de la Compagnie de Jésus, Abidjan (Ivory Coast), is the African representative at the Conference of Catholic Theological Institutions (COCTI).  He has called on theological institutions to encourage the development of African theology: there should be no limits to such research.  "Since Greek theology is an experience of believing which is shared with others, we should encourage sharing this experience among ourselves by developing theology in the African context," said Fr Elenga.  He shared this during COCTI's 13th General Assembly, held at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), Nairobi.  He added that society is changing, and there are a number of ways to explore African theology.  Creativity is called for, especially in considering theology in the light of African religions.  CUEA's Faculty of Theology organized the conference, which took place from 4 to 7 November.  The theme of the meeting was Impact of the Real Context in doing Theology.  COCTI is a professional association of deans/directors of institutions that provide theological formation and research, mainly within the catholic university context.  According to the organizers, COCTI aims to create and maintain a world network, to disseminate information that may be useful to others, to encourage initiating projects together, and to collect funds for these activities.  There is a special emphasis on research.

     

    SPAIN: Reflection on the Ecological Dimension

    On 1 November, the ecology group of the social sector spoke about the "Notebook" publication during a meeting of superiors.  The sharing has a prayer and reflection context, and its theme was "Healing a Broken World from our Communities."  "Notebook" was first published in September 2011, by the Secretariat for Social Justice and Ecology, with a supporting letter from Father General.  The social sector later published "Healing a Broken World" in Spanish.  The "Notebook" offers prayer and reflection for community meetings, and it does so in seventeen modules.  Its method is thoroughly Ignatian.  Starting with the original documents, it opens up relevant areas in the Church (the imminent encyclical of Pope Francis on the Ecology will feature) and Ignatian traditions.  Included is our fundamental option for a faith that does justice.  The process aims to highlight an awareness of ecological issues in our Jesuit communities.  It can also be useful for other communities of the Ignatian tradition, for example, CLC.  "Notebook" is available in the Documentos file of the social apostolate section on www.infosj.es

     

    SPAIN: Exhibition on the Paraguayan Reductions

    An exhibition on the Paraguay Reductions was launched on 20 November at the CaixaForum in Madrid.  It will remain open until 8 February 2015.  Fr Francisco José Ruiz Pérez, the Provincial of Spain, attended the inauguration, together with fellow Jesuits Miguel Angel Jimenez de Abbad and Enrique Climent Carrau. The exhibition highlights one of the most fascinating aspects of the evangelization of the Americas: the experience of the Jesuit Reductions.  The Reductions were villages for the Guaraní Indians set up by the Society of Jesus in Paraguay between 1609 and 1769.  They were located in areas conquered by Spain and Portugal.  Their aim was to preserve the identity of the indigenous peoples, and to protect them from exploitation.  Aldo Trento, a missionary in Paraguay, first set up the exhibition in Rimini in 2009.  Later, the Society rearranged and enlarged the exhibition, and mounted it in their Madrid parish of St Francis Borgia during the 2011 World Youth Day.  It then moved to Navarre, to become a permanent feature in the Sanctuary of Xavier.  But the Society again worked on the collection when CaixaForum showed interest in mounting it in Madrid and Barcelona.  26,000 people have visited the exhibition in Barcelona.


    1814-2014 RE-ESTABLISHMENT OF THE SOCIETY

     

    Congress at the University of Freiburg, Switzerland.  On 2nd and 3rd October, the Rector of the University of Freiburg, the Dominican Guido Vergauwen, opened a conference on the Restoration of the Society of Jesus.  In the second half of the 1800's, the theological faculty of the university was entrusted to the Dominicans, regulated by an agreement between the Swiss canton and the Vatican.  Until 1847, the year of Sonderbundskrieg which resulted in the expulsion of the Jesuits, the Society integrated its college into its own faculty of theology.  In his speech, the chancellor highlighted the parallelisms and differences between the two Orders in the way they developed during that century.  One of the main themes of the conference was the roles and practices the pre-suppression Jesuits adopted to preserve the heritage of their Order, and to prepare for its rebirth.  Researches in the United States, Greece, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands reveal that this process of preservation was most effective in those environments where the structure of the Catholic Church was incomplete, and Catholics were in the minority.  The memory of the Latin America missions was another important feature: it characterized the identity of the pre-suppression Society.  In the restored Society, other foci of identity emerged. Some speakers described how the socio-political environment in some catholic countries provided differing contexts to the Restoration in those areas.  In Spain, the Society was always identified because of its strong rejection of republican ideals; in Italy, the Society was identified with reviving former values; in Switzerland, on the other hand, the Jesuit presence did not exist as a political problem at the beginning of the century.  Another issue centered on how the Society was perceived in German literature of that time, and among prominent people of the liberal Catholic tradition.  The conference in Freiburg also drew attention to the complexity of the process of restoration of the Society as it searched for an identity in environments so different from those which existed before the suppression.