Monday, 31 October 2016

Things are moving on Day 29 of GC36

The day began with announcement by Fr. General of his Assistants and Delegates.  The new Assistant of Western Europe is Fr. Victor Assouad  who was born and ordained in Aleppo, Syria and is a member of the Near East Province which includes Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan and is aligned to Western Europe for  Jesuit Governance.  A new post  arising from the discussions in GC 36 is discernment and apostolic planning and Fr. John Dardis, Irish Province  is the Delegate for this work.  This new post pays attention to the fact that ongoing strategic planning is important, monitoring and evaluation of apostolic priorities is needed in a fast changing world.  Leadership can become so preoccupied with day to day operations and fire fighting and emergencies so that  planning ahead is postponed.   Overall, there is a continuity with the old guard and a few new faces in the new guard in the General's appointments.

The first decree was passed this afternoon on changes in the circumstances of the resignation of a General. He is according to law elected for life but if he is deemed unable to carry out the mission he is elected for it now easier for him to move on.  It is amazing how the issue of age has become an issue in the recent past in the Church.  The prolonged illness of JP11 and the resignation of Pope Benedict and the most recent resignation of Adolfo Nicolas sensitises people to the fact that mission is a priority and that when a person is limited by his health he needs to have the option to step down for the common good.

A fourth draft of the life and mission document has appeared and tomorrow a prayerful consideration of this document will take place.

There is a sense that time is precious and a new energy is there to move things on and get finished so that people can get back home from Roma.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Tremors continue on Day 28 of GC 36

This morning at 7.45am the bed and floor shook and trembled.  Some people ran to the corridor I laid in my bed and it shook for at least one minute.  Unlike the three tremors of some days ago one felt this one.  People said the cars moved in the car park. It s an amazing sensation of being totally feeling out of control and waiting for the earth to swallow you up. But Sunday was a beautiful sunny day and a few of us went for a walk around the Villa Borghese.  Families and children were out playing and enjoying the beautiful day. St Peter's Square was full and processions and bands played and people dressed up in beautiful costumes to celebrate their favourite saint.  Religion in Rome is so full of theatre and drama and contains a healthy mixture of  the real, surreal, theatrical, dramatic, populist, romantic and enjoyable- a wonderful mixture of the way life is or should be!

We enter our fifth week of GC36 and one asks when will we finish.  Many estimate this will last another two weeks.  Next week elections of the General's team takes places-they are called Assistants.  The very important document on life and mission needs discussion, some juridical issues need attention and then perhaps freedom to move and move home.  The weather has been great outside the encounters and discussions inside between members have been rich for the most part although process at times gets mixed up and time loss took place.  To run a meeting for now  28 days is quite a task  and to keep 215 men with so much to say disciplined in discussion and on the point is indeed a challenge.  The journey continues......

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Call to renew our life and mission story - Day 27 of GC 36

Day 27 of GC 36 continued to receive feedback on the life and mission document.  Discussion groups are mixed from across the world and one receives a great mixture of responses and reactions to a document that excites many people. Next to electing a new General this is the second most important work of  the Congregation.  Many people within and without the Society await the unfolding of our mission story and look for  inspiration and guidance  in contributing to healing our broken world.  Pope Francis during the meeting with the Jesuits noted that we are carriers of God's consolation, compassion and joy to a people so often immersed in suffering.  'Where hurt is the Jesuit is' he repeated quoting the words of Pedro Arrupe the prophetic General from the Basque country.  This document will continue to be discussed from Monday onwards.
It was appropriate then that the first Mass celebrated outside the community with many members of the Congregation was with the St Egidio community.  The Community of Sant'Egidio began in Rome in 1968, in the period following the Second Vatican Council. Today it is a movement of lay people and has more than 60,000 members, dedicated to evangelisation and charity, in Rome, Italy and in more than 73 countries throughout the world.   
The Community of Sant'Egidio is a "Church Public Lay Association". The different communities, spread throughout the world, share the same spirituality and principles which characterise the way of Sant'Egidio:Prayer, is an essential part of the life of the community in Rome and communities throughout the world. Prayer is central to the overall direction of community life.Communicating the Gospel  is the heart of the life of the Community. It is offered to all those who seek and ask for a meaning for their life.Solidarity with the poor, is lived as a voluntary and gratuitous service, in the evangelical spirit of a Church that is the "Church for all and particularly the poor" (Pope John XXIII)Ecumenism, is  lived as  friendship, prayer and search for unity among Christians of the whole world.Dialogue, was  recommended by Vatican II as a way of peace and co-operation among religions, and also a way of life and as a means of resolving conflicts.The Community has as its centre the Roman Church of Sant'Egidio, from which the Community takes its name. From its very beginnings, the Community has maintained, in the area of Trastevere and in Rome, a continuous presence of prayer and welcome for the poor and for pilgrims.  It was a lovely evening of praying together at the Saturday evening Mass and meeting  members of the community afterwards while sharing a lovely meal.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Moving on to life and mission- Day 26 of GC36

