‘A day of great joy’. A Syrian family seeking refuge in Ireland has just been housed in the Cappolis Cottage, a small bungalow on the grounds of Clongowes Wood College. Khalad and Noor Al Sheblak arrived in the parish of Clane/Rathcoffey on Tuesday 10 December 2019, with their two small girls Dania and Taleen, both of whom were born in a refugee camp in Jordan. Over the last six months, the Jesuit community in Clongowes and a group of transition year students have been helping local parishioners to make possible the welcoming of a refugee family to Ireland in response to the plea made by Pope Francis that every parish around the world take in one refugee family and care for them.  Fr Michael Sheil SJ, rector of Clongowes, spoke about the process at morning assembly in Clongowes the day after the family arrived and made their home in the cottage. He said one of the conditions of a parish being able to host a family was that they could guarantee suitable accommodation. “The Jesuit Community was delighted to provide this guarantee by offering Cappolis Cottage, the small bungalow on the back avenue” In addition, he noted that “A small army of volunteers and a group of our own TY have worked to give the cottage a facelift.” He said that a great variety of events had taken place in the parish to raise funds to enable a proper reception for a refugee family. Fr Michael told the staff and pupils that “our offering the cottage is an important gesture of solidarity by Clongowes Wood College in the life of the parish,” before adding, “You will probably see Khalad and Noor and their girls from time to time on the back avenue and I hope that you will make sure to help them feel at home.”  The rector said that the Al Sheblak were one of the lucky few who have been able to escape from the suffering of being homeless refugees “just like the Holy Family all those years ago when God joined our human race and when for us and for our salvation He came down from Heaven and became man.” Read Fr Michael’s full address to the students below. Read more https://www.jesuit.ie/news/featured-news/a-day-of-great-joy/
Although Christmas and the New Year bring families and friends together – a celebration of joy and happiness – it can also be a time of high stress and anxiety. Brendan McManus SJ, author of Finding God in the Mess and Deeper into the Mess, offers ten tips for keeping balance and good mental health over the festive season, drawing on the wisdom of the founder of the Jesuits, St Ignatius of Loyola. AN IGNATIAN GUIDE TO SURVIVING CHRISTMAS Ignatius Loyola is often stereotyped as a gloomy ascetic whose strictness ruled out having any fun at all. People find it hard to believe the story about Ignatius breaking into a Basque jig in order to cheer up a sad Jesuit, or alternatively Ignatius promoting wellbeing, laughter, and cheerfulness. Ignatius would say live Christmas to the full, make it rich and meaningful, and let God’s light shine! Essentially practical as usual, this is the application of Ignatian wisdom to Christmas. Here, the advice is formulated in terms of 10 simple guidelines (Ignatian points in brackets): Have a happy and holy Christmas, recover the sense of wonder and genuine joy at the heart of it! It’s all about Christ. This should be self-evident but unfortunately, it has been sidetracked such that Santa Claus is now the main (fictitious) character, or worse, Christmas is reduced to some sentimental feeling linked to having certain products, fuelled totally by advertising. Christ is God coming into our world and darkness in order that we might live in love and be light. (the incarnation is God becoming human in order that we might live transformed) It’s about a ‘gift that keeps on giving’, but its nothing to do with commercialism. We have been given a present of immeasurable worth, a line to heaven, and this requires seeing to the heart of things and being present. The ego gets in the way however, as selfishly, it thinks about acquiring things and building up superficial self-reliance and pride. Real joy, however, consists in being free of things and living our divine nature, God working through us to mend the world. (spiritual freedom is about letting go and letting God; it brings real, lasting joy) ‘Made in a mess’. The Christmas story is about a baby born in less than ideal circumstances, in a cowshed, amidst the straw and the mess. Therein lies our hope; God is present to the mess and clutter of our lives. It is miraculous and a thing of wonder, a ‘silent and holy night’. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, Christ is with you. (God is present in the experience and lived reality of our lives) The central image is light in the darkness. We need to be tuned to our own darkness and that of the world, in order to appreciate the wonder of light. It transforms everything and gives us new sight. Let’s stop pretending and do an honest stocktake of our light and shadows; real prayer will transform our lives with purpose and direction. There is always a new beginning and a new start offered, make sure you take it. (prayer is being real with God, transforming empty lives and making good choices) Keep yourself in balance. Christmas is often a fraught time with plenty of excess and tension, things can easily blow up or get out of control. It is just another day, however, and our job is to keep ourselves in good shape as much as possible, appreciating the gifts of family, friends, meals, drinks, movies, etc., but avoiding the downsides of these. