A lot of youth activities at the Dalmatian Coast this summer: Spiritual exercises in an austere previous imprisonment camp, or a Laudato si camp. Spiritual exercises on the "Bare island" On the Croatian island Goli Otok (goli = naked, bare, otok = island) for a fifth year in a row groups of young people come to experience Ignatian spiritual exercises, organised by the Magis association and guided by Croatian Jesuits. The island of Goli used to be a notorious imprisonment camp for the political enemies of Tito's communist dictatorship from 1940s through 1950s and 1960s (started with Tito-Stalin split in 1948). Now, several decades after the last of the prisoners left, young people from different parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina come here to deepen their connection to God, nature and themselves. The conditions of accommodation are modest to say the least. The young people are sleeping in their sleeping bags on the wooden floors of old buildings. There is no electricity, no water supply (drinking water must be transported in canisters from the nearby island of Rab), no TVs, no smartphones or any kind of modern gadgets. The daily routine consists of three meals, an hour of work, lecture about Ignatian Spirituality, free time in which they are encouraged to pray and meditate. The day ends with the Holy Mass and adoration. Apart from a 30-minute daily conversation with their spiritual guide, they spend the week in complete silence. But the hard conditions in which they spend their time seem to have a beneficial effect on their spiritual exercises. It seems that in this silence and isolation from the outside world they have a better chance of hearing God's voice. It also seems that with their presence and prayer camp is in those days transformed in the place of holiness and that each one of them experiences a transformation of his own. And after a week, they go back to their homes enriched with this new experience and encouraged to search for and find God in all things. Youth camps based on Laudato si' In the Nature park of Lastovo this summer there were two youth camps based on the Papal encyclical Laudato si. Forty young people participated in a program as well as in practical outcome which means cleaning costal and island’s areas from different kind of rubbish. The biodiversity of Lastovo island nature park and its history were learned by visiting historical and sacral places, climbing and celebrating Mass. The camp has a missionary role also for many local people participated in spiritual and working activities. Having prayer and meditating out in a nature participants recognise God’s presence in their lives. Main emphasis in the program is integral ecology which connects experiences in natural and human environment. The main purpose of this camp is to restore relationships with God, neighbour and nature.
60 students from the University of Malta have done voluntary service abroad. Six different groups of young people have served among the poor and marginalized in Palermo, Florence, London, Romania, Ethiopia and Egypt. A simple send-off ceremony took place on Saturday 27 July at the university chaplaincy during which the chaplain, Fr. Patrick Magro, augured these young students to live this experience to the full, thanking them for devoting their time and energy to those in need. Each one was given a personal diary and sunflower seeds. The young people heading for Palermo, Florence, Romania and London have worked with children in institutions run by the Sisters of Charity. The group volunteering in Egypt have run a summer camp for about 200 children in the so-called “garbage village”, where the inhabitants live in extreme conditions, on mountains of garbage. Fr. Anthony Fenech SJ, a Maltese Jesuit who has served in Egypt for many years accompanied the students throughout their experience. The youngsters who have gone to Ethiopia devoted themselves to the care of the sick and the marginalized. “Every young person returns home changed by these experiences”, Fr. Patrick said. “These are experiences that mark the beginning of a new life.They have been generous in giving, they will receive something even more precious. This voluntary work experience shared with their peers increases their sensitivity towards those in need. It is an effective way to form leaders who are active in promoting true social justice.” Thanks to funds donated, these experiences are now made accessible to a greater number of young people for another three years. Finally, a further group of students journeyed on the Camino de Santiago during the first two weeks of August, accompanied by Patrick Magro SJ and Mark Cachia SJ.
The Jesuit outreach to underprivileged young people continued this summer in Kyrgyzstan with great success. A record one hundred and ten youngsters travelled to the centre on Lake Issyk-Kul to attend its fourth annual astronomy camp. With snowcapped peaks to the South and the warm waters of the lake to the North, the setting was idyllic. Accompanied by their physics teachers, the students travelled to Issyk-Kul from Suzak, in Southern Kyrgyzstan. They were supervised in their activities by Father Adam Malinowski SJ, a keen stargazer, who has even constructed his own observatory at the Jesuit centre in Jalal-Abad. Volunteers from Austria, England, France and Germany assisted in making the young astronomers’ stay as enjoyable and educational as possible. While our mission in this instance did not involve any spiritual activities, since both students and teachers were Muslim, the value of the work carried out was not diminished. In the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, we as Christians are called to engage with and assist all of God’s children. Meetings such as the astronomy camp are opportunities to express God’s love through helping and spending time with non-Christians, while at the same time helping to present a positive picture of a Christian for young people who may never have met one. In addition to educational camps, our work at Issyk-Kul also involved arranging holidays for disabled, orphaned and very poor children. Some of these are organised yearly in conjunction with Kyrgyz social welfare structures. We are very grateful to all of those who helped us in our mission.
Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, Special Secretary of Amazonian Synod, pointed out that, “as the Good Samaritan,” and through the forthcoming Synod on the Pan-Amazonian region, the Church puts into practice in Amazonia her commitment “with the compassion and justice of the Gospel.” Father Czerny, Under-Secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, and Special Secretary of the Amazonian Synod, wrote an article entitled “The Church in Amazonia and Integral Human Development: Prophetic Commitment to the Dignity of All Human Beings,” published in the July 31, 2019 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, and translated by “Vatican News” the following day, August 1. The Synod’s Commitment According to this article, the Synod of Bishops entitled “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for An Integral Ecology,” convoked by Pope Francis, will make it possible to “initiate pastoral and environmental action in Amazonia, and reaffirm the way ‘of being Church,’ which such actions imply.” The article also points out that the mentioned commitment of the Church is concretized especially in the last chapter of the Instrumentum Laboris (IL), the Synod’s working document, which “synthesizes the challenges and hopes of a prophetic Church in the Amazonian region.” Pastoral Ministry and Integral Ecology In the context of Amazonia, as Pope Francis highlights in the Encyclical Laudato Si’, “everything is connected,” the “social and the natural, the environmental and the pastoral cannot and must not be separated,” explains the article in L’Osservatore Romano, which adds that intellectual, spiritual, business and political reductionism “have endangered human life on earth, humanity’s common home.” Therefore, the Synod is committed to solving this problem, to collaborating in the “healing” of the violations committed in the Amazonian territory, given that — as is included in the very title of the meeting, “New Paths for the Church and for An Integral Ecology,” and in the title of the IL’s last chapter, “The Prophetic Role of the Church and Integral Human Promotion” — pastoral ministry in the Church “is not separated from human promotion and integral ecology.” Conditions of Amazonia Both the Encyclical Laudato Si’ and the IL offer an exhaustive analysis of the conditions of the Amazonian region, summarized in Pope Francis’ following words: “Amazonia is a disputed land on various fronts: (. . .) the neo-extractive nature and strong pressure of the great economic interests, which focus their avidity on oil, gas, wood, gold, and agro-industrial monocultures.” The causes of Amazonia’s situation are diverse. Father Czerny refers to “the local and multi-national <bodies>, which support and foment public or private extractive investment, at the cost of devastating impacts on the Amazonian environment and its inhabitants, so that, in fact, the indigenous communities “see their lands threatened by interests that exploit them and are often denied the right to their own land.” Violation of Rights and Agreements   This constitutes a violation of International Law and Agreements, such as the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which the Holy Father has alluded on several occasions. The Declaration champions rights such as the free determination of the said communities (Article 3) and their autonomy in internal and local matters (Article 4). In parallel, Article 6 of Agreement 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries of 1989, ”acknowledges their right not to be touched by legislative or administrative measures that can affect them directly, without their prior consultation (. . . ),” in order to give their free consent. Deaths in the Indigenous Communities The article goes on to lament the lack of recognition of the demarcations and titles of the Amazonian lands, which has resulted in “an alarming number of deaths caused by new illnesses or violent in nature.” Quoting the IL’s point 145, it states that “to question today the power in defense of the territory and of human rights is to risk one’s life, opening a path of cross and martyrdom.” The IL also reported the 1,119 Indians killed between 2003 and 2017 in Brazil alone “for defending their territories.” Although there are several causes, in general, in any case, these deaths can be identified “as a consequence of environmental, social, structural causes and problems stemming from the lack of demarcation of territories and their invasion by powerful and violent outside interests.” The Church’s Pastoral Role The article goes on to state that in her pastoral role, the Church “works for the victims, is opposed to abuses and is called to defend justice and the poor. She also observes “with a critical conscience” how there are attitudes and realities in the indigenous peoples that aren’t evangelical. In this regard, since the end of the 19th century, with Pope Leo XIII and later Vatican Council II and the Social Doctrine of the Church, the different Pontiffs have offered “clear guidelines.” And, in keeping with the Synod’s Special Secretary: “in response to a prevailing model of society, which produces exclusion and inequality, and an economic model that kills the most vulnerable and destroys the common home, the Church’s mission includes a prophetic commitment to justice, peace, the dignity of all human beings without distinctions, and to the integrity of creation.” The text adds that the “good living” of the indigenous people depends fundamentally on “the demarcation of the Indian territories and their scrupulous respect.” Then, referring to Benedict XVI’s Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, it reminds that the “fundamental task of politics is to ensure a just social order, and the Church ‘cannot and must not remain on the margin in the struggle for justice.” Despite great difficulties, threats and promises present in Amazonia, Father Michael Czerny quotes Pope Francis’ words, which open the last chapter of the Synod’s IL for Amazonia: “From the heart of the Gospel we recognize the intimate connection that exists between evangelization and human promotion, which must necessarily express itself and develop in all evangelizing action.” Caption: Putumayo Basin In The Amazon © Repam / Martina Conchione
