European Jesuits in Formation (EJIF) is a group that gathers together all European Jesuits who are in formation, from novices to brothers and young priests who haven't yet taken their final vows.

Every year, the young Jesuits are invited to participate in an EJIF meeting that is held in one of the European Jesuit provinces. Usually this meeting includes an group experiment or meeting (pilgrimage, social work, conferences around formation topics), then an individual guided retreat of eight days and finally a formation session.

Many young Jesuits live in international formation houses. Still these meetings aim to foster broader knowledge of the Society of Jesus, by giving the Jesuits the opportunity to get to know others in formation and to learn more about our Jesuit life and spirituality.

25 young Jesuits from 17 different European countries – as well as from Vietnam and Tanzania – came together in Lebanon in August. A report by Moritz Kuhlmann SJ, a participant from the German Province. “One image is stuck in my head these days: Christ – suffering and yet smiling. It is happening again today: In the refugee camps we witness a broken humanity and right in the middle smiling children and strong women.” Almost 30 young are sitting together in a big circle and share their experiences. They are participants of “EJIF – European Jesuits in Formation”. In August they spent three weeks in Lebanon – on refugees’ paths. We gathered a few of their impressions: “And then the women looked at us and said: ‘We told you our life-stories. Are we only objects of study to you? What will you do for us? How can you help us?’ – These questions still shock me. I cannot help them.” The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and the NGO “Bashmeh & Zeitooneh” (“smile and olive”) show us the refugee camps. Lebanon, with a population of six million, has received two million Syrians in the past two years – despite the fact that Lebanon had been occupied by Syria until 2005. How quickly the tides of history can turn! The crisis might be a chance for reconciliation. In the community centers we meet women’s groups: “We don’t depend on anyone anymore, least of all on our men.” Our hosts from JRS and B&Z chuckle proudly: Syrian society has reformed itself in the refugee camps. Women are now ranking first. They are incredibly strong. The true “Arabellion” is happening now, in the UNHCR-tents which save the lives of Syrian families. Many refugees live outside of the camp. “Unlike in Africa you don’t often see the refugees. They live in ramshackle huts in the towns”, says Tony Calleja SJ. In Beiruts district Shatila 50.000 people live on one square kilometer. They are almost exclusively Palestinians who used to live as refugees in Syria and now even had to flee from their camps in Syria. We cannot help them and many of us are struggling the inability to help. And yet we can be witnesses, witnesses of the power of change in the crisis, of the smiles in the suffering. “I hear the message that is Lebanon as a state: Religions can leave together in peace.” Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, Patriarch of the Maronite, a Church united with Rome, to which virtually all of Lebanon’s Christians belong to, reminds us of the words of John Paul II.: “Lebanon is more than a state. It is a message.” The highest offices in the state are – according to the constitution – divided among Sunnis, Shiites and Maronite Christians. The Patriarch proudly tells us about the coexistence of religions in the country. And yet everywhere it is noticeable that every religion has its own life, unmixed. At least they don’t fight each other. Salim Daccache SJ, Rector of the Université Saint-Joseph (USJ), would like the constitution’s ideal become a reality: “We want to be the place which binds Lebanon’s population together. This is a service to the community as our statues require it.” 37% of USJ’s students and 60% of Lebanon’s population are Muslims. The Jesuits have been in Lebanon since 1640, their main apostolate has always been education. Today, the Université Saint-Joseph and the Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour bear witness to this tradition. “I feel referred back to my home province. Many refugees live among us, many Muslims, many needy. Starting a social apostolate for them might even be harder than here. I would like to try it.” One year ago the Jesuits’ Superior General wrote a letter to all members of the Society of Jesus, asking his brothers to be available for a service in the Middle East – this area being a priority in the Middle East. Many of us have traveled here with the question how they might react to the Superior General’s request: Should I make myself available for the Middle East? The hardship is great. However, the encounter with hardship abroad opens the eyes for hardship back home and lets our hearts burn. We experience a school