“Jesuits Among Muslims” and “Young Jesuits in Islamic Studies” met in Lebanon. The group of "Jesuits Among Muslims" (JAM) brings together, from five continents, about sixty Companions who have received a mission among Muslims and have the desire to reflect and share their experience together. Working in different sectors they currently meet every two years to reflect together on their experience and the dynamics at work today among Muslims. This month of July, twenty-eight of them met in Lebanon, with the general theme: "Arab Islam in the Middle East and in the World: New Configurations". This time, this JAM meeting was preceded by another one that brought together the youngest among us for two days, twelve "Young Jesuits in Islamic studies" (YJIS). The JAM meeting started with a focus on two dynamics that have affected the region and the Muslim world globally: the division between Sunnis and Shiites which seems to transform itself into a cold war and the evolution of Islam in Saudi Arabia which is slowly opening itself to a dialoguing approach. Then we continued with Egypt, where 2014 was a pivotal year as the Cheikh of al-Azhar dared to say: “IS is our problem”, encouraging a search for remedies against extremism. We explored as well what was happening in the Maghreb region and in the Holy Land, but we focused obviously on Lebanon where for a full day we talked with the Companions in charge of several institutions in Beirut. Beyond the remarkable activities they shared with us, it was their personal itineraries that touched us the most during this day. By simply sharing with us their personal life stories, they allowed us to deeply understand how the events of recent years in their region have profoundly transformed their hearts, opening them to a deep desire to encounter “the other”, not as a threat but as a promise for the future. Then we went all around the world, hearing companions speaking about Islam in their region and the challenges they meet, or offering a reflection on such things as the Abu Dhabi document signed in February 2019 by Pope Francis and the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, "on human brotherhood for world peace and common coexistence" or on a book that has marked the field of Islamic studies in recent years such as Shahab Ahmed, What is Islam? In conclusion, we heard a summary of the YJIS meeting where, in their sharings, the young Jesuits had insisted on the importance of relationships: first of all, with the Muslims, a major source of consolation for them; with God who called them to a ministry of reconciliation; among themselves; with Companions who unfortunately do not always understand their call; with those who have been a source of inspiration for them; and with “mentors” they wish to find to help them see more clearly where to go. Then we finished our meeting with a time of evaluation where four calls were heard: (1) giving attention to the formation of young Jesuit as all should receive an introduction about how to engage with Muslims and Islam; (2) promoting a positive engagement with Muslims in the Society and in the Church, inviting to critical thinking; (3) collaborating with others in this ministry (a Dominican from IDEO was present in our meeting); (4) need for a promoter of our engagement with Muslims, who would coordinate it  and be the editor of a website dedicated to this engagement, making it visible, in the Spirit of Pope Francis.
A call to sense and taste things interiorly. How many times have we heard the words “discernment in common”, “ignatian leadership”, or “apostolic planning” and wondered what they truly mean? Now we have the answer at the tip of our fingers. The General Curia of the Society of Jesus with the support of the Jesuit Conference of European Provincials (JCEP) and many other institutions have been developing content in these areas and making them accessible to all the ignatian family.  All the information can be found in the following website: Essential Ignatian Resources. Currently the information in this website can be found in the following languages:   Discernment in Common - in English, Spanish, Italian, and French Apostolic Planning - in English, Spanish, Italian, and French Ignatian Leadership – only in English All of these resources are offered for free and are continuously being improved. In addition, sometimes formation is being offered on the aforementioned themes through webinars. Behind the content of the webinars there is a series of high-level experts that make easy to understand a series of concepts that initially might seem complicated. But what more is there to these online resources apart from the obvious? Well, one might say that it is important to see them more than resources as a call. On the one hand it is a personal call to take care of our interior life. It is a call to sense and taste things interiorly, a call to let them change us, to make us grow and to help us get closer to God. It is a call that launches us to the world and invites us to share with others our life experience. On the other hand, it is a collective call that invites us to take care of the institutions where we work, what Saint Ignatius of Loyola once recognised as the cura apostolica.  As we mentioned earlier, there is still a lot to discuss on these topics. We invite you to take part of this family and to be inspired by this exciting challenge. If we all work together, adding our grain of sand, the fruits and ideas that we attain will be better in terms of quality and depth.
