On the 11th of September, the Lithuanian-Latvian province of the Jesuits had two reasons to celebrate the otherwise unhappy date: it was the 25th birthday of the reopened Vilnius Jesuit High School as well as the official opening of a Jesuit library named after Ignatius of Loyola – Lojoteka. Right in the centre of the old town, on the ground of the historical Jesuit college from the 16th century, now stands a small, smart, newly built educational media centre. This centre serves three purposes: making accessible theological and philosophical literature, advancing media literacy education and promoting Ignatian spirituality. For one, it opens for the wider public a vast array of books, collected by Lithuanian Jesuits during the last decades. During Soviet occupation, religious figures in Lithuania were persecuted and most of religious literature was banned. Hence some Lithuanian Jesuits, operating in the underground, privately collected all sorts of valuable spiritual, theological and philosophical literature. In addition, Lithuanian Jesuit diaspora in the United States, Canada and Brazil did the same in their respective regions. After the fall of the Soviet Union these books were flown back to Vilnius and added to the aforementioned private collections of the Jesuits. In this way around 40,000 books in various languages and from various times came to be stored on two top floors of Vilnius’ historic Jesuit college. And now all of it will be accessible to researchers and anyone interested in intellectual inquiry on religion, spirituality and thought.  Lojoteka is also the media education centre of Vilnius Jesuit High School. On the one hand, it’s there to offer pupils up-to-date literature on the various disciplines they take in school. But in addition to that the basement floor host an audiovisual media centre that includes a sound recording studio, a video studio, another photography studio, and a small cinema. This audiovisual media centre is there to teach our pupils on how to create quality audio and video content and thereby become better equipped to navigate themselves in the media world. Finally, Lojoteka is there to hold middle-sized events on the topics ranging from Jesuit identity and Ignatian pedagogy to Lithuanian and European cultural and social realities.  Combining legacy and creativity, Lojoteka strives to become a living example of Our way of proceeding in the times of today. For the greater Glory of God and the benefit of all people.
The Jesuits in Central Europe found on April 27th 2021 a new Province. For this the Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Arturo Sosa SJ, appointed this Friday 31 July, on the Feast of St. Ignatius, a new Provincial, who will take up his office next year. The choice fell on Father. Bernhard Bürgler SJ, the present Provincial of the Austrian Province of the Jesuits. Munich/Rome, 31 July 2020 - Fr. Bernhard Bürgler SJ becomes first Provincial of new Central European Province. Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Arturo Sosa SJ, appointed him this Friday. Bernhard Bürgler will take office as the Provincial on 27 April 2021 upon establishment of the new province. It will replace the previous provinces of Austria, Germany, Lithuania-Latvia and Switzerland. Provincial in Austria Bernhard Bürgler is currently the Provincial in Austria and thus is one of the Jesuits who have been instrumental in preparing the merger over the past years. Consequently, he is well aware of the challenges awaiting him: ‘We can only convincingly present our way of life if we grow together to embody unity in diversity. To do so, we must shape our institutions and activities in view of the needs of our time and our limited resources’. He sees transnational collaboration as offering tremendous opportunities in this respect. “Our charisma as Jesuits is that we think in broader categories and act jointly. National differences will lose significance over time, which will enable us to more fruitfully disseminate the treasure of Ignatian spirituality in our engagement for faith and justice, in dialog with different cultures and in the quest for reconciliation.” Jesuit Superior General Fr. Arturo Sosa SJ emphasized in his letter of appointment that the new province will simplify apostolic planning: “The mission of the Society of Jesus has been universal and larger than the borders of countries or languages from its very inception. The structures of the order exist to facilitate this mission.” He also made reference to the universal apostolic preferences with which the order has defined the thrust of content matters for the coming ten years. The Superior General wished the future Provincial energy and vigour but also faith in God and serenity. A proven expert in the areas of spirituality, retreats, meditation and psychoanalysis Bernhard Bürgler is a proven expert in the areas of spirituality, retreats, meditation and psychoanalysis. The 60-year-old was born in Lienz in Austrian East Tyrol. After his secondary school leaving examination, he studied theology in Innsbruck. Upon completion of his studies, he worked in the German retreat house Haus Gries, which is operated by the Jesuits. After additional years as a religion teacher in Austria, Bürgler entered the Society of Jesus in 1991. After the novitiate he received his doctorate in theology and also received training as a psychotherapist. His activities in the order were that of Spiritual Director in the international Collegium Canisianum (Innsbruck), Director of the retreat house ‘Haus Gries’ (Wilhelmsthal), Area Director for spirituality and retreats in the Cardinal König Haus (Vienna). In 2014 he became the Provincial in the Austrian Province of the Society of Jesus. The rules of the Society of Jesus call for the Provincial to be appointed by the Superior General in Rome. As a rule, the term of office is six years. In addition to the administrative task of directing the province’s affairs, the central duties of a provincial include especially what is known as the “cura personalis”, or regular talks with each Jesuit about his work and life in the order. The new province will comprise 442 Jesuits at 36 locations in Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland.
