The Jesuits in Central Europe found on April 27th 2021 a new Province. For this the Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Arturo Sosa SJ, appointed this Friday 31 July, on the Feast of St. Ignatius, a new Provincial, who will take up his office next year. The choice fell on Father. Bernhard Bürgler SJ, the present Provincial of the Austrian Province of the Jesuits. Munich/Rome, 31 July 2020 - Fr. Bernhard Bürgler SJ becomes first Provincial of new Central European Province. Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Arturo Sosa SJ, appointed him this Friday. Bernhard Bürgler will take office as the Provincial on 27 April 2021 upon establishment of the new province. It will replace the previous provinces of Austria, Germany, Lithuania-Latvia and Switzerland. Provincial in Austria Bernhard Bürgler is currently the Provincial in Austria and thus is one of the Jesuits who have been instrumental in preparing the merger over the past years. Consequently, he is well aware of the challenges awaiting him: ‘We can only convincingly present our way of life if we grow together to embody unity in diversity. To do so, we must shape our institutions and activities in view of the needs of our time and our limited resources’. He sees transnational collaboration as offering tremendous opportunities in this respect. “Our charisma as Jesuits is that we think in broader categories and act jointly. National differences will lose significance over time, which will enable us to more fruitfully disseminate the treasure of Ignatian spirituality in our engagement for faith and justice, in dialog with different cultures and in the quest for reconciliation.” Jesuit Superior General Fr. Arturo Sosa SJ emphasized in his letter of appointment that the new province will simplify apostolic planning: “The mission of the Society of Jesus has been universal and larger than the borders of countries or languages from its very inception. The structures of the order exist to facilitate this mission.” He also made reference to the universal apostolic preferences with which the order has defined the thrust of content matters for the coming ten years. The Superior General wished the future Provincial energy and vigour but also faith in God and serenity. A proven expert in the areas of spirituality, retreats, meditation and psychoanalysis Bernhard Bürgler is a proven expert in the areas of spirituality, retreats, meditation and psychoanalysis. The 60-year-old was born in Lienz in Austrian East Tyrol. After his secondary school leaving examination, he studied theology in Innsbruck. Upon completion of his studies, he worked in the German retreat house Haus Gries, which is operated by the Jesuits. After additional years as a religion teacher in Austria, Bürgler entered the Society of Jesus in 1991. After the novitiate he received his doctorate in theology and also received training as a psychotherapist. His activities in the order were that of Spiritual Director in the international Collegium Canisianum (Innsbruck), Director of the retreat house ‘Haus Gries’ (Wilhelmsthal), Area Director for spirituality and retreats in the Cardinal König Haus (Vienna). In 2014 he became the Provincial in the Austrian Province of the Society of Jesus. The rules of the Society of Jesus call for the Provincial to be appointed by the Superior General in Rome. As a rule, the term of office is six years. In addition to the administrative task of directing the province’s affairs, the central duties of a provincial include especially what is known as the “cura personalis”, or regular talks with each Jesuit about his work and life in the order. The new province will comprise 442 Jesuits at 36 locations in Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland.