“We are in the most beautiful cathedral possible”, these were the words that Szabolcs Sajgó, the Jesuit director of the House of Dialogue in Budapest, began his unprecedented Holy Mass with over River Danube on 28 July. The liturgy took place on Liberty Bridge, a scheduled monument of the city, interconnecting Buda and Pest, the two banks of the Hungarian capital. The site is closed off from traffic on four weekends each summer, thus becoming a temporary pedestrian zone. For these days the bridge is transformed into one of the most popular “hang-out spots” of Budapest. Everyone is encouraged to organise cultural, sport and other events here, and this was the first time that a Catholic Mass was part of the schedule. It was the two NGOs supervising the programs that invited Father Sajgó to give a spiritual touch to the series of events on this year’s closing day, and the Jesuit was more than willing to make the most of the call for evangelisation. Besides him, three other priests concelebrated: Bálint Nagy, another Hungarian member of the Society of Jesus, Verbite friar Hernandez Elmer from the Philippines and the Salesian Michael Karikunel working in Ghana represented three continents. This lent a multicultural aspect to the liturgy, whose venue and the name of the bridge was full of symbols anyway. Unsurprisingly, the sermon included references to freedom as God’s divine plan for mankind and as the precondition for faith to get blossomed; the ever-flowing river and the bridge as eternal embodiments of constant change and steadiness, the latter one being a call to unite as against building walls. Since this was a unique event of its kind, no one knew how many people would turn up at 9 am. Eventually the attendees of the Mass almost filled the whole bridge, amounting their number to nearly two thousand. The believers were seated on the “poppy field” – that is, a mighty flower-patterned outdoor carpet – laid on the pavement at the foot of the altar, or at the edge of the curb, others were standing among or even sitting on the suspension structure of the bridge. The whole event was full of peace, love and happiness in a Christian way. What is more, thanks to the live television broadcasting and online streaming, as well as the wide subsequent media coverage, the message was conveyed to many others who were not present on the bridge. Though prior to the event there were some who disputed the point in celebrating a Mass on such a mundane venue as a bridge, it is hoped that everyone got the lesson of the Gospel right: no place is inappropriate to proclaim the world of God, let it be a church, a roof – or even a bridge over troubled waters.  
Josef Beck is a Maltese Jesuit, who entered the EUM Noviciate in Genova and studied Philosophy in The Gregorian University in Rome whilst residing in the community of San Saba. So what is San Saba all about? If I were to sum up my experience over these two years, two words come to mind: Creating Relationships and Discernment. CREATING RELATIONSHIPS San Saba is an international community, and I was lucky that we had 6 nationalities represented: Malta, Italy, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Portugal. This composition brought about many challenges in communicating and relating to one another due to the different cultural sensibilities and the luggage of formation that each one of us brings along from each Province. Many a times, it was also a reminder of the international aspect of the Society and the well-known dynamics lived by Ignatius and his early companions. Nonetheless, I believe that the environment we created - and I put emphasis on the word created as it requires effort and not something that simply falls from the sky - has made my experience at San Saba a memorable one. As in any family, each one of us has different needs and ways of relating, for example some prefer staying at home and watching TV in the evenings, others like to go out for walks in the mountains or just socialise over a delicious ice-cream. Even though the environment might differ, we tried to be there for one another, to listen and to learn and to share what we are passing through - formally known as ‘spiritual conversation’ - in times of crisis, during challenges in our respective pastoral work and during examination periods. I believe that this element of creating meaningful friendships with the Society is very important as establishing good friendships in our formation is be the way forward for the future; in a future where by we will be ever less and the need to collaborate is evermore important. A real desire to share and put in common our resources for the greater glory of God and for the people we serve is - I believe - a testimony to people within an outside of the Church. Evidence of this is that many friends that have stopped by to visit at San Saba all felt a sense of ‘home’ and welcome by the whole community Other than the relationships established in the community with other Jesuits, I also had the opportunity to meet Jesuits living in other communities here in Rome like the Canisius, the General Curia, the Istituto Massimo and the Biblicum, just to name a few. It is beautiful to feel ‘at home’ and welcome when I had the opportunity to visit some other community over lunch. (if the article is too long, you can leave out this paragraph) Attending lectures at the Gregorian University has been a great exposure to the catholic world. People from all over the world come here to study, and this creates a very rich classroom environment. I feel lucky that in our class year, we were blessed to have a large number of laypeople studying, and as a group of Jesuits we manage to create meaningful relations. We frequently organised meals over at San Saba and invited our friends over or organised outings together during the weekend. DISCERNMENT