‘The hero’ was the title of a workshop led recently by education consultant David Tuohy SJ for chaplains and people who work with youth in Jesuit schools. David proposed ‘the heroic journey’ as a model of personal development, one that could provide both young people and their mentors with a positive and clear narrative. The workshop was part of a conference, held in Manresa, Spain, addressing the issue of how to speak about Jesus in a world of increasingly diverse visions. The attendants came from all around Europe. David’s theme was born out of his fascination with the constant presence in the history of education of the hero figure, offered to students for emulation. Even in Ancient Greece, the stories of the heroes were taught so as to inspire students to exert themselves for the good of the city state. And the same idea held later for the Roman empire, for Christianity, and for Renaissance humanism. In David’s view, this way of framing personal development in young people remains valuable. It can inspire them to think in terms of using their creativity so as to make a greater contribution to their world. The process of the heroic journey would inculcate attitudes and values in the young people which would give focus and purpose to their years of education. Listen above to David explaining the purpose of his workshop to Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications. https://www.jesuit.ie/news/we-could-be-heroes/
Irish Jesuit Edmond Grace has written a comic saga of poetry in four parts entitled 'Mad Messiah'. He writes from a different perspective in each part. Irish Jesuit Communications have recorded him reading his work. Mad Messiah is a poem cycle written and recorded by Edmond Grace SJ, self-confessed Dublin south-sider, aging Jesuit, bewildered male, and Irish Catholic. It’s poetry like you’ve never heard before – a funny, provocative, moving, commentary on modern life and the ancient quest to encounter the living God, particularly as revealed in Jesus Christ, Mad Messiah. Download PDF of contents and introductory material » Download PDF of full poem »   Mad Messiah I: Reptiles and the rising sun The first cycle – Reptiles and the Rising Sun - is a satirical take on middle class Dublin. Read More »   Mad Messiah II – Floating Eyes in Venice The second cycle – Floating Eyes in Venice – a satirical take on the Jesuits, including himself. Read More »   Mad Messiah III: Two Dead Israelites The third cycle – Two Dead Israelites – is about manhood – satirical or simply accurate? Read More »   Mad Messiah IV – Saving Jonah The fourth cycle – Saving Jonah – is a study of hatred. Of course, it’s also about Irish Catholicism
Jesuit religious wisdom, according to Michael Kirwan SJ, can be used to find light in dark times. Addressing the Boards of Management of Irish Jesuit schools in Clongowes, he both drew a grim picture of the breakdown of political culture in today’s world and identified grounds for optimism – an Ignatian way of converting the culture by embracing everything that is good in it. Looking first at the current age of political and cultural dysfunction, Kirwan noted the “crisis of truth and of liberal democracy” which has brought about a “return of fascism” – “a ‘postmodern’ intellectual culture, with its allergy towards grand explanations; a resistance to the claims of authority; a pessimism, even cynicism, with regard to the possibility of a shared vision for our communities”. We are in an age now of what Charles Taylor has called “the buffered self”, the thoughtless, self-protective individualism of the ‘modern subject’. In the course of his paper, Kirwan articulates how this modern sensibility has played itself out in western countries, in the US of Trump and the Britain of Brexit. There is in these phenomena, he notes, taking an idea from the British philosopher Gillian Rose, the sense of “a grieving process which is not going well”, grieving out of a “nostalgia for lost certainties”. All the signs of a mismanaged grief are there: “the hatred… the tribalism, the trolling, the name-calling, the fake news…” In the case of his own native Britain, Kirwan suggests that the matter is complicated further by “a tragically unresolved post-imperial history”. Hence Brexit – a “massive act of self-harm” and “an astounding and frightening expression of collective narcissism and selfishness”. The marginalisation or outright rejection of religion also forms part of this contemporary sensibility, but Kirwan does not find the fact altogether disquieting. He notes that the Church can survive – even thrive – as a minority, citing for example France’s two centuries of laicité, requiring it to become creative in its life and organisation. He identifies too a shift in the underlying culture, a move towards a post-secularist perspective, a recognition that some “vision of transcendence” is needed if society is not to collapse in upon itself. Kirwan’s optimism shows more decisively in the last part of his talk, when he considers education. How should Jesuit schools respond to the malaise as he has portrayed it? Essentially, he argues, they can draw on the wisdom of the early Jesuits who had an optimistic vision about human beings and their capabilities and immersed themselves in the study of all the sources of human wisdom made available to them. From their Greek and Roman studies they learned to appreciate the goodness of a civilisation that did not know Christ, so when they then went as missionaries to the East or Africa they showed this same “loving sensitivity toward the human”. They realised that “if they were to thrive they had first to learn the language and the customs, and to respect the traces of God already present there”. This “umbilical connection” between the work of education and the work of mission gives grounds for optimism. The schools need to cultivate “the whole person” and help to make them into ‘men and women for others’, “conscious of the needs of the poor and the demands of social justice”. It is in this way that the schools can remain “faithful to the vision and legacy of the Jesuits”. Read Michael Kirwan SJ’s full paper here »
