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.
Central-East Europe Novice Meeting in Split. This year's the central-east Europe novices meeting took place in Split, Croatia. It was the meeting of novices from Gdynia (Poland), Ružomberok (the Slovak and Czech joint novitiate in Slovakia) and Split. The meeting was held from the 6th of June until the 11th of June. The meeting began with a holy mass which celebrated in the Split cathedral by the archbishop of Split Marin Barišić in concelebration with the Jesuit novice masters and their assistants.  The Croatian novice master fr. Stipo Balatinac held the introductory word before the mass: “The place of our usual yearly meeting happens to be, trough rotation, Split. Here we have 15 novices that arrive from Gdynia led by their novice master fr. Piotr Szymanski. From the Slovak and Czech joint novitiate in Ružemberok, due to sickness, arrived only three novices and their master and his assistant: fr. Jan Adamik and fr. Ondrej Gabriš. Next to them here we have our seven Croatian novices, alongside with me, their novice master. I am pleased that our guests can not only see the oldest cathedral in the world, but also celebrate in it our Lord the best way, through the holy Mass. In this meeting we want to enrich ourselves spiritually and rest our bodies, especially in our already warm Adriatic Sea.” 40 years of Novitiate and the feast of St. Stanislaus Kostka. Sunday November 12th saw a festive commemoration of 40 years since the Jesuit novitiate was transferred from Zagreb to Split. To mark the anniversary, Fr. Zvonko Vlah SJ – one of the novices who at the time formed the first generation in Split – celebrated mass at the Church attached to the Novitiate building Vows 2017 in Croatia On Saturday, September 16, in Split, Croatia, three Jesuit novices have taken vows. They are Zlatko Brauchler (born on August 16, 1991 in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Germany), Dino Stanić (born on May 24, 1992 in Rijeka, Croatia) and Matej Zdravčević (born on January 11, 1992 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany). The Holy Mass was celebrated in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Split, Croatia. The main celebrant was Fr. Dalibor Renić SJ, provincial of the Croatian Province of the Society of Jesus. After the vows the new Jesuit scholastics have visited their families and friends. Now they are in Zagreb, studying philosophy at the Jesuit Institute of Philosophy and Theology. Let us all pray for their perseverance, spiritual and intellectual progress. May they surrender their lives completely to God, for His greater glory.
British and Croatian province celebrate. Philip Harrison SJ of the British Province was ordained to the diaconate on Saturday 25th November by Bishop Juan Vicente Córdoba Villota SJ, in the Iglesia de San Ignacio, Bogota Columbia, along with five other Jesuit scholastics from Mexico, Columbia, Brazil and Argentina-Uraguay. In his homily, the Bishop reminded those being ordained that the deaconate, which means service, would continue for rest of their lives because a priest is called always to serve. He concluded his homily with the words of St Ignatius taken from the Spiritual Exercises, that in the ordained ministry they might love and serve in all things. On Saturday, September 30, in Zagreb Cathedral, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Zagreb, Ivan Šaško ordained sixteen new deacons. Among them was one Jesuit, Petar Klarić. He was born on February 8, 1987, in Vidovice, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He entered the Jesuit novitiate in Split, Croatia in 2012. Before entering the novitiate, Petar studied theology in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the novitiate, he finished his studies in Zagreb. During magisterium he helped editing Jesuit magazine „Obnovljeni život“. Now he serves as a deacon in Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Zagreb.
On November 6th, we celebrated the anniversary of the Faculty of Philosophy and Religious Science, the Jesuit faculty in Zagreb. It was the second anniversary of the University of Zagreb. Our faculty is the youngest member of the academy - emphasized by Fr. Koprek and rector Boras of the University of Zagreb. Although only the University of Zagreb grew up in Jesuit roots. During the academic celebration there was also the promotion of new students of religious science and philosophy.