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RESPONDING TO THE THREE DAYS OF INPUTS


 

I. General comments

~ I want to thank you all for the positive energy I have been feeling these days.

  • I am aware of the many difficulties all of you are facing and the variety of contexts in which you are working.
  • Therefore, I appreciate your honest search for better ways of being faithful to the Society’s mission and your full-hearted acceptance of your responsibility as Major Superiors.
  • -I also want to thank you for your patience in helping me understand the context of South Asia.

~ As Major Superiors, we share the responsibility for the Society’s universal mission.

  • -Each one of you is responsible not only for a Province but for the Society as a whole.
  • -A responsibility that is a humble service to our brothers in mission. We are not owners of the mission; neither are we owners of the missionaries in the field. We are their servants exercising cura personalis and cura apostolica
  • -All of you are collaborators in the universal mission of the Society. Each one of you has been missioned to maintain this tension between cura personalis and cura apostolica.

~ Ignatius was conscious of this complexity and tension.

  • -The Constitutions conceive of a universal apostolic body where the Superior General has full authority as head of the body.
  • -At the same time, each part of the body realizes its function through delegated authority, responsibility and frequent and clear lines of communication with the head. The Major Superiors of the Society of Jesus constitute these essential parts of the body.
  • -Each apostolic work and each Jesuit forms part of the body through the mission they are commissioned to and they are accountable to the head through the Major Superior.

~ We are first of all called to move from a province vision to a universal vision. A universal vision means a tension between the local and the global.

  • -The universal vision is impossible without local roots.
  • -The local apostolate makes sense in the context of the universal mission.
  • -Discernment is the key to mediate the relationship between the local and the global.
  • -The JCSA is an excellent forum and opportunity to carry out this common responsibility and for discerning how to concretise this universal mission for South Asia.

~ I am happy to hear about the process of “Re-Orienting for Greater Apostolic Effectiveness (REGAE)” started in 2015, with the hope for a long-term vision and widespread participation of the Jesuits of the South Asian Assistancy.

  • -Going back to our spiritual roots, charism and way of proceeding is a positive path to renewal.
  • -Consequently, what comes to my mind is the question of how to involve those who share our mission. Or perhaps a better way of putting it is, how to involve those with whom we share the mission.
  • -The JCSA has enabled collaboration among Jesuits and Jesuit institutions. Collaboration with non-Jesuits is another challenge we face in this process. An apostolic plan for the JCSA must include this core dimension.
  • -A process has been put in motion, please do not stop it. Processes need to mature. The kind of processes we are promoting come from the timely prompting of the Holy Spirit, and not from ourselves.

 

II. Life-Mission challenges

 

~ As you know, for GC 36, Life and Mission are deeply interconnected. For us, as Christians and Jesuits, Life and Mission are two sides of the same coin.

~The first step in the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises is to imbibe the spirit of the Principle and Foundation. That is:

  • -To gain the inner freedom that enables spiritual indifference as a condition for discernment and decision-making.
  • -Indifference is necessary to be available for mission and is the result of a genuine spiritual life.
  • -The invitation to ongoing conversion and renewal of our spiritual life is a perennial reality.
  • -The Spiritual Animation Process (SAP) has taken care of this important dimension of our Life-Mission

~Discernment in common as a way of decision-making is a challenge.

  • -As you well know discernment is not only to search for God’s will in our individual lives but also to find God’s will together.
  • -Discernment was Jesus' way of proceeding during his life.
  • -The complexity and magnitude of the present context demand more and better discernment so as to be effective apostolically.
  • -The practice of discernment is a gift that we can share with others only if we practice it.
  • -The formation of collaborators in our mission begins by sharing with others the practice of discernment.

~The challenge is to create and maintain the conditions for common discernment:

  • -Time and energy for personal prayer and community life.
  • -The need for prayer is in tension with the demand for time and energy for apostolic engagements.

~GC 35 underlined how the Jesuit Life-Mission has plenty of tensions that cannot be avoided without putting at risk our very vocation.

  • -Are we willing to find a new equilibrium between all the dimensions of our Life-Mission?
  • -Are we available to a Life-Mission that necessarily involves a lot of tensions?

~ From my point of view, the Society of Jesus after the Second Vatican Council:

  • -Has systematically deepened the scope and capacity for inculturation. The Society has been well rooted all over the world, in many different contexts and a huge variety of cultures. As Jesuits we have learnt a lot in this process.
  • -The Society of Jesus has become a multicultural body. GC 36 was an example of this. Another such example are our communities in the International Houses in Rome. It has been a source of joy that we have learnt to live together.
  • -We are called to another step: to grow as an intercultural body that helps to challenge and enrich our own local cultures. Each one of us can contribute with his own culture and experience, and in turn can receive from others.
  • -The result is a universal sensitivity that transforms us into the image and likeness of God, a God who thrives on plurality and variety, in contrast with a globalization process that tries to create a uniform and standardized culture.

