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Vol. XIV, No. 26 20 December 2010
Following up on the Comments on Europe. The interview with Father General on Europe (see Electronic Bulletin n. 21, October 20), has aroused considerable interest both within and outside the Society of Jesus, but has also raised some doubts. We therefore turned again to Father Nicolás for some clarification.
Q. Your comments on Europe after some visits to your men in the Continent have elicited interest and wonder; they also came immediately after your visits to Belgium and Switzerland, are they the fruit of these two visits to European Jesuits?
A. Not in the least. As a matter of fact I sent the answers "before" those visits. They do not even refer to what I have seen in my encounter with Jesuits. They are more of a general character and express how I am affected by the European way of speaking about problems, issues and people after having lived 48 years in East Asia, which certainly has a different tradition in this regard.
Q. Are you concerned that some Europeans would consider your words too blunt and even unfair to many Europeans, who are certainly not proud or arrogant, but simply make use of direct and assertive language?
A. I guess that this is the risk of every statement that affects groups of people. I would certainly be concerned if my words are taken as a negative judgment on European peoples, which certainly they are not. I insist on saying that this is the way I am impressed, affected by a way of speaking that used to be mine. Maybe it is still mine. I am also aware that the languages are built and structured differently. European languages are basically centered on the topic under consideration. They assert or deny, explain or dismiss, clarify or develop an idea, an opinion, a conviction. East Asian languages leave much more space for attention to the persons in dialogue. You do not answer primarily to the topic in question, but to the person asking, and there are plenty of additions at the end of a statement that make this statement softer, fallible or a matter open to discussion and to other opinions. The fact is that the subject matter is usually not defined or denied at every step, but remains open to contrary opinion, further search for nuance, or simple error. This evidently helps to keep everybody on board without feeling ignored, denied or dismissed from the conversation.
Q. Is there anything that can be said about these impressions?
A. It is always very difficult to tell others what to do, when one is not sure (as I am not) that one has made the needed changes. I can only speak from my experience and how I had to learn a new way of speaking, that is prior to and goes beyond learning another language. In other words, I had to learn to speak always with great respect for the 'other' person, persons or groups, with whom I am speaking. This is not something I could learn overnight; it takes years to change habits that we have developed from our early childhood. I have to say that, more often than not, it is not a matter of personal effort or acquiring some diplomatic skills; it is best learned by becoming aware of how comfortable and pleasant it is when people address each other in this respectful manner, when the person is more important than whatever ideas we might have about things.
The second thing I had to learn through the years in Asia was to be more honest with my own doubts and insecurities. It is more real, and, consequently, more helpful in human interaction to let our ignorance and uncertainty show. There are very few things about which we know something. Speaking with such awareness opens up possibilities for others to help us, to instruct us, to contribute with their experience and knowledge where ours fall short. This simple fact does marvels for personal communication and smooth interaction. If you call this "humility" then I have to say that humility is very good for inter-cultural communication.
Q. You make it sound like human communication can be helped by a certain amount of spirituality.
A. Thank you for understanding my words like that. This is exactly what I think can help us most in our complex and difficult world. There was a time when I thought that knowing languages was enough. Then I learned that being clear and even accurate about what we are talking about was even more important. Later I learned that knowing the cultural background of the persons we meet was paramount for real communication. It is in Asia where it dawned on me that communication begins and deepens when we become able to welcome the other person from the heart and, as they are, strong or weak, settled or vulnerable; and that if there is no love, it is hardly possible to communicate. In other words, the skills of communication can be acquired and trained; but the event itself is much more an art into which one grows in humility and love, than a technique that one can master and be proud of. The similarities with spiritual growth are many and very deep. I am extremely grateful to Asia for introducing me to such a discovery.
From the Curia
New Province Decreed. On November 26, 2010, the feast of St. John Berchmans, Father General approved the Decree to officially unite the Chicago Province and the Detroit Province into a single apostolic entity, now known as the Chicago-Detroit Province (CDT). The new Chicago-Detroit Province will officially take effect on January 1, 2011. Father Timothy P. Kesicki is Provincial of the new Province.
From the Provinces
AUSTRALIA: Environment on the agenda
The Australian Jesuit Province has released the findings of its survey on environmental activities began as a response to the call from the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific to explore how the Society is responding to environmental challenges facing our world. The survey provides the basis for the sharing of resources and skills throughout the Province, and is aimed at making ecological sustainability and education part of the Province's mission. As part of the survey, each ministry was invited to identify key environmental initiatives being undertaken, to consider what would help their ministry take further steps in environmental awareness, and to suggest ways to those that in their ministry may be able to help others in this area. Most of the works in the Province are undertaking 'green audits' and reviewing operational procedures through an environmental lens. The efforts to educate young people around the Province are particularly encouraging. Students can become agents of change in their families and communities and educate older generations. There is also a desire to integrate the environment activities and advocacy efforts with strong theological underpinnings. Another future area of focus is on the use of natural resources, both in Australia and overseas.
CROATIA: The Year of Boškovic sponsored by the Parliament
Honoring the 300th anniversary of the birth of the great Croatian scholar and Jesuit Rudjer Boškovic, the Croatian Parliament is proclaiming the year 2011 as the Year of Rudjer Boškovic at the national level. The Jesuit, who was born in Dubrovnik in 1711 and died in Milan in 1787 (see Yearbook 2011, pp. 13-16), apart from being an astronomer and physicist (he is famous for his atomic theory), was also a philosopher, theologian, mathematician, diplomat and poet. This Parliament sponsored project will be an excellent occasion for the promotion of the Jesuit mission and new vocations in different educational and academic institutions. Among the events planned for 2011 is an international congress organized by our Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb to be held in November 2011.
