Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

After Nearly Two Decades in Rome, U.S. Jesuit Has Unique Global Perspective on the Society

Jesuit Father Frank Case

Photo via Gonzaga Magazine

Father Frank Case is an American Jesuit with a vision of the international whole of the Society of Jesus. He spent 18 years in Rome, where he received an education in the Society’s global works.

In 1990, Fr. Case became regional assistant representing U.S. Jesuits to Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach. In 2005, he was named general secretary, the Society’s No. 2 position. Six days a week, he and other advisers met with the Father General for briefings on Jesuit matters from all over the world.

Fr. Case, who now serves as vice president for Mission and Identity at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., shared some of his insights on the global Society of Jesus.

“Africa was marvelous to watch. With our Oregon Province twinned with Zambia, we still have about five men from our province in Zambia,” he said. “There are a lot of young provincials in Africa … It’s neat to see them take ownership of their society and of the African Church, which is burgeoning, full of life and vitality.”

As for Asia, India has the largest population of Jesuits in the world – more than 4,000 of 18,000 Jesuits worldwide, according to Fr. Case. Vietnam sees healthy Jesuit growth, he says, with 20 to 40 vocations per year.

China has two often-polarized strands of the Catholic Church, the government-run Catholic Patriotic Association and the underground Church, explained Fr. Case. In a sign of its trust of the Jesuits, Fr. Case said, the Chinese government asked American Jesuit universities to collaborate in creating a U.S.-style MBA program in Beijing. The program began in 1998 and thrived until publicity of its successes upset the unusual arrangement. Yet China continues to tolerate a Jesuit presence, Fr. Case said.

When Fr. Case arrived in Rome, the fall of the Iron Curtain was still reverberating.

“When the Berlin Wall collapsed,” he said, “we had [Jesuits] coming out of the woodwork. In one case, two blood brothers were Jesuits, and neither knew about the other. That was the level of secrecy needed all through Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and Lithuania. One Jesuit was a nuclear physicist in Lithuania. He sat on the equivalent of the Russian atomic energy commission, and certainly no one knew that he was a Jesuit.”

Read more of Fr. Case’s insights in the story by Marny Lombard at Gonzaga University Magazine’s website.

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 Provincial of Eastern Africa Discusses the Situation in Uganda Today in This Month’s NJN Podcast

Last month, a video detailing atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which he heads, caused an Internet sensation. The video, which has been viewed by some 100 million people, made Joseph Kony a household name.

The warlord and his ruthless guerrilla group are responsible for a 26-year campaign of terror in Uganda that has been marked by child abductions and widespread killings. Last year, President Obama dispatched 100 U.S. troops — mostly Army Special Forces — to Central Africa to advise regional forces in their hunt for Kony.

The group running the Kony 2012 campaign is holding a nationwide event today – Friday, April 20 —  titled “Cover the Night,” where supporters are encouraged to spread the word of Kony 2012 around their local communities.

The Society of Jesus, the largest religious order of Roman Catholic priests and brothers in the world, has worked in Uganda for more than 40 years.  The Society’s Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has conducted peace-building workshops, run schools and economic development projects and ministered to refugees in Uganda. In 2005, the Jesuits of the Eastern Africa Province began planning for a secondary school in northern Uganda, the Ocer Campion Jesuit College in Gulu. The co-educational high school admitted its first students in early 2010 and is already having a tremendously positive impact in a region devastated by over 20 years of civil war. The school will grow to a capacity of 1,200 students and includes agricultural and vocational training as well as rigorous academic formation in the Jesuit tradition, religious formation and peace education.

In this podcast, Jesuit Father Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, the Jesuit provincial of Eastern Africa, speaks with National Jesuit News about the Jesuit’s work in Uganda, the progress that’s been made, the work that still needs to be done and how young people can get involved.

Jesuit Doctoral Students Plan Work Back Home in Africa

Jesuit Father Jean-Baptiste Mazarati spoke to students, faculty and staff about the Jesuit ministry in Africa and his plans to return to the continent after receiving a doctoral degree from Georgetown. // Photo: Georgetown University

Two African Jesuits completing their doctorates in health care at Georgetown spoke to students, faculty and staff last week about their plans to return to the country to help their communities.

The talk, “Jesuits in Africa: The Hope of International Development” was part of Jesuit Heritage Week, which began on Jan. 29 and ran through Feb. 4.

“Jesuits are working in 28 out of 54 African countries today,” noted Jesuit Father Rodrigue Takoudjou.“We African Jesuits clearly perceive health care and education as priorities in our ministries.”

Fr. Takoudjuou, of Cameroon, is getting his Ph.D. in pharmacology, plans to teach at a Jesuit medical school in Chad.

One of the main health care issues that Jesuits are helping combat in Africa is HIV/AIDS, mostly through organizations such as The African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN).

“AJAN’s mission is to stimulate and coordinate the work of African Jesuits in responding to HIV and AIDS in an effective, coordinated and evangelical manner, culturally sensitive and spiritually grounded,” he explained. “The African Jesuits are involved in more than 100 HIV/AIDS initiatives throughout the continent.”

Fellow panelist Jesuit Father Jean-Baptiste Mazarati, of Rwanda, will teach at the state medical school in his country when he graduates with a doctorate in tumor biology in 2012.

“Africa stands in the world as a big question mark. So who will answer that question?” Mazarati said. “It is a question of endemic poverty. It is a question of endemic disease. It is a question of endemic conflicts. It is a question of lack of leadership. …It is a question of a continent that holds so much richness, yet is struggling to take off.”

Africa also has a large population of children, he said, so there is a strong need for educational advancements.

Jesuits are sending Rwandan priests around the world to seek higher education in the sciences, social sciences and development “to make sure that tomorrow we come back to Rwanda stronger,” and ready to teach, Mazarati said.

Carol Lancaster, dean of the School of Foreign Service, moderated the event. Katherine Marshall, a senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, also participated in the panel discussion.

“Jesuits have made such a contribution to this university and to the world,” Lancaster said.

The Jesuits’ personal stories of mission and ministry in Africa enlightened, yet posed more questions for some in the audience.

“The intersection between religion and African development is an extremely interesting field that must be further explored to fully understand the challenges and hopes of development,” said Vivian Ojo, who helped organize the event with Mariana Santos.

“The Jesuits provided some answers to some of the most difficult questions [plaguing Africa],” Ojo added. “I left the conversation with a desire to search for more answers about a topic not often explored.”

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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