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    Vol. XVI, N. 12 21 June 2012

    From the Provinces




    From a letter to the Provincial of the Middle-East Province, written from Nouzha (about 900 meters from our residence), by Ziad Hilal on June 16th

    "I write to you about our present situation in Homs and what we are going through these days. These last few days, fierce battles have begun between the two sides at war with each other in Homs, and this time it was at its fiercest in our neighbourhood. Since last Thursday I have been unable to meet Fr. Frans van der Lugt and I have tried many times to go to him, with the help of Fr. Michel Naaman, but have not managed. The situation is very delicate, and each attempt to enter the old part of the city means suicide. Bombing has gone on uninterrupted since Thursday and gives no respite, and the widespread presence of numerous snipers makes entering the old part of Homs impossible (...). According to Bahjat, the young man who actually lives with Fr. Frans, destruction in our neighbourhood is immense and even moving around on foot is difficult because of the mounds of stones and rubble in the streets. Five Christians have been killed these last days, some in their homes, others in the street (...). According to statistics there are more that 120 people in the neighbourhood and twenty-five people in our residence. The problem is catering for the daily needs, since we cannot send them any goods from here, as the roads are completely blocked.

    In the Adawiyye-Nouzha neighborhood the situation is better, but we too are exposed to cross-fire and bombing. In fact, three children from our centre have been wounded. In the same incident, one of our parishioners, Marwan Elias, was wounded and underwent surgery various times, but unfortunately died a short time later. Quite a few bombs fell in our area and they destroyed some of the houses and shops too, and yesterday the fighting was very intense in the afternoon and evening, and two bombs fell near our residence, but, thank God, it did not suffer any damage inside. Yesterday, too, having received a phone call from Miss Mirna Kabak from Sebaa, who asked me to come to the church to take away what little belongings were left, I hurried there and was met by a horrible sight. The church had suffered very extensive damage, especially the ceiling, the lighting and the icons and stained glass windows. I was deeply moved by the weeping of the faithful when they saw the state to which their church had been reduced (...). I just wanted to share with you our situation these days, hoping you will pray for Fr. Frans and those who are with him in the neighbourhood, and for us too, and for the children of our centres."


    AFRICA: Social Centres Gathering in Nairobi

    Jesuit Social Centers from the African Conference will gather in Nairobi from 24 to 28 June.  They aim to evaluate the activities of the social apostolate in Africa.  Among the issues which the meeting will consider is the accompaniment which the Centers offer people and states, and the ways in which the Centers can contribute to the rebirth of the continent.  Fr Rigobert Minani, the Social coordinator of the African Conference, is organizing the meeting.  A number of Jesuits from other continents will also be attending.


    ASIA PACIFIC: Preparing the Jesuits for Tomorrow

    Recent statistics published by the Curia in Rome have reinforced the fact that Jesuit vocations are increasing in Asia Pacific and declining in the West.  The President of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific, Fr Mark Raper SJ reflects on the role of the Society in preparing new candidates for the demanding mission given to them today.  "There are many factors contributing to the increase in vocations, such as poverty and lack of other opportunities, along with the piety and devotion of the communities from which our candidates come.  Our attention has been to improve the quality of those who are accepted rather than to increase the number of candidates to the Society.  This is certainly the case for Myanmar, Timor Leste, Vietnam and Korea, where, over the past ten years, there have been good numbers of applicants.  We have introduced tougher screening.  We ask whether the applicant can take the long and rigorous studies, is ready to learn other languages and live in unfamiliar cultural contexts, is adequately free to make an independent decision about his life.  As a result of this screening, we tend to accept fewer persons.  It also means that their formation can be more focused.  During the last few years, the Conference has been examining its purpose for the 'formation' of Jesuits in Asia Pacific.  We see formation as deep human education, a profound personal transformation.  This transformation occurs often, perhaps exclusively, through experiences of vulnerability.  In other words, compassion is a key: enduring something with another person and allowing the pain of other people to get inside us dispose us to change, to being transformed.  If the experience is deep, it is difficult to return to the isolated self again.  But this formation cannot be forced; it is an invitation.  It means being open to the outsider, to the poor and to those who suffer." For the full text: www.express.org.au


    INDIA: To Teach Dignity Against Exploitation

    The mission of Janhit Vikas Trust (Jvt, "welfare of people") is to help break the cycle of poverty and exploitation which hold the adivasis (Indian tribals) bound, to teach them to use the resources which are available to them, and to preserve and enhance their dignity and integrity.  Jvt was set up by the Jesuits in 1992, and it operates in 20 villages in the Raigad (Maharashtra) district.  It works among the Katkari people, a very poor, nomadic tribal group, which is not recognized by the state government.  For their livelihood, the Katkari work as laborers during the monsoon season, after which they migrate to work in coal mines and brick factories.  As nomadic people, they take on only seasonal work, and this often results in exploitation, and low and irregular income.  The sexual exploitation of women is widespread among the Katkari.  "Our goal," explains Fr Diago D'Souza, director of JvT, to catholic newsagency Asianews, "is to help the Katkari know and claim their rights, without divorcing them from their culture."  The activities of JvT are multi-focused: there are programs aimed at generating and developing funds, health projects, formation courses for workers, which include lessons on human rights, how to establish micro-credit and self-help groups, as well as some basic education in legal matters.