~ Another characteristic of our way of proceeding is what we call the Intellectual Apostolate.

  • -All apostolic commitments of the Society and of the individual Jesuit come from a process of discernment and must be well thought out.
  • -The big investment we have made in intellectual formation is because we want Jesuits to be able to think for themselves in any situation they are missioned to.
  • -We need to be true intellectuals within the field of Higher Education, Social Analysis or any other apostolic work. Just because one is working in Higher Education or a research center does not make one an “’intellectual”. Becoming a thinker is an on-going process.
  • -To be an intellectual is to also have the ability to proclaim the Good News in a manner that is appealing and transformative. To be an intellectual is to be an effective instrument for the apostolate.
  • -I was happy to hear that during your discussions, you were thinking of establishing a permanent secretariat for higher education. This secretariat would help networking amongst your various institutions of higher learning (university colleges, social and research institutions and faculties of philosophy and theology). You were also considering the possibility of having a common thrust like that of migration or fundamentalism, to be the focus of your collaborative or networking efforts.

~One of the characteristics of our apostolate, a matter that was specifically entrusted to Fr. General by GC 36 is the protection and safety of minors.

  • -As you know, the Catholic Church, in different parts of the world, is suffering as a result of the lapses in this regard.
  • -All over the world there is a growing consciousness about the need to provide a safe environment for minors.
  • -Some of you may have noticed that when you have sent in proposals for new buildings, I have mentioned the need to put in place policies and protocols for the protection of minors.

 

III. Governance

A. General principles

~The government of the Society of Jesus is oriented towards the mission.

  • -It is personal, spiritual and apostolic[1].
  • -This is a golden principle that is not always followed.

~Governance structures of the Society of Jesus were created at specific moments of history to respond to concrete mission situations.

  • -Since GC 34 the Society has been searching for a more effective structure of governance.
  • -There is a shared perception that our present structure is not effective for the mission. GC 35 asked for an evaluation of the governance structures and reorganization of the Society’s government.
  • -GC 36 confirmed this mandate and proposed collaboration and networking as the way of proceeding after a process of discernment.
  • -Each level of our governance structure has the necessary delegated authority for achieving its goals. Do not be afraid to delegate if that is beneficial for the effectiveness of the mission.

~Discernment necessarily involves a tension between, on the one hand, seeking and finding the will of God and, on the other hand, apostolic planning.

  • -To seek and to find the will of God is the objective of discernment that seeks to put us at the service of the mission of Christ.
  • -Discernment is a way of making decisions that enables us to pay attention to the spiritual movements in relation to the issue that is being discerned.
  • -To pay attention to spiritual movements is to go beyond rational arguments which is a normal temptation for most of us.

 

~In collaboration

  • -The willingness to listen to the Spirit in discernment must, of course, include those with whom we work. They often teach us openness to the Spirit and their voices and experiences enrich our discernment.
  • -We realize that collaboration with others is the only way the Society of Jesus can fulfil its mission[2].
  • -The magnitude and interconnectedness of the problems that affect humanity and challenge the mission of the Church and the Society are such, that only by working together can we contribute effectively to their solution.
  • -Along the way of collaboration, we encounter people and organizations dedicated to the service of others. Some of these share the Christian faith, others faith in God, and yet others are men and women of goodwill, - all committed to the task of reconciling humanity.

 

~Collaboration leads spontaneously to cooperation through networks.

  • -Networks facilitate collaboration between the apostolic works of the Society and with the works of others, opening new horizons that go beyond those of a province or region in addition to mobilizing resources in support of the mission.
  • -Paragraph 8 of Decree 2 of GC 36 recalls some conditions for networking that involve sharing the vision of the mission.
  • -These include a "culture of generosity" as the basis of openness in collaborating with others and being effective leaders who are capable of maintaining a balance between local initiative and their own authority.
  • -GC 36 also recalls the challenge represented by the governance[3] of Jesuit apostolic networks that go, on the one hand, beyond the works and boundaries of provinces and, on the other, those networks that are established in conjunction with other (non-Jesuit) institutions.

 

B. Apostolic Planning

~What are we talking about? Apostolic planning is an instrument for putting into action the fruits of discernment.

  • -It supposes a long-term strategy (for example 10 years as you have proposed for REGAE), mid-term (5 years) and short-term (2-3 years) periods to evaluate and reorient. A good plan is always flexible.
  • -If this tension between discernment and apostolic planning disappears, apostolic planning degenerates from being an instrument of the mission to becoming an end in itself.
  • -If this happens, it obliterates the meaning of what we are and called to do.

~Planning is a way of improving the effectiveness of the mission.

