Archive for March, 2013

Inspired by Pope Francis, Jesuits Washed Feet of Young Inmates in Los Angeles on Holy Thursday

Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy

Yesterday, Jesuits washed the feet of young inmates at a juvenile detention facility in Los Angeles, as Pope Francis did for young Italian prisoners rather than for clerics as is the custom on Holy Thursday.

The decision to hold Holy Thursday services with young prisoners exemplified the particular Jesuit calling for “faith that does justice,” Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy told The Los Angeles Times. Fr. Kennedy ministers to inmates and their families for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles through the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative.

The Times reported that “the Jesuits in black shirts and clerical collars knelt before the youths in standard-issue gray sweats as they poured cool water over their feet and dried them, drawing both smiles and solemn looks.”

The young people also read letters to the pope, asking for healing and blessings. The inmates’ letters were then sent to Rome, where Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said in an email that Pope Francis would “surely read them with profound gratitude and he will pray for all the young people that are in the Juvenile Hall, and all that are in prisons.”

According to Fr. Kennedy, the pope’s visit to the Casal del Marmo juvenile jail for his first papal Holy Thursday service electrified social justice advocates across the globe.

“He’s going to places nobody wants to go to be with people who are forgotten,” Fr. Kennedy said of the pope. “It’s really shifting the paradigm of who we need to embrace and who is important in God’s eyes.”

Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times website.

Jesuit Stresses Role of Jesus’ Cross in Our Faith in Lenten Podcast

Jesuit Father Fred Betti, director of campus ministry at Canisius High School, in Buffalo, N.Y., offers a reflection on the themes of triumph and tragedy in the final Lenten podcast from the New England and New York Province Jesuits.

Fr. Betti reminds us that on Good Friday we are encouraged to focus on the most essential part of our faith: the cross of Jesus. He recounts an inspiring story from one of his students that helped Fr. Betti appreciate the place of the cross. The student visited Long Island, N.Y., during Christmas vacation to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. While sorting through the rubble, the student found a beautiful silver crucifix with dried palm branches wrapped around it from the previous year’s Holy Week.

According to Fr. Betti, the student said, “There in the midst of the rubble, I saw the crucified Christ. And it was almost as if Christ was saying, ‘I’m here. I’m here suffering in the midst of all this disaster with all those who also were suffering through the terrible aftermath of that hurricane and how it destroyed so much in people’s lives.’”

Fr. Betti explains that God loves us but does not simply take our suffering away – he suffers with us.

“As we think about what the cross means to us, we realize Jesus, through his cross, made an unbearable burden bearable, because he took that suffering with him, the suffering of all times and all places. He destroyed its fatal power by offering it to God through his voluntary death on the cross for each and every one of us.”

Fr. Betti encourages us to take a moment each day to ask ourselves, “How seriously do I take this story of Jesus’ greatest act of love for me?”

Listen to the full podcast at the New England Province website.

Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities Announces Jesuit Father Michael J. Sheeran as President

SheeranMichael_portrait3

The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), which serves the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S., has announced that Jesuit Father Michael J. Sheeran will begin his tenure as president on April 1. He succeeds Jesuit Father Gregory F. Lucey, who has served as president since 2011.

“It is a great privilege to lead the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. We will work to advance the mission of Jesuit higher education: to help students lead exemplary lives and grow in service, faith and justice,” said Fr. Sheeran.

Prior to his new post, Fr. Sheeran had been president of Regis University in Denver for 20 years. He also served as the university’s academic vice president and academic dean. Under Fr. Sheeran’s leadership, Regis University’s student enrollment doubled. He also oversaw the development of Regis’ online academic programs, established partnerships with international Jesuit institutions and hosted Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton on campus in 1993.

Fr. Sheeran entered the Society of Jesus in 1957 and was ordained a priest in 1970. He holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University and has taught at Regis University, Saint Louis University and Regis Jesuit High School in Denver.

Jesuit Father Stephen V. Sundborg, AJCU Board of Directors Chair and president of Seattle University, said, “On behalf of the AJCU Board of Directors, I welcome Fr. Sheeran as the new president of AJCU and thank him for his service. We also thank Fr. Lucey for his outstanding leadership over the past two years, and we wish him well in his return to Spring Hill College as its chancellor.” [AJCU]

Jesuit’s Lenten Podcast Reflection Focuses on Mercy and Forgiveness

Jesuit Father Edward Durkin, principal of NativityMiguel Middle School in Buffalo, N.Y., discusses the messages of mercy and forgiveness in the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery for the fifth Lenten podcast from the New England and New York Province Jesuits.

Fr. Durkin first calls attention to the beginning of the Gospel passage, where Jesus spends the night in solitude on the Mount of Olives. Fr. Durkin compares this solemn prayer experience with Jesus’ next day, which is spent teaching “all the people,” emphasizing Jesus’s broad appeal.

“Ignatius of Loyola, our [the Society of Jesus’] founder, teaches us that perhaps there should not be a thick line of demarcation between our encounter with God in solitude and our encounter with God our Father in the intensity of the apostolate,” says Fr. Durkin.

The scribes and the Pharisees bring the woman to be stoned to Jesus and ask him what should be done with her, to test him. He saves her life, and according to Fr. Durkin, this is the moment Jesus has been waiting for.

“He has saved her life physically, and now he strives to save her life within,” he says.

With the words “Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus dismisses the woman with mercy. “Let us abide with this scene, and let that same gaze of that same savior come upon us with this same merciful love,” concludes Fr. Durkin.

Listen to the full podcast at the New England Province website.

A Day of Jesuit Thanksgiving: The Canonizations of Sts. Ignatius and Francis Xavier

St. Ignatius of LoyolaA little-known day of Jesuit thanksgiving was celebrated on March 12 to mark the canonizations of two of the most famous Jesuits: St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier. Every year on that date, each Jesuit offers a special prayer or Mass of Thanksgiving for the gift of the saints’ canonizations, which occurred on March 12, 1622 — 66 years after the death of Ignatius and 70 years after the death of Xavier.

The founder of the Society of Jesus, Ignatius lived most of his priestly life in a small room in Rome, directing the newly founded Society. Francis Xavier, one of the Society’s most well-known missionaries, lived most of his Jesuit life traveling around Asia, preaching and baptizing.

Pope Gregory XV was responsible for canonizing the two Jesuits, and he held religious orders in high esteem. The pope was educated by the Jesuits at the “Collegio Romano,” the university founded by Ignatius in Rome that is now known as the Gregorian University.

St. Francis XavierOn the same day Ignatius and Francis Xavier were canonized, Pope Gregory XV also canonized Teresa of Avila, reformer of the Carmelites; Philip Neri, founder of the Oratorian Fathers; and Isidore of Madrid, a simple but devout farmer, now patron of farmers, peasants, day laborers and rural communities.

The grouping of these five dissimilar saints took some by surprise and illustrated that there is no mold for being holy or even for becoming a canonized saint. Pope Gregory XV was never canonized, but he did keep his connection to the Jesuit saints. The pope was buried in the Church of Saint Ignatius in Rome when he died in 1623. [Society of Jesus in Thailand]