    IRELAND: New Book on the Constitutions

    Brian O'Leary S.J., a member of the Irish Province, has been working in Ignatian spirituality for many years since his original doctoral work on Blessed Pierre Favre.  Since the late 1980s he has specialized in studying the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus.  This has led to invitations to lead Constitutions-based retreats and workshops for a number of Jesuit Provinces as well as for Ignatian Congregations of women.  He has also contributed frequently to Jesuit (and other) Tertianship programmes based in Ireland and the UK.  Out of this rich experience comes his new book entitled Sent into the Lord's Vineyard: Explorations in the Jesuit Constitutions.  While there are a number of academic works on the Constitutions there are few, if any, of which one can say to a Jesuit: "This will open up the underlying spirituality of the Constitutions for you and enable you to pray them!"  This has been O'Leary's aim.  The scholarship behind the work is not intrusive and it is always at the service of creating a genuine spiritual document.  The word 'explorations' in the sub-title is indicative: this is not a complete commentary but a search for the spiritual values and dynamic that Ignatius wrote into the Constitutions.


    LATIN AMERICA: Rio+20 a Chance to Become More Sustainable

    The Rio+20 Conference, from 20 to 22 June, provides an opportunity for the world to consider seriously how development needs to become ever more sustainable.  More than 40 Jesuits will take part in the Cupula dos povos, the social summit which will run parallel to the official meeting.  They have organized the prayer component to their meeting, and they will spend one day looking for better ways to respond to ecological challenges.  A number of Jesuits - mainly those associated with the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network (GIAN) on migration - will attend the official summit.  Daily online bulletins will be posted on Ecojesuit (http://ecojesuit.com).  CIDSE and the Third World Network provide additional information about Rio+20.  The daily prayer component of the meeting, developed in collaboration with CLC, is available in a number of languages: http://www.cvx-clc.net/l-en/reportsExco.php (English); http://www.cvx-clc.net/l-sp/reportsExco.php (Spanish); http://www.cvx-clc.net/l-fr/reportsExco.php (French).


    ROME:  Centre for Ignatian Spirituality at the Gregorian University

    In a letter of 2 May 2012, the Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome announced the formation of a Center for Ignatian Spirituality at the Institute of Spirituality.  The director of the new Center will be Fr Mark Rotsaert SJ, and it will begin its activities in the 2012-2013 academic year.  The main mission of the Centre will be to offer an academic program of courses and seminars which are available to the students of the Institute of Spirituality.  But the Centre will also offer study days, meetings for reflection, workshops, etc. on different themes of Ignatian spirituality: the focus of these will be broader, offering a perspective which is wider than the strictly academic. The formation of the Center will develop gradually over the next couple of months.  According to the proposal, the Center would be a true interdisciplinary one, with contributions from professors and teachers from a number of faculties and institutes.  Three programs are planned: the first one is on the Suppression (1773) and Restoration (1814) of the Society.  Six conferences by a number of professors of the Gregorian University will offer new insights at this little known period.  This program will be presented as an option for students of the Institute of Spirituality, but it will be open to other interested people (including non-students), and it will be held in the afternoon.  The other two courses will be directed to a different, indeed a wider audience, which may be interested in Ignatian spirituality.  One will focus on the spirituality of dialogue and reconciliation, as it worked itself out at the time of Ignatius, and how it applies today. The third one will be on Ignatian spirituality and art.  These two latter programs will be held in the evening.  In the second year, the Center proposes to develop a number of specific seminars within the curriculum of the Institute of Spirituality.  But the programs and courses for a wider public will continue.  It is hoped, that over time, the new Center will be able to offer a number of single day, weekend, and weeklong courses.


    SPAIN: Summer Offer for Jesuits

    An offer for a different type of holiday is made to Jesuits: they are invited to Rabanal del Camino (León) which lies along the "Santiago Route".  The call is to help Benedictine monks in their reception and ministration (spiritual conversation, sacramental service, etc) of pilgrims in their hospital.  The offer is made especially to Jesuits who know the languages of the pilgrims.  Besides the pastoral care of pilgrims, Jesuits would participate in the liturgical life with the monks, and they would become familiar with Latin and Gregorian chants.  The monastery bears the name of San Salvador del Monte Irago, and houses a small Benedictine community (three monks) - these depend on the monastery of St Otilia (Germany).  The monastery caters for the needs of pilgrims on their way to Santiago in a small village, 17 km from Astorga, at the foot of the symbolic step of the ascent to the Cruz de Ferro.  For a number of years now, Jesuits from Spain and other European provinces have regularly helped in this apostolate, and our relationship with the monks is extremely friendly.  For Jesuits, this provides an opportunity for serenity, prayer and rest in a location of great beauty and peace.  Those interested are asked to contact the Socius of the Castilla Province, Fr Miguel Campo, tel +34915344810, e-mail: socio@jesuitas.es.