Governance and juridical issues in relation to the institute are always important elements of work in GCs  and can take up much time and energy. How to deal with them in the most efficient and effective way  in such a large assembly is a challenge of process.  Everyone of the 215 delegates has an opinion whether one has sufficient expertise or not in canon law or governance issues.  Jesuits have an opinion on everything so process is key if time is not wasted and energy is not depleted before more important issues are dealt with.  Governance and structures are all about effecting mission.

It was with get relief the proposed decree on life and mission came up for discussion.  It  has already gone to the third draft and the presence and words of Pope Francis on Monday has inspired the tone and content of the new draft.  Discussions of this vey important decree will continue since it touches on the very  heartbeat of Jesuit mission today and tomorrow.  The depth of experience of mission in the hall from working with the Dalits in India to working in the peace process on Colombia to teaching contextual theology in Delhi contributes such richness to the discussions.

In the evening members were invited to the Gregorian University the oldest and most famous Jesuit teaching faculty in Rome.  It was a time of meeting and gathering of all the Irish jesuits in Rome at present.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Tremors felt in Rome-25th Day of GC36

Three tremors shook the doors and light fixtures of the  house  last night on the edge of St. Peter's Square.  No one was hurt or injured but thoughts and prayers are with the people at the epicentre of the earthquake in the NE of Rome.

No such tremors or earthquakes occurred with in the body of the Congregation on the 25th day.

Ordinary governance  issues were discussed from the Roman houses - that is jesuit communities and works entrusted to the Jesuits in Rome and also amendments to the formula on calling and running a General Congregation.

The assembly was given the afternoon free to read documents  and will return  tomorrow to share their reflections.  The Congregation will then move on to discuss further the life and mission decree. Governance issues are honey to canon lawyers and governance gurus and hopefully,  more energy will be generated when the life and mission issues come up for further discussion.

The pictures from the Pope's  visit have appeared for collection and they have generated real excitement because they are great memories of such a special event.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The process of advancement to final vows et al discussions- day 24 GC 36

Discussions about grades has always been a controversial issue within and without the Jesuits.  Grades concern Jesuits some who are granted 3 vows and others 4 vows after their tertianship experience. Jesuits do a kind of second novitiate called tertianship  school of the heart experience- after ordination and some work experience.  They can then request full incorporation into the Society of Jesus.  The General does with advice from local Governance grant this person the status of spiritual coadjutor  with three vows or give him the status of a professed father with 4 vows. Some have asked that this kind of distinction section be changed.  Popes down through the years have refused the Society permission to change the grades system.  The wisdom guiding this is that a person with a depth of spirituality, an availability for mission at any time and an aptitude for governance should receive the 4th vow.  Discussion about the grades themselves is not an issue since the `papacy does not want any changes but how to prepare, form, communicate, and carry out this incorporation into the Society was the source of lively exchanges.

Another item on the agenda was good financial practices in support of the mission.  Linking treasurers with apostolic planning was key it was suggested.  The issue of sharing resources through out the whole society is also an issue.  In the north there is much money and few people and in the south there are many men in formation but less resources.  Plans for bring about this balance have already been implemented but needs follow up.

Each day there is a chairperson for the meetings and the General listens to the members and may intervene sometimes but not too often. He is a listener for now and a very active one.  In his first few weeks as General he has indeed much to listen to from this special gathering. He needs our prayers as he settles in as the General of the Society of Jesus. 


Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Moving on in consideration of decrees- day 23 of GC36

There are different ways for a Congregation to address itself to the members of the Society.  It can do  with through recommendations to the `General who can follow up by sending letters to the Society or though decrees which are benchmark guides to priorities for the Society.  This was the subject of much conversation today in relation to life and mission of the Society, circumstances around the resignation of a General and a decree around child safeguarding.  Really good discussion took place, it was lively and energising and  many members felt that a prophetic, relevant and inspirational decree be completed on life and mission.

