Archive for the ‘Partnerships’ Category

Jesuit Has Hopes for the Society of Jesus’ Future in Iraq

Jesuit Father Michael LindenJesuit Father Michael Linden, superior of the Jesuits in Jordan, has a challenging job. Living at the Jesuit Center in Jordan, he is responsible for exploring ways for the “restoration” of the Society of Jesus in Iraq.

The Jesuits arrived in Bagdad in 1932 to establish and run Baghdad College, which was staffed entirely by the New England Province Jesuits. In 1959, the Jesuits founded a second school there, Al Hikma University.

However, Fr. Linden explains that “American Jesuits were given short notice to leave, in two separate waves, in 1968 and 1969. Both schools eventually were wrapped into the state system of schools, and the U.S. Jesuits and the few Iraqi Jesuits filtered to other parts of the Near East or repatriated to the U.S.”

Fr. Linden says that many in Iraq remember the schools fondly and favorably. “There are good and supportive persons, Christians and Muslims, secularists and devout, who express hope and welcome to the Jesuits,” he says.

If the Jesuits return to Iraq, Fr. Linden says it’s hard to predict the nature of the Jesuit presence. “Some would like the U.S. Jesuits to parachute with a full Jesuit staff and system from the 1950’s back to Baghdad College. Some believe this is possible!”

According to Fr. Linden, Jesuits in Amman have learned that faith formation and service to migrant workers is important, as is close collaboration on the pastoral goals of the local bishops. “This can probably be replicated in Iraq,” he says.

Fr. Linden also believes Iraq has vocation potential. “Iraqi Christians are a giving people, and there will be Jesuit vocations from Iraq. These Iraqi Jesuits will eventually make the major discernment about their identity and work; perhaps it will include schools, perhaps not.”

Read the full interview with Fr. Linden in the April 2013 issue of JIVAN: News and Views of Jesuits in India and learn more at the New England Province Jesuits website. In the video below, Fr. Linden explains the ministries of the Jesuits in Jordan as well as their elation at the recent election of a Jesuit to the papacy.

What Kind of Monk Are You? Following in the Footsteps of Father Walter Ciszek

Jesuit Thomas M. SimiskyBy Thomas M. Simisky

Thomas M. Simisky, a Jesuit scholastic in his third year of theology studies at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, wrote the following reflection about his connection to Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek and his own service in Russia.

“Well, I’m not really a monk.  I’m a member of the Society of Jesus.  This is kind of a pilgrimage, encountering God as St. Ignatius might.” Thus began many conversations in Siberia this past summer when people struggled to figure me out.

Russia is overwhelmingly Orthodox, which means people are familiar with married priests and celibate monks living in monasteries. Religious life in our Western tradition is hard to grasp. The fact that I lived vowed life in community pointed towards monastic life.  However, I spent my days working with Russia’s poorest populations and my weekends socializing with friends. Plus, I smiled too much.

So the question kept arising: What was I doing in Russia and why did I even want to be there? After Jesus and Ignatius of Loyola, Walter Ciszek gets the credit.

Reading His Story

During the first year of my novitiate in Syracuse, our Novice Master asked us to choose an inspiring Jesuit saint. I came across Walter Ciszek, SJ, and immediately felt a connection.  Fr. Ciszek described himself as a tough, stubborn Pole and an unlikely candidate for priesthood. As a former Marine artillery officer, I still had many of my own rough edges.  Though not a canonized saint, he fulfilled my criteria of holiness. He clearly possessed the missionary zeal that I hoped to emulate in my Jesuit life.

Jesuit Thomas M. Simisky

I appreciated his direct style, especially the quotation: “Man was created to praise, reverence, and serve God in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next. That is the fact of the matter; you believe it or you don’t — and that is the end of it.” These words have inspired me at various times when I find myself getting down about something. I hear Ciszek’s advice as: “Tom, quit complaining. Get grateful. Put the focus back on Christ.”

After the novitiate, I spent three years in Bolivia and Chile studying philosophy. There I met a couple of Chilean Jesuits who had been missioned to Russia. I was fascinated by their stories. Later, I taught theology at Cheverus High School in Maine. Just for fun, I signed up for Russian classes through Portland’s adult education program. (Yes, Maine winters are long and one needs hobbies.)

During my second year of teaching, I discussed some chapters of “He Leadeth Me” with my senior theology classes. His story also intrigued many of my students. The consensus seemed to be, if he can find God in Soviet gulags, we should be able to find God in our lives.

Meeting the People He Loved

I am currently in my third year of theology studies at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and progressing toward priestly ordination. When I arrived, I asked to continue my Russian studies with a private tutor and to do apostolic work there during the summers.

Thomas M. Simisky with Missionaries of Charity sisters

Jesuit Thomas Simisky with Missionaries of Charity sisters.

My first summer was spent in Moscow in 2011. There I volunteered in an orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Theresa sisters) for children with severe disabilities.  I also helped organize books in the St. Thomas Institute library, a Jesuit school that grants bachelor’s degrees in religious studies.