Ministers of State Catherine Byrne and David Stanton launched the HSE’s National Intercultural Health Strategy 2018 – 2023 and celebrated the achievements of JRS Ireland’s Fáilte Project. The strategy seeks to address the health needs experienced by persons from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds who live in Ireland. The Ministers jointly launched the Intercultural Health Strategy for the next five years, in January 2019. Representatives of the Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland also attended the launch where JRS Ireland’s Fáilte Project was recognised as a model of good practice for supporting and enhancing the mental health and wellbeing of asylum seekers. Since 2017, the project has benefited over 1,000 individuals in the Balseskin Reception Centre through the provision of psychosocial services, education and training opportunities and the running of integration initiatives. Speaking at the launch, Fatima Mofokeng, a beneficiary of the Fáilte Project explained to attendees: “When I first arrived to Ireland, I did not know what to expect or how I would be received. The Fáilte Project helped me to feel like this was home and that I was welcome here.” Funded by the HSE National Social Inclusion Office, the Fáilte Project is an example of how to progress one of the 5 key goals of the new strategy, namely to strengthen working in partnership in order to enhance intercultural health. Áine Lambe, JRS Ireland’s Intercultural Project Worker told Irish Jesuit News, “The collaborative nature of the project has enabled JRS to draw on the resources of local community groups, NGOs, statutory agencies and asylum seekers themselves to deliver a diverse range of activities and supports.” Ms. Mofokeng concluded concluded her address to those gathered for the launch by saying that “The Fáilte Project was the beginning of my story in Ireland but I am now hopeful for my future here.”
Jesuits and colleagues who work in spirituality centres in Ireland, Britain and the Netherlands came together for their annual meeting in Drongen, Belgium, on 3-5 January 2019. The theme this year was communal discernment – in other words, how groups can learn to reflect well before making joint decisions. The main speaker was Franck Janin SJ, President of the Conference of European Provincials, and one of the founders of the ESDAC way of proceeding » of communal discernment, which is inspired by the pedagogy of St Ignatius and by contributions from the social sciences. He led the participants through two days of discovering in a practical way some aspects of what communal discernment is with a particular emphasis of working in small groups involving particular scenarios. First, the participants took time to pray with a theme alone and in silence. Second, they were split into small groups where everyone had the opportunity to listen and share their insights. Third, the whole group participated in a feedback exercise at a plenary session. The process very much underlined the power of prayer, listening and respectful sharing in terms of coming to some kind of consensus on a topic, as opposed to the normal debate model where there is often a power play with some people left excluded. A form of spiritual discernment, it invites individuals to speak their truth, confident that they will be respectfully listened to, and allows for new possibilities and creative thinking. On the final day, Bishop of Raphoe Alan McGuckian SJ presented a case study called the ‘Living Church’ project from Belfast’s Down and Connor Diocese, where he was the previous director. The programme uses these methods of listening, group work and consensus building to renew parish structures. The meeting was organised by the Peter Faber group of Jesuit retreat house directors and spirituality delegates, who are: Roger Dawson SJ, Piaras Jackson SJ, Bart van Emmerik SJ, David Smolira SJ and Brendan McManus SJ.
The 35th Annual Belvedere College Sleep-Out has taken place on 22-24 December 2018 on Dublin’s O’Connell Street and College Green. Some of the students involved met with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications. They spoke about the experience of doing the Sleep-Out last year. “I never realised how hard it could be to sleep on the ground.” They also talked about the homelessness crisis and the work that some Belvedere students do, meeting with people on the streets, offering them food and a chat. Harry Hamlet McGuire says that when they do go on the streets they keep in mind the words of Brother Eamonn Davis SJ: “He tells us that when we go down to meet the homeless that we don’t stand over people… We’re sitting down and kneeling next to them and we’re having a conversation with them… and we’re getting to know them”. According to Matt Grogan: “I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself… I’m fortunate enough that I have a roof over my head every night and there’s food on my table every morning, which I’m incredibly grateful for. And through the school I’m aware that there are people who aren’t as fortunate as myself… and I feel obligated to give back”. Kevin Owens who is taking part in the Sleep-Out for the second year in a row also spoke to Pat Coyle. Last year’s Sleep-Out raised just under 200,000 euro. Cormac Yalloway is really hopeful that they can get well over that amount this year. Whatever money they raise will be divided between the Peter McVerry Trust, Focus Ireland and Home Again.