Twenty one young Jesuits, Scholastics and younger priests (up to 5th year of their priesthood), gathered together for the annual meeting at the Novice house in Split between 12th and 15th of July 2019. The agenda of this meeting was very busy and there were many issues discussed sharing different experiences during formation time, studies, regency and priestly life. During that time participants were also reading, reflecting and discussing the new Universal Apostolic Preferences given to the whole Society. Special accent was given on youth apostolate (Journeying with Youth) and a guest speaker was invited (Salesian Fr. Ivan Terse) so that participants could hear different experiences from other Religious orders concerning youth apostolate. Fr. Dalibor Renić, Provincial of the Croatian Province also joined the meeting answering different questions. Since our young priests and scholastics have been dispersed all over Europe (Croatia, Italy and Poland) it was an opportunity to gather and to know each other better, discussing and reflecting about our Jesuit identity in a time that lies ahead.
When one of my Jesuit brothers first proposed to participate in the initiative “Ultra Evangelization”, I thought this might be a very interesting experience. I had a vague idea of what the “Ultra Festival Europe Split 2019” (July 12th-14th) was (one of the biggest outdoor electronic music festivals in the world) and what young Catholics did in Split during those days, but that is all. However, after I accepted to participate at the festival, doubts started to creep into my mind: “What will I say to those people? What can I offer them?” I thought that it would perhaps be better if I said that I could not do it after all. But God in His love offered words of comfort. On the eve of the festival, I read these words from the Gospel of the following day: “Do not be anxious about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt 10:19-20). In short, Jesus was telling me to be still and know that He is God, that He is in charge. With that comfort, I went to bed. Upon arrival in Split the next day, several of us Jesuits went together to meet up with other participants. We arrived at the major seminary, our “base of operations,” and prayed before the Blessed Sacrament for a while before we headed out to the festival. We were reminded of Pope Francis’ encouragement to young Catholics to evangelize their peers, to go outside and to encounter them. Laying before God all my inadequacies and fears, I went with other participants to help the partygoers quench their physical and spiritual thirst by offering them free water and our testimony. In my head were Jesus’ words: “Do not be anxious… for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” As we were walking to our “field,” I was “distracted” from my fears by talking to my new friends. However, when we arrived at our destination and were divided into groups, the only question in my head was: “What now? How will I make ‘first contact’? What will I say to people when I approach them or when they approach me?” These and similar thoughts went through my mind. Then the interesting stuff began! We started approaching people and people approached us. “What are you doing here,” they would ask, and we would say to them that we were there to help people by offering them free water and, if they wanted, we could talk and even pray together. “Wow! What you are doing is great,” they responded. Some of them would then leave and continue partying, but some of them would remain and talk. Little by little, all of my fears left me and during the next three days, Jesus’ encouragement brought me strength, comfort, and security that He was in charge. We would talk about the key questions in life concerning meaning, purpose, and value. All of them were searching for God; all of them, like the woman of Samaria, were searching for living water that would quench their thirst. Of course, that does not mean they were aware of it, but in their hearts they knew that there is something more to life: for some of them it was love, for others a higher power. And this “more” was not something illusory, but something real. What the people participating in the “Ultra Festival” needed is a nudge or two in the right direction, and we as evangelizers tried to offer them exactly that without judging or condemning them, but by showing them the face of the merciful God through little acts of love and by our presence. Many of them did not know that God loves them, and upon hearing those words, some of them broke in tears. “Ultra Evangelization” was a great experience! I met so many people who searched for true meaning, purpose, and value in life. I encountered so many young Catholics eager to evangelize and serve their peers through little acts of love. I learned something about myself, about my inadequacies, but also how God can be glorified through them. Truly, one can meet God on Ultra. How? Come and see.
On Saturday, July 6, the Archbishop of Sarajevo, Vinko Puljić, consecrated the new parish church of St. Ignatius of Loyola in the Grbavica district in Sarajevo. The celebration began with the symbolic transfer of the church keys by kardinal Puljić to the parish priest Krešimir Djaković SJ. Then the relics of St. Ignatius were introduced in the church and laid down on the altar. The consecration was followed by a mass celebration. At the end of the celebration much thanksgiving was expressed towards so numerous concelebrants, but even more to benefactors who helped build the parish church in Grbavica.
Fr. Antun Cvek lived for the poor and in most cases, with the poor. He was caring them in his heart and in his mind. He got his nickname “the good ghost of Zagreb”” since he would usually work day and night for the poor, sick, needy and the neglected elderly of Zagreb for over 40 years. News of his death spread like wildfire trough Croatian religious and secular media as he was regarded as an extraordinary man and priest. Fr. Cvek was born in Zagreb, Bizek, February 10, 1934. After completing primary school in Vrapče, he enrolled in the School of Economics, where he studies the carmaker's craft. Subsequently, when he was already an employee of the Zagreb Electric Tram (ZET), he enrolled and completed his secondary economic school. In those years he reminisces that he was far from faith, but God has not parted from him. After an intense experience of Christ's presence, he realized that Christ is the purpose of life and that his own vocation is in the religious and priestly life. Thus, in 1967, at the age of 33, he joined the Society of Jesus' novitiate, then studied philosophy and theology in Zagreb at Jordanovac, and in 1974 was ordained a priest by the hands of Archbishop Franjo Kuharić. In 1968 he founded a small group with his fellow Jesuits to visit the old, sick and neglected people. Later, in 1975, as a chaplain at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Zagreb he also included parishioners to this group. He soon established a Community of Christian love as a spiritual and prayer support for field work of his charity. In 1990. from this apostolate, together with his closest associates, he formed a Catholic Association " Kap dobrote" (A drop of goodness). In 2002 he was a founding member of the Bishop Josip Lang Foundation. For years, regardless of weather conditions, fr. Cvek visited the neediest old and poor people who eagerly awaited him. He would visit them often on his bicycle, which became his staple, together with his “proverb” – “The most human needs, is a human”. With material help, he also carried Christ to the poor through the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist, which he considered to be his most valuable contribution. On the way, he did little repairs, using the knowledge he had acquired as a car bodyworker in ZET. He spent most of his religious life as a member of the Jesuit community in Palmotićeva, and last year as a member of the community at Fratrovac in Zagreb. He has presented his work and spirituality in four books: "The Social Way of the Cross", "From the Journal of Discarded", "I Live, yet I do not Exist", "Remember Me". For his work, and contributions to the people of Zagreb he won numerous awards, witch include; "City of Zagreb Award" (2003 and 2012), the annual award of the Association for the Promotion of Courage, Humanity and Honor "Pride of Croatia" (2008), the Republic of Croatia Award for Life Work in the Field of Humanitarian Work (2012), the annual Red Cross award "Merciful Samaritan" (2013). Croatian Radio and Television broadcasted in 2001 a documentary film about his life and work. He was buried on Thursday, May 30, at Zagreb's Cemetery Mirogoj.
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.