of the heart. At the end of our stay in Lebanon we entered into an eight day retreat of Spiritual Exercises in Tanail to deepen this school of the heart. Damian Howard SJ was leading the retreat with very profound, creative and deeply Ignatian inputs. On top of this spiritual guidance through Damian’s “puncta”, each participant was accompanied by a spiritual director. After the retreat, the group came together and entered into a very serious process of Elections: What will be the main topic of next year’s meeting, where will it take place and whom do we want to take the responsibility for its organizing? Finally also after having consulted with John Dardis SJ we decided to dedicate next year’s EJIF to the topic of vocation. The venue is still uncertain, the new coordination committee will have to decide between London and Rome. “This EJIF was a life changing experience for me”, someone finally says in our sharing. “Touching the crisis, its desperate needs and its profound hopes and miraculous transformation was a crisis for me, too. My needs and hopes – I feel them being so much more on surface now, so much more known and touchable to me. The transformation will spread: Whom will I touch with my transformed heart?” German text: Moritz Kuhlmann SJ Translation: Matthias SchmidtImages: Pascal Meyer Read also: The kind of peace that fills you up with hope (Giuseppe La Mela - Italy, EUM) - Face-to-face with the refugee crisis (Peter O'Sullivan - BRI) - I am one of the lucky ones (Arnold Mugliett - Malta, EUM)
Each year the meeting of the European Jesuits in formation (EJIF) takes place. This year's theme was Islam and the refugees so Lebanon (where more than half of the population is Muslim and where something around 2 million refugees were welcomed) was the perfect place for such a meeting. Twenty-five Jesuits from all over Europe and one from Vietnam and another from Tanzania took part. I am one of the lucky ones and I have no merit for that. If I was born 350 kilometres to the south or 300 kilometres to the west everything would have been different. I come from Malta and grew up in loving family where I got the chance to be raised up in a healthy lifestyle and to be educated. Later in life I got a degree from the University and also got the chance to travel a lot before joining the Society of Jesus. Since I've become a Jesuit, I also took a vow of poverty. Looking at the lives of many of the poor people I have met during these past few days make me really question what kind of poverty I am living when I have everything I need and more. I have spent the last few days in Beirut, Lebanon. I was complaining of the heat, if the A/C wasn't working, or if was getting too cold that I had to wake up during the night to switch it off. I was complaining if there was traffic coming back from a day off or if the food wasn't very good. I went around the Syrian and Palestinian camps and it is by far the biggest poverty I have seen in my life. I have heard stories of two or three refugee families (that is more that fifteen persons) living in a single room because they can't afford the rent. I met a guy in the Palestinian camp who is now around 50 years old who was born here in Lebanon and is still living as a refugee. He told us of his dream of opening his own shop to sell everyday goods. I have heard stories of thousands of young children who don't have the opportunity to go to school or who have to leave school in order to gain some money to help their families. Whilst visiting a particular refugee camp we met a young Muslim woman who has benefited from the small grant project run by a local NGO. Answering to comment on the size of the shop, which was relatively quite big for being in a camp, her response left me speechless: "God is even greater!". She's living in terrible conditions and yet is able to give such an answer. I have seen a lot during these days in Lebanon. I have heard a lot from expert people who tried to explain to us Europeans the complex situation of the Middle East. I have seen a lot of suffering, a lot of poverty but I have also seen strong and courageous men and women fighting each day of their lives and hoping for a better future, if not for themselves, at least for their children. I have met a lot of Muslim people whose faith in a God who will never leave them on their own have made me question my own Catholic faith. I came here thinking to understand the situation and to find answers. What I know for sure is that now I have more questions than answers, but I think that's something positive. Refugees aren't just numbers and statistics anymore. Now they have a face and a name and they have every right to be as lucky as I am. Read also Moritz Kuhlmann's overview article Young Jesuits meeting refugees in Lebanon -The kind of peace that fills you up with hope (Giuseppe La Mela - Italy, EUM)Face-to-face with the refugee crisis (Peter O'Sullivan - BRI) - I am one of the lucky ones (Arnold Mugliett - Malta, EUM)
