Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Jesuit Discusses New Responsibilities of South Sudan

In August, Jesuit Father David Hollenbach, conducted a workshop for leaders of the Catholic community of South Sudan in the national capital of Juba and addressed South Sudan’s Parliament on the role of moral values in shaping the institutions of the World’s  newest country. In his article for America Magazine about the experience, Fr. Hollenbach reflected on the sizable Catholic population in South Sudan, and how the lengthy civil war has weakened the country’s society with the Church left as one of the few functioning bodies.

“The Catholic community in South Sudan especially shares the responsibility to help shape the life of the new country. Because of this important role, Catholic Relief Services and an association of women’s and men’s religious orders named Solidarity with South Sudan invited me to conduct a week-long workshop in August for church leaders. I was asked to speak about how the Catholic understanding of social justice and peace could contribute to the development of the new country. It was a humbling privilege. What follows sketches some of the suggestions I made, moving from the foundational principle of Catholic social thought to several more practical recommendations…”

1. The protection of the human dignity of every person, which requires active participation in the life of society, is the core responsibility in all social interactions, and protection of the most basic requirements of human dignity is the particular responsibility of the new government of South Sudan.

2. The people of South Sudan should be helped to become active citizens through civic education that teaches them how to work together for the common good of all.

3. Citizens should hold government officials accountable for using the power bestowed on them to serve the common good of all, and the capacity of citizens to hold officials accountable should be strengthened.

4. Every person is to be treated with reverence and respect, independent of ethnicity, race, or religion; tribalism is a serious threat to attaining the justice and peace that independence promises and must be resisted.

5. National unity depends on justice in the distribution of land.

6. National unity depends on justice in the distribution of the proceeds from the extraction of natural resources such as oil.

Click below to listen to an interview with Fr. Hollenbach on Radio Bakhita, the leading FM station in Juba, South Sudan.

Jesuit Works to Educate Children Impacted by HIV/AIDS in Kenya

More than one million people live in Nairobi’s squatter community of Kibera, including 30,000 orphans of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Recently, Chicago Public Media spoke with Jesuit Father Global 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.

In 2001, as Charlton visited people suffering from AIDS, he kept hearing a repeated concerns for the children of those suffering, primarily about the child’s ongoing education.

“There is free universal primary education in Kenya, but all secondary education, including at the government schools is for a cost, and a cost that would be far beyond the means of these people mired in poverty because of their illness, not able to hold jobs and that sort of thing. So in 2003 our school decided to sponsor 12 of their children for freshman year of high school,” said Father Charlton.

Working to help more children in the same situation, Charlton opened a school for 25 students in 2004. Through the support of many people from around the World, plus a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Government, they have been able to build a school that now accommodates 280 students.

Jesuit Transforming Lives through Education in Tanzania

Jesuit Father Martin ConnellJesuit Father Martin Connell, a member of the Chicago-Detroit Province, currently serves in Dodoma, Tanzania, where he is provincial assistant for education of the Eastern Africa Province and headmaster of the new Our Lady Queen of Peace Educational Centre and its St. Peter Claver High School.

While teaching at Loyola Marymount University, Fr. Connell was asked if he’d be willing to leave his post to open a new high school in Tanzania.

“Absolutely” was his answer. “My educational and work background, coupled with my desire to follow St. Ignatius’s principles of a universal Society and the virtue of availability to go where the needs are greatest, have led me to this place and time,” he explained.

The high school, which opened in January 2011, serves 140 boys and girls and includes a four-story dormitory with two wings that can house 640 students each. As a boarding school, it puts girls on equal footing with boys; otherwise, the girls would be expected to perform domestic duties upon returning home each day.

“It is no surprise to those who know the Jesuits that the Society believes in the transformative power of education—as a link between learning and a better future for students,” said Connell. “But education also empowers individuals to improve the lives of their fellow citizens. Here in Tanzania, we believe it will not only help improve our students’ and their community’s quality of life, but that it will support a more informed democracy and help Tanzanians diminish the poverty that many face every day.”

To learn more about Connell’s work in Tanzania, visit the Chicago-Detroit Province’s website and Connell’s blog.

