European Jesuits in Formation (EJIF) is an initiative that started in 1986 with the aim of promoting a common European spirit among young Jesuits. Every year, young Jesuit delegates from each province are invited to participate in a meeting of about 30 participants that is held in one of the European Jesuit provinces. Usually, this meeting includes a group experiment or meeting (pilgrimage, social work, conferences around formation topics), then an individual guided retreat of eight days and finally a formation session.

Many young Jesuits live in international formation houses. Still these meetings aim to foster broader knowledge of the Society of Jesus, by giving the Jesuits the opportunity to get to know others in formation and to learn more about our Jesuit life and spirituality.

After having been limited last year, by the pandemic, to a brief online meeting, this summer, EJIF-European Jesuits in Formation returned to its traditional format. Representatives of the JCEP provinces met in South Poland from the end of July to the third week of August. The general theme was the motto of the Ignatian Year – to see all things new in Christ – with a particular accent on poverty. The gathering opened with a Zoom conversation with Father General. St. Ignatius day was celebrated with the Jesuits of Krakow in a mass presided by the PME Provincial Fr. Jaroslaw Paszynski. There followed a visit to Auschwitz and 3 days of experiments Magis-style in which they contacted with elderly people and orphans, with a daily time of shared reflection on the experience. The 8-day Spiritual Exercises took place in Stara Wieś, directed by Javier Melloni (ESP). At the end, there was time for the evaluation of the meeting and the election of the new CoCo. The JCEP President, Franck Janin, accompanied the group in the opening days and at the conclusion. A big thank you to the 2021 organising CoCo: Domingos Perloiro (POR) Michał Król (PME) and Sébastien Majchrzak (EOF). And best wishes for the new CoCo as they are already planning next year’s EJIF: Luis Delgado del Valle (ESP), Filippo Carlomagno (EUM) and Karol Klimaszyk (PMA). The new Coco with Fr. Janin and the old Coco
The 2021 EJIF meeting will take place in the area of Krakow, in the South Poland Province, from the 29th of July to the 19th of August. The theme of the Ignatian year, “See all things new in Christ”, will guide the delegates of the Jesuits in formation from all over Europe during these days. The main goals of this meeting are: a) to experience the belonging to the universal body of the Society of Jesus; b) to share the Spiritual Exercises as a common spiritual root; and c) to move towards the conversion of heart as Father General asks, especially in what concerns our vow of poverty. Three scholastics, Domingos Perloiro (POR), Sébastien Majchrzak (EOF) and Michal Król (PME), will take the responsibility, together with the Conference of European Provincials, of preparing and leading the meeting. Domingos is in the Juniorate, studying Philosophy and Humanities, in Pedro Arrupe Community, in Braga, Portugal. He will move to the San Saba Community (Rome), in September, to finish his studies of Philosophy. Sébastien is in the second year of a five-year cycle of studies in Philosophy and Theology, in Centre Sèvres, in Paris. He lives in Saint Pierre Favre Community. Michal is a second-year theology student at the Jesuit Academy Collegium Bobolanum, living in the college community. He would like to work in the pastoral ministry and will be ordained deacon next year.
From 31st July until 20th August, 24 Jesuits in formation from 17 different European countries (and beyond) met in Paris for the annual EJIF meeting (European Jesuits in Formation). The meeting began with Holy Mass, celebrating the feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola at ‘Eglise Saint Ignace’. Afterwards there were welcoming addresses from Fr Franck Janin SJ (President of the Conference of European Provincials) and Fr. Xavier Nucci SJ (Provincial’s delegate for formation for the EOF province). The participating scholastics were reminded that, for Jesuits,  « the world is our house » (Jeronimo Nadal SJ, 1507-1580), that the challenge for Jesuits is to be locally involved but, at the same time, to keep our hearts and minds on the universal. Building a spirit of universality among Jesuits is, therefore, one of the main reasons behind the annual EJIF meeting. With this in mind, the meeting began with participants enjoying two days of orientation – exploring Paris by bike tour, visiting famous sites such as the Louvre or the Versailles Palace and celebrating a ‘festival of nations’ together – in order to better know the cultural surroundings, as well as each other. After these moments of fraternity, the meeting moved into it’s second phase – a week-long session on the subject of Ignatian Leadership led by Fr. John Dardis SJ (General Counsellor for Discernment and Apostolic Planning of the Society of Jesus). Far from being an arid, business-like series of conferences, this was a deep, personal experience infused with the dynamic of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola. We began by considering our personal experiences of leadership, imagining our dreams and desires for ourselves and our respective provinces, and then considering the traditions of leadership in the Society of Jesus (including the example of Pope Francis). As the week progressed we moved towards a consideration of leadership in our contemporary context, the challenges of our world today and, finally, the experience of leadership at the frontiers of society (inspired by a visit to the vibrant yet troubled city