  • -It is not only planning that is needed.
  • -What we are called to do is “apostolic” planning because it includes the tension between evangelization and the Ignatian magis.
  • -The aim of apostolic planning is to make present the Good News to every human being and every culture.
  • -Magis means that it is always possible to improve. We can do more and do it better if we make the best use of our resources, especially of the human capacities of those who share the same mission, Jesuits and non-Jesuits.

~We are aware of the complex relationship between the different levels of apostolic planning in the Society:

  • -The Society of Jesus has a very unique organizational set-up that combines a strong central government with a decentralized process for decision-making.
  • -Apostolic planning must take into account this organizational set-up.
  • -Apostolic preferences are universal, for the whole Society of Jesus. But they do not constitute a plan. They are mission requirements to be considered at all levels of apostolic planning. International apostolates need to be planned as a responsibility of the universal body. Some of them are part of the apostolic preferences (e.g. migrants-refugees, Interprovincial Houses and Works in Rome). Others are entrusted to the Society (e.g. Apostleship of Prayer – the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, Eucharistic Youth Movement) and yet others are in collaboration with an international lay movement like the CLC. The Conference Apostolic plans are not intermediary plans between a non-existent universal plan and province plans. Conferences are supposed to plan interprovincial apostolates and common projects under their responsibility. Therefore, a Province plan is not an attempt to accommodate a global or Conference/Zonal plan to a local situation. Provinces plan their mission and works in a concrete territory according to the mandate received from the Superior General/the Society and the Church.

~ In the current organizational set-up of the Society of Jesus, a province is a unit that administers human, economic and organizational resources for the local, regional and universal mission.

  • -Province resources are not exclusively for a Province but for the mission of the whole Society.
  • -It is important to recall that the Society of Jesus is not a federation of independent provinces but a universal apostolic body organized into provinces as a way of administering its resources.
  • -The Society of Jesus has been a successful administrative organization for hundreds of years because there exists an efficient system of communication and sharing of resources.
  • -The South Asian and Latin-American Jesuits cannot forget how the Society was born in these parts. Where and how was the Society of Jesus in South Asia before the emergence of the present 18 provinces and 2 regions? Who sowed the seed and how did it grow?
  • -We exist as Jesuits in these areas because other Jesuits, earlier on, shared their resources…
  • -Provinces are a provisional structure, existing side by side with other civil and church structures.

~ If we take seriously the mandates of GC 35 and 36, we need to evaluate all the structures of our Society and, in creative fidelity, align our structures with the intuition of our Founders.

  • -Imagine, for example, a group of catholic young people trained in the top Universities in different parts of the world. They come to know each other on-line and form a virtual community for sharing their life, their faith, their doubts, their struggles and future projects. They decide to begin the Society of Jesus in this moment of human history. How would they organize themselves for the universal service of the Church and the world?
  • -There is no doubt about the important role of provinces in the Society’s governance. The question is: are other structures possible?
  • -Maybe we are arriving at a moment when we need to take seriously what we have learnt in the novitiate: we enter the Society of Jesus and not the Venezuelan Province or the Delhi, Japan or West Africa Province…
  • -For example, the former 10 provinces in the USA founded 28 Colleges and Universities after the restoration of the Society of Jesus. They were administered by the provinces until 20 years ago when they realized that the Higher Education Ministry needed to be a nationwide ministry and could be better administered nationally, through an interprovincial structure…
  • -Can we imagine other ways of organizing the apostolates in South Asia with a better use of the resources we have, as you are doing with Jesuit formation?

 

C. General Counsellor for Apostolic Planning (CDAP)

~ The principal reason for appointing a CDAP is to help Fr. General and his Council to focus on discerning the Society’s mission.

~Therefore, the main task of the CDAP is to keep the General’s and the Council’s reflection in this level. How?

  • -Through the preparation of the agenda and materials for the ordinary sessions of the Council and, specially, the three tempi forti of the year.
  • -The council dynamics consists in two weekly ordinary sessions and three tempi forti a year. Each tempo forte is a five full day meeting. In order to enrich the discernment and coordinate the different levels of planning, the Secretaries and Presidents of Conferences of Major Superiors participate in these meetings.

~ With the help of the Secretary of the Society and the Secretary for Collaboration, the CDAP is responsible for the Apostolic Planning in the General Curia.

~The General Curia Apostolic Plan includes:

  • -The discernment about the universal apostolic preferences of the Society and the planning for their implementation.
  • -The evaluation of the General Curia structure: secretariats (how many and which), communication office…
  • -The road map to fulfill the mandates of GC 36 to Fr. General: Renewal of the organization of the Interprovincial Houses and Works in Rome, Promote a consistent culture for the protection and safety of minors and Revision of the Formulae of a GC and PC.
  • -In collaboration, that means, with the participation of all General Curia members (Jesuits and lay) and the International Apostolates linked to the Curia.

~The CDAP also promotes the Common Discernment and Apostolic Planning all over the Society of Jesus as an important component of our way of proceeding.

