Archive for September, 2012

Countdown to Rio: Preparations Underway for MAGIS 2013

Official World Youth Day LogoA little more than a year ago, more than two million young people came to an almost silent hush as they stood on an airfield just outside of Madrid. They were waiting, with nervous excitement, for Pope Benedict XVI to announce the next host city for World Youth Day. Finally, he spoke:

“I am pleased now to announce that the next World Youth Day will be held in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro.”

And just as quickly as the word “Rio” passed the Holy Father’s lips, the crowd exploded with cheers of excitement and joy.

As the merry din quieted down, the pope continued, asking the young people to share their experiences from World Youth Day in Madrid with their friends at home. “I invite you to give a bold witness of Christian living to them. In this way you will give birth to new Christians and will help the church grow strongly in the hearts of many others.”

For 3,000 of the young people present in Madrid, their experience included MAGIS, a Jesuit-organized event held in the days before World Youth Day. MAGIS derives its name from the Jesuit phrase meaning “the more.” The roots of the phrase come from St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who encouraged those who follow Christ to examine their ability to do more for him and, in turn, for others. It is an expression of an aspiration and inspiration of Ignatius and is a tenet of Ignatian spirituality.

On July 12, 2013, 3,500 young people will once again come together for MAGIS, starting in the Brazilian city of Salvador-Bahia, located 1,000 miles north of Rio. For three days, the MAGIS pilgrims will be immersed in the city’s 463-year Jesuit history and heritage, before traveling in smaller groups to numerous locations throughout Brazil.

Brazilian Pilgrims stand with World Youth Day Cross, at Closing Mass in Madrid

Brazilian pilgrims stand with the World Youth Day Cross at the closing Mass in Madrid. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Jesuit Mike Rogers, the coordinator for American participants, says the three days in Salvador-Bahia are vital to focusing hearts and minds in preparation for the weeklong experiences.

“The program itself, MAGIS, is named after a key principle of Ignatian spirituality. Ignatian spirituality compels us; it pulls us deeper. The question needs to be, ‘Okay, now what?’ MAGIS is a time for young people to reflect, to pray and to act. Contemplation always needs to lead to action, and MAGIS gives us the opportunity to see how Christ loves the world in a very concrete and rich way,” Rogers says.

With the guiding theme of “Nations Await Us,” MAGIS organizers are sending the young pilgrims to cultural, geographical and social frontiers, where they will experience aspects of Brazilian life and encounter its people. The pilgrims will contemplate environmental, spiritual, educational, ethnic, urban and rural questions. But most importantly, they will be challenged to be a meaningful presence in the world, in the life of the people they will meet and in the places they will be sent to.

“Some of the programs will focus on the environment of Brazil with a possible trip to the Amazon rainforest; learning about the different religions of Brazil, such as the native and African religions and their relationship with Christianity; service projects in and around Rio de Janeiro; and finally, pilgrimage opportunities,” says Rogers.

MAGIS pilgrims Cordoba, Spain, 2011

MAGIS pilgrims from France, Mauritius and Germany participate in their MAGIS experience in Cordoba, Spain. (Kaitlyn Schnieders)

After their week of experiences throughout Brazil, MAGIS pilgrims will reunite in Rio at the Colegio Santo Inacio in the Botafago neighborhood, just outside the city center. MAGIS participants will be close to the action, but just outside the crush of the millions of other pilgrims packed in Rio’s city center for World Youth Day. Once in Rio, MAGIS pilgrims will participate in the MAGIS closing Mass, attend a World Youth Day gathering at Copacabana Beach, climb the Corcovado Mountain to the world famous Christ the Redeemer Statue and, finally, celebrate Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.

Rogers, currently in Brazil on a MAGIS planning visit, said a number of Jesuit colleges and universities have expressed interest in sending students, with Americans making up approximately 300-400 of the 3,500 worldwide MAGIS participants. With MAGIS less than a year away, excitement is building.

“We’ve set up an application system and process, which is quicker and fairer to our institutions. We’ve outlined programs and created a website, a Facebook page and a Twitter feed with members of the Jesuit Post providing coverage.”

If you’re interested in participating in MAGIS or want more information about this unique World Youth Day opportunity, check out the Jesuit Conference’s MAGIS website or contact Jesuit Mike Rogers.

—Kaitlyn McCarthy Schnieders

Jesuit’s New Film Claims Physics Helps Prove Existence of God

Jesuit Father Robert SpitzerJesuit Father Robert Spitzer, former president of Gonzaga University, is “utterly convinced that the evidence from physics shows the existence of God.”

He backs up his statement with his new film, “Cosmic Origins,” a 49-minute documentary that features eight physicists who discuss the big bang theory, theories of modern physics and the need for a creator.

Along with Fr. Spitzer, founder of the Magis Center for Faith and Reason, the film features Michael Heller of the Vatican Observatory, Nobel Laureate Arno Penzias and professors from Harvard and Cambridge.

In choosing the physicists for the film, Fr. Spitzer made sure that  every scientist was “absolutely top in their field, world class, they had to be a Nobel prize winner, a Templeton prize winner or come from Harvard or Cambridge or from the top ranks of NASA.”

The scientists affirm that it is impossible for the universe to be random and without purpose, he said.

“When the universe was nothing, it could not have moved itself from nothing, something else had to do it, and that something else was a transcendent creator,” Fr. Spitzer said.

Fr. Spitzer claims that this creator would have to exist outside space and time because before the Big Bang, nothing existed, including space and time.

