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 (The group photo was taken at the induction day for ISP facilitators in Manresa in June 2019.)
Two institutions of the Kircher Network - the Jesuit Higher Education Network in Europe and the Near East - have launched two new innovative postgraduate programs: Postgraduate Certificate in Christian Theology (Loyola, Dublin) and New Diploma in Leadership and Management (Gregoriana, Rome). The Loyola Institute: New Postgraduate Certificate in Christian Theology Starting on September 27th, there is an opportunity to study a Postgraduate Certificate in Christian theology at the Loyola Institute, Dublin, Ireland. The program will enable participants to gain an in-depth knowledge of core issues in contemporary Christian theology. Students are introduced to historical scholarship and rigorous contemporary theological investigation. Thanks to the Loyola Trust (part-fee) Postgraduate Certificate scholarships are available. Hear all about the Program on the Online Open Evening WebinarGet more information here Pontifical Gregorian University: New Diploma in Leadership and Management The academic offer of the Pontifical Gregorian University for the year 2020/2021 will include a Diploma in management and leadership. The Diploma is an integrated training - a reflection on leadership and introduction to management - in creative dialogue with the human and social sciences to accompany and professionally guide organizations animated by an authentic spirit of service. The program seeks to respond to the management challenges inside the Church. It will integrate in-person and online learning methodology. For more information seeDownload the brochure here
Brendan Comerford SJ presented a six-day online retreat entitled To Love the Earth from 1 to 6 June 2020, involving talks and responses to selected questions on poets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins, Patrick Kavanagh and Denise Levertov. Themes included our relationship with God, our own human nature, and the gift of the earth as our sacred sanctuary. The booked-out event was one of a series of online retreats from Manresa Jesuit Centre of Spirituality, Dollymount, Dublin. Due to demand, another poetry retreat will take place from Monday, 13 to 18 July, 2020. Click here for details ». Fr Comerford reflects that the lives and poems of the six different poets all had something in common. “They are deeply sensitive to the Sacramental presence of God in nature and in the everyday,” he remarks. The retreat’s title, To Love the Earth, comes from a line in Denise Levertov’s poem ‘Beginners’. In it she begins, “We’ve only begun to love the earth.” Each day, the retreatant was invited to fully participate in the experience through following a structured approach. This involved watching a 30-minute video on a selected poet and reading selected poems and suggested scripture passages in the morning. Then the retreatant was invited to pray and ponder over the material and to submit a response or question to Fr Comerford by early afternoon. Later in the evening, all retreatants met up for an hour-long online meeting where responses and questions were dealt with and where there was time for group interaction. Read more 
Gonzaga College SJ in Dublin, have put together a series of videos of past pupils who are exemplifying the college ethos of being ‘men and women for others’ during the Covid-19 crisis. The videos include the work of alumni in various fields such as medicine, business, mental health, law and the postal service. The school hopes that their thoughts and insights into their experiences so far might bring reassurance and inspiration to other alumni, students, and parents. In Ignatian terms, they are thought to be ‘setting the world on fire’. David McRedmond, class of ’80 and CEO of An Post, speaks on the importance of enabling and supporting all those around us. He points out that An Post have proven that sometimes it’s the small and simple ideas – the ones from the heart – that are the most compelling and meaningful for the community at large. He says that An Post has really discovered the new meaning of acting for the common good during the Covid-19 crisis, which is especially relevant to the ethos of Gonzaga and Jesuit schools on being persons for others. Some ideas that have been implemented include giving everybody free postcards so that, for instance, children can communicate with their grandparents; setting up a system where An Post staff can call in and check on the elderly and giving the homeless an address so that they can come in to post offices and collect their mail. Regarding the service for the homeless, Mr McRedmond says: “It’s had a massive take up amongst the homeless people. We reckon about 40 per cent have already taken it up as a way to move forward from where they are”. For example, the service enables them to do doctor’s appointments, get letters from school and apply for jobs. GP Dr Knut Moe, class of ’98 who has developed a GP diagnostic and screening tool, says that adapting the medical approach to patient care and capturing data is crucial in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. His tool has been adopted by hundreds of GP practices across the country and his partnership with fellow alumni (brothers Eoin and Joe Newell from GP Buddy) has resulted in the development of a GP Symptom Tracker as an early warning system for an increase in cases of Covid-19 in the community. Brian Whelan, class of ’92, speaks to the school community on the subject of minding their mental health and the importance of looking out for others who might need support from alumni during the crisis. He represents the Copper Beech Trust which is always available for assistance to anyone who might need advice or support on any matter – financial, professional, personal and spiritual (contact for assistance). Mr Whelan also says, “Check out offering online video sessions for people of all ages with over 100 professional psychologists”. Trevor Browne, class of ’89 and owner of TriBeCa restaurant in Ranelagh, discusses the challenges of running a restaurant business. He speaks to the school community on how doing right by his suppliers and staff in a real and meaningful way has motivated him to work harder than ever before. He says that adapting from an eat-in restaurant to a take-out and delivery ‘family business’ has had a positive impact, bringing his family closer and the challenging fun of working as a family team. Gary Lee, class of ’88, is the managing solicitor in a community law centre in Ballymun and Chair of