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Vol. XV, No. 21 21 November 2011
The Bicentenary of the Death of Saint Joseph Pignatelli. Saint Joseph Pignatelli died in Rome on the 15th November 1811. He was the Jesuit who lived most intensely and personally the drama of the suppression of the Society of Jesus, the years of exile, and the life in hiding. To recall the bicentenary of his death, Father General wrote a letter on 15th November to the whole Society. He asked Jesuits "to pay respect to the memory of this faithful Jesuit, who lived in the midst of a disconcerting part of the history of the Society of Jesus during the second half of the eighteenth century. His exemplary life was publically recognized by Pius XI who beatified him in 1933, and by Pius XII who canonized him in 1954." After recalling some details of the life of Pignatelli, Father General enumerates some aspects "of his richly human and religious personality which continue to be of unquestionable value for our Society today and in the future." First, there is the profoundly interior life "which he cultivated by means of an intense life of prayer." Then, there is the common sense and the great intellectual sensitivity of the man. He maintained an unbroken love for the Church and the Society in spite of the difficulties and suffering of the day, especially after the Society's suppression on July 21, 1773.
Trusting in God's Providence, Pignatelli undertook the mission of keeping the dispersed Society united and tightly bound to the Holy Father, as St. Ignatius had intended. Father General's letter stresses that, in spite of many activities and the great number and variety of his concerns, he "never neglected those in need. Joseph Pignatelli searched out the poor and helped them with generous alms. He also visited those in prisons and hospitals to the point of becoming known as the father of the poor." Father General closes the letter by foreshadowing 2014, the anniversary of the restoration of the Society. This anniversary year will provide "a privileged occasion to study and know more fully the historical period of the suppression and restoration of the Society. At the same time we have to take advantage of such a commemoration as an opportunity for the Society´s spiritual renewal for greater and better service to the Church, with renewed vigor and zeal."
From the Curia
From November 22 to 28 the four members of the International Council for the Apostleship of Prayer (AP) will be in our Curia in Rome to deliver their report to Father General. Two years ago, he had asked this group to work towards reinvigorating the AP. The Holy Father has entrusted the AP to the Society, and values it as a significant apostolic instrument. This meeting will be an important moment in the worldwide process of renewal. For the last four days of the meeting, members of the International Eucharistic Youth Movement Council will join the group. They ask us all to join them in our prayers!
From the Provinces
AUSTRALIA: Interview with Peter Steele
Australian Jesuit poet and scholar Father Peter Steele has spoken about his life's journey and his battle with cancer in a poignant interview on ABC Radio National's Encounter Program. In the interview with journalist Margaret Coffey, Father Steele talked about how he came to terms with his illness, and the very near prospect of death. "I've written about all sorts of things in my various writings, one of the great subjects has always been mortality. Our mortality, as I firmly believe, is a condition . . . let's call it a room, which precedes and leads into a capacious and entirely blessed and secure immortality, one of whose names is heaven. I believe in that very, very strongly. And I probably believe that more strongly than almost anything else," said Fr Steele. In the interview, he also talked about his first encounter with the Jesuits, how he fell in love with the teachings of Ignatius as a scholastic, and how it has shaped his life as a Jesuit. He said the one thing that priesthood has in common with poetry is that each of them, in an essential way, has to do with celebration. "The word Eucharist itself means saying thank you. I think that God can never be thanked enough for being God and for sending his Son Jesus to be both God and a human being." The full interview can be heard or read here: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/encounter/stories/2011/3327559.htm
CHILE: Mensaje turns 60
The magazine Mensaje celebrated its 60 years of existence with a concelebrated Mass in the Church of Saint Ignatius. At the celebration, it renewed its commitment to help Catholics to be adult in their faith. The magazine was founded by Father Alberto Hurtado in 1951. It was his desire to offer Christians ethical and cultural tools which would help them in their discernment to humanize the world. Many readers and friends of the magazine - Jesuits, diocesan priests, and religious - took part in the celebrations. The archbishop of Santiago, the Apostolic Nuncio and the Provincial recalled the commitment of the magazine, from its earliest days, to offer a Christian orientation to the challenges of the modern world. It was Father Hurtado's dream that the magazine would reflect on Chile and the local Church from the perspectives of the Gospel, faithfully reading the signs of the times. The Provincial of Chile, Father Eugenio Valenzuela, remembered that Mensaje "was one of the last big dreams of Father Hurtado. With his extraordinary vision, enthusiasm and trust in God, he was able to bring it into being". He thanked all those who had helped make the magazine an instrument for reflection, an instrument which has helped develop a Church more faithful to the Gospel and a country more just and equitable. At the end of his presentation he declared: "Mensaje, looks to the future with humility and constancy. Looking ahead, the magazine, like its founder, wants to denounce injustice in our society. Mesaje will continue to propose concrete ways for a more democratic country, for a more equitable sharing of goods, and for a more practical caring for the poor and those who are excluded in any way."