“Cosmic Origins” is available on Amazon, and information on a parish screening program is available through the “Cosmic Origins” website, www.cosmicoriginsfilm.com. Read more on Fr. Spitzer and his new film at Catholic News Agency.

Jesuits See Growth of Alaskan Church in Formation of Native Leaders

Jesuits in Alaska

Jesuit Fathers Gregg Wood, Tom Provinsal, Ted Kestler and Chuck Peterson with Jesuit novice Christopher Kepler in Alaska

The Society of Jesus founded the Diocese of Fairbanks 125 years ago, and today that legacy continues in the work of Jesuits actively promoting vocations and developing native leadership in Alaska.

In the past, Jesuit priests would either live among native people or visit them frequently. Jesuit Fathers Tom Provinsal, Ted Kestler, Chuck Peterson and Gregg Wood agreed that today the priority of the Catholic Church in “bush villages,” remote native communities only accessible by plane or boat, is the promotion of vocations and catechetical formation and training of lay people.

“How do you combine what we call practical theology with theology?” questioned Fr. Kestler, who described himself as a “theologyholic.”

Members of Alaska’s indigenous communities learn by doing, he explained, whereas the church, influenced by Western culture, puts theory before practice.

“In the Catholic Church, there are some things you can’t teach by doing, but other things you can. We need to find a balance,” Fr. Kestler said.

Relationship building is key in the efforts of finding that equilibrium, the Jesuits concurred, but that is equally difficult when the ministers are absent from the communities they serve for long periods of time.

However, in the absence of priests, local leaders are becoming more independent in making decisions to address social issues, such as alcoholism and drug abuse, affecting their younger generations.

“What this says to me is that our best role is to be somewhat on the sidelines encouraging them to say, ‘yes, you can,’” said Fr. Wood.

Today, he said, native deacons are active participants in the church’s planning, together with the Jesuits and diocesan priests.

The priests are convinced that Eskimos have unique insight and methods of learning that could be very useful if they’re given more opportunities to actively participate in the church in leadership roles.

Thus, their efforts are being focused on the training and formation of those leaders.

“[In Alaska] we are on a frontier,” said Fr. Wood. “And people are going through tremendous changes and transitions in a very short span, and we are in that frontier with them.”

Read the full story at U.S. Catholic.

Jesuit Cardinal’s Last Interview Calls for Renewal in the Church

Italian Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria MartiniItalian Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a renowned biblical scholar, former archbishop of Milan and popular writer, gave a final interview shortly before he died on August 31.

During the interview, Cardinal Martini discussed renewal in the church:

“Vatican II restored the Bible to Catholics. … Only someone who receives this Word in his heart can be among those who will help the renewal of the church and will know how to respond to personal questions wisely. The Word of God is simple and seeks as its companion a heart that is listening. … Neither the clergy nor church law can substitute for a person’s inwardness. All the external rules, the laws, the dogmas were given to us in order to clarify the inner voice and to discern spirits.”

Cardinal Martini also described the situation of the church today as “tired” and said the church is “two hundred years behind.” When asked who can help the church, he said:

I advise the pope and the bishops to look for twelve people outside the lines for administrative posts [posti direzionali] — people who are close to the poorest and who are surrounded by young people and are trying out new things. We need that comparison with people who are on fire so that the spirit can spread everywhere.

Cardinal Martini also said that “the church has to recognize its own errors and has to travel a radical journey of change, beginning with the pope and the bishops.”

He ended the interview saying, “The good people around me enable me to experience love. This love is stronger than the feeling of discouragement that I sometimes feel in looking at the church in Europe. Only love conquers weariness. God is Love. I have a question for you: ‘What can you do for the church?’”

Read a translation of the full interview at the Commonweal website.

Vocation Director Shares His Own Vocation Story on Busted Halo Show

Jesuit  Father Chuck FredericoJesuit  Father Chuck Frederico, vocation director for the Maryland, New England and New York Provinces of the Society of Jesus, was a recent guest on “The Busted Halo Show with  Fr. Dave Dwyer” on Sirius Radio.

In addition to discussing the Jesuit formation process, Fr. Frederico shared his own vocation story.

Fr. Frederico explained that after high school he went to the Culinary Institute of America in New York, which had previously been a Jesuit novitiate, St. Andrew-on-Hudson.

Before attending, one of Fr. Frederico’s high school teachers, a diocesan priest, told him to do three things when he arrived. One, to take notice of the “AMDG” — which stands for Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (“For the greater glory of God”),  the motto of the Society of Jesus — written on the front door. Fr. Frederico recognized this from his grade school days. “I’d been writing that on the top of my loose leaf since first grade because the nuns I had, the sisters of St. Joseph, were founded by the Jesuits.”

His teacher also said in the small chapel there would be a window of St. Aloysius Gonzaga receiving first communion from St. Charles Borromeo. Fr. Frederico recognized this from his grammar school days as well, as he attended St. Charles Borrmeo.

Third, his teacher asked Fr. Frederico to read a book on Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Fr. Frederico was fascinated by his life.

After culinary school, he went to Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia to study food marketing. “I  met the Jesuits in spirit at the Culinary Institute and in the flesh at Saint Joe’s,” Fr.  Frederico said.

Fr. Frederico was planning to have his own restaurant, but God had different plans.

“I was fascinated by these guys [the Jesuits]. I had six different Jesuits in the classroom, and each of them taught with such passion,” he said.

By his senior year, Fr. Frederico was applying to the Jesuits. Listen to the whole segment with Fr. Frederico online.