Archive for October, 2012

Jesuit Reflects on Working with Refugees in Africa

Jesuit Father Gary Smith

The Rev. Gary Smith worked with several young students at Kakuma Refugee camp, including Luul, a Muslim from Somalia. Photo courtesy Jesuit Refugee Service.

Jesuit Father Gary Smith has dedicated more than 50 years of his life to serving the poor, including the last dozen in African refugee camps in Uganda, South Africa and Kenya. He says that working with the poor in U.S. cities, such as Portland, Tacoma and Oakland, prepared him for his work with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Africa.

“It gave me a viewpoint of how the church had moved toward the poor. All the personalities you find on the streets prepare you for all the personalities you find in the camps. Human beings are human beings,” Fr. Smith says.

Now back in the states, Fr. Smith recently spoke with The Oregonian about why he’s drawn to Africa: “There are the poor and there are the poor. My experience in the refugee camp is that people there have no address, no money, no documents. The degree of poverty is very different.”

Fr. Smith also discussed working with refugees from other faiths.  He said working with Muslims was not difficult. “They believe in the absolute, the creator. They want help discerning how God is moving in their lives,” he says. “They saw me as a father, someone who wanted to listen to them very attentively. These students knew the Quran, and they rejected extremists out of hand.”

Fr. Smith also spent time helping refugee students work on an online diploma program through Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins, which is run by Jesuit universities and JRS.  “When you work with really bright refugees who want nothing more than to be a man and a woman for others, there is a great sense of accomplishment in that,” Fr. Smith says.

To read the complete interview with Fr. Smith, visit The Oregonian website.

Jesuit President of Spring Hill College Talks Southern Culture, Vocations with Local News

Jesuit Father Richard SalmiJesuit Father Richard Salmi, president of Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala.,  had spent very little time in the south before his appointment in 2009. He recently spoke with the local Fox news station, where he said that at first he felt like a stranger in a strange land.

“I never saw grits until I moved here, but then I discovered shrimp and grits, which I have to say has converted me,” says Fr. Salmi, who came to Spring Hill from Loyola University Chicago. “One of the things I love about the south is just how warm and friendly people are. The city has been so welcoming.”

Fr. Salmi, originally from Cleveland, first became interested in the Jesuits at Ohio University.

“My freshman year in college was the year of the Kent State killings and the Vietnam War protests, and so it was a turbulent time for America. I had a Jesuit as an instructor at this big state school. I looked at the Jesuits and saw all the good works they were doing all over the place. I was going to save the world and certainly the Jesuits were going to help me do it,” he recalls.

Fr. Salmi made a weeklong retreat with the Jesuits to discern whether he should become a priest or join the Peace Corps. He chose the Jesuits. “ I like the idea that as a Jesuit you could be a doctor or a lawyer. You could have a profession in addition to being a priest,” Fr. Salmi says.

“Social justice has always been at the core of what we are about, and we’ve always been on the cutting edge in the cusp of justice issues,” says Fr. Salmi.

Looking toward the future for Spring Hill, Fr. Salmi says the institution needs to look at “what we are doing to enable Hispanics to come to Spring Hill and how are we going to speak out for the undocumented folks and how do we stand for the Dream Act.”

Watch the full feature on Fr. Salmi below.

The Interview: Fr. Richard Salmi

Jesuit Photographer Featured in The New York Times

Jesuit Father Don DollJesuit Father Don Doll has been a photographer — his second calling — for 50 years. The New York Times Lens blog recently examined the connection between Fr. Doll’s first calling to the priesthood and his calling to photography.

Fr. Doll began taking photos while working on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota in 1962. He said that after taking photos for over two years, he became discouraged because he “still hadn’t taken a decent picture.”

He considered giving up photography and went for a walk in the South Dakota prairie to think about what his mission as a Jesuit should be. “I heard a loud voice saying: ‘Stay with photography. It’s the first thing you really loved doing. Stay with it. Don’t worry if it takes 10 years,’ ” he recalls.

Fr. Doll stuck with photography, and his work has been published in National Geographic magazine and three books. His newest publication is an autobiographical book “A Call to Vision: A Jesuit’s Perspective on the World.”

