Foreign News

News Snippets from Jesuits Worldwide

IRELAND: Freedom of Dublin Award

The city council of Dublin, Ireland, honored Irish Jesuit, Fr Peter McVerry, with itsFreedom of Dublin award for his work with the homeless over the past 40 years.  

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisín Quinn, nominated Fr McVerry for the honor, whose previous recipients include Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Aung San Suu Kyi, John F Kennedy and U2.  

Fr McVerry set up the Peter McVerry Trust in Dublin to reduce homelessness and to combat social disadvantage and drug abuse. The Trust provides an informal drop-in center, often the first point of contact for many young homeless people, as well as temporary accommodation and drug treatment facilities.  Other services offer resources and housing for homeless children aged between 12 and 18, and for individuals battling mental health issues.  The Peter McVerry Trust provides housing and drug treatment for about 175 homeless people on any given night.  

According to Fr McVerry, there are a lot of "new homeless" seeking help, due to struggles resulting from the current state of the Irish economy.  These are in addition to the many homeless the McVerry Trusthelps on account of problems associated with addiction and dysfunctional family life.

UNITED KINGDOM: 400 Years of Heythrop College

During the 2013-2014 academic year, Heythrop College is celebrating the 400th anniversary of its foundation by the English Jesuits.  It was established in 1614 in Louvain, Belgium, as a base to study philosophy and theology.  In its 400 year history, it has been located in Liège (Belgium), Lancashire, Oxfordshire, and London.  

Heythrop is a College of the University of London.  It retains a modern Catholic ethos, and offers an educational experience that respects all faiths and perspectives.  In addition to undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs, Heythrop also provides a resource for faith communities and others, especially through the work of its Centers and Institutes.  Heythrop College's 400th anniversary celebrations reach their climax over the next few weeks, with a series of academic, liturgical and social events.

Among the highlights will be a visit by the Jesuit Superior General, Father Adolfo Nicolás SJ (18 to 20 June).  He will attend the two-day conference in June at which scholars from Britain and overseas will explore the character and significance of the Jesuit educational tradition with respect both to the study of theology and philosophy, and to science, letters and the arts.  The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, will be one of the principal speakers with a conference entitled "For the Greater Glory of God and the More Universal Good".  

On Friday, 20 June, Dr Williams will reflect on the Jesuit tradition of liberal education and its continued importance today.  "We shall continue to serve the Church by developing as a center of ministerial training," said the Principal, Fr Michael Holman SJ.  "Heythrop now is essentially what it was 400 years ago, namely, a center for the education of priests for the Catholic Church; and . . . (we shall develop) by offering excellent educational opportunities for those who want to deepen their understanding of their faith and other faiths; by continuing to engage in research; and by organizing conferences and seminars on topics where faith meets contemporary culture."  

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SPAIN: The History of Ethiopia

On the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the birth of Pedro Páez, Ediciones del Viento has published his History of Ethiopia.   Páez was the Jesuit who discovered the source of the Blue Nile.  

On 20 May 1622, Pedro Páez completed his History, a work of nearly one thousand and one hundred pages.  It languished, forgotten, in the archives of the Society of Jesus in Rome.  Now, almost four hundred years later, the work has been published - in full - for the first time in Spanish.  

Pedro Páez entered the Society of Jesus in 1582, and he was ordained a priest in Goa in 1588.  From there, together with Fr Antonio de Montserrat, he left for his first trip to Ethiopia. They were arrested and spent seven years in captivity in harsh conditions.  For some time they were considered "lost in action."  

Páez and de Montserrat were the first Europeans to explore the Hadramaut region, and the Rub'al Khali ("The Empty Room") desert.  Philip II ordered that their ransom be paid.  After their release, they returned to Goa.  Finally, in 1603, Pedro Páez managed to reach Ethiopia.  There, he captured the hearts of the people because of his ability to learn the language, his appreciation of Ethiopian culture, his effective pastoral skills, and his winning personality.  

The History was originally handwritten in Portuguese, and preserved in the archives of the Society of Jesus.  Only a Portuguese edition has been published in 1945.  In its four volumes, Páez records the events and history of the country about which he had read or heard.  He had got to know about these from the Coptic religious in Ethiopia, or even from the Emperor himself.  The author also recounts his personal experiences: these are full of excitement and adventure.  