On the last Sunday of July, the Holy Rosary parish of Tomsk, Russia, celebrated its second annual “Catholic Fest” in honor of St. Ignatius’ feast day. The day kicked off with the celebration of mass to a packed church, which included many visitors from around town.  Immediately following mass, the festivities--food, singing, dancing, auctions, raffles, arts & crafts--began after a blessing from the pastor and a welcome to all the guests, including representatives of the town’s Orthodox, Armenian, and other populations.  Catholicism is rather small in Russia--Tomsk included--making up less than one percent of the total population.  Yet Holy Rosary parish is a well-known and often-visited site for Tomsk residents and visitors alike, especially during Sunday afternoon strolls.  As such, parishioners and regulars were joined by many new faces to take in all of the church’s talents and gifts, which were on full display during the course of the afternoon.  Over the preceding few weeks, parishioners had come together to plan and organize the event.  Such commitment and enthusiasm in the parish was yet another expression of the Tomsk Catholic community’s ownership of its church.  Moreover, the fruits of this labor could be seen in terms of people of all ages offering up their talents during the festival:  local women offering creative hair-dos and face-painting for the children, arts & crafts master classes from the many creative minds of the parish community, and gifts for auction. The parish’s choir also provided music throughout the day.  Russian rock songs were a big hit, and may guests joined the choir to sing along or lead the crowd with their own favorites.  Perhaps best of all was the wonderful variety of food prepared by parishioners and guests, often with the help of their children, ranging from authentic Uzbek plov (a traditional Central Asian rice dish) to local favorites like crepes, shashlik (shish kabobs), and a variety of Russian sweets. Such a sharing of gifts and hospitality with the broader community of Tomsk served as a poignant sign of this small church’s overall existence in Siberia.  Though a minority faith in Russia, our parish is often a place of joy and hospitality that seeks to share its gifts with the surrounding community.  This was no more true that in the coming together of all ages, many nationalities, and several faith backgrounds to simply celebrate community in the name of a rather unknown saint in Siberia.
On Saturday 27th July, refugees and team from JRS UK attended an interactive exhibition at St Paul’s Cathedral that showcased some of their work. In June, 10 of our refugee friends attended a Silk Painting workshop at JRS UK's centre in Wapping. The workshop focused on ways to depict sacred spaces using silk painting. The activity was facilitated by Stitches in Time, an arts charity working with different community groups in Tower Hamlets. They were collaborating with St Paul’s Cathedral to organise the exhibition, which also included hands-on craft activities during the day. Through sharing ideas, participants combined their work to construct a textile sacred space within St Paul’s Cathedral. The focus was on gathering, reflection and making. During the exhibition, all those who attended were encouraged to weave a few pieces of fabric together to ultimately be woven into a larger, integrated rug, fostering a greater sense of community development and solidarity. Tickets to the exhibition for the general public granted our refugee friends entry to the whole site of St Paul’s, giving them the opportunity to explore the cathedral. Many of our friends commented on the crypt, and spent hours learning about the famous tombs and religious works of art. At 6pm, the Choral Evensong began. One of the member of the group said: “I stayed at St Pauls for Evensong and spent some time in the space. It was thanks to this opportunity that I now know that I can go there.” Weaving at St Paul's The exhibition was not just about different community groups coming together to see their work and participate in activities, but it also gave them a chance to relish in a sacred space, to explore and feel part of London life. The exhibition gave our friends the freedom to learn and uphold some of the wonders dwelling within the walls of St Pauls, offering them time and a chance to develop and reflect on their own faith.at St Paul's At JRS UK, the refugee-led activities focus on improving skills, confidence, health and well-being by locating the skills, interests and desires of refugees at the centre of the planning process. In line with the centre's mission to walk alongside forced migrants, these projects are an essential ingredient of JRS's service. They are based on the belief that encounter, mutual relationship and community are fundamental to human integrity and development. The arts projects are both fun and practical ways to help those made destitute by hostile environment policies. They encourage personal growth and confidence, and grant our refugee friends the opportunity to learn new skills and the principles of leadership.

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
25
Fri
Oct 2019
LJUBLIANA
Slovenia
Visit of Fr. General General Superior Fr. Arturo Sosa visits Ljubliana for the 50th anniversary of the Slovenian Jesuit province READ MORE