At this point in my formation, I see studying philosophy not as an end in itself, but as a means for future missions. Philosophy has helped me integrate all my previous experience done during the novitiate. It fosters a critical attitude towards myself, life and the environment I live in, in the sense that stopping the process of question everything may bring about spiritual stagnation - contrary to the constant process which is discernment. Investigating the deep questions that have accompanied man since the beginning of time has helped me shed a renewed light to the complex situations men and women alike are facing in today’s contemporary world. Spiritually, philosophy has also challenged the boundaries of my interior freedom. I frequently questioned the ‘simple things’ I might have come to take for granted, examined habitual ways of going about my decision making and tried to push my intellectual limits of understanding complex contemporary human realities. As the space of interior freedom grows, so does the complexity of discernment and taking decisions. Undergoing such a laborious process is tiresome to say the least, but it has also been for me a spiritual consolation and a way of growing in freedom to search what the Lord is asking of me, depending on the context, people, culture and environment I find myself in. NEXT STAGE: ALBANIA! When I was younger, it was fascinating to hear stories of Jesuits and missionaries recount their work and adventures in places where few people dared to work or had the courage to be present. For sure, it requires much courage to leave one’s country, but I believe that sharing the joy of the Good News with others - wherever they are - and committing to learning from another country’s way of proceeding is an enriching experience that no words can describe. The international aspect of our Province is a gift for each one of us if we can learn to overcome our differences and have an open heart to listen what the Lord is telling us, albeit in a different ‘language’ to what we might be used to! This call requires much spiritual freedom. Notably, the continuous challenge of spiritual freedom I was speaking about was very present during my second year at San Saba in the period during which I was waiting for my destination. Looking back, it was quite a tough time: my expectations, my fears, waiting of a reply and all the emotions and spiritual movements, proved to be a source of purification and returning once again to the core aspects of the vocation for the Society and being available to the Lord and his mission. When Fr. Provincial communicated that my destination was to start my regency in Albania, I felt very much at peace and motivated to start this next step in my formation. The idea is that during the week I will be working in the pastoral activities of our college in Shkoder (“Atë Pjetër Meshkalla”), and then going over to Tirana during the weekend to help in the parish activities (“Kisha Zemra e Krishtit”). The destination to Albania makes me feel connected to the many friends of mine that, because of work or study related purposes, have to travel and spend so much time away from their home countries. In a world and Europe with a closed heart towards ‘foreigners’, feeling as a citizen of the world in an ever more globalised and interconnected world, and as a young Jesuit regent in our Euro-Mediterranean province, is a testimony of the Lord’s love that goes beyond any of our spiritual boundaries. To close off with two words I’ve learned this week during my Albanian language classes: Faleminderit dhe mirupafshim! (Thanks and Goodbye!)
Brendan McPartlin is a member of the Jesuit community in Churchill Park, Portadown, in Northern Ireland. Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications visited him there recently. She spoke with him about the Jesuit ministry in the Portadown-Craigavon area since it began in the early ’80s with the late Paddy Doyle SJ, former Irish Jesuit Provincial. In those day the Jesuits came to Churchill Park on the Garvaghy Road to simply be a presence to the beleaguered people who lived there who suffered from poverty and sectarian violence. The area made world headlines when the Orange Order demanded the right to march through this nationalist area. In this interview, Brendan explains how nowadays the situation for the people is much improved. The area itself is in much better shape. The Orangemen still demand the right to march down the Garvaghy Road but are not allowed to, though they still march to the start of the road every week before being turned back, says Brendan. The violence has stopped, but the Jesuits are involved in reconciliation and building the peace, work that must go on, according to Brendan. He discusses the cross-community work they are involved in, including his hosting of a theological study group in the house in Churchill Park which is attended mostly by members of the protestant community. One of the big changes in the locality over the last 10 years has been the arrival of migrants from Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia. The Portadown-Craigavon area has the largest density of migrants in Northern Ireland. According to Brendan, they are hard-working people who have helped improve the local economy, often doing jobs that others are reluctant to take on. The Jesuits have set up the Migrant Support Service in Portadown to assist the migrant community. Portadown’s Drumcree Community Trust is chaired by Michael Bingham SJ, and it has employed two part-time, bi-lingual support workers to work with the children of immigrant families in the area. The two, one Polish and the other Portuguese, are assisting primary school children with their homework and with integration into the Community Centre activities. Brendan works with lay people in the centre providing advice and support in a variety of ways as he explains in this interview. Listen to the interview https://www.jesuit.ie/news/still-building-the-peace/
