Archive for the ‘War and Violence’ Category
A little more than half a century ago, Jesuit Father Charles J. McCarthy sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge on his return to San Francisco as one of the last two Jesuits released from prison in Communist China, a confinement he endured for four years following an earlier house arrest by the Japanese during WWII.
Waiting for him were his brothers, Walter, Alex, Robert and their families, including Walter’s 10-year-old daughter, Mary Jo, who would later chronicle the dramatic story that linked her father and uncle, a story documented in hundreds of letters written by the two men over more than 50 years.
The letters illustrate the history of China, from the Japanese occupation in World War II to the Communist takeover; they also reveal the devotion of brothers, a connection that endured despite distance and deprivation.
Aug. 2, 1952 – From Charles to Walter: Today is my 23rd anniversary as a Jesuit. It doesn’t seem that long since the family was all together. We certainly had some good times and lots of fun around the table. Dad was especially encouraging when I raised the vocation question with him, and he talked Mom out of the idea I was too young. The trip to Los Gatos was a step light-hearted enough for me, but I’m sure Mom and Dad felt deeply the first splintering of the family. Fortunately, though, there’s never been any real separation of our hearts.
In 1941, Charles sailed for Peking, where he studied Chinese for two years before the Japanese placed him and 29 colleagues under house arrest in Shanghai until the end of World War II. “He was able to send me letters via the Red Cross,” said Walter.
Upon his release, Charles taught theology in Shanghai until July 1946, when he returned to the U.S. to study journalism at Marquette University. He moved back to Shanghai in 1949, where he was appointed the superior of the Jesuit School of Theology in Shanghai, making him the highest-ranking American Jesuit in the Shanghai Jesuit Mission. He worked with Jesuit scholastics until his arrest by the Communists in 1953, when he was led away from his room at gunpoint, accused of “ideological sabotage” for giving harmful guidance to his students.
They regularly had to dodge the bullets during Lebanon’s civil war. But, while many people were fleeing the country, four Dutch Jesuits stayed to carry on with their work. During a recent ordination Jubilee celebration, they took a break from the festivities to take a look back at their wartime service.
The four tenacious Dutch clerics were celebrating their 50th anniversaries as Roman Catholic priests and their 60th anniversaries as members of the Jesuit order. Their time in Lebanon has meant that Jesuit Fathers Theo Vlugt, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Paul Brouwers and Michael Brenninkmeijer have become devoted to the country.
“If you make yourself at home somewhere, it becomes your home. It’d take us a long time to get used to the Netherlands again,” Fr. Brouwers explains. He, like his colleagues, is in his eighties. For years, he headed a successful Beirut publisher.
Fr. Theo Vlugt, who was born and bred in Amsterdam, sometimes had to eat tinned brown beans for weeks on end during the long and bloody civil war (1975–1990). “I occasionally think back and ask myself: did it really happen?” He was often seen by Dutch people as the face of Lebanon during the civil war.
For instance during the ‘One million for a shoe’ appeal in 1989, which raised three million Dutch guilders to buy shoes for Lebanese children. The campaign was inspired by Vlugt who headed a primary school in a poor district of Beirut. “They sometimes came to school with plastic bags tied round their feet,” he explains.
The Richard A. McGarrity, SJ, lecture series hosted by the Wisconsin Province of Jesuits recently featured Jesuit Father Rick Curry, a noted author, actor, teacher and baker. The breakfast program focused on how the community can better support veterans who are returning to society and the workforce.
Known to many throughout the Jesuit world, Curry is the founder of the National Theater Workshop of the Handicapped (NTWH) and is the director of the Academy for Veterans at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. In 2003, NTWH offered a new program called the Wounded Warriors Writers Workshop, and his vocation took on yet another dimension.
“The program taught the dramatic monologue to recently returning disabled veterans from both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Working in small groups with talented young writing teachers, these valiant men and women struggled artistically to tell their stories in a format where they could later act them out on stage,” Curry said. “We were delighted that the arts could play such a significant role in the healing of these heroic Americans. The experience of writing and acting out their story opened the floodgates of emotions and this led many who participated in the writers program to seek further help and counseling.”
After more than 40 years as a Jesuit brother, Curry felt encouraged to seek priesthood whereby he could work “not only artistically with the wounded warriors but sacramentally as well.” Curry’s ability to become a priest took special permission from the Vatican because he was born with only one arm, and Canon Law requires two hands to celebrate Mass. It is a challenge he considers a gift, because it provides an automatic bond with disabled veterans.
With advances in modern medicine, soldiers are returning from war, but many are casualties just the same, whether in body, mind or both, Curry said.
“Imagine a young man whose body has been severed at the waist,” Curry said. “He’s lost so much, but he’s alive. Just 19, he needs to rethink what he will do with the rest of his life. We will lose many more men and women than the fatality charts show if we do not step up for them. I urge everyone to use his or her imagination to identify ways he or she can provide support to our veterans with disabilities and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. A lot of people can do much more than they think.”
The Jesuits in Syria have issued a statement on the difficult conditions there, calling for all parties to reject violence and imploring national unity, dialogue and freedom of expression. The Syrian Jesuits are concerned that the political struggle in Syria is on the verge of disintegrating into a conflict among ethnic and religious factions that is especially threatening to the nation’s Christian minority.
The full text follows below:
Meditation on the present events in Syria
We, Jesuits in Syria are distressed by the recent events that have taken place in this country, a country which is so dear to us. We have met together to pray for this country of ours, to intercede for it and to reflect on what is happening in it. The following text, the fruit of our prayer, we desire to share with you.
Syria, an agent of civilization
Syria, a country of multiple civilizations which arrived one after another on our land and have enriched its patrimony. A great part of this richness comes from the interrelation and the harmony between the peoples of a different culture, religion and spirituality. Together, these peoples have formed a unity which we are proud of and to which we hold fast. This lays on us a grave responsibility to preserve this grand heritage.
The history of our country is distinguished by its hospitality and its openness to others, whosoever they be. The spirit of hospitality, the search for unity in the difference, as also all the efforts leading to the formation of the national unity are, without doubt, at the basis of the Syrian society and form a beautiful and lively mosaic.
The Kakuma Refugee Camp on the Kenyan border of southern Sudan was founded in 1991 for approximately 25,000 former child soldiers from Sudan, often known as the “lost boys.” Within this city of refugees sits the Safe Haven, an initiative of the Jesuit Refugee Service.
Currently beyond capacity, the Safe Haven serves a vulnerable population – unaccompanied women and children, many of whom are victims of sexual and gender-based violence. Jesuit Refugee Service/USA director Jesuit Father Michael Evans, visited this work in March 2010, reflecting on his visit and experiences for Jesuit Refugee Service’s Voices.
“The camp is now bursting with 85,000 refugees living there, and a Kakuma II is being planned — and the JRS extended team has grown to sixteen. Along with continued pastoral care, dozens of trauma counselors have been trained over the years. However, the new work now includes a safe house for vulnerable women and children; the care of refugees with physical, mental, and emotional challenges; and outreach to those who cannot make it to the JRS Centers.”