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Fr Paul Pace SJ has launched his new series of Lent reflections, this time with the theme 'Ecological Conversion - Why should I change?'. The reflections (also in Italian and Albanian), which include an invitation to concrete action, and a supporting video, will be published twice weekly during Lent, with daily posts between Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday. The posts will also appear on our FB page 'Jesuits in Malta - Euromediterranean Province', and readers have the option to receive them directly in their email inbox as soon as they are published, by clicking on the 'Follow' button on the Blog page itself. Here is the first post: https://jesuitreflections.wordpress.com/home/blog/ecological-conversion-why-should-i-change-1-lent-a-time-for-ecological-conversion/
On February 10 Fr. Alfred Darmanin deceased in Naxxar, Malta. From April 1998 till May 2000 he served as President of the Conference of European Provincials. In the “Jesuits in Europe News Service” of 6 April 1998 he wrote: “Part of my role as President will be to defrost rigid partitions existing among the various sectors of our European apostolates and to solidify already existing areas of collaboration. With your help and support, of course.” Fr. Alfred was born on 22 November 1940 in Senglea, Malta. He joined the Society at Loyola House, Naxxar on 10 October 1958 and pronounced his Final Vows on 22 April 1976. He studied in Spokane, USA and Leuven and obtained a PhD in psychology from Berkeley. In the then Maltese Province he served as Provincial's Delegate responsible for the formation of Lay Collaborators, Director of the Psychology section in the Education Faculty and later Head of the Psychology Department. Fr. Darmanin was very much sought after for courses or conferences on Management in Malta and abroad. He also assisted Religious Orders in evaluating their apostolates or prepare for their Chapters. He gave retreats, recollections and conferences to youths and religious. He authored books on psychology and on leadership. He contributed various articles to newspapers and magazine. He was also invited to participate in TV and radio programmes. He accompanied and supported many religious and laity in their spiritual and academic jouney. In 2015 he moved to the Province lnfirmary at Naxxar and spent his final years in a wheelchair in peaceful acceptance of God's will.
A reflection by Fr. Piccolo (from the Review Credere). Dedicating a Sunday to the Word of God is very important in our time in order to apply it to the experiences of the present moment, because the value we give to the Word of God is certainly also linked to our material world and to our human language. These two dimensions have never been separated even in the spiritual tradition of the Church. In his reflection on the Word of God, St. Augustine always keeps in mind its relationship and its meaning to our human language. The Bible tells us that when God gave Israel the 10 commandments, His first words were an invitation to listen: Shema Israel. We should first of all listen to what others have to say, but we are failing to listen in our time. Listening is the ability to give attention to what others are saying and even to what I say. If we insist on speaking only, we shall not be able to listen to what the other is saying. We are living at a time when we are continually raising our voices, and this makes listening clearly impossible. But the Word of God is also active. When God speaks, He is also acting. In the story of creation, "God said". Through that Word, He created. Even the language used in the administration of the sacraments is active speech. When I say, "I baptize you" in a liturgical context, those words perform something, and this is also very similar to human speech. When we talk, we are inevitably producing something. Our words are never without effect. Our speech always leaves its mark in history and, for this reason, we are responsible for what we say. On the contrary, today we are just blurting out words without taking into consideration the effect they may have. In fact, when we speak, we are always revealing something about ourselves. An example that sums up all this is given by Jesus himself in the Parable of the sower. The seed represents the Word. What does the sower do? He throws that seed in every type of soil, and in this way that word is wasted because that way of speaking, that way of throwing the seed is indicative of the way God loves. God loves wasting himself. The way we speak says something about the way we relate. Our way of communicating says something about our way of loving. Contemplating the word of God also means placing ourselves before a manner of loving.