New report shows need to end hostile policies on asylum and build communities of hospitality, says Jesuit Refugee Service UK. A new report finds that asylum seekers in destitution and detention feel dehumanised by the asylum system but find strength through community membership, faith and volunteering. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) UK has responded by calling for an end to hostile environment policies and for the development of policies and social action to foster community, hospitality and participation. The report, For our welfare and not for our harm by leading Catholic theologian, Dr Anna Rowlands, analyses barriers to justice and dignity faced by destitute and detained asylum seekers from their own perspectives. It draws on interviews with asylum seekers at JRS UK, many of whom have also experienced detention, who have struggled to gain recognition as refugees and been destitute for years.  JRS UK staff and volunteers were also interviewed to inform the report. Refugees described the asylum system as one that “wastes time, skill, capacity and promise”, and makes them “feel worthless” and “like rubbish”. Some spoke of feeling as if they were “degrading in time” as they struggled with enforced destitution and idleness caused by the ban on being allowed to work. Others spoke about the traumatic impact of detention that continued to affect their lives, sometimes many years later. By contrast, refugees were clear about what they wanted to change, arguing for a more humane asylum system, with opportunities to work and participate in community. Sarah Teather, Director  of JRS UK, said: “This report lays bare an asylum system which erodes human dignity and wastes lives. It demonstrates the urgent need to end the hostile environment agenda and invest in a more humane approach, enabling people to work and participate in community. This requires deep, systemic transformation.” The report also highlights the importance of faith for maintaining and recovering agency and sense of self for many in the asylum process. It further explores the faith-basis of JRS and the particular way faith shapes its ethos of accompaniment and the importance of fostering participative community. Dr Anna Rowlands said: “Again and again refugees I interviewed told me about the importance of faith as a source of meaning, story, identity and resilience. But critically, refugees were makers of religious meaning and leaders of faith communities, not merely beneficiaries of well-meaning faith-based care and social action.” Refugees spoke powerfully of the importance to them of finding spaces where they can be active, assist and bring comfort to others, enlarge their own worldview through encountering the experience of others, and enable mutual perseverance. The research finds that asylum seekers involved with JRS UK particularly valued simple human aspects of the organisation’s practice, such as the way staff, volunteers and refugees eat meals at the same table, and the way refugees are greeted at the day centre by name. They spoke of the importance of finding spaces like JRS UK where they could volunteer and have their skills recognised and give support to others “using time in a fruitful way”. Sarah Teather said of the collaboration between JRS UK and Dr Anna Rowlands: “This research has deepened our understanding of refugees’ experience of the asylum process, exposing the pain of prolonged destitution in the asylum system, but has also given voice to the highly perceptive analysis of refugees themselves. We are particularly grateful for the insights this research has provided about the factors that give refugees strength and sense of agency. There were some surprises. We didn’t expect to find that eating together at the same table was so valued. This habit of shared meals each day has grown unselfconsciously out of our ethos of community and mutuality over many years. The research has enabled us to reflect on our own practice as a small faith-based organisation, and to deepen our commitment to our mission to accompany refugees.” Dr Rowlands said “… I was delighted to be invited to collaborate with JRS UK. JRS is doing vital work in attempting to create a space in which refugees are viewed not as hostile presences, nor merely recipients or guests of well-meaning others but dignified agents who want a space not only to survive and receive support but to engage in all the things that make us properly human. This is work not just of care but also of resistance and deep creativity in an often hostile and limited system.” DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT  http://jesuit.org.uk/sites/default/files/for_our_welfare_and_not_our_harm_jrs_june2019.pdf Dr Anna Rowlands is St Hilda Associate Professor in Catholic Social Thought and Practice at the University of Durham, UK. She is the founding chair of the UK Centre for Catholic Social Thought and Practice, which exists to network academics and practitioners who have an interest in Catholic social thought/practice.

UPCOMING EVENTS

18-23
Wed - Mon
Sep 2019
LUXEMBOURG
POPE'S WORLDWIDE PRAYER NETWORK Meeting European Directors of the Pope's worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer) READ MORE
7-9
Mon - Wed
Oct 2019
LISBON
Portugal
Xavier Network Meeting European Jesuit Mission Offices and NGO's READ MORE
19
Sat
Oct 2019
ROME
Italy
Ordinations Davide Dell'Oro (EUM) and Nicolo Mazza (EUM) will be ordained priest by Mons. Erminio De Scalzi Auxiliary Bishop of Milan in the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus at 3.30 pm. READ MORE
31-4
Tue - Sat
Dec - Jan 2020
TOULOUSE
France
Les deux rives Meeting Jesuits involved in the Dialogue with Islam READ MORE