Monday, 14 November 2016

On the way home..looking back and leaving Rome at the end of GC36

Rome is emptying out of Jesuits from GC36 and they are moving back to home.  People this morning left for Dublin, Hong Kong, Sydney and the South Asians  and Latin Americans and Africans are on their way home during the week.

There is a quiet satisfaction that things have gone well.  A new General was elected, a mission decree written and a number of other decrees around governance were completed.  A new post  of discernment and apostolic plan  was set up in the Curia in Rome to assist the General to follow up on plans.

Arranging a meeting of the Congregation at Assistancy  level a   year in advance  had advantages and disadvantages.  Th meeting a year ahead got people in the mood of preparation, enabled people to meet one another and it also formed commissions to write relevant documents.  The disadvantage is that the Congregation in reality in the aula began with addressing documents rather than enabling people to really connect with me another, listen to one another and deal with live hot issues.  So process was a key lesson  from this Congregation.  It is really important from the very beginning that people connect with me another before they connect with documents.  Secondly, that people in charge of process should have real expertise in process and group dynamics.  It is not sufficient to to appoint representatives from each assistancy for the sake of representation.  The Jesuits should perhaps do what most other congregations do is to bring someone neutral, professionally skilled and formed to facilitate the sessions.  It could be much more effective in terms of dealing issues and time saving.

The positive experience of making this a paperless congregation through the use of tablets needs to be underlined.  It was an experiment that really worked and congratulations to all the backup technical experts who did such a great job.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Finished on the 41st day of GC36

The Congregation closed today on the 41st day.  It was an experience of great companionship- being friends of the Lord from across the oceans, the continents and seas.  It was indeed a celebration of our diversity and richness in the one mission in bringing  consolation, justice and peace to a divided  world.  It is also  a historic occasion.  There are only 36 such Congregations since the foundation of the Society of Jesus.  One felt that one was a part of history making.

Perhaps the greatest gift the Jesuits can bring- underlined by many including Pope Francis- is the gift of discernment - look at the world as God looks at it and make decisions out of that God space by listening and with  a real sensitivity to how the Spirit of God is moving within and without.

The hospitality of the Roman communities was fantastic in accommodating over 200 Jesuits.  The weather overall was good and the Italian peoples' warmth, good food and good wine  made such a difference.

After the Mass in St Ignatius Church the members of the Congregation went to the Gregorian community for snacks and a drink to celebrate the birthday of the new General who shares a birthday with his 90 year old mother.  It was a time for saying goodbyes to our companions from different corners of the globe.

Friday, 11 November 2016

On the way home? - day 40 of GC36

If there are no further contributions or amendments to decrees before 12 midnight tonight GC36 will finish tomorrow with a closing Mass at 4pm.  

The aula passed a decree in the form of a letter of solidarity with Jesuits working in war zones. It was a decree that touched the hearts of all the members.

A recommendation was forwarded by the aula  to Fr.General to continue to strengthen protocols and
ongoing formation on child safe guarding and protection of minors since our faith that does justice demands that and our credibility in living and building a reconciled world
 makes this an absolute requirement.

In the afternoon reviews according to conferences took place and further reflection of the experience will take place tomorrow.

It indeed has been a powerful experience for all and especially for those who attended congregation for the first time.  The highlights were obviously the election of a General from Latin America, the visit and speech of Pope Francis and the passing of mission and life decree.  Now the real work begins in implementing the decrees that have been passed.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

A fruitful day- Day 39 GC36

I thought it would never see the light of day but it emerged after 6 drafts and over 100 amendments a decree on Life and Mission- reconciliation and justice.  it is not a perfect document but it has travelled a long road with much discussion and debate and one can go home happy now that the Congregation has elected a General  and produced a document on life and mission.

A great discussion also took place on a  letter of solidarity and support to Jesuits  working in war zones.  This letter touched the hearts of everyone and Jesuits who work and give their lives on the frontiers of war are indeed men of the Magis.

Good  discussions continued on the implementation of safeguarding protocols of minors and cultural  variances and sensibilities were touched on and it was a real learning experience.  Writing protocols is easy but implementing them in varying circumstances of work from refugee camps to schools in different political, social and cultural contexts is always a challenge.  But the credibility of all justice work will be tested by how minors and the vulnerable are protected and feel safe in all the works of the Society of Jesus.