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. There is often a point where things start to go from good to bad, and we need to recognise these when they happen and take steps to keep our light shining. Knowing what you need to do or avoid to stay well and happy can be a great help; decide in advance. (keep yourself in balance before all the things of the world; use them insofar as they bring us to God/Light) Give people the benefit of the doubt. An important Ignatian principle is to put the best interpretation on people’s behaviour, works, and deeds. This can be particularly challenging at Christmas, a time of heightened emotion and drama, where tensions can erupt. Not jumping to conclusions or getting swept up in strong emotions can help alleviate many unnecessary dramas. (put the est interpretation on people’s intentions, actions, and words) Lower your expectations. Being clear about what you want or desire is key in Ignatian spirituality. Seeking after the wrong things, e.g. unlimited happiness or a blissful time free of problems is setting yourself up for failure. Instead, focus on others and how you might contribute, you will never go wrong with that. (God is present in our deepest desires, not the superficial ones) Think of those less well off. It’s a bit of a truism but Christmas is about helping others, giving from an open heart and getting out of your comfort zone. Join some of the many voluntary and charitable works to shift the focus outwards. Better still, think of someone that you need to be reconciled with, make an effort to include someone who is suffering or invite someone who has no-one. There is no shortage of people in need; real happiness is in giving away, not accumulating. (love shows itself more in deeds than in words; love consists of a mutual sharing of gifts) Christ has a message for you specifically. St Ignatius says that God is always trying to reach us, has a very specific message for us and is present in unexpected ways. What could God be saying to you this Christmas? What do you have to listen for? Where are the spaces in your life for prayer and reflection? What would it mean to listen, engage and live differently from love this Christmas? Make it real, just do it! (God communicates with each of us directly and individually) What is your life about? Christmas marks the ending of the year, the time of greatest darkness in the northern hemisphere. Take some time to look back over the last year. What are you grateful for, what do you regret, what forgiveness do you ask, how could you live the next year differently? (reflect back over your experience in order to make better future decisions)
The launch of the DCU Jesuit Library Partnership took place in All Hallows College Dublin on Tuesday 1 Oct at 4.30 pm. The Irish Jesuit Provincial Leonard Moloney SJ and Brian MacCraith, (front of photo) President of Dublin City University signed a partnership agreement in which the Jesuit Province confirmed the transfer of its renowned Milltown Park library collection to Dublin City University. Professor MacCraith said the library would mark “a massive advance for the university but also for scholarship in general in Ireland. It will be a great resource for anyone interested in the areas covered by the library.” Daire Keogh, (photo back left) Deputy President of Dublin City University who played a key role in the negotiations surrounding the move, said the partnership “will transform the student experience”, in the university. Professor Keogh was speaking at the launch (listen here) attended by Jesuits, colleagues, former Milltown staff, and current staff and students from DCU. He said the library transfer was not a ‘transaction’ but a ‘partnership. “Effectively what has happened is that the Milltown Park community and the Jesuit Order have decided to move their library here where we will mind it for them… It’s not about ownership but it’s a way of maximising its accessibility and again it’s a way of inviting students to engage with the collection.” Commenting on the quality, range and academic value of the books in the library, Daire Keogh said, “It’s a hugely significant collection in terms of classical, and contemporary theological issues.”  He said the library will be of great benefit to the 400 students in DCU in taught under-graduate and postgraduate studies many of whom are studying theology along with the 20 postgraduate research students. As well as housing an impressive collection of philosophical and theological works spanning many centuries, the library also hosts significant books in the field of literature and history. The transfer of the library to Woodlock Hall in the All Hallows campus is a mammoth task involving the registering of 140,00 volumes that are subsequently packed into 25,000 boxes. In an attempt to give a sense of the size of the library Daire Keogh said that if all the books were laid flat, one after the other from  All Hallows outwards they would reach back to Milltown Park or beyond!