"We went back to Albania, to repeat the experience, the mission, to strengthen our brotherhood " Fr. Andrea Picciau wrote on returning from Shkoder with 17 young people, leaders of the Eucharistic Youth Movement. We were present to support the birth of 3 new youth realities; one in Balldren near Lesha, another in Sukht near Durres, both communities present in diocesan parishes and another at the Pieter Meshkalla Institute. This was a journey to the peripheries prioritizing what is of value. "This wooden road has changed the perspective of my journey" "What struck me was their strength and their determination" Matteo from Torino confided, "their ability to fight for a better future. I was somewhat sadwhen I came in contact with their reality. They are not different from me, yet life seems to be constantly challenging them. The recent earthquake is an example. All this makes me aware of how privileged I am, of the many opportunities that I have ... In these suburbs we walked through a disastrous road, supported only by wooden beams reinforced with concrete. I thought how one tremor is enough to demolish everything, about their difficulties and how the State has abandoned them. This wooden road has changed the perspective of my journey. It brings me closer to prayer, to the Lord and reminds me that what I desire to do is to help others at present and in the future ". "I found the Lord in the eyes of the people" "I found the Lord in the eyes of the people who opened their front door to us, who allowed us to enter their simple life, people with a big heart and sincere eyes, alwayswith a smile on their face, the smile of someone who has never lost hope " Anna from Cagliari disclosed." I saw the Lord also in their generosity: people who have little but give you everything, people who have told us about their difficult past, as well as the joy of overcoming, which is visible in every smile, in every hug they give and in their sharing with us. ". "A place I had never seen before has now become my home." Anita looked back on the experience a few weeks later: "My life has been filled with so much beauty. I found the Lord, from whom I have been so far for so long, in the stories and smiles of these people. A place I had never seen before has now become my home. " "You experience the marvel of those who have very little, but give you everything" "The first thing you learn is that the things that you usually attach so much importance to are worth nothing," Clarice from Roma writes. "They don't make you a betterperson, they aren't really beneficial to you. I understood this when visiting the prisons and the places struck by the earthquake, places where people sleep in tents, next to their demolished house. You experience the marvel of those who have very little, but give you everything and when you greet them, they give you a mandarin. Empathy, getting emotional, pain is what you experience, but also hope, when you turn to prayer.”
The "Erwin" centre was set up in 2010 in the “Crocifisso di miracoli” (Cross of the miracles) Parish entrusted to the Jesuits in Catania. "In winter, a homeless boy froze to death. Erwin, in fact, was very well known in Catania," Fr. Narciso Sunda, of 47, parish priest of the community since May explains. "An event that has deeply challenged the parish reality". As a result, the reception centre for the winter months of December to May was set up so that no other cases similar to Erwin’s will occur. Some buildings within the parish are being allocated for the project. These 12 young boys, arrive at the Centre at 19:30, take a shower and change. "During these days we have several Sicilians, a young man from Pakistan, an Indian, one from Burkina Faso, a Romanian, and a Pole" Fr. Narciso explains. They are recommended by the diocesan Caritas who sends them to the parish, where they find a large room with personal lockers where they can spend the night, as well as the possibility of taking a shower, a hot meal and, above all, someone to connect with. There are 300 volunteers who take turns in preparing dinner. "The group or family who prepares dinner comes to the Centre to eat with the homeless," he points out. "Sharing a meal is different than just offering food and leave: it is an expression of dignity and possible friendship". At 10.30 pm the volunteer on duty sleeps over at the centre to be present in case of need. The youngest of them is 18 years old and the oldest 72. "When they find work or are allocated elsewhere, they make place for others who arrive." This is a good challenge for all the parishioners: “getting to know the different stories, one immediately realizes that we could have been in that situation, a poverty that we manifest in other sectors and areas of our life. Many end up on the streets for migration, economic and financial reasons and also because of marriage separations," Fr. Narciso concludes. "Welcoming their poverty is an opportunity to welcome ours."
A testimony of Fr. Zef Bisha. “My vocation? I owe it to my parents. Every day we secretly said a prayer to ask Jesus for forgiveness before going to sleep. Secretly” he stresses. "We were prohibited to pray under the communist regime." This is what Fr. Zef Bisha SJ, coordinator for Albania, said about his journey to freedom. "After the collapse of the regime, I too, like many others, went to help rebuild our little church dedicated to St. Nicholas, one stone upon another. It was so significant for me giving shape to a place that had become a landfill. Building this church has meant for me stones that have marked my life”. Then I came in touch with the nuns and the priest who came to celebrate the liturgical functions in the newly built chapel. “I started helping them as they went around the villages serving the people. In 1994 I entered the seminary; I continued to help as an interpreter and wherever needed. But I felt that something was missing. I was unable to express it, but I was not completely happy. It was Ray Pace SJ, my spiritual father, who helped me understand what was going on inside me. That summer I was invited to take part in an experience with the "Project for Hope" group led by Fr. Massimo Nevola SJ. A few days were enough to understand that something about him was different, his way of being and the way he worked. I felt welcomed, I fully savoured the spirit of service and friendship of the group. This is why I asked to enter the Society of Jesus. I went through a time of discernment to become aware of my desires, to become familiar with the Society, to get to know myself and finally to put everything in the hands of God. Building the Church today means a continuous conversion. In Albania, different religious beliefs are present. The stones are no longer what they once used to be. The fluidity that has infiltrated our country leads us to forget who we really are. Often one gets the feeling of sowing in vain. Let us never give up! Let us form tomorrow’s generation for freedom ”.