München/Wien/Zagreb - The three Provincials of the Jesuit Provinces Austria (Fr. Bernhard Bürgler SJ), Germany (Fr. Johannes Siebner SJ) and Croatia (Fr. Dalibor Renic SJ) declared on Friday afternoon with immediate effect the withdrawal of the Jesuits from the Asociation "Loyola-Gymnasium" (ALG). The general meeting of the ALG Board had previously withdrawn the trust of the director of the ALG, Father Axel Bödefeld SJ, with the majority of the members and had decided his immediate release. Fr. Bernhard Bürgler SJ, who was Chairman of the ALG Board until yesterday, explained: "We very much regret this decision, as ALG has developed very well in recent years. Unfortunately, this step was unavoidable, as the majority of the members of the association has no confidence in the Director and do not appreciate his current work; furthermore, this group does not support the basic orientation that the Order desires for the ALG. We have committed ourselves with considerable personal and financial effort to this project and this country. Especially the work with the Roma and the Ashkali is an important accent for us, but it is not supported by the majority of the supporting association. The new project of a vocational school, which trains Kosovar youths for Kosovo, is very far advanced in its preparation and finds broad support in politics and economy. But here too, the support of the sponsoring association is lacking. Without the trust in the people involved, our commitment here in Prizren unfortunately has no future. We know that we are disappointing many people here with this decision. We are also aware of our responsibility towards many institutional and private supporters and benefactors (e.g. Renovabis), which is why we have to take this step now". In the supporting association ALG, from which the three Jesuit provinces have left, there are further members: Albanian Youth Action, Apostolic Administration of Prizren, Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund Landesverband Sachsen e.V., Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund Ortsverband Neustadt/Sachsen e.V., Congregazione delle Suore Angeliche di San Paolo, Freunde und Förderer der Asociation "Loyola-Gymnasium" e.V., Grünhelme e.V., Kosova Alternative Education, Loyola-Stiftung, Marianne-und-Rudolf-Haver-Stiftung, Stellaner-Vereinigung Deutschland e.V. The “Asociation ALG” was founded in 2003, and school and boarding school operations began in 2005. The state-approved private grammar school with a boarding school for girls and a boarding school for boys is unique in Kosovo in its kind and orientation; it is very successful and in great demand. One of its special features is the German lessons at a high level. Six years ago a primary school was also founded; this project in the historic centre of Prizren is also extremely successful. With the "Loyola Tranzit" project, the ALG has built a bridge to disadvantaged children and young people over the past two years. In the social education centre, pupils of the ALG are particularly involved in teaching Roma and Ashkali children in a protected atmosphere, supervising their homework and preparing them for attending a regular school. Pictures: The ALG Prizren stands for a perspective of local youth in the spirit of understanding. The boarding school is open to girls and boys of all ethnicities and faiths. Since the beginning of the 2013/14 school year, there has been also a Loyola primary school in the historic centre of Prizren.
This March, the Croatian province had the pleasure and joy of hosting Fr. General Arturo Sosa. One of the main reasons for Fr. General's visit to Croatia was the commemoration event of the 350th anniversary of the University of Zagreb founded on pre-existing Jesuit faculties, as well as the 30th anniversary of the Jesuit Faculty of Philosophy and Religious Sciences in Zagreb. Attending, were also the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, the Vice-President of the Croatian Parliament, Mr Željko Reiner, the Minister of Science and Education of Republic of Croatia, Mrs Blaženka Divjak, the rector of the University of Zagreb, Mr Damir Boras and other dignitaries. This day of celebration ended with a meeting between Fr. Sosa and the Croatian Jesuits, during which Father General presented the four universal apostolic preferences. The second day was marked by a trip to Osijek to meet the professors and students of the Jesuit Classical Gymnasium. Later, Fr. Sosa presided over a Eucharistic celebration at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Zagreb, where Fr. Hrvoje Mravak, Fr. Mate Samardžić and Br. Ivan Olujić took their final vows. The celebration was followed by an encounter with lay collaborators and benefactors of different Ignatian institutions, associations and works. Fr. General's last day kicked off with a meeting with the mayor of Zagreb, Mr Milan Bandić. Last but not the least, he shared a moment with the elderly Jesuits at the infirmary before heading to the European Center for Jesuit Formation to meet the young Jesuits living there.
