Archive for April, 2012

Jesuit Chronicles Work in Belize on Facebook

For family and friends following him on Facebook, Jesuit Father Joseph Laramie has been posting weekly narrative and photo updates about his Belizian experience. These reflections vary widely, from on mud-stuck trucks, inconsiderate roosters and people seemingly from another time.

Fr. Laramie, a St. Louis-area native, was ordained last June and finished his Jesuit theology classes at Boston College in January.

A month later, he began what will be a four-month pastoral assignment in Belize helping the Missouri Province Jesuits staff St. Peter Claver Parish in Punta Gorda and providing sacraments to the 40-plus Mayan villages in the surrounding area, most of which have a Catholic chapel.

Punta Gorda’s 5,000 diverse residents include Garufina, people of African and Caribbean descent; Mopan- and Kekchi-speaking Mayans; and Mestizo, people with a mix of Spanish and Mayan ancestry.

Fr. Laramie’s work is mostly sacramental; Mass at St. Peter Claver Parish, Masses for school kids in Punta Gorda and villages, and Sunday Masses in Mayan villages, where his homily is usually translated into Kekchi by a Mayan leader at the villages. Songs and readings also are in Kekchi.

Next stop on his Jesuit journey is Kansas City, Mo.’s Rockhurst High School, where he’ll serve as director of pastoral ministry starting June 1.

But until then, readers can follow a Jesuit in Belize whose dispatches and reflections illuminate, educate and entertain.

Check out his Facebook page to read more about Fr. Laramie’s work.

[Missouri Jesuits]

Jesuit Father Richard Ryscavage on India’s Growing Gender Imbalance

A new study conducted by Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life has dug deeper into India’s gender ratio imbalance crisis to find that it is being fueled by complex family pressures, including the belief that boys will be better wage earners, and that men will more likely take better care of their aging parents. The study also indicates that elders in the family and often husbands prefer a male child, while many wives pointed out that their voices were not being heard and had little choice in the matter.

Fairfield University’s innovative survey examined how gender dynamics and family pressures in India lead to the birth of a significantly greater number of boys than girls. The study suggests that male child preference is quite prevalent and the gender ratio imbalance – which is on the increase and was evident in the 2011 Indian National Census – is likely to be a major impediment to the future development of India.

Jesuit Father Richard Ryscavage, professor of sociology and director of The Center for Faith and Public Life, conducted the study and recently sat down for an interview with National Jesuit News.

According to the 2011 National Census of India, there were 914 girls born for every 1,000 boys; in some regions reaching as low as 824 girls. These figures are alarming in comparison to the United Nation’s 2010 Population Sex Ratio norm of 101.7 males to 100 females. The Indian census numbers therefore show a severe gender ratio imbalance in the nation. The Indian government, numerous global agencies, NGOs and researchers contend that as women become a minority in the population, there is bound to be a detrimental effect on both India’s economic development and social stability.

Undertaken in partnership with two Jesuit schools in India – St. Xavier College in Mumbai and Loyola College in Chennai – the research also found that girls are being systematically devalued in society. Yet, the findings also revealed many wives responding that daughters would be better caregivers than sons.

Fairfield’s researchers surveyed the upper layer of the lower class and the lower layer of the middle class. The assumption was that those families could be the part of the population that can make changes in their attitudes towards the son preference practice, a change that could be discernible by the next census, in 2021.

For more information on the “Impact India” study, visit

From the Society of Jesus in the United States: A Very Blessed Easter to All!

¡Felices Pascuas! Happy Easter! Christus Resurrexit! Христос Воскрес! Buona Pasqua! Joyeuses Pâques! God påske! Maligayang pasko ng pagkabuhay!

Mosaic by Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik


Jesuit Offers Holy Week Lessons from an Unlikely Pontius Pilate

This week, Christians around the world commemorate the Passion of Christ, the remembrance of Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion and death. This final week of Lent before Easter Sunday, called Holy Week, began on Palm Sunday last Sunday and ends with Holy Saturday tomorrow. Today is Good Friday, marking Christ’s death on the cross.

While Holy Week is solemn and sorrowful, it also anticipates the joy of Easter through the recognition of God’s goodness in sending Jesus to die for our salvation. For Palm Sunday, well-known author Jesuit Father James Martin shared in Washington Post’s “On Faith”, the story of his nephew’s participation in a Lenten pageant. In the article below, Fr. Martin sees Holy Week through the eyes of a six-year-old.

Want to learn more about Holy Week? Below you can view Busted Halo’s “Holy Week in Two Minutes” to find out more. 

My six-year-old nephew Matthew called me a few weeks ago. This was an event in itself, since six-year-olds generally don’t initiate phone calls. At least my nephew doesn’t. “Uncle Jim,” he said, “Guess what?” (This is his normal way of starting a conversation.)

“What?” I said.

“I’m in the Lenten pageant at church!” Despite 24 years of Jesuit training, I had no idea what that was. So I asked.

“It’s kind of like a Christmas pageant,” he said, “but it’s about the crucifixion.” Okay. “And guess who I play?”

“Jesus?” I ventured.

“No! Better than that!”