Fr. Doll photo: Grandmother Therchik with her grandchildren

Grandmother Therchik, a Yupik Eskimo, enjoyed a moment with her grandchildren. The bonds of kinship are powerful in Eskimo society. Courtesy Don Doll, SJ.

Fr. Doll has used photography to promote Native American culture. “I learned to respect another culture, because we were immersed in it,” Fr. Doll said. “And I really learned about the values that the Native Americans have of sharing and their sense of generosity with one another, and how they honor you.”

In 1974, Fr. Doll returned to the Rosebud Reservation as a documentary photographer. He said he often prayed before releasing the shutter. “I used to pray that I could really make photographs that portrayed how special they are and something of the empathy they had and that God has for them,” he explained.

During a 30-day retreat, Fr. Doll discovered a link between prayer and photography. “I said: ‘Oh my god! Prayer is just like photography, where you have to let go of what you want to happen or what you think’s going to happen. You have to let go of your preconceptions and I think that same thing applies to photographing. You have to let go of your suppositions of what the picture is or should be and just be present in the moment.’ ”

Read the full story about Fr. Doll on the New York Times website and watch the Creighton University video that celebrates the photography of Fr. Doll below.

Jesuit Ministers to Lawmakers in Nation’s Capital

Jesuit Father Patrick ConroyJesuit Father Patrick Conroy, the first Jesuit to serve as chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, recently returned to his alma mater Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., and he compared his current job in the nation’s capital to working on a college campus.

“It’s like ministering to college students,” Fr. Conroy told the Gonzaga Bulletin. “It’s the same thing in that I’m just present and available to talk about what the members are interested in and what their needs are.”

Fr. Conroy, who has been House chaplain for over a year now, has grown accustomed to life in Washington, D.C.  He’s even found himself a favorite spot in the building: the Chamber of the House when it’s empty.

“That chamber’s been there for 160 years now, and you know the business and the history that’s gone by in that chamber and that’s currently going on in that chamber,” said Fr. Conroy. “Those times when I’m in there alone are pretty focused. And that’s pretty humbling. That’s a sacred time and space.”

While Fr. Conroy didn’t know Speaker of the House John Boehner before getting the position, they shared a Jesuit connection. Boehner, who graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati, wanted a Jesuit for the chaplain position.

Now that the House is in recess, Fr. Conroy has plans to spend some time traveling around the country.

“I’m graced with the relationships that I have, and that I’ve been able to have as a Jesuit, and because I’m Jesuit, I get assigned to something like this that includes interacting with all kinds of people, in all kinds of settings,” said Fr. Conroy.

When Fr. Conroy was newly ordained, he ministered to the Colville and Spokane tribes. After his time on the reservation, he worked as a campus minister at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Seattle University and then taught at Jesuit High School in Portland, Ore. Read more about Fr. Conroy in the Gonzaga Bulletin.

Jesuit Superior General on the New Evangelization

Jesuit Father General Adolfo NicolásJesuit Father General Adolfo Nicolás, superior general of the Society of Jesus, recently spoke about the new evangelization, or missionary outreach, to the 25th Synod of Bishops. The synod brought together over 250 top church leaders for a three-week summit at the Vatican.

Father General Nicolás told the synod that the Ignatian spirituality he was formed in encourages finding God in all things.

“I am afraid that we missionaries have not done it with sufficient depth,” he said.  Father General Nicolas also spoke about the need to enrich the universal church with the signs and seeds of God’s presence in other cultures and religions.

Father General Nicolás, who spent most of his priesthood in Japan and in other parts of Asia, said too many church members have “looked for Western signs of faith and sanctity and have not discovered how God has been at work in other peoples. This impoverishes all. We miss important clues, insights and discoveries,” he said.

“The fullness of Christ needs the contribution of all peoples and all cultures,” Father General Nicolás said. He said some of the keys to effective evangelization include:

  • The simplicity of the message.
  • Generosity in acknowledging the work of God in the life and history of people.
  • Being aware of one’s own life as a factor of credibility.
  • Forgiveness and reconciliation are the most helpful shortcuts to the heart of the Gospel.

Read the full text of Father General Nicolás’s remarks and learn more about the synod from this Catholic News Service report.