We mourn Johannes Siebner. He died on June 16th in Berlin-Kladow in the Berlin community hospital Havelhöhe. At the end of January he was suddenly and unexpectedly torn out of his office as Provincial of the German Jesuits due to a brain tumor illness. This was the last and highest of many offices, which he now held with great devotion and joy. We mourn for our deceased confrere, and we mourn together with his mother and brothers and sisters. Johannes Siebner was born in Berlin on August 24, 1961. After graduating from the Canisius-Kolleg in Berlin, he first studied political science and Catholic religion. Particularly inspired by his commitment to youth work (KSJ) and by a longer stay on a kibbutz in Israel, he entered the Jesuit order in Münster in 1983. After his studies of philosophy in Munich, a two-year service with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Malaysia, after theological studies in Frankfurt Sankt-Georgen, priest ordination in 1992 in Cologne as well as additional studies and pastoral work in Erfurt he took up his first position as spiritual director of the KSJ and religion teacher at the Sankt-Ansgar-Schule in Hamburg in 1993. In 2001, he was appointed director of the international college St. Blasien in the Black Forest. In 2011 he will take up the post of Rector of the Aloisius-Kolleg in Bonn-Bad Godesberg. Twice his Province elected him as delegate to assemblies of the worldwide Order. During the 36th General Congregations Fr. General Arturo Sosa appointed him as the new Provincial Superior, also with the task of founding a new Central European Province together with the Austrian, Lithuanian-Latvian and Swiss Province. He took up his office as Provincial on June 1, 2017. Johannes Siebner's work was marked by the pastoral concern of the Order: "To help the souls". As youth pastor in Hamburg he renewed and profiled the concept of associational youth work, also beyond the Hamburg area. The pedagogical culture and also the leadership culture at the colleges in St. Blasien and Bad Godesberg shaped a thoughtful and inwardly acquired understanding of the spiritual tradition of the Order. His joy in and also his ability to engage in public discourse made him known far beyond the borders of the Order and made him a competent and sought-after dialogue partner, pastor, advisor and speaker. He participated in the foundation of the "Centre for Ignatian Pedagogy" (Ludwigshafen), whose foundations he laid by publications ("School is there for pupils - why parents are not customers and teachers are not parents", Freiburg 2011). In his many and varied activities, he has always remained an extremely humane, humorous, analytically clear and at the same time empathetic pastor. The exposure of abuse at Jesuit colleges and in the Jesuit order shook Johannes Siebner. He took over responsibility for the institutions towards those affected. In countless conversations with those affected, but also with families, years of former pupils, with employees and co-workers, he enabled individual and institutional reappraisal. He courageously intervened when those under his protection and those seeking protection turned to him. In extremely complex decision-making situations he endured hostility from the most diverse directions without losing sight of the goal, namely justice for the victims, protection for pupils and all those who entrust themselves to pastoral care. With this attitude, as Provincial he shaped pastoral standards and lived them himself. The early death of Johannes Siebner leaves a gaping void and fills us with great pain. Jesus, who called out to Johannen Siebner: "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep" (John 21:15), may he now be received by him. Impressive funeral in Berlin On Thursday 30 July was the impressive funeral of Fr. Siebner in the Canisius Church in Berlin. Together with Fr Jan Roser, vice-provincial, Tomasz Kot, assistant to P. General, Bernhard Bürgler, provincial of Austria and Christian Rutishauser, provincial of Switzerland, stood at the altar. Fr. Klaus Mertes provided a very personal and profound homily.  This celebration was broadcast live on the internet and can still be viewed here.
Summer special: on holidays with Ignatius. Munich - Since for many the classical vacation is cancelled this year, the Jesuits have come up with a summer action. We give you an Ignatius bag filled with good reading for tasting, because the motto of the bag is: "Tasting things from the inside". The bag is filled with Ignatius quotation with different exciting suggestions from the social, church area, with spiritual impulses or something especially Ignatian. Let yourself be surprised what lies in your Ignatius Bag. Our Ignatius Bag is Fairtrade. First of all it is more expensive than a conventional bag, but with it we make a small contribution to make the world a better place. Through ecologically certified production garbage is avoided. But what is almost more important: People get fair wages for their work. This creates justice and makes the world a better place. That is what this bag stands for and that is what drives us Jesuits. Here you can order the bag for free