The diversity of cultures and views on many aspects of life and mission continues to be fascinating.  One can never take anything for granted and that ones own view point is so coloured by ones culture and where one lives and works.  West is best can never be a rule of thumb in the Society of Jesus.  It is through discussion and discernment one can find a way that best expresses the common values of the Gospel for the universal Society.  In order to discuss and discern one needs a strong Chairman of the sessions  in order to maintain discipline in conversation because people can wander down side roads of conversation, speak off the topic and tell stories. Overall, sessions remain focussed and productive and so time can be saved and not wasted for the 215 people  present.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Pope Francis addresses the Congregation-Day 22 of GC 36

It was a special day today when Pope Francis joined the Congregation in prayer and then gave an input and received questions from the members for over two hours. His very presence was a grace and his input which is published in many languages was inspiring.  He encouraged the Jesuits to plumb and share the depths of Ignatian spirituality.  It is a spirituality of joy and consolation and a force for discernment in seeking the  greater good  in all places and spaces.

He did not give  prescriptive or descriptive plan to  the Jesuits for the next number of years.  He allowed the process of the Congregation to discern future plans and mission.  In relation to the identity and mission of the Jesuit he recalled the words of Pedro Arrupe  when he said that Jesuits must be present where people hurt and be a voice and sign of prophetic audacity and bring consolation and compassion into the lives of  people who hurt in our world.

It is now the work of the Congregation after reading and hearing of the themes  which many Provincial Congregations presented over one year ago for consideration how it will describe its mission today and tomorrow.  Much discernment has already been done in preparation for this  meeting and what will emerge at the end of our Congregational present is quite a mystery.

What is clear is that a time line is needed in order to complete a number of issues or  else energy can wane.  Let us continue to pray the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

The congregation started 3 weeks ago today - meetings on the sidelines- 21st of GC 36.

Besides the the ongoing work of the Congregation  one of the great gifts of this meeting is the meeting on the sidelines with Provincials and Delegates from parts of the world where one had previously worked or where there are missionaries from one's own Province. it is a time to catch up, share news and do other business.

One such meeting was with the Australian Jesuits who wanted to remember and celebrate the arrival of the first Irish Jesuits to Australia 150 years ago.   It was an evening of remembering and celebrating with a commemorative bottle of shiraz from Clare Valley the Jesuit vineyard in Australia.

The Australian archivist writes "Fr. Joseph Lentaigne and William Kelly arrived aboard the steamer, Great Britain on the 21st September 1865.  (The ship still exists at a museum in Bristol) The ship anchored in the harbor and a launch brought the passengers to shore.  It was rather unsteady and as it beached at Sandridge (Port Melbourne) Kelly stood back to allow Fr. Lentaigne to climb out first.  Lentaigne signaled him to go first.  Fr. Kelly objected, “No father, you are the superior you should go first”.  Lentaigne replied, “Yes I am the superior and I am telling you to land first”.  So Father William Kelly became the first Irish Jesuit to set foot in Australia.   As they landed a boy from the wharf called out and asked to be enrolled in St Patrick’s which with two more recruited aboard the ship on the voyage out, meant they had three pupils before they actually touched land". 

It was a lovely evening to remember and celebrate the work of not only Irish Jesuit missionaries but of all Jesuit missionaries because so many Jesuits of this Congregation from the South  are the fruits of the work of European missionaries.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

3rd week almost over of GC 36...Day 20

Electing a General was the primary purpose for coming to Rome and there was excitement and real energy in the first two weeks in preparing for this.  There has been great consolation in the choice of the person. The second part of the Congregation  has begun in looking at Governance and suggestions of changing norms concerning around the resignation of a General.   These are not the most inspiring of topics except to canon lawyers and to  people concerned with central Governance.  Conversation has begun around the life and mission of the Society and has been delayed since the feedback from groups who met yesterday have not arrived back for the plenary session today.  This issue is of huge importance to the Society and to the Church since it will determine where the Jesuits will put they focus, energy and resources for the next number of years in the service of the people of God and the Church.  People seek something inspiring from the Congregation and just as pope Francis has inspired so many by his teachings and witness. The Jesuits need his guidance and enlightenment in the coming week as they reflect on their life and mission.

