Archive for December, 2011

Jesuits Celebrate Opening of Fe y Alegria Playground on Haitian/Dominican Border

The Human Rights department of Solidaridad Fronteriza (border solidarity) recently inaugurated a playground in the Fe y Alegria School, of the Benito Monción District, in the city of Dajabón, Dominican Republic.

Jesuit Father Regino Martinez blessed the cultural and recreation area, which forms part of children and adolescents Integral Development Program, conducted in the Northern Border Zone.

The Jesuits are celebrating their 75th year of service to the border town between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The agronomist Benigno Ricardo Toribio (Gustavo) said the park was supported by Texaco Chevron Caribbean, through a contest to support the integral development of children of the border zone.

Jesuit Father Terry Charlton Shares an Update from St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School in Nairobi, Kenya

 More than one million people live in Nairobi’s squatter community of Kibera, including 30,000 orphans of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In October, National Jesuit News highlighted the work of Jesuit Father Terry Charlton, co-founder of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a unique Catholic high school designed specifically for young people affected by HIV and AIDS in the Kibera slums. Fr. Charlton recently shared with us an update of the initiatives taking place in Kibera:

World AIDS Day, December 1, 2011

Dear Benefactors and Friends,

I write to you with a great deal of joy in my heart as we mark the completion of another school year at St. Aloysius. We are grateful to all of you who have supported us in every way through this year. It seems that, each day, we take a small step; it is easy to neglect to look back and consider what has been accomplished since our modest beginnings in 2004. With our 59 seniors, who have just finished their month-long final exams, we have graduated just short of 300 students. Nearly all have continued on in the graduate program with community service for six months and sponsorship for college. We expect to have our first graduates receive their Bachelor’s degrees in 2012.

In 2001, we reached out to those whose needs we saw were the greatest – the people living in Kibera slum who were dying of AIDS.  We asked them how we could help them. They all asked us to take care of their children.  Today, with your important partnership, their children, now orphans, have been given an opportunity and hope for a high school and college education and a life far beyond their parents’ dreams.  Thanks to your financial support, your prayers, and your willingness to share the story of St. Al’s, our students have hope and aspire to live the school motto “to learn, to love and to serve”.

For the fifth consecutive year, Margaret Halpin and Charles DeSantis of Georgetown University taught art classes to interested St. Al’s students. As always it was a wonderful opportunity to develop talent and to find outlets for creative expression. Again, this year Kuona Trust offered us a gallery where students were invited to exhibit their paintings to the public.

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Jesuit Conducts “Retreats of the Future”

Jesuit Father Rodney Kissinger has been a Jesuit since entering the Society of Jesus in 1942. At 96 years old, Fr. Kissinger still finds the time to help those who are interesting in experiencing the  Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

In February 2004, Kissinger wrote an article for the print version of National Jesuit News explaining his idea of conducting retreats using the power of the internet by having the retreatant and the spiritual director conduct the retreat all via email communications. Since that time, Kissinger has had much success in conducting these very kinds of retreats and now shares with us his experiences and those who have come to him for spiritual guidance and direction. You can find out more about Kissinger’s approach to the Spiritual Exercises by visiting his site at

Most of my priestly life of over 60 years has been spent giving the Spiritual Exercises. I have given the preached retreat, the guided retreat, the personally directed retreat, the 19th annotation retreat and now I am giving, with great joy and much success, a type of retreat of which Ignatius could never have even dreamed. And a type of retreat that I am sure the author of the “tantum quantum” and the “magis” would have joyfully embraced. It is the email retreat.

Email is the ideal vehicle for doing the 19th annotation because it is least intrusive into the daily life of the retreatant. My edition of the email retreat runs for 14 weeks. I suggest that the retreatant do at least half an hour of prayer daily and make the exam of consciousness each night. This time frame, however, is flexible and adaptable to the retreatant. One may want to spend another week on one of the meditations; others may have to interrupt the retreat for a medical or business emergency. No problem, I just withhold the next meditation until they are ready. How foolish to try to corral the Holy Spirit into a certain time frame.

Most of the requests for these retreats I have received have come from the laity. We should not be surprised at all of this since Ignatius was a layman when he wrote the Spiritual Exercises and it was as a layman that he gave the first retreat to laymen. He also did a lot of counseling by letter. In fact, it is said that he was one of the most prolific letter writers of his day. How enthusiastically would he have embraced email!

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Syria Orders Italian Jesuit Peacemaker to Leave

Vatican Radio is reporting that Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio may be expelled from Syria. International news media has reported that the founder of the monastic community at Deir Mar Musa al-Habachi, near Nabak, has been notified by authorities to quit the nation he has called home for 30 years.

Fr. Dall’Oglio is a renowned promoter of dialogue between Christians and Muslims and has been engaged in efforts for internal reconciliation, particularly in the current crisis.

“I’ve been here 30 years, I have worked at the Christian-Muslim dialogue, I have worked to create a monastic community dedicated to the service of harmony between Islam and Christianity, which is a priority worldwide. There are about twenty people in all – brothers and sisters – from different countries: we all learn Arabic, all study Eastern Christianity and Islam. During the latest, painful crisis, we are committed to freedom of opinion, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and we are trying to work, to cooperate for a progressive access to a mature democracy, for the emergence of a civil society, a dialogue that ensures national unity, the protection of diversity and the enhancement of specificity, a democracy without a primacy of one group over others, rather we are trying to nurture the building of a national consensus. This requires tools. We believe, will believe until the end, in reconciliation, through dialogue, negotiations in order to avoid the suffering of the people and build a future other than that of hatred and revenge”.

Last week Syria condemned the vote by the Arab League to impose sanctions against Damascus as a betrayal of Arab solidarity.

By a vote of 19 to 3, the League’s foreign ministers decided to adopt sanctions to pressure Damascus to end its deadly suppression of an 8-month-old uprising against President Bashar Assad.

They include a flight ban on senior members of the Syrian regime, a halt to transactions with Syria’s central bank and a suspension of flights into the country.

[Radio Vaticana]

When Thanksgiving Is Filled with Turkeys: Jesuit Father James Martin Offers Advice for Surviving the Holidays

Anticipating a Christmas season that looks nothing like the Normal Rockwell ideal? Jesuit Father James Martin offers some tips on getting through the festivities with your sense of humor intact:

1) Laugh about the craziness. Got a crazy family who always argues about the same thing every single time they get together? “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU BROUGHT THAT UP AGAIN!” Don’t get angry; get perspective. Unless you’re the Messiah and can work miracles, you’re probably not going to change them. So stop trying. You’re driving yourself nuts. You can be open and loving, but you can also be realistic.

2) Laugh at things that are supposed to be funny. There’s plenty of funny holiday-themed humor out there. If you’re not tickled by Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer (which I am not) there’s always A Christmas Story, (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”), which airs on TV 24/7 from Thanksgiving to Christmas, so you’ve got no excuse not to smile at least once in November and December.

3) Laugh at yourself. As Jesus said to the disciples, “Get over yourself!” (Well, he should have said it.) Stop taking yourself so seriously. Your coworkers thought that your Christmas tie was ugly? Maybe it is. Someone didn’t like your “Famous Mulled Wine” or your “Christmasy Ginger-Pumpkin Nutbread” handed down from your great-grandmother? Get over it. Life’s too short to take yourself too seriously.

To read the full post on ways to survive this time of year, check out the full blog post here.

Fr. Martin is the author of the new book Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life (HarperOne), which, he would like to say, makes the perfect gift for any holiday.