Pádraig Ó’Tuama is a poet, theologian, and friend of Dr Kevin Hargaden of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice.  He is also a broadcaster and former leader of the Corrymeela Community of peace and reconciliation in Belfast. In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, he tells the story of a fascinating ‘process-workshop’ he developed with his close friend Glenn Jordan, also a theologian and Corrymeela member. Concerned about the divisive and coarsened discourse during the Brexit referendum Glenn and Pádraig decided to examine the whole issue of ‘borders and belonging’ using the Old Testament story of Ruth as a focal point. They took the workshop on the road offering it to parishes and festivals across Ireland, Wales, England, Scotland. There was great buy-in from parishioners, with as many as 500 turning up in some places. Later Pádraig published a book based on the whole experience entitled Borders and Belonging – The Book of Ruth: A Story for Our Times which was co-authored with Glenn. Unfortunately, Glenn died suddenly in June 2020. May he rest in peace. Click on this link to listen to Pádraig’s interview about this journey of post-Brexit healing.
Brian Lennon SJ’s new book, Mary Magdalene and the Gardener: Women Leaders in the Church  (Messenger Publications), is an examination of the spiritual significance of Mary Magdalene’s relationship to Jesus, the trans-historical significance of the resurrection and the contemporary question of the role of women in the Church. According to the Irish Jesuit, Mary Magdalene might be the most misunderstood person in the story of Jesus. Yet, she was the first person to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection and she first took the good news of his world-changing resurrection to the apostles. The book is set in the context of the Amazon Synod in 2019 that raised the question of the role of women in the Church. This prompted the author to ask: “What can the story of Mary Magdalene and her relationship with Jesus, the ‘Gardener’, tell us about the future of women in the Church?” The book is a meditation on a world changed by one word; the word that made the resurrection real was ‘Mary’. Brian Lennon SJ has spent over 40 years working in Northern Ireland with a particular focus on the peace process. He is currently Chair of the Board of the Jesuit Refugee Service and Secretary of Dialogue For Diversity that works on issues of migrants, prisoners, conflict, community development and climate. He recently published with Revd Tim Kinahan Does Christ Matter? An Anglican and a Jesuit in Dialogue (Messenger Publications). Mary Magdalene and the Gardener: Women Leaders in the Church » is published in Ireland and the UK by Messenger Publications and is priced at €7.95/£7.50. Jesuits in Ireland
Last Christmas a Syrian family came to live in the Cappolis Cottage of Clongowes Wood College SJ in County Kildare through the efforts of the Jesuit community and Parish of Clane and Rathcoffey. It was a direct response to Pope Francis’ call to accommodate families fleeing from danger in their native land. The El Sheblak family’s stay at the cottage was then extended from 2 to 12 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Parish committee have now found the family new accommodation in Clane village closer to shops and schools. Fr Michael Sheil SJ, Rector of Clongowes, reflects on the community’s response in helping the El Sheblaks adjust to Irish life. “We were recently delighted to hear that the committee had succeeded in finding the family accommodation in the village itself – within the community – nearer to the shops and, for Taleen, the school which she joined in September. So that is why we were both sad and glad at the same time – as we bade them farewell and wished them happiness and good fortune in their new home. Our thanks to Fr Paul and his committee – and to all of those who made the El Sheblaks so welcome by helping out in various ways – especially to Fr Paul’s team who, along with Br Tom, gave the cottage a real facelift [with some help from TY’20!] – to the generous-sharing experts on the committee – and to the Clongowes staff and friends who provided everything from buggies and clothes and food to dolls and games – and even a load of Br Cha’s firewood! It has been a great experience for all of us to share in answering Francis’ call and it is a good example of being able to acknowledge gratefully that we have all been enriched by what we have received over and above what we have been able to give this lovely family… but didn’t Jesus tell us: Give and there will be gifts for you… a full measure – pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing – will be poured into your lap. [Luke 6:38] We had good reason to be glad to be sad – and we wish them God’s blessing for the future – and we thank them for their youthful presence among us.”
Our lack of commitment to drastically reducing our carbon emissions is a structural sin that calls for a conversion in our society. That’s what Dr Kevin Hargaden, Director of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice told Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications in a recent interview. (December 2020). He was speaking to her as news came through that Ireland was the worst of 57 countries for its carbon emissions. Manifesto for a New Green Deal The interview itself was scheduled to mark the launch of the JCFJ’s new green policy document, entitled Manifesto for a New Green Deal. (Click here to view or download as a PDF.) In the interview Kevin Hargaden outlines how their policy document differs from that of other environmental groups. The JCFJ’s policy is influenced by Catholic social teaching, he says, and they are committed and calling for an ‘integral ecology’ approach as advocated by Pope Francis in Laudato Sí. Integral ecology, he says, works from the premise that an ecological crisis is a central piece of a social crisis, and if we are to save our planet, then every sector of society must be affected and involved in the transformation. An analysis shared by believers and non-believers alike Kevin Hargaden believes this analysis can be shared by believers and non-believers alike, by people of all faiths and none. And the centre is calling for democratic dialogue at every level of Irish society. We need local communities and parishes to start having a real conversation about this issue together, as well as the government and its agencies. This is an Ignatian or Jesuit way of proceeding, he notes, adding that it has to start happening right away. “We are not facing a pending crisis ecologically,” he says, “we are in one right now and it is frightening. No other issue, be it poverty, homelessness, the food and agribusiness, whatever, can be divorced from the central and most crucial issue of our times, the ongoing destruction of our environment, our world.” He acknowledges and welcomes the fact that many people in their own individual way are struggling to ‘go green’ piecemeal, by recycling, using the car less, making their homes ‘energy efficient’. But it’s simply not enough, he believes; what is needed is a complete societal shift. Painful decisions He also admits that this will make for painful decisions arising from a whole new vision regarding the way we work, travel, shop, and structure our society. It’s not just the farmers who have to make changes, he contends; we all do. But he believes if this is done through community dialogue and engagement from all concerned, then real buy-in and change can happen. It won’t happen if it is simply imposed by well-meaning government bodies, he concludes – or even worse, by eco-fascists.
