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On the edge of Clapham Common, the Jesuit house there is now dedicated to welcoming young adults and helping them to engage in caring for our common home, following the teaching of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’. It is a fairly new project, since the house became available only last summer, and the community was completed only mid-September 2018 with the arrival of Ruth Holgate to join Fr Jim Conway SJ and Fr Dushan Croos SJ. It is like a germinating seed: at the moment it is only a little sprout, but the hope is that it will grow steadily into a larger plant. That involves good soil, sunlight, the right amount of water and patience. The team has been preparing the soil by getting to know the young adults in and around London with whom Jesuits are already in contact. The have done that through the Young Adult Sunday Mass at Farm Street, through the Faith in Politics internship of the Bishops’ Conference, and through those who seek the Jesuits out because they are alumni of colleges or chaplaincies. As Rith, Fr Jim and Fr Dushan meet them, a community is formed, which can pray and reflect on the action that is called from us. The sunlight is provided by familiarising ourselves with the pope’s letter, and by developing a background understanding of the spiritual ecology, human ecology and natural ecology which he outlines, by inviting reconciliation with God, with our neighbour and with our common home. They have done this through ‘Exploring Laudato Si’’ days at Clapham. Among the speakers so far have been Professor Celia Deane-Drummond, Jesuits, religious and young adults already engaged in this work. The community has also greatly profited from reading ‘The Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si’’ by Fr Joshtrom Kureethadam SDB, a theologian at the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development. The water is provided by the conversations about this topic that arise through the various meetings. For example, Fr Jim’s experience at Lethem, Guyana, in the Amazon, has helped the community to engage with this autumn’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, particularly through the visit to London of Mr Mauricio López of REPAM, the PanAmazonian Ecclesial Network. The team has met young adults, whose desire to engage others has incited them to form an Ecological Conversion Group (theecg.org), which speaks to parishes and confirmation groups about the pope’s call to ecological conversion. It is known that overwatering plants can kill them, so th also need to filter the information about ecology we receive so that we are not drowned by it. These are only beginnings, sproutings, which we are trying to cultivate patiently, by providing a structure on which this plant can grow and bear fruit. Forced cultivation of crops using artificial fertilizer in greenhouses produces weak, tasteless fruit, incapable of reproducing and spreading naturally. "Instead, we hope to produce fruit that renews the experience of eating homegrown tomatoes in a salad during a Sicilian holiday, which left me thinking I’d never before tasted a real tomato!" Fr Dushan comments.
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.
Now in its fourth year, the 31 days campaign by the Jesuits in Britain is returning for our 2019 edition. This is a series of 31 daily emails delivered to subscribers each day and available from the spirituality website Pathways to God, leading up to the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, celebrated by the Jesuits and our friends all over the world. Since 2016, the initiative has helped people to get to know more about the Jesuits, their works, and Ignatian Spirituality. From introducing the audience to the many works around the country, to learning to pray in Ignatian ways: the positive feedback and the possibility of engagement coming through it has guided us in continuing the project. Among the comments received at the end of last year’s campaign, one of the subscribers told us that “It was lovely having something to follow, to share and keep the link for reference.” While another one wrote: “As a Jesuit, I have already been using this methodology, but it was wonderful to have it articulated clearly so that I could share it with various prayer groups.” This year, the focus will be on Finding God in All Things. Each week we will look at a theme from the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius and use scripture and prayer to help you find God in moments of Conversion, Call, Challenge and Consolation. Each of four main subjects will be treated by four different writers. After seven meditations, there will be a more general reflection, offering further resources to ponder on the theme of the session, and looking back at our experiences and thought with the help of the Examen, a review prayer. The Scripture passages are taken from Nick King SJ’s bible translation, whereas the main image for 31 days 2019, a colourful portrait of St Ignatius, has generously been offered by the artist, John Bateson. This is a striking painting that beautifully fits with the desire to provide resources and spiritual nourishment to seek or rediscover God in our lives, no matter how varied and different they may look. The background of subscribers doesn’t matter, nor their level of familiarity with this type of reflections or prayer: we hope to attract subscribers in the hope to share rich material and prayer tools helpful for their own pathway to God. SUBSCRIBE to receive your 31 daily prayer emails
Farm Street Church is accustomed to solemn and spectacular liturgies wherein all our senses are assailed with the glorious sights, sounds and smells of praise and thanksgiving. Wednesday night’s liturgy of dedication of the new altar broke new ground in compelling awe and beauty.  In the words of the chief celebrant Bishop Nicholas Hudson, Farm Street Church is “beautified in a way which draws people to contemplate the mystery which is at its heart.”  The new stone altar is the final step in the restoration of the sanctuary.  The high altar by AWN Pugin was restored to its original splendour last year, making the 1990 fibreglass copy adorning the old front altar somewhat redundant.  “The old front altar was preventing the congregation from seeing Pugin’s masterpiece,” explained parish priest Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, “so we wanted to commission something simple yet beautiful to allow views through. The result is quite stunning.” Master stone mason Paul Jakeman used marble from Carrara, Tuscany, which has been quarried since antiquity for material to give glory to God.  The pedestal moulding and gilding reflects that on the altar rails, and the front is garlanded with a stone vine. “It was an amazing ceremony,” he commented, “I have never carved an altar before so I really didn’t know what to expect. It was quite humbling.” It was also the first time Bishop Hudson had dedicated a new altar.  The altar is a place of sacrifice and tradition requires that the relics of a martyr are deposited within its frame.  Bishop Hudson remembered especially the Jesuit saints martyred in London: “On this day that we dedicate a new altar just yards from Tyburn, it’s good to unite ourselves to all those Jesuit priests who made the supreme sacrifice .. and ask that they unite themselves to the Eucharistic sacrifice every time we offer it on this altar: Campion, Southwell, Whitbread, Harcourt, Fenwick, Turner and Gavan.” He then deposited the relic of a third century Roman martyr – St Tranquillinus – in an aperture beneath the table top which Mr Jakeman then sealed with mortar. A close observer will notice a bee on the carved vine above the relic repository.  The bee is a symbol of martyrdom. The Rites of Dedication were carefully explained in the Order of Service.  The altar and congregation were first sprinkled with holy water, before the Liturgy of the Word.  Following the depositing of the relics, the altar was anointed at each corner and in the centre with chrism oil and then incensed both from a cauldron of coals on the altar itself and with two censers. Members of the worshipping community at Farm Street were then invited to come forward to dress the altar. Yasko Kurahachi and Marta Albert spread the linen altar cloths.  Jane Lowe, Dame of the Holy Sepulchre, and Gabrielle Quinn placed the altar candles; and Dumle Kogbara and Ben Smith, Chair of LGBT+ Catholics in Westminster, placed a beautiful floral arrangement before the altar.  The Bishop then handed a lighted taper to Fr Dominic, who lit the candles. The Farm Street Choir, under the direction of David Graham, provided a stunning accompaniment to these solemn rituals, the highlight of which was the Salve virgo florens set by Christopher Walker, specially commissioned for the dedication by former parish priest Fr Andrew Cameron Mowat SJ, who was among the seventeen concelebrants.