  • -In contact with Conferences and Provinces
  • -Looking for the creation of a network for discernment and planning.

 

IV. Some comments about Formation

~ Formation is for mission.

  • This is the reason for considering it a priority for the Society.

~ The Society of Jesus has a long experience in formation.

  • -Maybe, we are convinced that we know how to form young Jesuits.
  • -We cannot form them as we were formed.
  • -There is a new breed of youth entering the Society today – thanks be to God! We need to understand and appreciate their culture.
  • -We need not be afraid of this new culture. We need to face the temptations of distraction, superficiality…

~ The process of selection of candidates and preparation to enter the novitiate:

  • -Be concerned about the quality, and not about numbers.
  • -We want good people, whether they are few or many.

~ It is important to know the candidates, their culture, families and their personal histories well.

  • -There needs to be a discernment of their vocation before they are admitted to the novitiate. The main concern should be their qualities and their capacity to be a Jesuit.
  • -Knowing the persons who enter well, it becomes possible to know what to offer them during the formation process to fill in deficiencies (for example in previous studies).

~ Are we proud of our young fellow Jesuits?

  • -Why?

~ There is a tension between the amount of freedom given, personal responsibility and the role of formators.

~Jesuits need to be formed in collaboration and for collaboration.

~Formation of collaborators (partners).

  • -The importance of a thorough formation program for non-Jesuits.

~ Women sharing our mission:

  • -Their presence and sharing in our ministries is a necessity
  • -A sensitivity to the cultural ways in which we relate to women

~ Formation needs specific planning for the whole Assistancy and would need to take into account both the local and the universal mission.

~ Some times when I hear discussions about formation, the question that comes to my mind is: Are we proposing a never-ending formation plan?

  • -There are, surely, many aspects, dimensions and contents that must be included in the formation program…

~The formation in the Interprovincial Houses and Works in Rome facilitate:

  • -An experience of universality within the Roman context of the Church
  • -Academic quality, especially for the Licentiate and PhD
  • -Good formation programmes in the Gesù and the Bellarmino.

 

AS / February 23, 2017

 

[1] D2, 1

[2] D1, 35-38

[3] D2, 16


 

24 Feb 2017 - 07:41

By A Elango and George Peter

New Delhi: The leader of Jesuits has urged his men to work hard to help people lead a dignified life amid refugee crisis, terrorist attacks and unjust social conditions.

“Every human being is holy and deserves respect. Such respect stems from our experience of God’s love,” Fr. Arturo Sosa said on February 19 during the first Mass he celebrated in India.

The superior general of the Society of Jesus arrived in the Indian national capital the previous day on an 11-day visit. He spent the night at the headquarters of South Asian Jesuits in Jor Bagh, New Delhi. Jesuits residing at the headquarters and at the nearby Indian Social Institute in Lodi Road attended the general’s Mass at the Jor Bagh chapel.

Father Sosa was on October 14, 2016, elected the head of the Society of Jesus, the largest Catholic religious congregation for men in the world. He chose India as the first country for his official visit. Indian accounts for the largest number of Jesuits in India.

During the homily, he urged his men to try their best to experience God’s love so that they can work hard to help all to lead “a human and dignified life” in the world.

The 68-year-old leader reminded his men that real conversion occurs only when people act according to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and go beyond the law. “A profound conversion” happens when one is able to “turn the other cheek to” the evil, give it cloak or “walk extra mile with it."

Fr Sosa asked Jesuit to amend the way they normally relate to others so that they can experience this “profound conversion.”

The Venezuelan Jesuit reminded his Indian confreres that their religious life should be entirely dedicated to the promotion of justice, to the ministry of reconciliation among humans, to struggle to change social structures and establish right relation with creation.

 

The Mass was the Jesuit leader’s last engagement in New Delhi before heading for Jabalpur in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. He will attend the biannual meeting of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia comprising 19 provinces and two regions.

Fr Sosa’s last engagement on February 18 was a meeting with Jesuits of Delhi province at Navjivan Renewal Centre, a spirituality center at Raj Niwas Marg in Old Delhi.

During the talk, he spoke of certain important points in the life of a Jesuit. Every Jesuit, he said, is on a mission to find out God’s will through the discernment process taught by their founder St Ignatius of Loyola. This helps a member of the Society of Jesus to lead a consistent life of commitment for the Kingdom of God and its values.

The general also stressed the need for Jesuit communities to make Eucharist as its center and unifying force so that it could become a mission in itself while it works for God’s mission.

 

The Jesuit leader also emphasized the need of “affective and effective affinity” toward the poor. “We need to ask ourselves the basic question whether we work for the poor or if we are with the poor.”

The head of Jesuits, who are known as the schoolmasters of Europe, urged his Indian men to strive for “solid intellectual formation” not just for intellectual curiosity, but for the apostolate and to become effective witnesses of God’s Kingdom.