Giuseppe La Mela is an Italian Jesuit in Formation who has participated at the EJIF meeting in Lebanon, in August. Here are some of his pregnant observations after the first half of his stay. Tradition has it that when Jesus went to preach in Tyre and Sidon (cfr. Mark 7,24) his mother Mary went with him. Being a Jewish woman she could not enter pagan land and so she waited for her son on the top of a hill just outside of Sidon, taking shelter in a cave. I'm usually not very fond of these kind of shrines. My rational mind kicks in and tells me "Oh, come on, there's not the slightest evidence that something like that really happened, you're not really going to believe that, are you?". Many times I find these shrines kitsch. I tend to ignore them and just move on. And yet, as soon as I found myself facing the statue of Our Lady of Awaiting, I felt a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes, while my heart was filled with an unspeakable sense of tenderness. I've been in Lebanon for 10 days for a gathering of young Jesuits in formation from all over Europe. I couldn't help but feel that this is a land where many people are living in waiting. We visited many refugee camps. We witnessed so much suffering, so much injustice. Many Syrians find themselves waiting, roughly one and a half million of them. They have been forced out of their country, most of them having lost their house, their husband or wife, their children. And they're here, waiting. Waiting for things to get better. Some of them are waiting for a food basket from some NGO, or for a small grant in order to set up a small shop in the camp and survive. They arrived in Lebanon, occupied some land, built a tent and then a camp. The owners of the land started asking for rent and, knowing that many NGOs would help the refugees cover their costs, they raised the price up to 600 US dollars a month. Many refugees get hired as day laborers in farms or construction but many times, despite their hard work, they don't get paid. The same happens with many Syrian women who work as cleaners. Some of them have lost all hope. During one of our visits we asked a Syrian lady if she had a dream or any hopes for the future. She replied: "No, I don't have any more dreams since my husband died. I just survive, for my kids. But I don't have any dreams anymore". The Shatila camp, just outside Beirut, was set up in 1948 to house the Palestinian refugees flooding into Lebanon at that time. It covers approximately one square kilometer and today houses more than 50,000 refugees from Palestine and Syria. We walked through the narrow streets caked with mud, all the while trying to avoid the impressive tangle of electricity cables spreading throughout the camp hanging just a few millimeters from our heads. We met many women, visiting their houses and talking to them. They welcomed us, and told us a little bit about their life in the camp. "I'm applying for a small grant to open a hairdresser's salon"; "I lost my six sons and my husband in Syria"; "I want to open a small shop in order to provide for my children". Their eyes were veiled with sadness, yet within I could also discern determination and courage. I felt powerless in front of so much suffering and pain. I wanted to help them but didn't know how. I felt what I think was a mix of western guilt, good will and a genuine hunger and thirst for justice. Then I met this sweet and beautiful 14 year old Palestinian girl. Quick witted and very fluent in English, she told me how much she enjoyed studying maths at a local school in Beirut, how much she loved playing football, and how Cristiano Ronaldo is obviously far better than Leo Messi. She writes poetry and dreams of publishing a book. Her father is currently living in Germany, but she and her mum can't go there yet because they don't have the required documents. She was full of energy and life, full of hope for the future in spite of her situation. She won't surrender. Perhaps that's what I felt standing in front of our Lady of Awaiting. I think that the statue perfectly captures this sense of longing and hope. Mary is seated on a rock, her right hand resting on her knee, the left on the rock. There is a tension going through her body and her eyes are searching the horizon restlessly. She looks like she's ready to jump up and run towards Jesus as soon as she catches a glimpse of him. And I felt such an immense peace standing beside her. The kind of peace that fills you up with hope and regenerates you. A peace that is not numb but restless, inspiring you to act. The kind of peace that comes when you know that her son's returning. All the stories I've heard, all the faces I've seen, all the pain and all the hope of the people I've met will stay with me forever and will affect my life, my studies, my relationships, my prayer. Something has changed forever in my heart but, like Mary, I'm not sure about what's going to happen, what I'm going to do. And yet, should I ever feel lost, I can go back there for a little while, silently waiting with her and all the refugees I have met, searching the horizon. Giuseppe La Mela SJ Read also the overview article Young Jesuits meeting refugees in Lebanon (Moritz Kuhlmann - GER)Face-to-face with the refugee crisis (Peter O'Sullivan - BRI) - I am one of the lucky ones (Arnold Mugliett - Malta, EUM)