of Saint Denis). In terms of method and pedagogy, there were daily morning ‘inputs’ from a variety of different guest speakers, followed by a time for personal prayer to ‘taste and feel’ how the presentation resonated with us individually. We then met in small sharing groups to engage in a spiritual conversation on the topic, attempting to distill the movements of the Spirit we each experienced in order to understand how the Holy Spirit was communicating to us and through us through these experiences. In a final step, we returned to the larger group to share and appreciate each group’s contribution to our communal search for the message God was trying to communicate to us, this synodal process being inspired by Karl Rahner SJ’s idea that « each of us is a letter of God and together we spell out something great, a great word to the glory of God ». With participants engaging generously and the various speakers inspiring us with their insights, we left with a strong shared sense of gratitude and consolation for the session, an invitation to once more root ourselves in Christ and prepare to serve him in the mission ahead. May we, in the words of Ignatius on formation, continue to « make progress towards » Our Lord so that we can be ready to lead others in whatever situation we find ourselves. The third phase of EJIF 2019 took place at the Carmelite retreat centre in Avon, nearby the forest of Fontainebleau, where participants embarked on their annual 8-day individual guided retreat. Retreat director José de Pablo SJ (Socius to the President of the Conference of European Provincials) lead participants through the Spiritual Exercises, with a particular accent placed on the Society’s new Universal Apostolic Preferences. Upon leaving the retreat we visited the nearby Campus for Ecological Transition before returning to Paris in order to bring our time together to a close with an appreciation of « Ignatian Paris ». Jesuit students ourselves, we visited the key sites of Ignatius’ own studies in Paris (alongside early companions St Pierre Favre and St Francis Xavier). The meeting then came to a fitting culmination as participants renewed their own religious vows together in the same chapel of Montmartre where the original companions had done the same some 485 years before us. We give thanks to God for such a formative, grace-filled and fruitful time together, with particular gratitude for the ‘Coco’ (Co-ordinating Commitee) who organised the meeting and the various people who contributed to making this meeting such a memorable and transformative experience. Look at the EJIF 2019 Paris video
25 young Jesuits from 17 different European countries – as well as from Vietnam and Tanzania – came together in Lebanon in August. A report by Moritz Kuhlmann SJ, a participant from the German Province. “One image is stuck in my head these days: Christ – suffering and yet smiling. It is happening again today: In the refugee camps we witness a broken humanity and right in the middle smiling children and strong women.” Almost 30 young are sitting together in a big circle and share their experiences. They are participants of “EJIF – European Jesuits in Formation”. In August they spent three weeks in Lebanon – on refugees’ paths. We gathered a few of their impressions: “And then the women looked at us and said: ‘We told you our life-stories. Are we only objects of study to you? What will you do for us? How can you help us?’ – These questions still shock me. I cannot help them.” The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and the NGO “Bashmeh & Zeitooneh” (“smile and olive”) show us the refugee camps. Lebanon, with a population of six million, has received two million Syrians in the past two years – despite the fact that Lebanon had been occupied by Syria until 2005. How quickly the tides of history can turn! The crisis might be a chance for reconciliation. In the community centers we meet women’s groups: “We don’t depend on anyone anymore, least of all on our men.” Our hosts from JRS and B&Z chuckle proudly: Syrian society has reformed itself in the refugee camps. Women are now ranking first. They are incredibly strong. The true “Arabellion” is happening now, in the UNHCR-tents which save the lives of Syrian families. Many refugees live outside of the camp. “Unlike in Africa you don’t often see the refugees. They live in ramshackle huts in the towns”, says Tony Calleja SJ. In Beiruts district Shatila 50.000 people live on one square kilometer. They are almost exclusively Palestinians who used to live as refugees in Syria and now even had to flee from their camps in Syria. We cannot help them and many of us are struggling the inability to help. And yet we can be witnesses, witnesses of the power of change in the crisis, of the smiles in the suffering. “I hear the message that is Lebanon as a state: Religions can leave together in peace.” Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, Patriarch of the Maronite, a Church united with Rome, to which virtually all of Lebanon’s Christians belong to, reminds us of the words of John Paul II.: “Lebanon is more than a state. It is a message.” The highest offices in the state are – according to the constitution – divided among Sunnis, Shiites and Maronite Christians. The Patriarch proudly tells us about the coexistence of religions in the country. And yet everywhere it is noticeable that every religion has its own life, unmixed. At least they don’t fight each other. Salim Daccache SJ, Rector of the Université Saint-Joseph (USJ), would like the constitution’s ideal become a reality: “We want to be the place which binds Lebanon’s population together. This is a service to the community as our statues require it.” 37% of USJ’s students and 60% of Lebanon’s population are Muslims. The Jesuits have been in Lebanon since 1640, their main apostolate has always been education. Today, the Université Saint-Joseph and the Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour bear witness to this tradition. “I feel referred back to my home province. Many refugees live among us, many Muslims, many needy. Starting a social apostolate for them might even be harder than here. I would like to try it.” One year ago the Jesuits’ Superior General wrote a letter to all members of the Society of Jesus, asking his brothers to be available for a service in the Middle East – this area being a priority in the Middle East. Many of us have traveled here with the question how they might react to the Superior General’s request: Should I make myself available for the Middle East? The hardship is great. However, the encounter with hardship abroad opens the eyes for hardship back home and lets our hearts burn. We experience a school of the heart. At the end of our stay in Lebanon we entered into an eight day retreat of Spiritual Exercises in Tanail to deepen this school of the heart. Damian Howard SJ was leading the retreat with very profound, creative and deeply Ignatian inputs. On top of this spiritual guidance through Damian’s “puncta”, each participant was accompanied by a spiritual director. After the retreat, the group came together and entered into a very serious process of Elections: What will be the main topic of next year’s meeting, where will it take place and whom do we want to take the responsibility for its organizing? Finally also after having consulted with John Dardis SJ we decided to dedicate next year’s EJIF to the topic of vocation. The venue is still uncertain, the new coordination committee will have to decide between London and Rome. “This EJIF was a life changing experience for me”, someone finally says in our sharing. “Touching the crisis, its desperate needs and its profound hopes and miraculous transformation was a crisis for me, too. My needs and hopes – I feel them being so much more on surface now, so much more known and touchable to me. The transformation will spread: Whom will I touch with my transformed heart?” German text: Moritz Kuhlmann SJ Translation: Matthias SchmidtImages: Pascal Meyer Read also: The kind of peace that fills you up with hope (Giuseppe La Mela - Italy, EUM) - Face-to-face with the refugee crisis (Peter O'Sullivan - BRI) - I am one of the lucky ones (Arnold Mugliett - Malta, EUM)
Each year the meeting of the European Jesuits in formation (EJIF) takes place. This year's theme was Islam and the refugees so Lebanon (where more than half of the population is Muslim and where something around 2 million refugees were welcomed) was the perfect place for such a meeting. Twenty-five Jesuits from all over Europe and one from Vietnam and another from Tanzania took part. I am one of the lucky ones and I have no merit for that. If I was born 350 kilometres to the south or 300 kilometres to the west everything would have been different. I come from Malta and grew up in loving family where I got the chance to be raised up in a healthy lifestyle and to be educated. Later in life I got a degree from the University and also got the chance to travel a lot before joining the Society of Jesus. Since I've become a Jesuit, I also took a vow of poverty. Looking at the lives of many of the poor people I have met during these past few days make me really question what kind of poverty I am living when I have everything I need and more. I have spent the last few days in Beirut, Lebanon. I was complaining of the heat, if the A/C wasn't working, or if was getting too cold that I had to wake up during the night to switch it off. I was complaining if there was traffic coming back from a day off or if the food wasn't very good. I went around the Syrian and Palestinian camps and it is by far the biggest poverty I have seen in my life. I have heard stories of two or three refugee families (that is more that fifteen persons) living in a single room because they can't afford the rent. I met a guy in the Palestinian camp who is now around 50 years old who was born here in Lebanon and is still living as a refugee. He told us of his dream of opening his own shop to sell everyday goods. I have heard stories of thousands of young children who don't have the opportunity to go to school or who have to leave school in order to gain some money to help their families. Whilst visiting a particular refugee camp we met a young Muslim woman who has benefited from the small grant project run by a local NGO. Answering to comment on the size of the shop, which was relatively quite big for being in a camp, her response left me speechless: "God is even greater!". She's living in terrible conditions and yet is able to give such an answer. I have seen a lot during these days in Lebanon. I have heard a lot from expert people who tried to explain to us Europeans the complex situation of the Middle East. I have seen a lot of suffering, a lot of poverty but I have also seen strong and courageous men and women fighting each day of their lives and hoping for a better future, if not for themselves, at least for their children. I have met a lot of Muslim people whose faith in a God who will never leave them on their own have made me question my own Catholic faith. I came here thinking to understand the situation and to find answers. What I know for sure is that now I have more questions than answers, but I think that's something positive. Refugees aren't just numbers and statistics anymore. Now they have a face and a name and they have every right to be as lucky as I am. Read also Moritz Kuhlmann's overview article Young Jesuits meeting refugees in Lebanon -The kind of peace that fills you up with hope (Giuseppe La Mela - Italy, EUM)Face-to-face with the refugee crisis (Peter O'Sullivan - BRI) - I am one of the lucky ones (Arnold Mugliett - Malta, EUM)