Fr Sosa stressed the need of networking and collaboration with people of good will. “We need to relate with our collaborators as companions in our mission, and not just co-workers in order to establish God’s Kingdom on earth. It is possible only when we are united with Christ in deep prayerful communion,” he added.

 

Jesuit Father Sunny Jacob, a resident of Jor Bagh, described him as a “very warm, friendly and welcoming” person.


 

21 Feb 2017 - 06:11

~By Arul Elango

Delhi: The head of the Society of Jesus has urged members of his congregation to help humanize the world.

“It is the primary mission that is given to us,” Fr Sosa at Vidyajyoti, the Jesuit superior general, widely known as the Black Pope, told his men in India after arriving in the country in the early hours of February 18.

In his engagement in the country, the 68-year-old mustachioed priest, the first Latin American to head the largest Catholic religious congregation for men, addressed the staff and students of Vidyajyoti, the Jesuit theologate in the national capital.

He told them that they will receive the wisdom and strength to humanize the world when they contemplate Jesus and the Gospels.

The 45 minute talk was followed by interaction. Underscoring that the world is interdependent, we stressed the need for humans to root ourselves in spiritual values and deepen their scientific thinking to move forward with a shared mission.

Fr Sosa urged higher education centers managed by Jesuits in India to participate and collaborate and network in the mission of creating a humanized world. Jesuits manage 54 higher education centers, including theology and philosophy colleges.

 

He reminded the Jesuits that they can help in the mission only if they deepen their faith by experiencing Jesus.

Earlier, a team of the Delhi Jesuit province welcomed the superior general at the airport. He will remain in India until February 28. He is accompanied by his three General assistants – Fathers Vernon D’Cunha, Tomasz Kot and Lisbert D’souza.

After the talk, the general had a guided tour of Vidyajyoti Academic block located near the office of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi on Raj Niwas Marg.

The general and his counselors proceeded to Vidyajyoti Residence for noon prayer service and fellowship meal where Archbishop Kuriakose of Faridabad joined them. The prelate had earlier worked as a Vatican diplomat in Venezuela, Fr Sosa’s native land.

 

 

In the afternoon, the general attended the ordination of 23 Jesuit deacons by Archbishop Anil J T Couto of Delhi. The theme of the liturgy was “Rowing into the deep to Reconcile and Heal.”

In his homily, the archbishop remembered the terrorist attack in Lahore of Pakistan and exhorted deacons and others to work for reconciliation and heal the world with works of mercy and compassion.

Father Sosa ended his day’s engagement with an address to the members of Delhi province and other Jesuits working in Delhi.

 

 

| Courtesy: mattersindia; Published on: 1:29 am, February 19, 2017 by: mattersindia.com


 

20 Feb 2017 - 07:37

Father Felix Raj, SJ, the principal of St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata is the first vice-chancellor of St. Xavier’s University.

“As vice-chancellor, my first task will be to form the Governing Board of the university, which will consist of 36 members,” Felix Raj said, adding that he would take over the reins of the Rajarhat University with “immediate effect”.

Father Jeyaraj Veluswamy, SJ, the chancellor of the university who appointed Fr. Felix Raj as VC, also appointed professor Ashis Mitra as registrar.

The bill for setting up the university, which is operational from February 8, the date of notification, was unanimously passed by the Assembly on December 15. Governor K.N. Tripathi gave his consent to the bill on January 16.

The Governing Board, which will include a state government nominee and a UGC representative, will meet for the first time on the University campus on April 28.

“St. Xavier’s College, which gave birth to the University, kept its quality for 157 years and has become the number one college in India with 3.77 CGPA out of 4. The university will emulate that. It will in no way compromise on quality,” Fr. Felix Raj told the press.

Teachers, to be drawn from both India and abroad, will be paid on a par with that of state universities. According to the St. Xavier’s University Kolkata Act, all St. Xavier’s colleges in the state can become constituents of the new institution.

“We will initiate the process (of adding colleges as constituents) only after we are properly established, which will take three to five years,” said Felix Raj, who joined the Jesuit Order in Calcutta in 1973 and has been associated with St. Xavier’s College Calcutta since 1984 in various capacities — lecturer, vice-principal, rector and principal.

The university will start its journey by offering the B.Com, BBA, M.Com, MA in English, Masters in social work and MA in journalism courses.

The academic block, a six-storied building with provisions to add another six floors, can accommodate 5,000 students in the first phase and is ready. It will house the offices of the VC, registrar, finance officer and the controller till the administrative building is ready. 

In the first phase, the campus will also have the Jesuit residence, which will include the VC’s quarters, a library-cum-research block, the first phase of the hostels for both girls and boys and a utility building which will house a bank, an ATM, indoor games facilities, a cafeteria, a gym and staff quarters.