The Congregation is a wonderful time to meet Companions on the sidelines of the meeting.  The Irish and Australian Jesuits met last night to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Irish Jesuits in Australia. It was a moment of joy and celebration for the wonderful work the Irish Jesuits  have done in Australia in tough times.  The link between the Australian and Irish Provinces is long and enduring and they share a very common history. It was celebrated with a glass of 2009 Clare Valley commemorative Shiraz.


Friday, 21 October 2016

Should the Congregation write a decree? Day 19 of GC

Discussion took place today on the second draft of a document entitled ' called to depth of life and mission' which in its first draft was called 'to love and serve our common homes'.   This looks at what the jesuits' mission is today and tomorrow.  Before the Congregation many people mentioned there should be no further decrees but implement ones which have already been written.  In a world that is changing rapidly and where we have a Pope who is a lightening rod to all in underlining the issues of brokenness in our world .e.g. global warming, people on the move, the family, it will be surprising if the Jesuits remain silent on these very issues. After the Pope meets the Congregation more light will be given to members on what the church is asking of them at present.

How this concern and mission orientation will be  expressed through a decree or a statement of some sort one needs to wait and see.  Next week should be an interesting week because next to the act of electing a General this issue of our mission today is really important and people look forward to something inspiring, integrative and gives real energy and focus to the work of the jesuits in the world in the years to come. Let us wait and see.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Fr. General gives his first input to Congregation- Day 18 of Congregation

If one is to describe a style of leadership that this General will  live it could be said to be a more participative style.   Tempus forte, which is really  time away for team reflection will be underscored by him, he will build teams and invite participation at different and from different levels of management and be inclusive in regards bringing lay staff on board and seek their input. He will appoint an Assistant who will  help him to focus on discernment on long term goals.

Institutional conversion  was a key word used in helping us to understand that governance institutions and structures will need to be monitored and evaluated regularly to check if they are fit for purpose.  

In the afternoon  input was given on the mission and life document and the members then retired into Assistancy groups to choose possible candidates for Regional Assistants.

It is still odd to be talking about structures before we talk about mission but given that the new General needs to have a team around him as soon as possible one can understand the reasoning for such a process.

Let the discussions on mission and life come quickly!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Moving from Governance to Mission? Fr. Nicolas returns to ordinary mission -Day 17 of GC17

Structures discussions normally follow mission  discussions  but in the past 3 days structures of governance  have been the topic of conversation.  Elections of  the Curia team  will occur in the coming weeks and some follow up from GC 35 on structural and governance issues needed to be dealt with before the old team move on and the new team move in.  Better communication between the different units of governance is coming forward as suggestions to the new General and streamlining of management structures is also being suggested. Fr. General will talk to a number of these issues tomorrow before we move on to mission issues. Issues of structures and governance are not the most inspiring of topics but for many valuable  information on how the Society works has been shared with many delegates who are new to Congregations and Roman issues.

Moving from Governance Fr. Nicolas left the Congregation today for a trip back to his native Spain and then if health allows him  he will go back to his old mission home to the Philippines.  As usual and according to the humble Nicolas he departed by shaking hands with each delegate at coffee break and without fuss or footlights went back to being an ordinary Jesuit.  He is indeed a model of humility and kindness for all.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Discussions continue on Governance- Day 16 of GC 36

In many ways the Society of Jesus is like a multinational organisation and structures of governance which were so assiduously worked out by the founder Ignatius are still functioning pretty well. But the question must be asked how suitable are they  to the 21st century in executing the mission of the Society. This is  the nature of the discussion going on  amongst the members at present. We live in an age of fast communication, an over flow of information with technology that connects people so quickly. The question needs to be asked if governance need to be decentralised so that the General is not just preoccupied with the daily operations of the organisation  but rather discerning with his helpers the major strategic objectives of the Society of Jesus.  These issues cannot be solved in meeting like a Congregation but some advice can be given to the new General on how to proceed and it is up to him with his new team to follow up.

Meeting one another and getting perspectives from different people from different corners of the world continues to be fascinating and enriching.  Being in Rome also gives one an opportunity to meet ones fellow Jesuits from the home Province as we did tonight.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Governance -Day 15 of GC 36

The new General took the chair this morning and directed proceedings.  The topic of the day was the governance document which was prepared by a committee before the Congregation.

Governance structures are always in the service of mission and the challenge for the Society of Jesus today is to adapt and adopt the right structures in order to serve the mission of this century.  They should be light and flexible and not draw more members into more levels of administration at a time of diminishing numbers in the northern hemisphere.