The Blessed John Sullivan Exhibition as part of National Heritage Week attracted an audience of 800 people in the People’s Church, Clongowes Wood College SJ, County Kildare, on 25 August 2019. The event, which featured a large collection of newspaper articles on the Irish Jesuit and an audio-visual display on his family, was launched by Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin with the Rector of Clongowes, Michael Sheil SJ, and Conor Harper SJ, Vice Postulator for the cause of John Sullivan, also addressing the audience. The exhibition had its origins at the National Ploughing Championships last year. Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, who organised the Jesuit stand at the event, invited Cait Cullen to display images of John Sullivan at the stand. Cait, who is from the Clane area, has been a tireless promoter of the cause of Blessed John Sullivan for many years, and recently received a papal benemerenti medal for this work. The interest shown in the John Sullivan section at the stand and requests for additional information prompted her to organise an exhibition in Clongowes. She then collaborated with the John Sullivan Exhibition Team, a group of lay people in the locality who have provided assistance to the Jesuits with John Sullivan events in recent years. The exhibition ran from 2 to 5 pm in the People’s Church in the College. The numbers that attended exceeded all expectations. There were long queues at the entrance, which prompted the organisers to extend the opening hours to 6 pm. The newspaper articles featured in the exhibition dated from 1865 to 2017. They were taken from almost twenty different regional and national newspapers. Some of the earlier ones related to history of John Sullivan’s family, but the greater number concerned his pastoral work, his funeral in Clongowes in 1933, and the exhumation and transfer of his remains to St Francis Xavier Church, Gardiner Street, Dublin, in 1960. More recent articles covered the annual Clongowes Mass and Blessed John’s beatification in Dublin. Articles on the ecumenical dimension of his life also featured. John Sullivan was a member of the Church of Ireland tradition for the first half of his life and a Catholic in the second half. The Church of Ireland was represented at the event by Deacon John Hillis. It is intended to show the exhibition at other venues in the near future. And once again, some of these traces of Blessed John’s life and influence will be on display at this year’s National Ploughing Championships, which will be held from 17 to 19 September in Fenagh, County Carlow. Jesuits in Ireland
Gavin T. Murphy, mental health and well-being blogger, speaks to Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications about the publication of his first book entitled Bursting Out in Praise: Spirituality and Mental Health with Messenger Publications. In the interview, he describes a typical day in his life trying to live well with bipolar disorder, and he encourages the general public to live a balanced life too. In Bursting Out in Praise Gavin takes the reader through the six steps of his journey to better mental health, drawing on the wisdom of St Ignatius of Loyola, St Hildegard of Bingen and St Francis of Assisi and well-known mental health experts. Editor of Messenger Publications, Donal Neary SJ, asked Gavin to write the book after hearing him present a series of reflections on RTE Radio One’s A Living Word programme. Gavin expanded on these reflections to include research while studying for an MA in Applied Spirituality at Waterford Institute of Technology. Speaking to Pat Coyle, he hopes the book will encourage readers to ‘burst out in praise’ in the midst of pain or suffering. Click here to listen to the interview
Brendan McPartlin is a member of the Jesuit community in Churchill Park, Portadown, in Northern Ireland. Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications visited him there recently. She spoke with him about the Jesuit ministry in the Portadown-Craigavon area since it began in the early ’80s with the late Paddy Doyle SJ, former Irish Jesuit Provincial. In those day the Jesuits came to Churchill Park on the Garvaghy Road to simply be a presence to the beleaguered people who lived there who suffered from poverty and sectarian violence. The area made world headlines when the Orange Order demanded the right to march through this nationalist area. In this interview, Brendan explains how nowadays the situation for the people is much improved. The area itself is in much better shape. The Orangemen still demand the right to march down the Garvaghy Road but are not allowed to, though they still march to the start of the road every week before being turned back, says Brendan. The violence has stopped, but the Jesuits are involved in reconciliation and building the peace, work that must go on, according to Brendan. He discusses the cross-community work they are involved in, including his hosting of a theological study group in the house in Churchill Park which is attended mostly by members of the protestant community. One of the big changes in the locality over the last 10 years has been the arrival of migrants from Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia. The Portadown-Craigavon area has the largest density of migrants in Northern Ireland. According to Brendan, they are hard-working people who have helped improve the local economy, often doing jobs that others are reluctant to take on. The Jesuits have set up the Migrant Support Service in Portadown to assist the migrant community. Portadown’s Drumcree Community Trust is chaired by Michael Bingham SJ, and it has employed two part-time, bi-lingual support workers to work with the children of immigrant families in the area. The two, one Polish and the other Portuguese, are assisting primary school children with their homework and with integration into the Community Centre activities. Brendan works with lay people in the centre providing advice and support in a variety of ways as he explains in this interview. Listen to the interview https://www.jesuit.ie/news/still-building-the-peace/