What’s better than Jesus?

“Pontius Pilate!” he said.

My nephew had been cast as the Procurator of Judea in his church’s Lenten Pageant, which my sister described a kind of tableau vivant. Or a “Living Stations of the Cross,” as the church was calling it. While I had some concerns over whether the Passion narrative was appropriate storytelling for someone so young, I figured I would give the church the benefit of the doubt. Besides, what do I know about teaching six-year-olds?

“Are you excited?” I asked.

“Well,” said Matthew, “I’m a little sad because we have to crucify my best friend. And we use a real hammer and a nail.” This gave me pause. “We paint little red tears like blood on his hand, but it’s not for real.” Who was directing this pageant–Mel Gibson? (Later conversations with my sister revealed that the hammer and nail were props, and, obviously, not used.)

Over the next few days, I kept up to date about the Lenten pageant and my nephew’s passion about the play, which seemed to wax and wane. On the one hand, Matthew was disappointed when he discovered that Pontius Pilate was not, in fact, a pilot. On the other hand, last Sunday, during the recitation of the Creed, when the congregation reached the description of Jesus’s death and said, “For our sake, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate…” Matthew yelled out, “Pontius Pilate! Yay!” (Pilate normally doesn’t get shout-outs in church.)

The night after the big day, I spoke with Matthew. “So how was the pageant?”

“Well,” he said, considering things carefully, “there were three Jesuses.” (Several of his friends were enlisted to appear in several Stations of the Cross.) “But only one Pontius Pilate.” That pleased him. On the other hand, his flip-flops made his feet cold.

“And, Uncle Jim, I forgot to wash my hands!” (This was Pilate’s most famous physical act in the New Testament, betokening his attempt to disavow responsibility for the death of Jesus.) “First I was afraid I would do it early,” he said, clearly miffed. “Then I was afraid I’d do it too late. So I didn’t do it at all.”

Finally I asked, “Did the story make you sad?”

“Well,” he said, “it was a little sad. But everyone roses from the dead, and everyone lived happily ever after.”

So is such a lighthearted story inappropriate to recount on Palm Sunday? Yes and no.

Yes, it may be considered inappropriate because Palm Sunday invites us to meditate on the death of Jesus, perhaps the most serious topic in all Christian theology. Equally as serious are Jesus’s physical suffering on the day of his crucifixion, our own suffering, and the way in which we “participate” in Jesus’s suffering during our lives. For some people, the sufferings of Jesus allow them to identify more easily with the Son of God, who might otherwise seem far removed from such mundane concerns as physical pain. To paraphrase St. Paul, we do not have a God who does not understand us.

Thus, the model of Jesus as the man of sorrows is an important image for Christians. Not only does it reveal to us a model of suffering – that is, with forgiveness and without retribution – it also shows that God understands our struggles in the most intimate way imaginable.

Read the rest of this entry »

From Trauma Center to Seminary: Jesuit Finds God in All Things

Jesuit Jason Brauninger spends much of his week in a setting that often surprises the Catholics and non-Catholics in his midst: in the emergency department of St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, Colo.

“It’s an odd career for a priest, because you usually think of somebody in a parish or in a monastery; you don’t think of a priest as someone who works out in the world,” said Brauninger, who earned his nursing degree in 2010. “It’s hard for some people to comprehend someone in the working world living out vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. It’s so counter-cultural. So it’s good for me to be able to explain it, that this life is possible and worth living.”

Despite the strong pull of ecclesiastical life, something else was pulling Brauninger even harder during his teenage and early adult years. At 14, he began training as a “junior fireman” for his local Volunteer Fire Department, eventually majoring in Fire Science Engineering at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) and working as a firefighter during his summer breaks.

Although convinced that firefighting would be his life’s work, Brauninger sensed a shift in his vocational direction as a college senior. His peers at EKU’s Catholic parish kept telling him what a great priest he would make.

“I kept getting this calling of, ‘Why don’t you try to be a priest?’” says Brauninger. “I found the Jesuits on the Internet and I immediately felt comfortable,” he said. “The Jesuits allow you to use your gifts and your talents, but they are also clear that they’re going to challenge you.”

In August 2005 he entered St. Charles College’s Jesuit Novitiate in Grand Coteau.

Brauninger then went on to study philosophy, theology, and earn his R.N. in an accelerated program at St. Louis University. After graduation, he moved to Denver, where he applied for  – and attained – his “dream” ministry: working the graveyard shift in a Denver hospital’s  emergency department.

“I find Christ easily in the sick and injured,” said Brauninger, recalling Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s observation of how Christ sometimes is found in “the disguised.”

Brauninger makes himself available to his coworkers when they ask for spiritual support and is also bolstered by The Examen, the twice-a-day regimen of Ignatian prayer in which the faithful express gratitude for the day’s gifts, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, listen for Christ’s teachings and talk to Jesus.

“In the hospital we see people during a time of great distress, and that’s who Christ came to serve. That’s the Christ you see in the Gospel – he is always with the sick,” he said. “The ministry we strive to carry on is the healing ministry of Christ, and I feel that’s what I do in health care.”

[The Clarion Herald]