The Jesuits in Latvia have a long history reaching all the way back to the 1580s, when they were called in to counter the reformation there. The Jesuits were later expelled and in the 20th century worked underground because of the Soviet repressions. Today the Latvian Church encompasses the whole spectrum of Christian communities: Lutheran, Orthodox, Catholic, Baptist and other.  The newest history of the Jesuits began only about a decade ago, when one Lithuanian Jesuit was tasked with creating conditions for a community to be established in Rîga. This community was successfully consecrated and entrusted to the protection of Peter Faber in 2014. There are currently 3 Jesuits working there: one of Polish, one of Latvian and one of Lithuanian nationality. Promote Ignatian Spirituality The purpose of the foundation of the community was to promote Ignatian spirituality in Latvia by giving spiritual exercises, accompanying the growing Latvian Christian Life Community and engaging in the ecumenical dialogue with the Lutherans.  A new catholic parish At this time the most important task this community faces is to build a new church in the neighborhood. This is important, because currently the faithful meet in a rented school hall with lots of people wishing to have a more appropriate place of worship.  Planned is a new Catholic parish in the municipality where currently there is only one other active parish. Next to that, the community endeavors to establish a spiritual center, where conferences and meetings could be held. The municipal authorities, though, hesitate to approve the project because of the opposition from some of the local inhabitants in the neighborhood. If all goes according to plan, the actual building could start in the spring of the next year.  Additionally, the diocese now negotiates with the University of Rîga to establish a student pastoral there run by the Jesuits. The Lithuanian/Latvian province appreciates your supportive prayers for this mission of the Society in Rîga. 
When the quarantine started in March, various upcoming Christian events in Lithuania started to be cancelled one after the other. This was especially hard for the Lithuanian youth that was eager to go on summer camps, take part in a mass Christian youth gathering in July, deepen their faith in retreats and so on. Sometime in April MAGIS Hungary had to be cancelled as well. So a team of younger Lithuanian Jesuits and non-Jesuits got on Zoom, went through a process of discernment and decided to host a Lithuanian Magis event.  The Lithuanian Magis is planned to take place between the 26th and 31st of July with four experiments being organised in different places in Lithuania as well as one in Latvia. Each experiment is accompanied at least by one Jesuit and involves a daily morning impulse, time of activity, the Eucharist and a discerning reflection at the end of the day. This year we have a team of coordinators for theatre, service, ecology and pilgrimage experiments in Lithuania. There is also another pilgrimage being planned in Latvia (in English). As faith in Latvia is much less well-established than in Lithuania, hosting this particular experiment is very important for us. With so much uncertainty around the organisation of this event, we ask you for your supporting prayers
The Jesuit schools in Vilnius and Kaunas have held their graduation ceremonies online, for the first time ever.  Both schools were the first in the country to set up an online learning system, even as public schools had 2 week obligatory holidays meant to help them prepare.  Various creative initiatives have been put forward during the quarantine: including a talent show with pupils streaming videos of themselves performing and others voting for best performances, a mass quiz in teams for a whole school community, virtual, self-organized Stations of the Cross, a streamed QnA session between pupils and teachers on existential questions, and individualised streaming of masses to separate school classes.  Two of the seniors from the two schools have been offered this year’s only two places for Lithuania in the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – German Academic Exchange Service), which covers all study expenses for Bachelor’s degree in any German university. This is a testimony both to Jesuit schools standing in the country as well as to the importance of German-Lithuanian relationship in general.
Ever since the start of the quarantine in mid-March there has been a continuous streaming of Holy Masses over internet channels. One original way it was done from Chicago, Illinois (where our province is active in providing pastoral care for Lithuanian-Americans) was by using Microsoft Teams to switch to different people from wherever they were: so the Eucharist would be celebrated in Chicago, the first reading read from Vilnius, the psalm sung from still somewhere else and so on. This way, a community of faith, separated by long distances was able to find together at the Mass not only passively like spectators but also by actively contributing to it.  Since mid-May all our churches accepted people to „normal“ services in accordance to physical distancing rules of the government. These masses are still being streamed for those not able or not willing to show up in person.  Multiple prayer, catechesis and sacrament preparation groups meet via messenger, hangout, zoom, meet and other platforms.