Jesuits in University Pastoral Care - JUPC

The presence of Jesuits in universities has been one of our main apostolates since the very beginning of the Order. Ignatius and his first companions met on a campus and dreamt together for a better world.

Today, Jesuits are present in many universities either as academics or by creating spaces for groups, meetings, celebrations and volunteering activities where faith is present and offered openly to students and young adult professionals.

Every year, JUPC brings together the various teams involved in university pastoral care.

The aim is threefold: formation, collaboration and looking together to the future. This apostolate keeps growing and its different initiatives are being united under the MAGIS brand. Like the events organized before the World Youth Days in: Krakow, Madrid and Cologne.

Thanks to the work of Jesuits, collaborators and friends, the dream of Ignatius and his first companions is still alive today in many campuses across Europe.

How can we reach out to young people today, help them to shape their lives in the light of the Gospel? This was the main topic of the annual European meeting of Jesuits (and collaborators) in University Pastoral Care (JUPC, November 6th-9th , 2018) . Besides the traditional exchange of news and the networking during meals and activities, we had a very interesting conversation on the preparatory document for the synod on ‘Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment’ and on the survey that accompanies it. We did our own survey among the members of the group, and we were granted the chance to make our own little contribution on the topic. For this we had the chance to be accompanied by Giacomo Costa SJ, who, as part of the writing committee, gave us very interesting insights into the document. How important, for example, the theme of ‘care’ is to Pope Francis: care for our ‘common home’ (Laudato Si), care for the family (Amoris Laetitia), and now care for young people. The word is frequently mentioned in the document. Our discussion followed the structure of the letter according to the triad of Cardinal Cardijn: ‘See, judge, act’. First to ‘see’ the context in which young people nowadays are living and thinking: a rapidly changing world, where the weaker are more vulnerable, and in which the much craved for freedom is not available for many. A world that is deeply shaped by technology, everybody hiding in his or her own ‘filter bubble’. A world where there is a growing multiculturalism. It is one of the riches of this document that it doesn’t start off with a priori assumptions, but tries to interpret a concrete situation. The next step was to ‘judge’: How, then, can we help this hyperconnected generation to enter into a more reflective process to (re)orient its life, to enter into – yes, let us say it – discernment? The word was not used in order not to fall into Ignatian ‘slang’, but those who rare familiar with it, it is abundantly clear how Ignatian this document is. A triad, again, explains what discernment is consists of: ‘recognize, interpret, choose’. How young people are able to recognize what is happening and to be aware of the flavor which remains? How can they interpret it, that is to understand to what the Spirit is calling them, and then to choose a pathway of that calling? Finally to ‘act’. We need to walk with young people, like a good shepherd. Here we meet our final triad: ‘Going out, seeing, calling’. We chaplains – and indeed every Christian - are asked to reach out more to young people and meet them where they are. It was a great joy to be able to give our personal contribution to the discussion. But there was also news to be heard. We heard three (again!) success stories  – one of MAGIS Central Europe of the summer of 2017, by Lenka Caskova. Another project with the name MAGIS we heard about was in Spain, where the word became a banner for dozens of youth projects (Juanjo Aguado SJ). Finally we heard the report of youth activities in the EOF (France and South Belgium, by Jacques Enjalbert SJ) – especially in and around Paris, where new chaplaincies are built in a future French ‘Silicon Valley’. On Thursday – one day later due to a general strike in unruly Catalunya – we were following the footsteps of Ignatius in Manresa and in Barcelona. For me it took the shape of a minipilgrimage to the statue of Ignatius in of the ‘Santa Maria del Mar’ church in Barcelona. Worth the visit!
Innsbruck – Student chaplains from Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Lithuania and the Czech Republic have met in Innsbruck for an exchange of ideas. Between Vilnius in the north and Luzern in the south, between Luzern in the west and Vilnius in the east the cities Leipzig, Dresden, Bern, München, Zürich, Innsbruck and Graz are located. Confreres working in student ministry coming from these cities met in Innsbruck from 2.2.- 4.2. We, the people involved in the University parish in Innsbruck, Benjamin Furthner SJ, Hernán Rojas SJ and I, we showed our premises, prayed Vespers together with students and settled in for an cosy evening in our Jesuit community. The aim of the meeting was an exchange of ideas, working on a specific chosen topic and questions concerning the future of our work. Whereas in München, Graz, Luzern and Zürich numbers of paid staff are shaping the catholic university parishes, at the other places the students are bearer of church activities and church life. We talked about our strong and weak points, just as joyful surprises and new initiatives and ideas. We read an article concerning the “unusable god” to focus on the question of believers and ministers telling others that god is necessary, but these people apparently not sharing this need of god in their lives. Not even for a so called fulfilling life. What are the opportunities and possibilities of a student ministry considering this fact? We talked about our Jesuit contribution to the upcoming synod of bishops 2018 “youth, faith and vocational discernment”. We Jesuits form a big catholic network which has the possibility to exchange best practice, which led us to pondering how to strengthen this network of Jesuit student chaplains in Europe. In addition to face-to-face encounter in a good mood we also celebrated mass together. Picture: 1st row: P. Christian Braunigger SJ, P. Michael Beschorner SJ; 2nd row: F. Hernán Rojas SJ, P. Ladislav Nosek SJ, P. Albert Holzknecht SJ, P. Martin Rauch SJ, P. Holger Adler SJ, P. Gernot Wisser SJ, P. Franz-Xaver Hiestand SJ, P. Andreas Schalbetter SJ.
Meeting in Dublin JUPC (Jesuits in University and Pastoral Care) is one of the groups animated by the presidency of the Conference of Provincials of Europe. This group - just as the network vocation - meets every year with the aim of strengthening the relationship and collaboration in our common mission. From 7 to 10 November this meeting took place in Dublin with the generous help of the Province of Ireland.  The topic was" “How Pope Francis' 'revolution of tenderness' is changing the perception of the institutional Church and how this might impact on our ministry of university pastoral care” 40 people from all over Europe gathered. This year the participation was higher: both in number and in the provinces represented.  The meeting had four distinct parts: Formation-Inspiration. Jimmy Burns, the author of the book Pope of Good Promise, spoke about how the Pope may give us inspiration through his way of being as well as his past and present life. It was a time for reflection and dialogue in and for our common task. In groups and in the assembly six important topics of our work were dealt with: leadership, contacting with youth, networking, core values of our mission, training of pastoral agents, and new frontiers. There was a time of sharing and taking part in the culture of Ireland with visits to the James Joyce Center, Trinity College, a talk about the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and dinner with students of University College Dublin. The students gave us a demonstration of popular Irish music. A space for organization and cooperation. The team of Magis 2016 Poland, shared their reflections and lessons learned from the experience. José de Pablo, as assistant of the President of the Conference of Provincials of Europe, brought us up to date on the steps and challenges of the Society’s mission in Europe looking forward to Synod 2018 “Youth, Faith and Vocational discernment”. Finally, there was some time to think about the way to continue next year. In this area, the steering committee was renewed with representatives of each assistance and the decision was made that next meeting will take place in Manresa (Spain) from 6 to 9 November.   The ministry with young adult university students is going through a time of transformation, although there is much to be done. Magis appears on the horizon as an agglutinating idea of many initiatives, which may include experiences such as those in Poland, or proposals for pastoral activities as well as collaboration with different provinces of Europe. We are living a renewal in this area, and fortunately, there is a greater presence of women. Finally, it is a stimulating apostolate that looks at the future with hope and joy.