JRS and the Croatian Ministry of the Interior signed an agreement on the integration of refugees The head of the Jesuit Refugee Service of South Eastern Europe (JRS), Father Tvrtko Barun, and the Croatian Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović signed a new Cooperation Agreement for the Integration of Resettled Persons from Turkey in late December 2018. The resettlement program is an expression of international solidarity and responsibility sharing among the countries which have experienced a significant influx of refugees or which have provided home for many of them. The program is also an internationally agreed strategy for the management of migration, the decrease of illegal migration, and the prevention of human trafficking, all of which refugees are often exposed to. In addition, the resettlement of citizens from developing countries or civilians without citizenship enables refugees and resettled individuals in need of international protection a legal and safe entry into EU countries, where they are provided with the necessary protection. Based on two government decisions from 2015 and 2017, Croatia is required to accept 250 refugees. So far, 152 people from Syria have been accepted and successfully integrated into Croatian society based on the first decision. This resulted in a second decision, as well as the new agreement between the Croatian Ministry of the Interior and JRS for a period of thirteen months, which presents the basis for the integration of the remaining 100 refugees. The activities for the admission and complete integration will be conducted by the JRS, while the Ministry of the Interior will finance the process using EU funds. Fr Tvrtko Barun SJ receives new awards Fr Barun has already received numerous international and national recognition for his work, including, among others, the European citizen’s prize, given by European Parliament in 2017. Recently, he was awarded the prestigious “Mašović-Vincetić-Nikolić” human rights award by the Croatian Helsinki Committee for his contribution in promoting religious tolerance, inter-religious conversation, and ecumenism. He was also recently given special recognition by the Association for Religion Freedom in the Republic of Croatia. Both awards testify to Tvrtko Barun’s professional and personal dedication to the Jesuit calling and the mission of JRS. As always, Fr Barun dedicated these awards and recognition to the staff and volunteers of JRS, with whom he works daily for the well-being of refugees. Christmas Lunch with a Refugee  For the third consecutive year, the Jesuit Refugee Service Croatia successfully carried out a campaign "Christmas Lunch with a Refugee". During these three years, around hundred of Croatian families, including religious communities, hosted for a holiday meal, in the atmosphere of friendship, warm welcome and hospitality an equal number of refugee families from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and other countries - families hoping to build a new life in Croatia in peace and security.  This campaign also served to raise awareness of the rights and needs of refugees across the local community. Fr Tvrtko Barun SJ, the director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) for Southeast Europe said that the goal of this project is to connect two worlds, refugees and the local community, thus helping the integration of refugees into Croatian society. "Christmas lunch as a setting for intimate connectedness of family members, where families invite strangers, refugees, is a strong symbolism in terms of integration, sharing of customs and culture, and creating new friendships that will help people achieve a better life," Barun said, and added that this event is often a beginning of a year-round social gathering, where new opportunities are opened, both for language learning and for finding job and spreading the circle of acquaintances and support. Guided by the invitation of the Jesuit Refugee Service Croatia to recognise the hope of many of today's refugee families in the spirit of Christmas, numerous members of the Raffai family from Zagreb, this year hosted ass many as three refugee families - an Iranian married couple with whom they have been in contact and their friendship lasts since last year's Christmas lunch, a single mother with three sons from Syria and a young five-member Syrian family. Though from different parts of the world, these families gathered in a small living room of the host with a big heart. They all concluded: "we are now a family and lifelong friends".  