the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI). He speaks of his family’s long association with the Jesuits and the inherent good of the Jesuit ethos. He says: “What’s really encouraging for me is the effort that’s being made at a community level by Irish people and indeed in terms of the Disability Federation of Ireland the amount of people who are contacting us wanting to volunteer… and I think it is community that will get us through this.” He also discusses emergency legislation and the chairing of mental health tribunals that are continuing to go ahead remotely under difficult circumstances. He shares his memories of teachers John Mulgrew and Fr Joe Brennan whose blackboard response to his teenage queries about the evidence for faith has stayed with him to this day. Click here to view the videos ». More will be added in the coming days and weeks ahead. The image features a statue of St Aloysius Gonzaga, whom the college is named after, carrying a victim of the plague in Rome.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic there has been widespread public concern about the safety and welfare of asylum seekers living in Direct Provision, in light of overcrowding and of the fact that centres are congregated settings. The Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland is particularly concerned about what is going to happen to high-risk vulnerable groups living in state accommodation centres in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak there, including the elderly, immune-compromised, and those with existing health conditions. Eugene Quinn, Director of JRS Ireland, elaborates below on the plight of refugees at this time and outlines what JRS Ireland is doing to assist them. JRS Ireland addresses well-founded fears of Covid-19 in Direct Provision JRS Ireland supports and delivers services to residents in 12 direct provision centres and in 20 emergency locations. Since 11 March, in line with many frontline services, the pandemic has required JRS Ireland to move a remote model of service as face to face meeting with residents are not permitted other than in exceptional circumstances. Remote accompaniment is provided through daily calls and contact with residents. The importance of maintaining that personal connection was strikingly highlighted by a resident in a centre in the west who expressed his appreciation that JRS Ireland staff ensured he was “not forgotten” during his 14 days in self-isolation. At the present time, there are 80 state accommodation centres for asylum seekers. There are 6,300 persons in DP centres and a further 1,300 persons in emergency accommodation, a total population of 7,600. Conditions differ greatly between centres, ranging from own door accommodation to cramped rooms with 7-8 persons in bunk beds. The majority of people share bedrooms and in many case toilets and showers, add in communal eating times, these living conditions present significant challenges for social distancing to all. The fears of asylum seeker facing Covid-19 are well-founded. The Department of Justice and Equality has brought in a number of measures to address concerns for persons in Direct Provision including bringing on board an additional 650 beds to reduce overcrowding in numbers in existing centres; securing off-site self-isolation capacity and identifying and ensuring adequate ‘cocooning’ of the categories of people identified as highly vulnerable Over the past 10 days, JRS Ireland staff have supported more than 300 residents who have been transferred in a ‘thinning exercise’ to reduce overcrowding and to enable the most vulnerable to cocoon onsite. Information and advice on the duration of moves, impact on welfare and medical supports is provided to residents and their priority concerns are raised with Department officials. Throughout the crisis, JRS Ireland has been in regular contact with HSE and Department officials advocating for action and changes that can improve the safety and wellbeing of Direct Provision residents in centres. This included a policy submission to the Department of Justice offering a practical approach to identifying and gathering data on the most vulnerable groups and medical needs of residents to inform critical public health decisions concerning their welfare. I am conscious that this is an extremely difficult and uncertain time for all and especially for forcibly displaced persons JRS works with and serves throughout the world. In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, we all share in common worry and concern about the health and safety of family members, friends, relatives and loved ones. The thousands across the globe who have died or are critically ill from the virus remain in our thoughts and prayers. JRS Ireland will remain committed to reaching out to and supporting Direct Provision residents, especially the most vulnerable, to the maximum of our ability for the duration of the crisis and beyond.
‘Journeying with Psyche and Soul in Spirituality’, was the title of Dr Larry Culliford’s inaugural lecture to mark the launch of the SpIRE (Spirituality Institute for Research & Education) Library, on World Book Day, Thursday, 5 March 2020. The library contains specialist books for applied spirituality studies in Dublin and is home to many of the works once housed in the extensive Milltown Institute library. It contains the very latest articles, journals and books in the field as well as important historical works. Dr Larry Culliford is a British author, who has written a number of books in the area of psychiatry and spirituality. He is a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and a co-founder of their ‘Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group’, and a former Chair of the Thomas Merton Society of Great Britain and Ireland. In his lecture, Dr Culliford spoke about his personal and professional journey of integrating the field of spirituality into that of psychiatry. He spoke of his early days as a doctor and subsequently as a psychiatrist with a deep interest in Buddhism and meditation. He recounted the profound spiritual experience that led him to seek out like-minded people interested in the important link between psychiatry and the spiritual life, and his surprise at the response he received. Dr Culliford also traced his steps back to his Christian roots in the Anglican Church. And he noted the encouragement and support he gleaned from reading the books of Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who had a special interest in Eastern religion and meditation practices. Listen above to Dr Culliford’s lecture.