The thematic orientation of the Jesuit Order is divided into four so-called preferences. What exactly this means and which contents these are, we present here in the course of the year preference for preference. It shall be shown what the preferences generally mean and how the order fills them with life. The first one concerns mainly the spirituality of the Order and how the Ignatian spirituality helps people to find God. When a young man decides to become a Jesuit, he initially enters the novitiate for two years. There he learns what it means to be Jesuit and above all he gets to know the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Thomas Hollweck SJ explains how to teach young men spiritually "to be Jesuit". He is the novice master at the Nuremberg Noviciate. The way to the noviciate When someone knocks at the door of the novitiate and comes in, possibly to become a Jesuit, I tell him somewhat pointedly: "I do not want you to become a Jesuit. My wish for you is that you can find your personal way in trust in God and make a good decision, whatever it may be in the end. If that becomes possible, that will be cause for celebration." The spiritual formation in the novitiate consists in this respect in a certain paradox: the young and sometimes not so young men should be able to discover, develop and appreciate more and more clearly their own personality with all its gifts and limitations, with head and heart, body and spirit, also with its quirks and possibilities, without being "made a Jesuit" by a program. If, however, in the course of the novitiate, someone has discovered and accepted himself more and more, and thereby - with inner peace and a lasting feeling of coherence - notices that his path in the order, that is, in a community with common projects, continues, then the novitiate should have contributed to his formation in such a way that he can credibly show himself and others that he is a Jesuit. Spirituality, not only the Ignatian spirituality, but every spirituality that breathes the Christian spirit of freedom of the children of God, gives room for a person to develop and in his own way - as he is just created and wanted by God - to find more and more the contexts of meaning in his life and to live "contact with God", which both are closely connected. Spirituality is nothing elevated, no whispering above the clouds, but to a large extent the way to deal with the immediate. What light or dark feelings someone is feeling right now; whether he has a lively access to his body or whether he neglects it in a top-heavy way; human openness and inner resistance; the questions that are currently on your mind; a memory from your own biography that is just becoming painfully or joyfully conscious; a hopeful daydream for the future or a disturbing dream from last night; how community life goes and how I deal with loneliness - whatever comes up and speaks to me is current "material" for spiritual life. Because everything belongs to my reality and belongs in the relationship with God, ideally wants to belong to it. The willingness and the feeling for it may grow in different contexts: - In the novitiate there are retreats built into several places, monthly days of reflection, daily times of explicit prayer and silence, also exercises in perception. When it becomes quieter around me and in me and my hearing grows, new things can become audible, but also old things that have long since wanted to tell me something. Encountering myself (which is not always easy and fun) and "God encounter" (even if it is often only groping and tedious and always incomprehensible) may follow a common path. - Likewise, the novitiate includes "experiments", that is, times when "experimentation", trying things out, being allowed to discover. Nothing must run perfectly or be crowned with success. But the willingness is needed to enter and to go further, to learn, insofar as life always teaches you something, if I do not block it. What does it show when you spend eight weeks in hospital helping out in the care sector and make sure that you meet people with respect and attention? What happens when two novices go on pilgrimage together for four weeks without money and have to ask for food and accommodation? How does loving go in meeting homeless people, the abandoned, speechless, prisoners, open-minded, church critics? How do I get in touch with young people, old people, sympathetic people and the others I meet? - And then there is the community. Not the easiest "spiritual place" for (prospective) Jesuits who understand more spontaneously the art of individual development and personal relationship with God. And yet (loosely based on Dietrich Bonhoeffer): Christ in others sometimes recognizes more than Christ in me. It is good to listen to him and to get involved with him. Moreover, there is the word of Jesus - probably spoken just for people who want to call themselves Jesuits and his companions: "Where two or three ...". Living with each other, the discussions in the group, working together, thinking, planning, wrestling, celebrating the Eucharist, organizing leisure time, also practicing to give honest and appreciative critical feedback, all contribute to the development of more personality, more self-confidence, more trust, more openness, more clarity. A convincing religious community does not work in single mode. What comes out in the course of the novitiate? It is always exciting. A living person, always, I hope. Sometimes a Jesuit at the same time. It should happen more often. Probably it would be a worthwhile way of life for many more people if they came up with this good idea. Thomas Hollweck s.J.