On Sundays, I would attend different masses and be amazed by the enthusiasm of the Catholic community. There are only three Catholic churches in Moscow, each holding masses in various languages (Russian, Polish, French, German, Lithuanian, Spanish and English).  Every mass was standing room only and very international, the beauty of our Catholic faith.

This past summer was spent in Novosibirsk. There, the Society of Jesus runs a retreat house, as well as a pre-seminary for candidates who will move on to the diocesan seminary in St. Petersburg or the Jesuit novitiate in Poland. My task was to work with street alcoholics living at the Missionaries of Charity home. I taught a daily spirituality class in Russian to 15-20 adults whom the sisters had rescued from the streets. The rest of my day would be spent in pastoral conversations and simple housecleaning.

Another privileged encounter with Christ was the “Maly Kovcheg” (Little Ark) summer camp for adults with disabilities. This is a L’Arche-inspired community of Catholic and Orthodox volunteers who have been working together for the past 11 years. While physically challenging in many ways —  transporting patients in a rural setting and the labor involved in setting up the camp — it was a place of overwhelming joy and gratitude.

What Kind of Jesuit?

So, I’m not a monk. I am a sinner, yet called to be a companion of Jesus as Ignatius was (General Congregation 32). St. Ignatius always referred to himself as the pilgrim and dreamed of going to the Holy Land to walk in Jesus’ footsteps.

Walter Ciszek found God in Russia, and I too have found it to be a holy land because of its people. Russians face many challenges today, much of which comes from its history and the devastating effects of alcoholism on so many families. But I am grateful to Fr. Ciszek’s spiritual guidance, pointing me East so that I too might share in the love he had for the Russian people.

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.

Jesuit Historian on the Legacy of Vatican II 50 Years Later

Jesuit Father John W. O’MalleyYesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and Jesuit Father John W. O’Malley, a historian, theologian and professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., gave his thoughts on the legacy of Vatican II in both an interview with the Vatican Insider and an op-ed piece in The New York Times.

Fr. O’Malley says that one of the council’s legacies is that it gave the church “a new role as reconciler in a world torn apart by hatred and threats of violence.”

Reconciliation was one of the great themes running through the council, according to Fr. O’Malley. “The document of the liturgy, for instance, promoted a reconciliation of the church with non-Western cultures by inviting symbols and rituals from those cultures into the liturgy itself. The church thus distanced itself from the Western ‘cultural imperialism’ that affected even Catholic missionaries,” he says.

“Related to that reconciliation but perhaps even more pertinent for today’s world, was the reconciliation with Jews and Muslims, as expressed in the document Nostra Aetate. This meant putting behind us a tradition of belittling and denigrating those faiths, a tradition that had contributed to the horror of the Holocaust,” says Fr. O’Malley. “Pope John Paul II set a marvelous example by his many meetings with Jewish groups, as it is well known. Less well known, but in today’s tense international situation even more important, were his many meetings with Muslims.”

Fr. O’Malley says that Vatican II has already passed from experience and memory to history. Future generations, he says, “will experience what the council did not as a change but as ‘the way things are’ and maybe assume that is the way things have always been.”

In his op-ed piece, Fr. O’Malley concludes: “The post-Vatican II church was not a different church. But if you take the long view, it seems to me incontestable that the turn was big, even if failures in implementation have made it less big in certain areas than the council intended.”

Read the full interview with Fr. O’Malley at the Vatican Insider website and read his op-ed at The New York Times website.

The Rain People: Jesuit Ministers to Mixteco Community in Virginia

San Miguel sparkles.

His golden wings gleam. His ruby robe glitters. He looks more like a doll than a dragon slayer.

But the saint is tougher than he seems.

He defeats evil. He grants prayers. With the raised sword fastened to his hand by a rubber band, San Miguel will protect a small remnant of an ancient tribe: a people who have lived here, unseen, for 12 years.

The long-lashed, fiberglass saint is a perfect copy of the one standing in a small church 2,400 miles away. San Miguel is the patron saint of Metlatónoc, a remote mountain town in southwestern Mexico where Richmond’s Mixteco people were born. They may never go home again, so they have brought their saint here, to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Manchester.

In preparation for the saint’s arrival on this Saturday morning in late July, musicians strike up a song. Women arrive bearing bouquets of roses. A father makes the sign of the cross on his young daughter’s face with a white devotional candle, a veladora. He carries it to the front of the church, sets it in a metal stand and lights it. Other men join him, carrying candles, until the corner glows bright as a bonfire.

Around 10:30, nearly 200 people stand in the shade of a lop-limbed oak. The temperature’s already climbing toward 90 degrees. The Mixtecos sweat in their jeans and their suits and their skirts. The smell of incense mingles with perfume.

And then, it is time.

Vamos aqui,” Jesuit Father Shay Auerbach says. Come here. Everyone crosses the street to stand outside the Sacred Heart Center, a former school that’s a nonprofit community center. Four men hoist a green canopy on poles to shade the saint. San Miguel appears in the doorway, wobbling on a white litter. Cell phone cameras are held aloft.

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