The reality also is that many people involved in the jesuit mission are lay partners and key to a collaborative governance is the inclusion of lay people at different levels of governance.  This theme of collaboration will become a hot topic in the days ahead and there sure will be many different experiences and models of this form of collaboration present in the mission of the Society.  The role of women in this collaboration will hopefully, become a topic of discussion in the days ahead and the new General will bring his experience and insights to bear on these topics.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A day of rest -day 14 of GC36

Today Sunday was a day of rest for the delegates.  It was a pretty intense and intensive week.  For  many delegates this is their first Congregation.  The murmuratio experience was a new discernment experience for many. The sense of peace and consolation so many feel within and without the Congregation is a confirmation that the decision made was a sound one.  The Holy Spirit is somewhat like our mothers -she finally gets her way! When one is honest and open and enters into a spirit of dialogue seeking the truth with one another God is present and working.

One was very aware of another election going on in the USA as one  was choosing a General.  It was quite a contrast of conversations- to seek the person who can serve the common good and  who is ready to give their life for the sake of the other and be ready to endure all  for the sake of the truth and be a friend  of the poor key were key points of  conversation about who could be the best man to lead the Society of Jesus in the next few years.  Ego or seeking self glory, status  and personal ambition has no place in christian leadership.

Tomorrow begins the second half of the Congregation in Rome just beside St Peter's Square which always look beautiful in the night light.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

A day of thanks giving- Day 13 of GC 36

At 10.30am this morning the delegates of the Congregation and many Jesuits of the Roman communities gathered to celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving with the new Fr. General in the Jesuit Church of the Gesu.  It was a solemn occasion in this beautiful Church and yet very Roman and very male and clerical - few lay people in sight and even fewer women.

 It is easy to understand how Rome can be  all consuming in a Church clerical culture somewhat apart from the real world.  This is a culture Pope Francis is challenging and will be indeed be  supported by his fellow South American.  Both bring a different experience of Church with them to Rome.

The consolation of members continues by the choice of General.  It is a sign the world is changing, the Church is changing, Rome is changing and the Society of Jesus is changing.  The first moustached General from outside Europe will bring new perspectives and a new vision of Church which is more inclusive,  collegial and hopefully, closer to the poor and be a stronger voice of the poor.

The work on decrees, documents and discussions on our mission will begin on Monday and this is the second part of the work of GC36.

Friday, 14 October 2016

A new General - a day of great consolation - Day 12 of GC36

Today the Jesuits elected a new leader.  Fr. Arturo Sosa  comes from Venezuela. The Congregation did indeed row into the deep to elect this man from the Southern Hemisphere.  It represents the demographic change in the Society of Jesus and in the Church today. As many as 80% of active Jesuits live and work in the Southern  Hemisphere.  It is an opportune time for the Jesuits to elect their first Latin American General and first born outside Europe or the USA.

The Francis effect did no doubt affect the choice.  The college of Cardinals in choosing Pope Francis made  a radical choice and the Jesuits follow their example.  Both men come from a rich continent but a place of  conflict, inequality, poverty and corruption.  A continent like Africa so rich with so many poor people.  Both have experience of working with the poor and trying to transform the lives of the poor.  The marginalised have received an added voice in Rome, in the world and in the Society of Jesus today.  Let us rejoice and be glad!  

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The conversations conclude -Day 11 of GC 36

Today was the fourth and last day of the murmuratio the process the Jesuits use to elect a General.  It  is a series of one to one conversations between the delegates on who could be a possible candidate.  One can then speak to mentioned candidates in an atmosphere of listening, mutual respect and trust in the Holy Spirit. Tomorrow Friday after 7.30am Mass the delegates will take their place in the aula and cast their written vote.  There should be a new General by 1pm and the Society of Jesus will be made whole again after being left like an orphan since the resignation of the last General last week.

It is a wonderful time of expectation  and longing to move on recognising that 4 days of discernment of the best candidates is sufficient.  The talking is over and tomorrow the voting and election will be completed. May the Holy Spirit continue to enlighten the assembled delegates
in their choice.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The talks carry on Day 10 of GC 36

The conversations between the members of the Congregation  about a suitable candidate to become General of the Society of Jesus  continues for the third day.  The long list of possible candidates in each persons mind  has been reduced to a few and  members ask one another more focussed questions about a candidate one may know or have worked and lived with. It is a fascinating process  where one continues to ask open questions about the person concerned.  Can he govern well?  Has he a vision for the future? Is he an inspiring figure?  Is he a real leader? Has he a depth of spirituality?  Can he carry the weight of responsibility given to him?  Is he open to other cultures?  Does he have international experience and universal outlook?  The persons and persons whose names turn up frequently in conversations are asked by members to sit down with them and talk about their vision if they are elected. This is not easy for them because they know they are being talked about and assessed by many people.