ZIMBABWE: Teacher Training Program

The Jesuit Education Apostolate, whose office supports the running and functioning of 18 schools (primary, secondary and a tertiary college), has launched the Jesuit Graduate Teacher Development Program.  This is a Post-graduate program that targets high school teachers in Jesuit schools.  These teachers have a first teaching degree but do not have a professional teacher qualification.  This is a two year program that will include practice-based learning, Ignatian pedagogical learning, mentorship, and educational research.  

Speaking at the introductory workshop for School Heads, Mentors, and Scholars, the Education Delegate, Fr Joe Arimoso SJ stressed the need for Jesuit Schools to entrench the characteristics of Jesuit Education in their practice.  "This program will ensure that teachers in our schools have skills that facilitate 21st century learning themes, such as collaborative learning, relevant communication skills, creative thinking skills, and critical thinking skills.  These are all Ignatian in nature," he said.

CAMBODIA: Carbon Offset Program

In late 2012, the Jesuits in Cambodia have initiated a carbon-offset program in conjunction with the modest seedling nursery set up in Banteay Prieb. This is the Jesuit-run vocational school for people with disabilities. The program is primarily intended for Jesuits within the country, for their volunteers and for visiting friends. It provides an opportunity for air travelers to counterbalance the carbon emissions of their flights to or from Cambodia.

The following process has been set in place. Anyone who agrees to participate in the carbon-offset program has to complete a form which indicates the plane travel route: included in the list are the transiting airports of the journey to and from Cambodia. Then, using standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, their approximate carbon emission is calculated. Factors, such as the type of aircraft used, the number of passengers, and the known fuel consumption rates, are taken into consideration. The CO2 emissions are then translated into the number of trees needed to absorb the emissions of that particular trip, and for how long these trees need to be grown.

The cost of planting and maintaining the specific number of trees - including the number of years needed to absorb the emissions of their journey - is then given to the traveler. The traveler confirms his participation in the program by paying this cost. The traveler is given a code number, which applies to a particular tree that has already been planted somewhere in Cambodia.

"Hopefully, when our website is up and running this year, customers will be able to identify their trees and track their growth through pictures which will be updated periodically," said Fr Gabriel (Gabby) Lamug-Nañawa SJ, who is part of the Ecology Program team of Jesuit Service Cambodia.

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POLAND: Meditation in Prisons

Scholastics, young Jesuits in formation, have started to offer Ignatian meditation to prisoners in the high security prison of Warsaw. The new initiative has been well received by prison authorities and by the inmates. The prayer meetings are held once a week. They are part of a rehabilitation program.

After the meditation, group members share their experiences. The testimonies of those people, their lives and spiritual experiences are deeply moving. A number of them desire to continue meditation in their free time. This new ministry is developing quite dynamically. The method of prayer is based on the power of the name of Jesus, using the "Five Keys" method of Neal Lozano.

SPAIN: Fr Jacinto Alegre Pujals

On 9 May 2014, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing the heroic virtue of the Servant of God, Fr Jacinto Alegre Pujals SJ.

The now Venerable Fr Alegre was born in 1874 in Terrassa (Spain). He entered the Society of Jesus in 1892. He frequented the hospitals of Barcelona, where he felt a great love for those poor whom everyone else had abandoned. He grew to know the work of St Giuseppe Benedetto Cottolengo in Turin. He was impressed by its trust in Divine Providence, and he desired to open a similar Institute for the sick and dying poor whom he visited. But Fr Alegre died in Barcelona on 10 December 10 1930, before he could put his plan into effect.

In the last moments of his life, his superior and a lay directee pledged to make his dream come true. In 1939, the "Cottolengo del Padre Alegre" was founded.

SPAIN: The Hospital of Magdalena Built Again

In early May, the old Hospital de la Magdalena in Azpeitia (Guipúscoa), was re-established. It was reconstituted by the Society of Jesus. Its purpose now is to be a centre of Ignatian reflection and interpretation. It is located in the district of Magdalena in Azpeitia, the place where St Ignatius lived from April to July 1535, on his return from Paris.