Amendments were made to the 'governance in the service of mission document' and there was tense after today that the Congregations's work is coming to an end perhaps this week-end? Then it
will be time to say goodbye to Roma and Pope Francis.


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

A few days remaining -day 38 of GC 36

The Congregation strives to finish by Saturday next and this could be possible. The amendments  to the life and mission decree were on the floor of the aula today and will continue to be processed tomorrow.

 The most outstanding discussion and life giving sharing today was the planned  letter  of solidarity to Jesuits and collaborators working in war zones. A number of Jesuits have died, some have been kidnapped and many of our lay partners struggle on the frontiers of war to bring consolation to people in conflict. The grace of accompaniment people in war is mutual.  The Society is blessed by the fortitude, endurance, courage, resilience of innocent people living  war.  They witness to hope where there seems to be little hope and offer forgiveness in such unforgiving circumstances.  Being friends of the losers in conflict show us how to be human and christian.  Breaking bread with the suffering is a blessing to the Society and evangelises us. We need to encourage one another by our prayer and solidarity in friendship and service.

Fr. Rupnik's beautiful frescoe  expresses the mutual sharing of Christ with one another as we accompany people in distress and conflict in war zones today.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

On the home straight - Day 37 of GC36

One gets a sense one is on the last la in this Congregation.  Issues concerning the formula of a General and Provincial Congregation  were discussed and referred to a revision committee and to Fr. General.  A new draft of the 'renewed governance for a renewed mission' was  presented and awaits further comments.

 A wonderful informal lunch time discussion took place on the Church in the Far East.  The most profound presentation and sharing in mixed groups  took place around child safeguarding.  It was both sad and painful and hopeful all at the same time.  It is essential that the preferential option for the poor must explicitly mention children who are the most vulnerable in many contexts, cultures and places today. Our work and living  environments must guarantee always a safe place for the most powerless in our society whether one works in a  refugee camp or a school.  The faith that does justice, promoting human rights of children and the upholding of the dignity of the most vulnerable  must be the hallmark of every Jesuit work where ever in the world there are Jesuits.

There was a call that much learning cross culturally can take place by exchanging experiences, protocols, good practice and transparent principles  of child safeguarding.  It was a grace filled conversation in the mixed cross cultural small group sharing. All were resolved to learn from the sufferings of children and those who have experienced abuse in our world so that that no child can ever experience abuse in the works of the Society of Jesus.

If one watches and listens to the prayer sessions each morning which are mainstreamed from the aula you will notice the increased amount of coughing and sniffling taking place.  Colds and viruses are moving round. It is getting colder in Rome and the temperatures have dropped and it rained today and got dark early.

St Peter's Square empties at night with incoming cold and rain with fewer tourists/pilgrims in November.


Monday, 7 November 2016

Moving on Day 36 GC 36

Imagine the 6th week has begun of GC36 and given the process began over one year ago it has not shortened the time together.  Fr. General began the day  by cautioning on rushing and emphasised that it is the Congregation itself and not him alone who decides when the Congregation ends.  Many planned a six week Congregation but it may go longer. So, tickets may need to be changed.

A number of Provincials were announced from Russia, Lithuania, Germany and Ireland and Leonard Moloney from  Limerick was appointed Provincial of Ireland.  About half of the newly appointed Provincials are in the aula but the other half await a phone call at home from Rome.

The mission and life document came back for discussion and prayerful consideration.  It is now entitled  'Servants of the Joy of the Gospel'.  It still needs revision and amendments and quite a lot of work on the 5th draft.  It is quite remarkable how there is much struggle with this document. It is indicative of the process but also of the complex matter being handled.  The Society struggles with others to live a faith that does justice in a fast moving and complex world.  Answers are not easy and Pope Francis does give us some light in his own simple way of writing and speaking. Speaking to the leaders of the popular movements from 65 countries  last Saturday he called social activists "social poets" in dealing with the challenges of caring for mother earth, building justice and peace and putting the person in the centre of all economic models.  He has a way of talking about things of profound importance in ways that can be understood by the man/woman on the street.  I hope the Congregation can do the same and  not engage as one delegate mentioned in 'spiritual intoxication'.
The patience and flexibility of Simeon in the  temple awaiting baby Jesus is needed at this time.  This is a beautiful frescoe done by Fr. MI Rupnik SJ  in the infirmary chapel on the second floor of the infirmary chapel in the Canisio community  in Rome.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Thunderstorms in Rome on Day 35 of GC36

The weather has been gentle and kind for most days during  GC36. The average temperature was 21.  We did however, have two earthquakes in North of Rome and 4 tremors felt in Rome.  This afternoon  there was a real thunderstorm with thunder and lightning.  The outside Mass in St. Peter's Square was moved inside on Prisoner Sunday.