A Jesuit Doctor’s Journey in Africa

Jesuit Father Ken Johnson

Jesuit Father Ken Johnson at the door of one of the hospitals he serves.

Jesuit Father Ken Johnson shares his experiences as a priest and doctor in Zambia and Malawi:

As a young man I had met several priests (Jesuit and non-Jesuit) who inspired me with their lives of generous service, putting their considerable talents wholly at the service of others. But it was a few Jesuits who helped me pray through the Spiritual Exercises that crystallized my desire to enter the Society – largely to grow in the prayerful search for God’s will and to grow in understanding of how I could more fully and more generously cooperate with it. This desire was there for a long time, but it slowly developed as I matured through studies in adolescence and as a young man.

I completed medical studies before I was able to enter the Society and for some time thought I might leave that work behind as a new life developed within the Society. During the years of formation in the Society, my superiors helped me to search for new ways of putting to good use the experiences I had already had – and I became associated briefly with several medical schools for brief periods, moving to different places and meeting different persons as is the custom of a Jesuit scholastic. After ordination I had expected to return to a medical school, but I was given the mandate to go to Zambia. That was in February 1993.

My first assignment in Zambia was at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka – a placement that was very providential since I had the opportunity to meet many fine young doctors with whom I remain friends today and to get acquainted with the expected standards of care in a recognizable but somewhat different environment. For several years afterwards I went to explore work in a Catholic mission hospital so as to understand the distinctive service Catholic hospitals provide. Then I returned to the University Hospital and subsequently to a district general hospital contributing to the teaching of medical students, registrars (residents in training) and clinical officers (physician assistants). In these different settings I was able to help many sick patients. I was also very fortunate to network with sisters, brothers and priests and found that I could assist them and their families. Although I do not celebrate the sacraments in the hospital, I have found many opportunities for ministry in parishes and in retreat work. I have found that I have quite enough leisure to be of help in spiritual direction over these many years.

During the last 10 years of work in a district general hospital, I was able to source some funds to effect major improvements of the equipment of the hospital for the surgical theatre, for the ablution blocks and for the laundry. By some unexpected providential meetings, I began hosting a series of international students who came to get a month’s sense of medical work in an African setting.

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African Jesuits Gathering in Baltimore Explores Future Opportunities to Partner with American Jesuits

In May, the Jesuit Conference of the United States sponsored a gathering at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore of African Jesuits currently studying in the U.S. and Canada. The gathering was a means of solidarity, support and collaboration with the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JESAM) with its president, Jesuit Father Michael Lewis also present at the meeting.

During the meeting, the members of the U.S. Assistancy and JESAM in attendance considered strategies for the various ways the U.S. and the African provinces might have opportunities to work more closely together, such as in the arenas of potential exchange programs between the U.S. and Africa’s apostolic works, in creating partnerships between apostolates, and by identifying tertianship experiences in Africa for U.S. Jesuits.

The African Jesuits also shared with their U.S. brothers the challenges the Society of Jesus faces in Africa around educational opportunities; with ethnic and political tensions; in health care, especially for HIV/AIDs and malaria treatments; and also the environmental and ecological concerns facing the continent.

“It bodes well for the future of the Society of Jesus that there will be well trained men in various disciplines to continue and develop the work of the Jesuits in Africa and Madagascar. It goes without saying that the Jesuits of North America have been extremely generous to us in providing the wherewithal for African and Malagasy Jesuits to specialize in these many and varied subjects. The Church and the Society are very grateful for this often unsung and open-handed support for the apostolates of the Society in our continent,” said Jesuit Father Michael Lewis, president of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar. “There are men studying everything from engineering, informatics, administration, to pedagogy and the like which will help the Church and the Jesuits of the future to continue offering the work we do for the people of Africa and Madagascar.”

Thirty-seven African Jesuits participated in the gathering (there are approximately 60 African Jesuits currently in the U.S. and Canada), representing seven African provinces and regions, and 16 different countries. The participants came from various places throughout the U.S. and Canada where they are studying, ministering or on sabbatical.

In addition, five people from the U.S. Assistancy participated: three from the Jesuit Conference, including Jesuit Father Tom Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference of the United States; a provincial assistant from the New York province; and a provincial assistant from the Wisconsin province.

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