From Britain to Lebanon. So far I have spent one week in Lebanon as part of European Jesuits in Formation (EJiF).  There are twenty-five Jesuit scholastics here from eighteen countries. Not all are from Europe, one is from Tanzania and another from Vietnam. We are here to witness and learn from the efforts made to serve the refugees in the country. One of the reasons that Lebanon was chosen as the place to meet, was to come face-to-face with the refugee crisis here, where a country of 4 million Lebanese hosts 2 million refugees. Another reason is the experience of the feelings that come with encountering this crisis, the sense of helplessness that we will feel, but in common with one another. On the 1 August, we all arrived into Beirut International Airport and stayed for next couple of days in a retreat centre near the mountainous Deir-el-Harf. On 3rd August, we visited a series of refugee camps, which held anywhere between 60 to 400 families, in Bar Elias, 2km from the Syrian border. Although each family was living in a tent, they were welcoming and kept the tents clean and tidy. The people had a dignity that was undiminished. We met many people who, with small grants given to them by Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), were able to make a small living from a technical skill, such as sewing or being an electrician. On Saturday, as shown in the photo, we went to meet the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, the foremost Christian primate in the country. He talked to us about the situation that the country faces with the influx of refugees and how, just by living in proximity, the Lebanese and refugees are changing each other's lives. On Sunday, we went to Mass at the Melkite monastery of the Holy Saviour near Sidon. It is the headquarters of Basilian Salvatorian Melkite order. Afterwards, we went to Sidon, the historic city where Jesus preached and saw the remains of the former crusader castle and the oldest surviving mosque in the city. Close to Sidon is a large-scale statue of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Mantara (also known as Our Lady of Awaiting). It is located there because of the tradition that Mary waited for Jesus in a nearby cave until he left Sidon. On Monday, we visited the Shatila refugee camp. Although it was the site of a massacre in the Lebanese Civil War, it is still a refugee camp and according to our guide, it has more than 42,000 refugees living in an area less than one square kilometre. To me, it seemed very different to the tents in the Bar Elias refugee camp. It still has a majority of Palestinians, and instead of living in tents, the families live in very cramped high blocks of flats, with no fresh water on tap, and have to pay considerable monthly rents to do so. We chatted with the people and I was not alone in being shocked by the experience. Today, we visited a school run by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Beirut. When it started, JRS planned to have enough classes for 300 boys and girls. However, 800 turned up. This meant that they had to teach 400 in the morning and 400 in the evening. The school is for all faiths. Next to the school is a social centre that gives psychosocial support to the parents of the children. It offers outings so as to break any monotony felt by the refugees as well as social accompaniment and psychological support. All of these activities are done in the morning, because in the late afternoon we have talks from various Jesuits or university lecturers on the political, social and religious histories of the region, giving a more analytical perspective to the one we found in the mornings. Over the next few days we will continue visiting refugee camps, witnessing the lives and learning from the people there. Afterwards, we will have an 8-day retreat here in Lebanon, where we will pray on the experiences of the past week. Finally, on the 24 August, we will return to our own countries, no doubt utterly changed by the experience. Read also Moritz Kuhlmann's overview article Young Jesuits meeting refugees in Lebanon - The kind of peace that fills you up with hope (Giuseppe La Mela - Italy, EUM) - I am one of the lucky ones (Arnold Mugliett - Malta, EUM)