Giuseppe La Mela is an Italian Jesuit in Formation who has participated at the EJIF meeting in Lebanon, in August. Here are some of his pregnant observations after the first half of his stay. Tradition has it that when Jesus went to preach in Tyre and Sidon (cfr. Mark 7,24) his mother Mary went with him. Being a Jewish woman she could not enter pagan land and so she waited for her son on the top of a hill just outside of Sidon, taking shelter in a cave. I'm usually not very fond of these kind of shrines. My rational mind kicks in and tells me "Oh, come on, there's not the slightest evidence that something like that really happened, you're not really going to believe that, are you?". Many times I find these shrines kitsch. I tend to ignore them and just move on. And yet, as soon as I found myself facing the statue of Our Lady of Awaiting, I felt a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes, while my heart was filled with an unspeakable sense of tenderness. I've been in Lebanon for 10 days for a gathering of young Jesuits in formation from all over Europe. I couldn't help but feel that this is a land where many people are living in waiting. We visited many refugee camps. We witnessed so much suffering, so much injustice. Many Syrians find themselves waiting, roughly one and a half million of them. They have been forced out of their country, most of them having lost their house, their husband or wife, their children. And they're here, waiting. Waiting for things to get better. Some of them are waiting for a food basket from some NGO, or for a small grant in order to set up a small shop in the camp and survive. They arrived in Lebanon, occupied some land, built a tent and then a camp. The owners of the land started asking for rent and, knowing that many NGOs would help the refugees cover their costs, they raised the price up to 600 US dollars a month. Many refugees get hired as day laborers in farms or construction but many times, despite their hard work, they don't get paid. The same happens with many Syrian women who work as cleaners. Some of them have lost all hope. During one of our visits we asked a Syrian lady if she had a dream or any hopes for the future. She replied: "No, I don't have any more dreams since my husband died. I just survive, for my kids. But I don't have any dreams anymore". The Shatila camp, just outside Beirut, was set up in 1948 to house the Palestinian refugees flooding into Lebanon at that time. It covers approximately one square kilometer and today houses more than 50,000 refugees from Palestine and Syria. We walked through the narrow streets caked with mud, all the while trying to avoid the impressive tangle of electricity cables spreading throughout the camp hanging just a few millimeters from our heads. We met many women, visiting their houses and talking to them. They welcomed us, and told us a little bit about their life in the camp. "I'm applying for a small grant to open a hairdresser's salon"; "I lost my six sons and my husband in Syria"; "I want to open a small shop in order to provide for my children". Their eyes were veiled with sadness, yet within I could also discern determination and courage. I felt powerless in front of so much suffering and pain. I wanted to help them but didn't know how. I felt what I think was a mix of western guilt, good will and a genuine hunger and thirst for justice. Then I met this sweet and beautiful 14 year old Palestinian girl. Quick witted and very fluent in English, she told me how much she enjoyed studying maths at a local school in Beirut, how much she loved playing football, and how Cristiano Ronaldo is obviously far better than Leo Messi. She writes poetry and dreams of publishing a book. Her father is currently living in Germany, but she and her mum can't go there yet because they don't have the required documents. She was full of energy and life, full of hope for the future in spite of her situation. She won't surrender. Perhaps that's what I felt standing in front of our Lady of Awaiting. I think that the statue perfectly captures this sense of longing and hope. Mary is seated on a rock, her right hand resting on her knee, the left on the rock. There is a tension going through her body and her eyes are searching the horizon restlessly. She looks like she's ready to jump up and run towards Jesus as soon as she catches a glimpse of him. And I felt such an immense peace standing beside her. The kind of peace that fills you up with hope and regenerates you. A peace that is not numb but restless, inspiring you to act. The kind of peace that comes when you know that her son's returning. All the stories I've heard, all the faces I've seen, all the pain and all the hope of the people I've met will stay with me forever and will affect my life, my studies, my relationships, my prayer. Something has changed forever in my heart but, like Mary, I'm not sure about what's going to happen, what I'm going to do. And yet, should I ever feel lost, I can go back there for a little while, silently waiting with her and all the refugees I have met, searching the horizon. Giuseppe La Mela SJ Read also the overview article Young Jesuits meeting refugees in Lebanon (Moritz Kuhlmann - GER)Face-to-face with the refugee crisis (Peter O'Sullivan - BRI) - I am one of the lucky ones (Arnold Mugliett - Malta, EUM)