Also in the first phase, the campus will have an auditorium with 3,000 seats and a central assembly hall for students to meet for various activities, prayer and workshops.

By 2020 the campus will have two Halls of Fame, which will highlight the 500-year history of the Jesuits with a special focus on their work in the field of education across the world, history of St. Xavier’s, which has shaped luminaries such as Rabindranath Tagore and Jagadis Chandra Bose and an artistic museum showcasing Bengal’s culture.

A management development programme block is also on the cards, which will house the alumni office and also include conference rooms and residential facilities.

“In the second phase we would like to start a law college and a sports academy,” said Felix Raj.

Firdausul Hasan, honorary secretary, St. Xavier’s College Calcutta Alumni Association, said: “The university is the materialization of Father Felix Raj’s visionary dreams. We are thankful to him for giving us the chance to play our part in Vision 2020 and do something for our alma mater.”

-- 

Rev. Fr. J. Felix Raj, SJ
Principal
St. Xavier's College(Autonomous)
30 Mother Teresa Sarani
Kolkata - 700 016
INDIA
Tel: 033-2255 1231 / 1230(D)
Tel/Fax: 033-2287 9966
Res: O33- 2280 2800 / 2255 1235
Websites: 
www.goethals.in
                  www.sxccal.edu 
                  
www.sxccaa.net
                  www.jerichocentre.org

20 Feb 2017 - 07:06

Hospitality and Dialogue: Meeting Muslims in Ranchi

~Sch. Vimal Shishir Kerketta, SJ

Ranchi- Recently we did a course on Christian-Muslim Relations at Tarunoday, RTC, Ranchi. Victor Edwin, the instructor of the course made presentations on the faith and life of Muslims in India. He pointed out that religion can be studied from the texts of the particular religion (Textual Approach) or it could be done by understanding the religion from various human contexts (Contextual Approach).  While emphasizing the importance of both approaches he suggested that the useful starting point will be learning from the people who practice a particular faith. 

 

On a Friday, we set out to meet Imam Muhammad Misbahi at his madrasa. He is the Imam (faith leader) of the Muslim community in Bariatu, Ranchi, What impressed us most was his heartwarming acceptance and hospitality. Indeed dialogue and hospitality are complementary. We were reminded of the words of Pierre Francois De Bethune as he emphasized in his book: “Interreligious Hospitality: The Fulfillment of Dialogue”, that the words spoken within a hospitable environment take on their full force and meaning. Certainly hospitality is the environment that is best suited for any fruitful effort in dialogue. We recognized that exchanges, in hospitable tone, are given full and due consideration and thus leads to mutual enrichment. We were greatly impressed by the deep knowledge of the Imam on the faith and customs of the Muslim believers. He knew well the significant closeness that exists between Christianity and Islam. With great passion and enthusiasm, he narrated to us the deep spirituality of Islam. 

 

During our interaction we reflected with the Imam on a number of issues that touch upon Christian Muslim Relations and Indian Muslims. The Imam was courteous in clarifying our doubts. He answered our questions with conviction, commitment and clarity. The media narrative of Islam should be taken with a pinch of salt as media has its compulsions, said the Imam.  He encouraged dialogical engagements between believers: Muslims and Christians, for a fruitful learning about one another and loving one another. He highly appreciated our initiative to visit the mosque. He also admitted that we must come together to carry forward the efforts to build bridges between us to better our relationship.

 

Though the visit was short, yet, it had a lasting impression on us. We learnt that Islam is not what media-based pre-knowledge told us, but it has deep spirituality to offer to the world. The dialogue opened our eyes to see the significance of interreligious dialogue in this turbulent and restive environment in and around us.  For us, it is one way of showing our solidarity to our wounded Muslim brethren who are attacked in various ways.

 

During our theologizing we picked up two important insights from our interaction with Imam Misbahi: first, conviction, clarity and commitment are at the heart of any serious religious conversation with other believers, secondly, hospitality, both receiving and giving, is an antidote to hostile relationships. As Christians we learn a lot from Muslims how to build up strong community relations between Christians and Sarna religious followers in the Tribal heartlands of Jharkhand and Chathisgarh. We felt dialogue with Muslims can deepen and purify our faith.


 

8 Feb 2017 - 08:40

 

Islamic Studies Association and Indian Social Institute organizes the First Victor Courtois Memorial Lecture

 

The Islamic Studies Association and the Indian Social Institute jointly organized the First Victor Courtois Memorial Lecture at the Indian Social Institute ​ on 27 January, 2017. Jesuit Father Victor Courtois was a pioneer in Christian Muslim Relations. He was a member of the Calcutta province. He worked tirelessly to build bridges between Christians and Muslims. He emphasized that Christian approach towards Muslims should be marked by respect and love and the gospel love. He anticipated the spirit of Nostra Aetate even before the document was born in the Vatican II. He regularly published The Notes on Islam a periodical that provided reading material that were scholarly as well as pastorally significant helping the readers to know Islam and to love Muslims.