It has been three months since the Slovenian deacons visited us in Croatia. During the Easter week, the Croatian scholastics visited them in Slovenia. Our trip started after the morning mass on Easter Tuesday. The first destination was Ljubljana, where we were kindly greeted by fr. Marko Pavlič from the community of St. Joseph. Fr. Marko was our main contact in Slovenia and co-organizer of our trip. The superior of St. Joseph community, fr. Damjan Ristić, presented the life and work of his community and the work of the recently founded "Jezuitski kolegij v Ljubljani" (a Jesuit-led collegium/student dorm). Among other things, fr. Damjan informed us that the St. Joseph church was given back to the Society only after the fall of communism in Slovenia. During communism, the church was used as a film studio. In the afternoon, we went to visit the Jesuit parish Dravlje on the outskirts of Ljubljana. Upon returning to the St. Joseph community we visited the "St. Stanislaus Institute". This institute is an elementary and a high school that was co-founded by the Jesuits and the diocese of Ljubljana. The Institute is now led only by the diocese. Next day we visited the famous Postojna cave, the Predjama castle and the beautiful Lake Bled. On the final day, we visited the community in Maribor. Our host there was fr. Marjan Kokalj, the spiritual director of the Magis collegium. Apart from the college, the Jesuits in Maribor are running a parish church. The Archbishop of Maribor msgr. Alojz Civkl is also a Jesuit. He was recently ordained a bishop, in the time the diocese went through a major financial crisis. After the visit to Maribor, we went to see Stična, the only Cistercian abbey in this region. And to further deepen the experience, on our way back to Croatia we visited the only Carthusian abbey nearby, Pleterje. All in all, we have perceived what are the joys and struggles that the Jesuit in Slovenia are facing. On one side, there are small numbers of believers, a lot of hostilities from the city authorities, university and the state towards the Church itself. Lest we forget the financial debts of the local Church. On the other side, all the Jesuits we met in Slovenia were so enthusiastic and positive that we went back to Croatia with a new courage and ideas that could be applied in our province. We believe that this trip was one of the many things we as two neighboring provinces should do to improve our friendship and cooperation.
It was a symbolic handshake, one of peace in the spirit of St. Ignatius, that kicked off a day-long encounter between us (eight scholastics in their philosophy cycle and one in his regency) and 3 Slovene scholastics (Marko Pavlič, Rok Bečan, and Egon Hriberšek). The event took place on Saturday 20th at the formation centre of Fratrovac. The initial mass was one of thanksgiving to the Lord for such a moment of grace. In his homily, Fr. Cindori shared a very meaningful message to any Jesuit: the world is our home and we must be willing to go where others do not. After mass, we headed to the Croatian Zagorje and visited Veliki Tabor, a castle very close to the Slovenian border. The castle is of particular interest to us Jesuits, as it was here that Fr. Nikola Ratkay, a 17th century Jesuit missionary in India, was born. Having had a good dose of history, it was time for lunch and friendly discussions at Grešna gorica, a local Croatian restaurant. We wrapped up the day by a visit to the Shrine of St. Mary in Marija Bistrica. The rector himself, Fr. Matošević, recounted the history of the shrine and was kind enough to invite us to the parish house, where he shared with us what is a usual day like on the site. By then, our fellow Slovene scholastics had to return home in preparation for Sunday’s apostolic work. Next time, it will be their turn to host us. We hope to meet them soon.
„Try to win our students for a social engagement!” Father Axel Bödefeld SJ has a desire for the students of his Loyola High School which is regarded as the best school in Kosovo. Ignatian pedagogy aims more than best results in comparative tests. It wants the elite students to receive an education for their hearts, too. One day I encounter Saide on the street. 15 Cents is what she gets for a kilo of metal garbage. With her old wheelbarrow she has stopped along the street in order to take a rest. In a dirty puddle she is washing her face. She takes me by the hand and introduces me to her neighborhood, to every house and family. I find myself in the Roma quarter “Tranzit”, right next to the high way. Here, the need is biggest – this is where I want to take the Loyola students. Loyola High School and Tranzit are two extreme worlds. On the one hand the sharp looking EU-colored uniforms with bright yellow tie, worn by Albanians of good families, on the other hand ratty street clothes with muddy boots, worn by children that never went to school. 