As we enter the sixth week of the Congregation the  reading of today was the fifth draft of the Mission and Life Decree. It is a shorter draft and it will be the subject of our discussions during the week.  Many Companions advised before the Congregation to please  not write more documents. There are sufficient already and many are not being implemented they say. However, it is difficult to be present at a 6 week meeting of 215 people from all over the world and not to produce something on mission today.  It will be interesting to see what will emerge at the end of the week.  Many think this may be our last week in session but we will have to wait and see.

It will be an interesting week with a possible end to the Congregation and the American people go to the polls on Tuesday.  However, what remains the same in many of our countries is that many of our brothers and sisters still live on the streets in winter time. This evening as one wanders around St. Peter's Square  people continue to sleep in doorways and under the pillars of St. Peter's Square  in spite of the thunderstorms.  Some good samaritans come along and give them some soup to keep out the cold.
The homeless continue to sleep out on a wet November evening in St. Peter's square and are helped by good Samaritans

Saturday, 5 November 2016

A rock star Pope Francis- Day 34 of GC36

The Saturday morning session of GC 36 dealt with amendments to the formula of the Institute and the running of a Congregation.  It also dealt with some issues of governance for the Italian Roman houses where there are over 300 Jesuits.

People were happy to finish early after a heavy week and get a break for the weekend.  Some the members went to the meeting of the world gathering  of representatives of popular  movements. Over 92 movements were represented from 65 countries and at 5pm they were addressed by Pope Francis in the Aula Paolo V1.  There were over 4,000 people present. The themes of this year's meeting were the 3 Ls-labour, lodging and land.

Music from different continents, poetry, speeches from different members preceded his arrival.  His presence was received with delight, music and song and after his 6 page speech in Italian he moved amongst the people with a warmth, ease and smile that sent the people into raptures.  His presence is  so appreciated and loved.  He is received as if he is a rock star.  His talk is being translated from Italian and should be available from Monday next in English.

Friday, 4 November 2016

The General has a complete team now on day 33 of GC36

Today was voting day at the assembly for the Asssistants ad Providentiam and for the Admonitor of Fr. General.  These Assistants of Care  look after the well being of the General, from his health to exercise, diet, work timetable and ultimately if they deem the man is not fit to carry out the work they can inform the Society and call a General Congregation.   The Admonitor role is a kind of life and spiritual coach and advisor.  Usually these men are selected from the already appointed Assistantsand Delegates and Counsellors.  The four elected come from different Assistantcies.  They are Fratern Massawe from Africa, Vernon D'Cunha from India, John Dardis from Ireland and Doug W. Marcouiller from USA.  Doug was elected as the Admonitor as well. The full team of the new Fr. General is  now ready for action and this  completes the internal work for the most part of the congregation.  What remains outstanding is the Mission and Life document which is still with the redactors.  It is on  its fifth draft and this is the document people look forward to  discussing in the coming days.

The cold is beginning in Rome and there are surprisingly few tourists/pilgrims around these days.  The homeless still sleep out under the Vatican pillars where they feel welcome and secure beside Pope Francis.  It will become more difficult for them in the coming weeks as  the winter moves in.

One of the many homeless who sleeps under the columns of St Peter's Square every night.  They seem to feel secure and welcome around there and are not harassed by police.  However, the cold is moving in and sleeping out will be a real challenge.  The hostel opened by Pope Francis down the road for the homeless is full.


Thursday, 3 November 2016

Count down days on Day 32 of GC 36?

Conversations about checking or buying one's ticket home are common these days.  People estimate that may be one week may complete everything.   This could be very subjective since a certain amount of fatigue enters  after so many days of concentrated meetings in the aula.  However, objectively the major document/ decrees which need completion are the mission and life decree and a number of  shorter ones.

This morning began with announcements of new Provincials of Venezuela and Ecuador, and the new secretary of the Society will be Antoine Kerhuel.   Antoine was the former Assistant for Western Europe.  The new appointments in Rome of the new General are somewhat a continuity with the old guard.  10 new Provincials will be announced over the next few days including one for Ireland.