HONG KONG: Jesuit Seminar on Father Matteo Ricci
"Looking for God in Culture" has been the theme of the Seminar organized by the Jesuits in Hong Kong, from 2 to 5 December 2010, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of their brother, missionary Father Matteo Ricci. Bishop John Tong of the Diocese of Hong Kong took part in the Seminar, also presiding over the opening Holy Eucharist. According to the Bishop, "the evangelization of Father Ricci was supported by a deep contemplative life, that is, a complementary harmony between the contemplative life and action. Then he encouraged the mission of evangelization today: "it must be concentrated and accompanied by an intense spiritual life of contemplation, because "reflection and contemplation provide the strength to serve. In this way we authentically experience the Riccian spirit," Bishop Tong emphasized. According to reports from the Kong Ko Bao (the Chinese version of the diocesan bulletin), over 300 participants from places as diverse as Hong Kong, Taiwan, England, Australia, India and Vietnam participated in the Seminar. Among them were Father Gendron, Provincial of the Jesuit Province of China, many superiors from Asian Jesuit communities, together with Jesuits, spirituality experts and lay faithful close to the Ignatian spirituality.
NEPAL: Jesuit schools expand
Sixty years after establishing their first school in Nepal, the nation's Jesuit community is expanding its educational program across the country. On December 3rd Bishop Anthony Sharma, the Jesuit Apostolic Vicar of Nepal, blessed the new four-floor wing of St. Xavier's School in central Kathmandu. "The red color of my stole signifies the sacrifices of many well-wishers, parents, teachers, students and Jesuits that made it possible to see this day so more will carry on this school's motto Live for God, Lead for Nepal," Bishop Sharma said during the ceremony. The building is one of the largest of its size in the nation. Previously a boys-only school, St Xavier's started accepting female students ten years ago. The Jesuit community opened two new schools targeting poorer students in Nepal's East in 1999, located fewer than 10 kilometers from the Nepal-India border. The Nepal Jesuits have also acquired several acres of land on the outskirts of Pokhara town, 210 kilometers West of Kathmandu, where they also plan to open new programs.
PAKISTAN: Help after Floods
The Jesuits in Pakistan are helping to construct new homes for people who lost theirs in the recent, catastrophic floods in Pakistan, thanks also to the funds received from Australian Jesuits. The problem is shortage of bricks due to unplanned rises that changed the economic situation. The Jesuits are involved in the Southern Punjab district of Musafghar and in the Sindh Province. In addition, the Jesuits are providing support for displaced tribals from around Sukkur in purchasing land for their community.
PERU: The fourth centenary of Brother Bernardo Bitti's death
This year we celebrate the fourth centenary of the death of Brother Bernardo Bitti, a Jesuit born in Camerino (Marche) in 1548. In entered into the Society of Jesus in 1568 as a brother and in 1575 he left Europe for Peru, where he remained until his death and devoted the rest of his life to the painting, with a special predilection for the Holy Mother. The influence of Michelangelo, Raffaello and Vasari is clear in his paintings, but they shows a particular style in which the teachings of the roman school of the last mannerist matches with the sharp taste of the Andean land. Brother Bitti devoted his art also to carving and many of his works are kept today in the museums of Lima, Cuzco and Altiplano. The paintings are over a hundred: in them the skill of Brother Bitti reached its zenith and now they decorate many houses and churches of the Society all over Peru. He died in Lima in 1610.
SYRIA: To build moments of joy
The courses (languages, computer science, preparation to exams of secondary school) offered by JRS at San Vartan, Alep are more and more popular. But people come also for other reasons. "The JRS centre has become a meeting place where people can overcome their worries and anxieties," says Sister Hala Daoud, and this in part thanks to a program of psychological support that she manages. At San Vartan recreational activities such as cooking, embroidery, drawing, making puppets and sport have become therapeutical resources to help refugees to face their past, take advantage from the present and prepare for the future. "We never forget our main aim, that is to listen and share with refugees the consequences of war," says Paul Diab, director of JRS-Syria. The moments of feast are as important as the healing process. "We spent time even to say goodbye to those who leave - says Sister Hala - and the positive atmosphere of San Vartan has created warm relationships between the JRS team and the families who share their lives with us and never miss the opportunity to thank us."
SUDAN: Jesuit Helps Build University
With adult literacy below 30 percent, the opening of a Catholic University in Sudan was a critical component in moving the country forward after almost 25 years of civil war. The idea for opening a University in Sudan goes back to 1956, soon after Sudan's independence from Britain. It was discussed again in 1983, when Sudanese president met with Pope John Paul II, but soon after a civil war broke out in the county and dashed the university project yet again. The Catholic Bishops' Conference established the Catholic University of Sudan as a centerpiece of their national program to help the country recover from decades of violence, famine and mass displacement of people. With the help of two American missionaries, one of them the Jesuit Father Mike Schultheis (with over four decades devoted to providing Catholic higher education across Africa), in recent months the Catholic University of Sudan has opened two small campuses: the faculty of arts and social sciences and a second faculty of agricultural and environmental sciences. A third faculty of engineering sciences is planned for next year.
New in SJWEB
A podcast with Father František Hylmar. The "last underground Jesuit", entered the Society of Jesus in former Czechoslovakia some months before the collapse of the communist regime in 1989. Due to the fact that his successor as Provincial of Bohemia is not able to start his ministry for medical reasons, Father General invited him to continue as Provincial. Father Hylmar tells about his work as geodesist and cartographer before entering the Society, about being Provincial of a small Province - that used to have more than 1000 members 250 years ago - and about his joy seeing God at work in today's church and society. Click on "Jesuit Voices".
Wishing all our friends and readers a Merry Christmas
and a New Year filled with joy and peace,
The Press and Information Office reports that the next Electronic Bulletin
will appear around the middle of January 2011.
In February it will resume its regularity.