Two Jesuit Provincials were present at the opening ceremony: Juan José Etxeberria SJ, Provincial of Loyola, and Francisco José Ruiz Pérez SJ, Provincial of Spain. The dedication Mass took place in the chapel of the Magdalena, located in front of the hospital.

During the Mass, Fr Juan José Etxeberria declared that "we see Ignatius live in the hospital. He begged for food and alms at the doors of his relatives and neighbors. He brought the proceeds back to the hostel, to feed and clothe the poor and sick. He also dedicated himself to preaching and teaching, and he invited people to reform their lives. This is a brief summary of the apostolic charisma which would lead to the Society of Jesus."

In his address, the Mayor of Azpeitia, Eneko Etxeberria, stressed the values symbolized in the Magdalena.  Fr José Manuel Añón SJ was the Jesuit responsible for the reconstruction project. He declared that the project was an "experience of love and gratitude on the part of the citizens of Aspeitia." They felt that "it was time to do something for the Magdalena."

USA: New Interactive Vocations Website

US Jesuits have launched an innovative new vocations website, The website features a series of interactive video "chats" hosted by Jesuits. These were filmed and edited by Loyola Productions in their Los Angeles studios.

The video's cutting-edge technology allows users to "direct" the conversation by choosing questions from a broad range of topics - these range from the training, ordination and vows of Jesuits, to questions about Jesuit spirituality and their commitment to social justice.

The site walks users through every aspect of the vocation journey, from the first stirrings of interest in the Jesuit way of life to the actual process of applying to the Order. The site employs high-impact graphics, professionally produced videos, FAQs, and special features. These include content specifically designed for the friends and families of those considering a vocation to the Jesuits.

Since the election of Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope, the Society of Jesus has reported a surge in vocation inquiries. While the new website is not directly linked to the surge in inquiries, Fr Thomas H Smolich SJ, President of the Jesuit Conference, said that responding to growing interest in the Society is a priority for Jesuits.

"In a world that's increasingly engaged with technology, we need to be on the front lines, reaching out to young men who are interested in living creatively and generously in service to Christ." According to Fr Smolich, the site is, more than anything else, an invitation. "US bishops have repeatedly called for religious Orders to develop a 'culture of invitation.' This new vocations site is one of several efforts on our part to respond to that call."

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ZIMBABWE: Herbal Remedies Against AIDS

Seventy year old Matthew Ngwerume has found himself at the center of a life-saving initiative for people living with HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe. Mr Ngwerume, who is a strong Catholic and pensioner, has retraced his footsteps back to the Makumbi Mission for his final years. He has now received support from the British and American embassies, as well as from the Jesuit Mission team. "I left Harare to see out my last days here," he told the Jesuit newsletter In Touch.

"I used to operate an 'ambulance' services with my truck, carrying people from the showgrounds to the Makumbi Mission hospital. I would also carry them back once they were discharged from the hospital. What struck me most was that the patients we carried back from the hospital were usually unwell and still in need of care and support. They were let out to go for home-based support, but the reality there was no one prepared to offer such support. With the help and support of my wife, we then started the Chinamhora Peace of Mind Support Group, an initiative that sought to offer social and pastoral care to home-based care patients. We would organize home visits where we went, and we discussed the procedures and benefits of positive living."

Mr Ngwerume's efforts did not go unnoticed. Fr Heribert Mueller SJ, the Mission Superior at Makumbi, appreciated the work that was being done and offered his support. He introduced them to Sr Yullita Chirawu, a Sister the Little Children of Our Blessed Lady (LCBL). She deals with herbs to treat human ailments.

"When we got in touch with Sr Yullita, we thanked God for that big breakthrough," says Mr Ngwerume. "Getting medication in pharmacies is expensive, and not everyone can afford it. Sr Yullita introduced us to traditional herbs that do treat a number of ailments. We were given space within the Mission to plant herbs and since then, we have never looked back. We have thriving gardens with a variety of herbal plants. We also have two other gardens outside the Mission."

The herbs from the gardens are now being processed and packaged for domestic use within the Makumbi Mission.



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