95% of Kosovars are Albanian. With Roma they do not want to have any contact. Supposedly during 1999’s Kosovo war the gypsies were fighting alongside with the Serbs against Albanians – this is used as legitimation of the hatred. In order to escape the prejudice, many deny their identity as Roma and call themselves Ashkali. Will it be possible to build a bridge between the two worlds? Overcoming the wall will be healing for both sides. Loyola can bring education, uplift, recognition, perspectives and a new creative joy to Tranzit. But Tranzit can help Loyola and its students too: with a more responsible and reconciled life, with a deep formation of personality. Who can help me to overcome the wall? My superior advises me to contact Ruth Zenkert from whom he once learned first steps in social work. Today she is building up social projects together with Father Georg Sporschill SJ in abandoned Roma settlements (http://www.elijah.ro/en/). I write an email to ask for a skype meeting. Instead she proposes me to visit her and her work “Elijah”. I follow her invitation with the plan to stay for three days. Quickly I realize that I find what I am searching for: Living together with Roma, instead of working for them; sharing life instead of helping. Empowering each other by exchanging gifts. And in all that: finding God. I stay and dive in, for three months – in order to receive my formation by the spirit of Elijah. Back in Kosovo I take up my relationships to the Ashkali of Tranzit and the students of Loyola. The bridge building between the two worlds starts. Two Loyola students have the courage to accompany me to Tranzit. Leila and Premton open the gate to the other Loyola students. Their friends feel being needed now. In a little while, a wave of youth is ready to step in. They realize how they can change the world: In Tranzit, almost nobody goes to school, the young ones cannot learn to read and write. Loyola students become teachers. Every day they visit Tranzit to bring the kids the alphabet. Our first classroom is a carpet outside right in front of the barracks. Turning the downtrodden into upclimbers is the goal. The kids are bursting with joy when they see the Loyola minibus arriving. The elder youths though are cursing, blocking, violating. But then a key moment changes everything. A tractor bangs into the first classroom we rented in Tranzit. The driver crushes through the windows. He is badly injured. That moment the elder youths understand that they can achieve more than disturbance. They can save life. In the wheelbarrows they normally use to collect garbage they take care of the broken glass and the injured driver. From this moment on two of them – Ramize and Ramadan – are on our side: not against, but for and with us. Their comrades follow them. They are the ones that can open up Tranzit’s Ashkali community from the inside and invite the anxious Loyola students to step into a relationship. They convert the helpers into friends. Every child can earn an instrument Elijah is the model for our bridge building project “Loyola Tranzit”. We start with a music school. It is the secret heart of the community. Every child can learn an instrument and thereby even more than music. Our music teachers are Albanians. They managed to overcome the wall separating them from gypsies. Marigona, our teacher of transverse flute, lives herself at the border of an Ashkali quarter. When introducing me to her neighbor families, she asked them for forgiveness – “for all these years I did not even greet you”. Loyola students, volunteers, music teachers, the difficult and problematic ones experience, how responsibility for others transforms their own lives. We count on the change of roles. At Elijah, former street children now are the best social workers, musicians, community builders. When they came to Kosovo to help us spark the fire for music, they were models for the Tranzit kids. In Loyola Tranzit, students become teachers. They achieved that every child now goes to school. Ramadan, Ramize and their comrades are way too old for school, but they asked us to give them intense courses to gain a school certificate. The former troublemakers became the pillars of our community. Ramadan helps the younger kids with their homework and Ramize is the coordinator of the Kindergarten. Where lies their future? Elijah paves perspectives through education: Bakery, carpentry, home economics, weaving mill, butchery, agriculture. Which perspectives can we open up for Ramadan and Ramize? In the communities of Elijah and Loyola Tranzit we pray together, every day. Ecumenical in Romania – Catholics and Orthodox, interreligious in Kosovo – Christians and Muslims. To the forming of a community there is probably no stronger instrument than praying together. And no more beautiful end. Elijah and Loyola are partners. I often go to see Georg Sporschill, loaded with questions. What do I do with parents that use their children to blackmail us: only if we give them new shoes, they give us their kids? How do I treat the employee that causes more problems than he solves? What do I tell the Loyola students that lost their motivation after the fire of the first hour? We do not find answers, but the next step. Together we are constantly struggling for the Good Spirit, the Jesuit Magis, the Ignatian way of proceeding. In Georg Sporschill I found a companion, consultant, advisor. The spirit of Elijah encourages us in Loyola Tranzit. What is our shared goal? At the end of many discussions, we came up with a mission statement: Where are you staying? LOYOLA TRANZIT lives community, where Europe is separated: between east and west, young and old, abundance and misery, Roma and non-Roma. The need inflames us. Like Ignatius of Loyola we fight for justice. With fire and gratitude. For the children and their families. Music, relief, education, prayer – finding God in all things. Come and see! This is the mission Elijah lives. In Loyola Tranzit, we try to share it with our Muslim friends. At the end of my regency I entrust the new social center we started to build in Tranzit to my successors. My hope is that it will be filled with the spirit of two Jesuit works: Elijah and Loyola Tranzit.