PHILIPPINES: National Scientist Award to Father Nebres
President Benigno Aquino III conferred the National Scientist award and the title of Academic to Jesuit Father Bienvenido Nebres, 71, for his outstanding achievements and accomplishments as a mathematician and educator, and for his contributions to education and social reform. The President said that Nebres helped establish the Ateneo Center for Educational Development (ACED). This Center, he noted, focuses on improving education in public schools. ACED now works with local government in over 400 public schools in Quezon City, Parañaque, Valenzuela, Nueva Ecija, La Union and in many other parts of the country. The President noted that Nebres was now chairman of the Synergeia Foundation, an organization which works with public schools in over 200 municipalities. Some of these are in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. He is the 37th National Scientist of the country, and one of the only 15 awardees still alive.
GUATEMALA: In favor of Fe y Alegría
"Into your hands I commit my future and that of my fourteen thousands fellow signatories . . . ". With these words a young student delivered to the President of the Congress of the Republic more than eighteen thousands signatures. These had been collected by representatives of the Movement of Popular Education and Social Promotion, Fe y Alegría. The signatories support a bill which would legally enshrine government financial support for free quality education to thousands of young people who live in those rural and marginal areas where the Movement is present. The signatories come from communities in seven Guatemalan regions, where there are fifty educational centers of Fe y Alegría. Serious social problems mark many of these areas: unemployment, poverty, malnutrition and high rates of violence. As a result of any annual agreement between the Ministry of Education and the Fe y Alegría Foundation, the government has guaranteed teachers' salaries for the past thirty five years. The signatures support legislation which will enshrine this financial support.
POLAND: Scientific Conference on Father Possevino
An international scientific conference on the "Life and the work of Father Antonio Possevino SJ" was held at the Jesuit Academy, Ignatianum, in Krakow on 21-22 October 2011. Nearly thirty scientists from Poland and other countries (Belarus, Spain, Lithuania, Italy) presented the results of their research on the activities of Father Antonio Possevino. Possevino (1533-1611) was a Jesuit theologian, writer, and eminent papal diplomat. He lived in Piedmont, and in France during the Religious Wars (1563-1572). Pope Gregory XIII sent him to Sweden (1577-1578 and 1579-1580) to try and persuade King John III to convert to Catholicism. In 1581, he was sent to Poland to bring about the end of the war between the Polish king, Stefan Batory, and the Russian Tsar, Ivan IV the Terrible. As a result of his effective diplomacy, peace was established in 1582. He also worked hard at the court in Moscow for the union between the Orthodox Church and Rome.
POLAND: The Year of Piotr Skarga
The Polish Parliament has nominated 2012 as the Year of Father Piotr Skarga SJ. The Commission for Culture and Media proposed the resolution, and the MEP's adopted it virtually unanimously. This initiative, to make 2012 the Year of Fr. Piotr Skarga, came from members of Platforma Obywatelska, the party currently in power. They wish to highlight the important role that Skarga had in Polish history. He was "a leading representative of the Polish Counter-Reformation, and a philanthropist. He had the courage to name the crucial issues which faced the Poland of his day. He called for changes and reforms to government: these sustained the Republic of Poland." 2012 celebrates the 400th anniversary of Father Skarga's death (1536-1612). As a Jesuit and theologian, he was the preacher of King Sigismund III Vasa, the rector of the Jesuit College in Vilnius, and first rector of Vilnius University. Father Skarga authored several books on religious themes, the best known of which is his Lives of the Saints. He also wrote a number of political treatises: in these he advocated the strengthening of royal power and the limitation of the role of parliament. He founded a number of Jesuit colleges, including those in Polotsk, Riga and Tartu.