The October issue of Working Notes sounds the alarm about the accelerating ecological breakdown which threatens to dismantle all our notions of normality and meaningfulness. The crisis facing us now, it is argued in the core essay of the volume, is greater even than the 20th century crisis caused by the rise of fascism: “It is simply the case that climate and biodiversity breakdown is the biggest problem humanity has ever faced.” Do we really feel fine? Penned collaboratively by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice team (Kevin Hargaden, Keith Adams, Ciara Murphy, and Martina Madden), the article, ‘Do we really feel fine?: Towards an Irish Green New Deal’, is as resolute in outlining a solution as it is in identifying the crisis. Its source of insight for this is Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, especially his promotion of ‘integral ecology’, the understanding that everything – ecology, economy, public policy – is interconnected: The world as we know it is falling apart, but in a thousand different ways. A pandemic rages, but contrary to what the dystopian movies taught us, society is intact. Climate stability is disintegrating, and the delicate ecological balance that allows life to flourish on Earth is severely compromised. But mostly, it’s business as usual. Those willing to look could not fail to notice the marked decline in biodiversity, but we still use toxic weed killer to ensure the verges between our motorways look neat to us as we sit in gridlocked traffic. As a result of being a policy research centre informed by deep philosophical and theological commitments and active across a range of issues, we at the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice are keenly aware that there must be a coherent and compelling narrative that people can commit to. Simply restating the nightmare that will come upon us if we do not act will not be enough. No one wants to live in a horror movie. The story we are telling need not be a tragedy. There is time to act. There are grounds for hope. Recognising that there is no way to separate our care for the environment from our care for our neighbours is the first step out of the chaos of a world hurtling into dystopia. “Genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.” We do not yet know how all the pieces will fit together that will tackle this monumental challenge. We know grassroots democratic discourse is central. We know our entire political imagination must undergo an ever-deeper ecological conversion. We know that establishing this respect for others and for the earth as our fundamental value – not efficiency, not ideological purity, not even success – is the place to start. The old normal is suicidal. Let’s start telling a better story. Authors: The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice team Read the whole article  You can read all of the articles in the current issue of Working Notes online here » or download a PDF of the issue here »
Covid-19 has changed but not daunted the work of the Ignatian Spirituality Project both in the USA and Ireland. The ISP aims to give hope and healing to men and women recovering from homelessness and addiction, through retreats, spiritual accompaniment, and building community. The retreats combine both Ignatian and 12 Step spirituality. Participants and retreat givers are invited to share their personal and sacred stories in the light of their relationship with God or their Higher Power. Read below an update on the work of ISP in Ireland over recent months from Eddie Cosgrove, SJ, the director of ISP Dublin. Adapt and Thrive Pre-Covid, ISP had got off to a good start, with separate overnight retreats for both men and women at the Tertianship building at Manresa, and a follow-up men’s retreat at Gardiner Street Parish. Due to the interest of the men who attended, this led to a regular ongoing men’s spiritual accompaniment group at Gardiner Street. Since Covid-19 arrived we have had to cancel retreats until at least the end of the year. Nonetheless, we have adapted as best we can to the situation to keep the project alive. Some of our activities include the following: Ongoing Online Spiritual Accompaniment. Both the men’s and women’s volunteer teams have run ongoing group spiritual accompaniment via Skype. In this way, we could offer people in temporary accommodation a connection by mobile phone to a free conference call. Women’s follow-up online retreat. The women’s team ran a follow-up to their first in-person retreat, this time online, again using phone in/out via Skype. Team formation workshops. We ran four online workshops on twelve-step spirituality based on meditations by Richard Rohr. We are continuing our team formation gatherings every two weeks, currently using Jim Harbaugh SJ’s book ‘A 12-Step Approach to the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius’. A friend of mine, Paddy, who I met on our first retreat over a year ago, reminded me recently of what it was like for him when I and another team member went into his hostel and spoke about the weekend retreat we were offering. “You were the only people who came in and offered us a weekend away, time to reflect, no one else did that”. Since then, Paddy has moved into his own apartment (see photo with me September 2020) and has just begun a university course in social care and social policy. His encouragement and passion to do what we can for the men and women in hostels, especially during Covid-19  times, is inspiring us to move forward, to continue to explore how we can do that. To this end we are offering: Men and women who have not been on our retreats the opportunity to join one of our online spiritual accompaniment groups. A ‘retreat in the park’ days – walking retreat days in the Phoenix Park; One to one spiritual conversations over the phone. An ISP app, created by ISP Chicago, with whom we are affiliated, to help the community of volunteers and retreatants pray together, and stay connected and supported. We ask you to pray for this project. If you are interested in finding out more about us or wish to support it in any way, visit our webpage or contact Eddie at dublinisp@gmail.com. (The group photo was taken at the induction day for ISP facilitators in Manresa in June 2019.)