    SPAIN: First Centenary of Sal Terrae

    The pastoral magazine, Sal Terrae, is celebrating its first century, confirming thereby the sound health of religious publishing in the country. In the face of the crises which are rocking Spain, readers continue to be interested in spiritual reflections and themes.  In 2011 Spain registered an increase in the sale of religious books (1.514), which exceeded the national average of all books (1.345).  The publishing house, Sal Terrae, is run by Jesuits.  The name of the house comes from the magazine, which was started to help country priests in their pastoral work.  Sal Terrae noted that an average of 1.637 religious books were published.  This year, the sale of religious and theological books in Spain increased by 5.4%, compared with a national decrease by 2.6% for all books.  To celebrate its centenary and these positive results, the Jesuit-run publishing house held a Congress at the Pontifical Comillas University in Madrid, on 1 and 2 June: its theme was Pastoral theology at the crossroads.  On 29 May, a press conference focused on the health of religious book and the role of Sal Terrae in Spanish society and the church during these 100 years of its existence.


    U.S.A.: A Jesuit President of a Scientific Research Society

    Jesuit Fr Thomas Acker has been named the next president of Sigma Xi, an international, multidisciplinary research society.  With nearly 60,000 members in more than 100 countries around the world, Sigma Xi has 500 chapters including eight at Jesuit universities in the United States.  Membership in Sigma Xi is by invitation with full membership conferred upon those who have demonstrated noteworthy achievements in research.  More than 200 members have won the Nobel Prize and many more have earned election to the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering.  Fr Acker will be begin his duties the summer of 2012.


    VIETNAM: Education and Fight Against Corruption

    According to Br Anthony Bá, of the Jesuit Study Center Alberto Hurtado in Ho Chi Minh City, the Vietnamese government should focus on education, the fight against corruption, legislative reform, and the protection of ethnic minorities and of environment.  The Center, says Fides agency, offers analysis at a variety of levels: the political, economic, sociological, technological, legal and environmental.  According to a study prepared by Br Anthony, Vietnam, because of its strategic development plan, has achieved some important goals.  But many difficulties and challenges still remain.  For Vietnam, the challenges at the social level are identified as education, the use of human resources and employment, the difficulties of ethnic minority groups, immigration, as well as issues related to the presence of Catholicism, which is a living ferment in Vietnamese society. As for education, notes the Fides agency, the Catholic community hopes that the opportunity will soon present itself to open schools and universities.  This would significantly contribute to the development of the country, which sees education as a key sector for the younger generation.




    From Savoy to Australia. An Australian Jesuit now working in Kew (Victoria) is something of a throwback to Peter Faber, one of the founders of the Jesuits. Born in Savoy, Peter made the spiritual exercises under Ignatius, and for many years walked through France, Spain, Germany and Italy guiding individuals on the paths of interior prayer.  Richard Shortall is doing something similar in a rural Australian diocese north of Melbourne.  At a time when bishops and princes were using political and even military means to oppose the Protestant Reformers, Peter Faber focused on the spiritual life and lifestyle of Catholics.  Skip four and a half centuries and you find a parallel in Richard Shortall, a 60-year-old Jesuit, born in New Zealand but belonging to the Australian Province.  He goes to a parish (by car, not on foot like Peter Faber) and over three weeks guides up to 40 people through a scriptural retreat, taking each person separately - he sees each one five times during the three weeks.  Up to 200 interviews in three weeks is hard work, but the faithful take to the process eagerly.  No financial recompense is sought or given - the Jesuits offer this support freely to the diocese, a service that is sought and welcomed by people and priests (Irish Jesuit News).


    New in SJWEB


    1.The highlights of Father General's visit and talk at the Ranchi Jesuit Alumni gathering 2012 is on our youtube. Please follow the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLHI5Lixudg&feature=plcp


    2. A new podcast of an interview with Fr. Norbert Menezes,SJ, (the secretary for Jesuit Education for South Asia). Click on: sjweb podcast icon.  


    3. We would also like to inform you that there will be a special 'Blog'  (http://www.sjwebcp70.com/)  operating from 1st July, where the latest updates of bulletins, photos, interviews and media clips of the Congregation of Procurators in Nairobi will be posted.




    From 1st July, this Digital Bulletin will be replaced by press releases from the Congregation of Procurators (CP70) which will take place in Nairobi (Kenya). The Digital Bulletin will resume its regular publications in the middle of September.