 

Prof. Edward Joseph Alam PhD (Notre Dame University, Louaize, Lebanon) delivered the lecture entitled: Yousf /Joseph in Scripture and Tradition: Symbol of breaking violence of revenge in the three Abrahamic Religions. In his lecture Prof. Edward, in the the context of a René Girard-ian account of the origins of human culture, pointed out that in addition to Judaism and Christianity, Islam also has resources (found in the story of Joseph in the Holy Qur’an) for overcoming the contagious cycle of violence.  Through a Girard-ian analysis of imitation and desire, rooted in an Aristotelian reading of these two categories, both similarities and differences are revealed between Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and the story of Joseph in order to underscore how, in the latter, the innocence of the innocent victim is revealed and protected resulting in a staunch refusal to allow the tricks of parasitic violence to continue its brutal cycle. Though the emphasis is on the resources found in Shiite Islam, other traditions of Islam and other religious traditions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, also contain similar resources.

 

In the spirit of Farther Courtois, the Islamic Studies Association honored three Muslim scholars: Associate Professor Khursheed Khan of the Delhi University, Associate Professor Waris Mazhari of Jamia Millia Islamia and Janab Ghulam Rassol Dehlvi, a research scholar in the department of Peace Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia for their deep commitment to interfaith Dialogue. A short video program on the life and work of Victor Courtois too was screened on the occasion.

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Report by Victor Edwin SJ


 

8 Feb 2017 - 08:21

Tarumitra, a movement initiated by a group of children and Patna Jesuit Society under the leadership of Fr. Robert Athickal, SJ in 1988 as a Forum for Environment with wide network across the country (India) has made remarkable contributions in the protection of environment. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations has granted a Special Consultative Status to Tarumitra from Jan 2005. Tarumitra as an organization and movement has been networking with students across the country creating awareness and action on issues such as water, organic farming, vehicular pollution, green belts, eco-spirituality, conservation of bio-diversity, conservation of electricity and promotion of renewable energy.

 

 

Tarumitra has initiated several bio reserves and eco centers. The Jesuit Province of Kerala’s Tarumitra wing organized Eco-Fest in Attappady on 18-19 January 2017. Hundreds of students, environmentalists and social activists from across the country participated in the fest. One such fest just is concluded.

Ms. Devopriya from Tarumitra along with two volunteers Ms. Neha and Rishad were part of the resource team.

Thanks to Fr. Lenin PS and Fr. James Morais and all associated with Tarumitra Family for such a successful and impactful eco-fest.

 

For more information: https://www.facebook.com/tarumitra.india

~Fr Siji Noorokariyil, SJ

 


 

28 Jan 2017 - 15:37

Behind every show of zest and enthusiasm radiant at a gathering of the young, there lurks the mounting hope and tiring attempts of persons to create moments that matter and memories that endure. As Pilgrims poured in from all the Jesuit Provinces and Regions of South Asia; the resultant mélange of Ignatian youth and youth Animators brought to life: MAG+S 2016. A true festivity of faith, in which the Church`s great heritage of communion was mirrored in and beyond the portals of St. Joseph`s College Bangalore.

 

Between the 3rd and 7th of November, numbers nearing 900 responded to the vocation of ‘Giving without counting the cost” through creative service and discerned responses to life situations: ‘En todo amar y Servir’ 

 

In an Atmosphere of Fraternity the gathering welcomed the pro-tem Provincial of the South Asian Assistancy Fr. Keith Abranches, and founder of the New Ark Mission or Home of Hope Mr.T .Auto Raja who inaugurated the event on the 3rd evening. The presentation of Magis Flags by the representatives of different Provinces dressed in their traditional best set the tone for a spectacular evening. After the MAG+S Oath was administered, participants leaned in rapt attention as Mr. Auto Raja engaged with a panel of youngsters responding to their queries and sharing the profound motivation for his mission of service towards the dying and the destitute. His convictions were a testimony of the gospel which transformed and later helped him live its call magnanimously on the streets of Bangalore. A thunderous applause rose to meet him as he encouraged the participants to ‘Live More’ and ‘Be More’ for others.

 

With Praise and worship led by Mrs. Corrine Rasqhuina and her team - long standing friends of MAG+S a dint of prayerfulness was palpable in the air. Pilgrims devoutly welcomed and venerated the MAG+S Cross; their life - support for the journey, a symbolic replica of the WYD cross handed over to the youth on April 22nd 1984 by St. John Paul II.

 

Later that evening she cut the ribbon at the entrance of the Prayer Garden, a silent spot for Contemplation and reflective seclusion for all pilgrims. Many were in awe of the giant Labyrinth extending its invitation to walk closer with the Lord, even if it meant walking in circles.