European Jesuits in Formation (EJIF) is a group that gathers together all European Jesuits who are in formation, from scholastics in their philosophy to brothers and young priests who haven't yet taken their final vows. Every year, the young Jesuits are invited to participate in an EJIF meeting that is held in one of the European Jesuit provinces. Usually this meeting includes a group experiment or meeting (pilgrimage, social work, conferences around formation topics), an individual guided retreat of eight days and finally a formation session. Many young Jesuits live in international formation houses. Still these meetings aim to foster broader knowledge of the Society of Jesus, by giving the Jesuits the opportunity to get to know others in formation and to learn more about our Jesuit life and spirituality. One or two scholastics from each province – depending on the size of the province – are invited to participate, thus getting the chance of gaining a unique experience of what it´s like to be a member of a Society of Jesus that goes beyond the borders of his own province. It is also a means to connect the scholastics more closely to the level of the “Conference of European Provincials” (CEP), thus fostering interprovincial collaboration as an important element of “noster modus procedendi” (our way of proceeding) as it was again stressed by GC 36. Prepared by the so called “Coordination Committee”, EJIF is characterized each year by some topic as it was closely linked to MAGIS and World Youth Day in Poland last year, for example. The next meeting will be from 1st to 24th of August 2017 in Lebanon. It is titled by the letter of GC 36 ‘Witnesses to Friendship and Reconciliation’ (GC36). The central idea of EJIF 2017 is for the European scholastics to respond to the request of GC36 as well as the letter addressed to the Society by Fr Nicolás of the 27th July 2016 (2016/10) exhorting Jesuits to a greater solidarity with their companions missioned to the Middle East. In response to this letter, the European scholastics at EJIF 2016 felt called to hold EJIF 2017 in Lebanon. We believe that this call has been confirmed by GC36 (Decree 1) and the letter addressed to Jesuits and collaborators living in zones of war and conflict. Previous EJIF meetings show that the best way of getting to know each other comes from common experiences, a shared mission. In concrete terms, this implies an engagement and immersion with the activities of the Jesuit Refugee Service and other NGOs in Lebanon. We hope as young Jesuits to encounter those who bear ‘witness to friendship and reconciliation’ in a country which has itself suffered conflict and which still bears the signs of ongoing tensions in neighbouring Syria, including Oriental Christians and Muslims. Important parts of the program include an introduction to work of JRS in the Middle East by Fr. José Ignacio García Jimenéz (new director of JRS Europe), an immersion part for ten days (Working with refugees in groups of 4-5 scholastics, accompanied by Fr. García Jimenéz), encounters with Islam and Oriental Churches, 8 days at the Jesuit Retreat House in Taanael in the Bekaa valley and finally concluding days, evaluation and departures. EJIF 2017 will give delegates the possibility to have contact with fellow Jesuits from Europe and around the world. We are working closely with the Jesuits of the Near East Province in all the preparations for this year’s EJIF.
The central idea of EJIF 2016 was to be present during the World Youth Day in Krakow and accompanying MAGIS working as a group of young Jesuits in formation from all Europe. Previous
 EJIF meetings show that the best way of getting to know each other comes from common experiences like pilgrimages, sharing tasks and praying together. This year EJIF’s delegates took part actively in many different jobs during MAGIS and WYD in areas like spirituality, arts, social work, pilgrimage, etc. This year the encounter was longer than usual: the meeting point was Warsaw at mid July. Then they travel to Łódź for the start of MAGIS and the group was spread through different youth experiments in different countries, they gathered again in Krakow for WYD, traveling afterwards to Zakopane for 8 days retreat in the Tatra Mountains. During the MAGIS they gave logistical assistance for the kickoff meeting in Łódź . They guided the experiments taking care and serving small groups of 25 young participants. And they gave logistical assistance during Festival of Nations in Częstochowa. Once in Krakow the EJIF group helped the Vocation Promoters team getting involved in the meeting points for Ignatian spirituality and participating on the events of the WYD.  
 After all the work they deserved to pray and rest in the retreat house of Zakopane. Fr Dermot O’Connor from Ireland led the eight days retreat assisted for a team that accompanied the EJIF delegates in different languages. 
MAGIS and WYD gave delegates possibility to contact with people from all around the world and to discover the joy of the Gospel by serving others in many ways.