Beyond cyclone Idai. Cyclone Idai, which hit Southern Africa in March this year, was one of the worst weather-related disasters to ever affect the Southern hemisphere. More than 900 people lost their lives across Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe and over 1.7 million people were affected and in need of immediate aid. In the weeks that followed, there were several cases of cholera and people faced a severe need for sanitation, shelter, food and general relief. The NGOD Fundação Gonçalo da Silveira (FGS), which belongs to the Portuguese Jesuits, was in Mozambique to carry out a survey of the damage caused by Cyclone Idai and to find out, from local partners, about the reconstruction work in progress. Although the priority of the intervention is still to ensure the feeding of the population and the recovery of their homes, the FGS and the partners in the field have already identified other essential infrastructures that will be subject to recovery. Thus, in partnership with the Archdiocese of Beira and the Jesuits of the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Province FGS identified two primary schools in need of intervention in rural areas and three more schools in urban areas. Another aspect of this visit to Beira, namely to the rural communities, has to do with their capacity for resilience, said Sandra Fernandes, adding: "It was very significant to be able to observe the importance of joint, collaborative and community work in responding to the difficulties generated by the passage of cyclone Idai. Only two months later, the communities rebuilt, with the natural resources at their disposal, some of the previously existing infrastructures, such as houses and community spaces. FGS, in consortium with the NGOD from the Portuguese bishops – Fundação Fé e Cooperação and VIDA Association, is continuing its fundraising campaign to help with the reconstruction of Mozambique. So far, the collection of donations from the "Somos Moçambique" Campaign has already raised 90,902,20€. Jesuit Missions in Great Britain launched an emergency appeal which raised over £100,000 to support the long-term rehabilitation process. In the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, food aid was distributed to those in need. Jesuit Missions is now working with Beyond Cyclone Idai, a project led by local Jesuits and other members of the Xavier Network across Europe. Together they will formulate a long-term plan of recovery and rehabilitation. There have been three priority areas identified: infrastructure, such as rebuilding schools, churches and residential areas, livelihoods and skills training, and food aid.
Jesuit Media Initiatives, in collaboration with the Diocese of Westminster Marriage and Family Life team, launch Where Two Are Gathered, a new series of 7 audio sessions designed for married couples to celebrate Marriage Week, which is running from the 13th to the 19th May. The project partly follows the success of the Advent reflections for married couples Imagining the Nativity. The sessions are designed to be more interactive than normal Pray As You Go resources: they allow couples space to discuss the questions and reflections together through an invitation to press pause at various points. Written by Stephen Hoyland, each one of them lasts between four to six minutes. They are voiced by newlywed actors Martin Delaney (known for his work in ‘Now You see Me 2’, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, and ‘Beowulf & Grendel’) and Emerald O’Hanrahan (‘The Archers’, ‘Silk’, ‘Father Brown’), both Catholic and who have already collaborated together with PAYG for the Significance Examen. The theme of Marriage Week 2019 is about the best ‘ingredients’ for a healthy relationship. It comes easy a comparison with cooking. One fun way of exploring this initiative, indeed, could be for the couple to spend some time together preparing a meal together. This implies teamwork and possibly not a little laughter if the culinary skill-sets of the two are not quite equal to the taskMeals require thought, adequate preparation and sometimes a little compromise to make sure that the ingredients and flavours meet the needs of differing palates. “The same applies to growing a healthy, life-long and sustaining marriage. The most memorable meals include a variety of courses and different flavours,” reflects Roger Carr-Jones, the head of Marriage and Family for the Diocese of Westminster. “Marriage brings together a ‘mix’ of different ingredients and it takes time to blend them together to produce a new way of existence. Sometimes everything is in balance and the flavours combine perfectly. At other times we need to revisit the mix, working together to ensure that the right balance is achieved and maintained, and that the flavours have not been dulled over time!” In daily life ready-made meals are available to be purchased: although not being always what the person needs, these provides just enough to meet the demands of work and family life. It is good to know that ready-made marriages are not available off the shelf, or if they were, it will soon be found that the product is not to our tastes or needs. What is needed, instead, is to find the right mix and proportions for every couple to enjoy a healthy, balanced and nourishing married life. The mix and proportions will change as the nature of the relationship grows and matures over the years. Sometimes adding a new flavour or ingredient transforms the zest and taste of the meal. The Pray As You Go new series of prayer exercises uses as its base ingredients Scripture, the Ignatian tradition and other Christian insights to provide a simple recipe, which can then be enjoyed blending together to make a tasty, exciting and balanced meal to feed the listeners’ marriage. It would be advisable perhaps for the couple to approach this time of prayer by asking first for the grace to look back on the ingredients which has made and currently make their marriage, to heal those times where the taste has been soured or the mix burnt, and to be given new insights as to the elements needed for the next course.