While seasoned pilgrims effortlessly shook a leg at ice-breakers and caught up with their companions, some strut around the stage whispering “What is MAG+S?” In The Subsequent days, albeit to their delight, they would not merely come to know but learn to live the spiritual dictum of “More” embodied in the “Five Pillars Of MAG+S”

  • Personal Prayers +
  • Apostolic Experiences +
  • Holy Mass +
  • MAG+S Circle +
  • Ignatian Examination of Consciousness

 

From its Inception in 2012, MAG+S South Asia has accompanied thousands of youth using this modus operandi charted by the “Sinner turned Saint’ –Ignatius of Loyola. It has opened many a youthful hearts to the promptings of the spirit that awakens.

 

On the Morning of the 4th, Personal prayer for the participants was enriched by sonorous praise and worship under the open sky. They were exultant when, pro-tem POSA father Keith Abranches celebrated the inaugural mass during which he submitted at the altar, a Diversity of petitions coming from all corners of the Assistancy. These culminated into one single prayer to the Lord for the success of MAG+S 2016 and the fruitfulness of our personal pilgrimage.

 

The gradual unfolding of the five pillars on a daily basis was as solemn and arresting as was it varied. While play-offs between different groups through Games, fun and frolic and cultural programs were the highlights of the evening, the better portions of the day were dedicated to community service and social outreach. Pilgrims actively attended to the terminally ill at Aids wards, leprosy Hospices and Cancer hospitals, some with tears in their eyes. Many were left mum and reticent at orphanages and old age homes, and quite a few returned to their dwellings exhausted after hours of cleanliness and awareness drives. Such display of generosity and selfless giving when strength and energy both were stretched beyond breaking point mirrored an outpouring of grace.

 

One of the Jesuit Co-coordinators emphasized the importance of the Ignatian Experiments in the following words. “…They encompass various activities that will lead to the participant’s personal and spiritual development. One gains the experience of living in community, of working with others, and of reflecting on these experiences. Therefore, the aim of these experiments is not to evaluate success or failure, but to help the participants discover themselves”

To this effect the Penitential Service on the eve of the first Experiments, bolstered the apostolic vigor of the pilgrims A score of priests administered the sacrament of Reconciliation , which was conveniently multi-lingual. A miniature MAG+S cross was handed to each in absolution. The Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was simultaneously arranged at a different venue. A dash of fervor was seen when creative liturgical celebrations were held outdoors and in different languages. Pilgrims were energetic even at first light as validated on the 5th morning, when they joined Bengalureans on a ‘Fight against Cancer Marathon’ in Cubbon Park at 5:30am. Late in the day they undertook the cleaning of the infamous K.R Market premises, drawing the adulation of the BBMP mayor and the paparazzi’s. To shift our focus slightly, this year’s MAG+S brought to the fore an aesthetic rendition of “Laudato Si” through an inventive Sound and light program. It was delightful to see pilgrims adorning various roles as part of their Art and Theater Experiment. Talk about finding God in all things.

 

Between their Spiritual and Apostolic Demands, participants had a fair share of talks and presentations to attend. In some sessions the crowd flew into splits of laughter and at others they squirmed in their seats. The catechesis intended therefore was impactful and the dialogue enriching. In contrast to the commonplace chatter, MAG+S Circles gave the members time to draw positively form the experiences of one another. Day after day pockets of pilgrim would gather around their animators and reminisce gratefully - the newness of their encounters. Perhaps this was complemented by the Daily Examination of Consciousness. Conducted after supper around the MAG+S cross, at times guided and at times personal, the Cross tugged on organizers and participants alike as they turned towards Gods Presence in remote preparation for the day to come.

 

One might have expected the exuberance to wane on the sunny 7th morning.  “Is it the last day? So soon? Does it come to an end now?” … But the answer was a candid NO. Rangolis and charts dotted the campus, as participants prepared for a final competition thematically titled “More – For the Greater Glory of God”. In effect, they managed to leave an impression of the vitality and color that MAG+S has come to represent. Post the concluding mass, Participants avidly received their awards at the valedictory. The organizers took center stage eventually and the efforts of Fr. Brian Pereira, Mr.Ebenezer Sam and their team of Ignitors were lauded. A few minutes later, the MAG+S after movie thrilled the audience.

Undeniably, 5 days of fellowship and Ministry was coming to a close, but in hindsight, it was this send – off that renewed our pilgrimage towards Universal Service. Been formed – reformed and transformed by a collective experience. MAG+S has consigned to all, the Light that only Christ can give. Bearing a purpose under the banner of His cross now implies that we dazzle the world out of its omnishambles. Our last day together was allusive of embarking on our journey anew!  And thus in the silence of our hearts echo the words that “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

                                                                  Ad Multos Annos

Sch. Reuell Paul S.J


 

 

25 Jan 2017 - 09:12

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