SPAIN: "Bravo! 2011" Award to New Technologies
The Spanish Episcopal Conference has conferred the Bravo 2011! Award, in the category of the new technology, to rezandovoy.org. The website was devised by the Jesuits of Valladolid with the collaboration of a group of lay people. It offers prayer through the Internet. The diocese of Valladolid proposed this website for the award: it stressed particularly the creative means of evangelization it has developed. With these awards, the Episcopal Conference "wants to recognize, from the Church's point of view, the valuable contribution of communications professionals who do outstanding work in promoting human dignity, human rights and evangelical values." There were eight other awards in different categories. rezandovoy.org was inaugurated on Ash Wednesday, 9th March 2011. Since its inception, it has become increasingly popular, and there have been over one and a half million hits. The site attracts an average 11,000 visitors per day: these have come from 138 countries, but the majority live in Spain, Mexico and Argentina.
VENEZUELA: The Indigenous' University
The lives of one hundred students of the Indigenous' University of Venezuela begin at dawn, when they wash in the Tauca river. The day continues with one hour's private study, before the students set off for class. A long walk through the Amazon forest takes them to their classrooms. The students learn the history, language and myths of the Indians. In the afternoon, they study plant cultivation and the care of livestock. This university, located in the heart of the Amazon jungle, is the only university in the country geared to help young Indians defend their culture and ancient traditions. It was founded, with the approval of the wise elders of the indigenous community, in the early nineties by Jesuit Brother José Maria Korta. The Indians were the original inhabitants of Latin America. After the continent was discovered in sixteenth century, they were decimated by European conquerors. Today, for example, indigenous people in Venezuela comprise only 2% of the total population. For centuries, the Indians were forced to imbibe the culture of the newcomers. To date, the university has survived, thanks to the contributions of generous benefactors. Its teachers have contributed their services freely in their spare time. At last, the government will shortly recognize the university with an official decree. This will allow the university to access public funds. Hopefully, the university will then be able to extend its work to other regions of the country.
ZAMBIA: Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre
Situated about 300 km northeast of Lusaka, Zambia's capital, Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre, operated by members of the Society of Jesus, follows its mission to empower rural communities to improve their livelihoods through research, training, extension courses. KATC was established in 1974 and initially offered a two-year course in conventional agriculture. In 1990, it shifted to organic, sustainable agriculture. Currently, it offers a variety of three- to five-day and two-week courses in organic agriculture, including residential, on-farm courses and study circles. Principally, KATC teaches farming techniques that do not require fertilisers and pesticides and that require reduced water input or irrigation. The reasons are obvious: fertilisers and pesticides are expensive and a simple farmer cannot easily afford them. Furthermore, the reservoirs are drying up. Within 35 years of "trial and error," the members of KATC became pioneers in developing the knowledge of sustainable agriculture, and in developing simple, inexpensive, yet effective tools for small-scale agribusiness. The participants come from Zambia, and from neighbouring countries such as Malawi and Zimbabwe. Given the facts that the training is conducted in both English and the vernacular, and that seven main languages are spoken in Zambia, the courses also have a strong integrative aspect to them. The centre, which works with approximately 1,200 small-scale farmers and which has about 20 staff members who possess a variety of skills, has always relied on donors for its work. Since it is becoming increasingly difficult to cover core expenses, the centre is expanding into Production Units. Currently, it started to breed animals and sells the milk to a cheese factory. This year, there are 80 hectares under irrigation which, hopefully, next year will increase to 160 hectares.
Hell on the Moon. You may be puzzled by the title of a crater on a map of the moon: Hell. This cold, barren feature is not named after the opposite of Heaven, but after an 18th-century Hungarian astronomer, Maximilian Holl, one of a family of 22 children from his father's two marriages. Max changed his name to Hell, entered the Jesuits, and became director of the Vienna Observatory in 1756. As with many Jesuit scientists of the era, his curiosity was intense and wide-ranging. Among his 28 scientific publications are a study of the origins of the Sami, Finnish and Hungarian languages, an exploration of magnetic therapy, and a detailed observation of the 1769 transit of Venus. He helped to prepare an encyclopedia on the arctic regions of Northern Norway, which was never published because the Jesuits were suppressed in 1773 (AMDG Express).
New in SJWEB
A podcast with Father Gerald Blaszczak (born 1949) who was fascinated by the openness, the social involvement, the intellectual search, the real piety and friendship of the Jesuits at their High School in Dallas (USA) at the end of the sixties. He entered the New York Province and studied New Testament and Islam mysticism. He started teaching at the newly opened Jesuit theologate in Nairobi (Kenya), became Novice Director of his Province and responsible for "Mission and Identity" at the Jesuit Universities of Fordham (New York) and Fairfield (Connecticut). Father General appointed him as director of the new Curia Secretariat for the Promotion of Faith (which will involve also Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue and Ignatian Spirituality). Click on "Jesuit Voices".
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