Dear Fr. Jebamalai  new Provincial  of the newly constituted Province  of Chennai, Fr. Danis Ponnaiah provincial of Madurai, Dear provincials, Members of Chennai –Madurai provinces, and dear Friends,

First of all, let me extend my hearty congratulations to Jebamalai on assuming the leadership role in Chennai. (in Jesuit parlance we often  say condolences to new provincials).  I also congratulate the members of both the provinces of Madurai and Chennai for undertaking this labor of love in view of mission. As someone who has been remotely associated with the process, I am indeed happy for the process of spiritual conversation that has been employed. Spiritual Conversation is and will always be a transformative tool. We have seen its effect in the 61 Zonal programmes of REGAE. We see its effect here in Madurai. This gives me a great consolation.

In his address to the major superior in JCSA-Jabalpur, Feb 2017, Fr. General said: “Province structures are provisional in nature…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… The Constitutions conceive of a universal apostolic body where the Superior General has full authority as head 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. Hence 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 local contingencies of mission sometimes call for bifurcation; the global nature of mission invites us to accept it with gratitude  and challenge.

Commenting on the first phase of REGAE, Fr.General said: “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”. I want to repeat the same in this context. This is a process; take it forward. Bifurcation or unification of province or provinces is in view of mission. Province structures are provisional by nature. The demands of Mission determine the structures. This fundamental principle in the Constitution is the rationale for our celebration. The same rational is also the challenge for both the provinces for its life-mission. If the intent of bifurcation was to provide better service to the people in the northern region, then you will have to have a robust Mission Plan. As Fr. Adolf Nicholas had said in his letter – “a decision to form a new Province must show clear benefit to the mission, ministries, and members of the Society in and beyond the boundaries of the new Province. Reasons not based on the Society’s mission cannot serve as the foundation for a positive discernment of the question.” (The Renewal of Province Structures in the Service of Universal Mission, Rome, 27 September 2011.) 

A robust mission plan based on UAPs and CAPs, with commitment and passion will generate human and material resources that are keys to enhanced service to the new Chennai province. This is done thru collaboration and networking.  All these are to make a tangible difference in the lives of Dalits, Dalit Christians, migrants, refugees and other marginalized as you have taken as the first province apostolic priority. In the context of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the nationwide protest against this discriminatory Act we should promote an inclusive and welcoming perspective in our life-mission.

The division should not lose sight of universal mission perspective, for the works of South Asian Jesuits, to provide men and resources to the mission of the conference of south Asia. As true Jesuits, we belong to the universal Society of Jesus, but we work in a province. The undivided Madura province has been rich in tradition and pioneering in its mission. Please continue that model in all our endeavours. I wish and pray that all your decisions are born out of discernment in common and by effective use of Spiritual Conversation. I rejoice at the birth of his new babe and wish every joy and peace at the growth of this new born Chennai Babe. May Mary, Mother of SJ protect and promote this Babe, along with foster father – Jebamalai.

George Pattery,sj POSA