In the night from 22 to 23 June, the Heinrich Pesch House in Germany was bathed in red light. The conference house and hotel, which is run by Jesuits, has thus participated in the nationwide "Night of Light" campaign, which aims to draw attention to the plight of the event industry in the COVID 19 pandemic. Since mid-March the event industry has been largely at a standstill. The official regulations in the course of the Corona pandemic have deprived the entire event industry of the basis for its work. Due to the ongoing crisis, larger events are currently still prohibited until the end of October, which places heavy demands on companies and, as a consequence, on their employees. Of course, the industry is not alone with this problem. In contrast to other sectors of the economy, however, the service industry does not have the opportunity to make up for the losses it has suffered after the crisis or, for example, to produce "in stock" while the crisis is over. With the "Night of Light", those affected signalled their interest in a sector dialogue with politicians in order to discuss economically effective aid. The Heinrich Pesch Hotel and Meeting House is also affected by the effects of the pandemic and therefore took part in the nationwide campaign to set a shining example for the event industry. The hotel's long-standing technology partner, around GmbH from Mannheim, provided the necessary technical equipment. The company's technicians spent the whole of Monday installing and aligning the floodlights. Further information on the campaign is also available at
What is spiritually right will not be found in Corona times in the attitude of being right and knowing better, but it shows itself elsewhere, writes Klaus Mertes SJ in his editorial in the new issue of "Stimmen der Zeit".  "There is a place beyond right and wrong. There we meet." This sentence is regarded as one of the program sentences of non-violent communication. It is attributed to the medieval Sufi Mewlana Rumi. Of course, in an open society, there has to be a dispute about right or wrong. But there are situations in which the usual culture of debate fails because it is too obvious that the challenge is greater than a public interested in quick judgement can even grasp. The legitimate urge for certainty and predictability is then no longer served by reliable projections and forecasts. The avalanche is rolling, and we are all in it. This is also the case in these Corona days: the possibility of calmly weighing up between health policy gains and the economic and social, and in some cases health-related losses that are achieved by the drastic measures is limited. System logics collide which normally tend to work hand in hand - infection protection logic versus fundamental rights logic, protection of the health care system versus protection of the economic system and the social security system, solidarity versus proximity. Issues that until recently were the subject of controversy are now completely relegated to the background - as far as some personnel debates are concerned, one breathes a sigh of relief, and less so as far as other issues are concerned, such as the situation on the Turkish-Greek border or the climate problem. Our problem is now called a) corona and b) the consequences of the measures to contain corona. The billion-euro package to support the economy, which the Bundestag recently decided on, was unanimously approved - except by the members of one party because they considered the astronomically high amount, which will certainly not alleviate all the damage, to be too low. My gut tells me that even twenty or thirty billion more will not be able to fill the hole that has opened up. In Corona times, meanings from outside fail. It just doesn't work with commentary if you are rolling along in the avalanche yourself. Corona time is not a time for comments. A bishop in Switzerland, who speculated about Corona as a punishment from God, should only be mentioned here to name the own shame that one feels as a Catholic Christian in the face of such statements. The secular variant of the philosophy of history comes across as somewhat less unbearable: "The earth is pressing itself against man" (Jogi Löw). Certainly, we will probably have to think anew about globalization, also with regard to what it does to people. Otherwise, those voices that spoke hastily of "crisis as opportunity" have become quieter. One can philosophize about chances if one is socially secured, if one does not bear any responsibility for a medium-sized company, or if one does not have to support home schooling at the PC as a single, working mother, if sports clubs remain closed during the day, children suffer nightmares at night with the thought that they could infect their grandmother, and social contacts outside the own four walls are to be avoided. Even "solidarity" becomes more and more a confusing word, when old people are barked at in discount shops because they don't stay at home, although they are the ones who should be protected by social distancing. "There is a place beyond right and wrong..." I think of this sentence especially when I look at the political leaders. I would not like to be in their shoes right now. How is one to decide right and wrong beyond the place of right and wrong? In spring 2010, when the abuse scandal broke out with full force, I found myself in a place beyond the place of right and wrong. Together with the other people in charge, I held on to the sentence: "Whatever I do, it is wrong. So I'm doing the wrong thing I think is right." This is perhaps similar today to the Chancellor, the Minister of Health and other politically active persons, who are not only the executive organs of the findings of virologists limited to their own areas of responsibility, but also bear the political responsibility for decisions with enormous consequences. An insight similar to that expressed by Rumi is found with Ignatius of Loyola in the letter to Francis Borgias of July 5th 1552: "It may be that the same divine spirit moves me to it (to the one position) for one reason and moves others to the opposite (to the opposite position) for another reason. What is spiritually right will not be found in Corona times in the attitude of being right and knowing better, but beyond right and wrong through empathy, through a sense of responsibility and - let us say it calmly - through prayer. This text appeared in the "Stimmen der Zeit" in May 2020.   AUTHOR: Klaus Mertes SJ - born 1954 in Bonn Father Klaus Mertes SJ studied classical philology and Slavic studies in Bonn after his high school graduation in 1973. After joining the Jesuit order in 1977, he studied philosophy in Munich and theology in Frankfurt. Since 1990 he has been active in the teaching profession, 1990-1993 at the Sankt-Ansgar-Schule in Hamburg, 1994-2011 at the Canisius-Kolleg in Berlin, whose rector he was since 2000. Since 2011 he is the director of the international Jesuit College in St. Blasien. He is also a member of the editorial board of the cultural magazine "Stimmen der Zeit".