The day continued with discussions around changes of the Formula concerning the running of a General Congregation including the role of non elected members in a Congregation and when the retired General should leave the Congregation.  Many technical issues were discussed  and these will be referred to a Judicial committee for continued study.  In terms of evaluating the process of this Congregation it is notable how much time has been spent on judicial and governance issues and less time on mission and life issues.  There is such a depth of experience in the aula of different mission contexts, it is sad the process so far has been unable to plumb the depth of this richness.   However, at lunch time there was an informal meeting on Syria with Dany, the  Provincial of the near East Province, Victor the  former Provincial and with Fr. Jacques Mourad who was kidnapped by ISIS.  Two Sisters who work in Syria were also present.  It was a wonderful 'temoignage' of bravery, commitment  and hope amidst a seeming hopeless situation

Fr. Nicola the former General has written two letters concerning the urgency of the Near East and asked the  whole Society to respond to the crisis in Syria and surrounding countries. It was noted by Dany the Provincial of  the NE Province how the christian population is fast disappearing.  Only 300,000 christians are left in Iraq from a population of over 1.3 million.  Christians in the Near East have been the agents of medical , social and educational services for the whole population -Muslim as well as Christians and everyone suffers with them because of their absence.  Fr. Mourad was asked how was his time as a hostage and he related that it was kind of retreat for him. In  response to a question about ISIS he responded that many ISIS members are forced recruits either out of poverty and alienation from the serial dictatorships in the countries they come from and very few Syrians are willing fighters for ISIS.  Many other questions asked how we can respond in the West.  Advocacy was spoken of, being a welcome presence to refugees who come to our countries and helping Syrians to network with one another in their country of refuge was another response to  a question on how one can help. It was a moving encounter especially when one of the Sisters related that in her community in Syria, prayer sustained the people and especially, knowing that many people are praying for them around the world as they  hear the bombs dropping in the distance.
 Fr. Jacques Mourad was abducted by ISIS from the monastery of Mar Musa in Nebek, Syria and  escaped after 5 months.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Following up on decrees on day 31 of GC 36

After prayerful consideration yesterday of the mission and life document it was agreed that the text needs to be worked on with new pairs of eyes,  hearts and minds.  The changed team are working on an update of the proposed decree and it will as usual be brought back to the aula for consideration and voting.

A governance in the service of mission decree was also discussed and proposals made and this will be re- worked and brought back to the aula.  A number of recommendations were also passed concerning procedures in relation to final vows and  financial procedures in the Society. Issues around the Roman Houses were discussed and there  are over 300 Jesuits living  in these communities- a number much bigger than some Provinces.

 Finally, a whole hearted discussion took place around child safe guarding, procedures, protocols and formation in line with the documents of the church and according to  Fr. General's letter in 2015. This letter  outlined the necessity of protocols, guidelines and systematic training  in all works with minors and vulnerable adults.  It  mandated such protocols,  procedures and programs of formation to be put in place in all Provinces of the Society of  Jesus.  It reinforced a faith that does  justice, safeguarding human rights and promoting the dignity of each and all.

It was a full days work and while the end may be in sight there is still quite a lot to get done.  Tomorrow there will be an informal meeting with the Jesuits  from the Near East Province.  The Jesuits from Syria  and the NE Province will update  the members  on the happenings in Syria and the neighbouring countries. People really look forward to being updated on this ongoing tragedy.  We keep the people of Syria in our thoughts and prayers.

Mosaic by Marko Ivan Rupnik SJ  in the big Chapel in the  Canisio community  in Rome.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Spiritual conversation on the mission document -Day 30 of GC36

Jesuits love talking.  They feel more at home with head talk rather than heart talk.  After the 4th Draft of the mission document now entitled  "Called to deepen our life and Mission"- servants of the joy of the gospel- the members were asked to go and pray over the document .

 They  then came together in mixed groups to share the fruit of their prayer through active listening and intentional speaking and no discussion.  The second  step is  to share on how one was affected by what one heard  and the third step was to notice and share on the spiritual movements in the sharing.  Some described this  conversation as the best and  most honest conversation they had during the whole Congregation  where one can share ones fragility, vulnerability and not knowing the way forward.  These exchanges of the heart brought a lot of consolation to people even amidst desolation. This is what is called spiritual conversation.  A conversation of the heart rather just  mind talk.

It will take time for this document to mature  and courage, patience and trust is needed at this moment.