One is not asking for a super man because he does not exist but someone one has qualities that give greater glory to God in governing the Society.  No doubt with the guidance of the Holy Spirit the right person will be chosen on Friday.  Keep up the prayers 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Encounters and conversations continue- Day 9 of GC36

The conversations continue between delegates in discerning who can be the next leader of the Jesuits in the world.  Age, health, governance experience, vision for the future, love and closeness to the poor, spiritual depth and kindness, capacity to listen , have good team skills, be attentive and be able to read the signs of the times  are but some of the characteristics sought in the new General.  A number of people emerge with many outstanding skills but ultimately it is the whole person rather  than just the skill will win out.  Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit  and through the delegates' openness and trust
 the right person will be chosen.
It is indeed  a privilege to be apart of this historical week for the Society of Jesus.  So many people in the world are praying with the congregation members and one feels this energy from within the walls of the aula.  Keep up the prayers.

Monday, 10 October 2016

The murmuratio has begun- Day 8 of GC 36

Monday 10th October is the day when was what is  called the murmuratio begins.  It is a kind of a spiritual speed dating between members who after prayer and quiet speak to each other  about possible candidates to become General.  Usually each member has a list of prospective candidates and one requests some time with a companion who knows that person or persons better than oneself and seeks his advice on his suitability  for leadership.  Light lunch is taken together which gives ample time for people to mingle and meet.  All this is done in an atmosphere of respectful quiet, truth and openness.  The day finishes with Benediction and Mass in language groups.  It is such contrast to what we understand as electioneering, promoting candidates or campaigning for ones favourite person.  If this happens judges appointed according to length of years in the society, will intervene.

Trust in the spirit of God who moves and speaks through one another is paramount and one looks forward to the fruit of this communal discernment.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Rest day after a busy week - day 7 of GC 36

It has been raining intermittently in the past few days but today Sunday was just beautiful and the Delegates had a free day. Some who are new to Rome visited the different sites. Pope Francis celebrated  Mass in St Peter's Square.  A few went for a swim  and all had some kind of rest and relaxation after a pretty intense week.  The Congregation begins the Murmuratio tomorrow Monday in the service of electing a General.

Unlike political campaigns and open debates about a person  Jesuits in the Congregation inquire one to the other on who might be best to lead at this time.   This is done in a spirit of prayer and fraternal charity. Lobbying is  excluded and focus on the personal qualities is emphasised irrespective of nationality, tribe, colour or cultural background.   The greater good of the Order is the goal in mind.

So the delegates will enter into a kind of retreat over the next few days, praying, fasting, having fraternal conversations with one another about people who could be the future General.  Hopefully, it will be known by Friday next.  Prayers are requested.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

GC 36-first week over -6th day.

Today, Saturday 8th October the Congregation sat until 11.30 am and finished the day and week with Mass.  The morning started as usual with prayer and then an input from a few experienced members on what this murmuratio is all about. This process of electing a General is a time of prayer, quiet, openess,  trust and generosity to enable the election of the best candidate for the good of the Society of Jesus and of  the Church. It is a time to speak one to one and inquire about individuals who could be candidates.  One cannot campaign for anyone and if one is found to be campaigning one is reported and disciplined.  One experienced member shared that it is time of prayer, recollection and penance in order to be free and listen to the spirit of God leading to the election of the best candidate.  There should be a new General by Friday 15th October.

The first week is over  and much was achieved.  The highlight of the week was firstly, meeting so many in the diversity of language, culture and colour.  In the diversity there is a unity of desire and mission to serve humanity according to the charism of St. Ignatius.  This unity in diversity is what is so striking in a gathering like this.   The other highlight of the week was the resignation of Fr. Nicolas.  It was like mourning a brother and a father  who has passed on and leaving the family without a father.  It was also a moment of loving tenderness, gratitude and respect for such a gentle and wise father whose humility is touching.  It was also a time of wishing him well and hopes he gets a good rest  before his next mission. Finally, it was a moment of looking forward and preparation for the election of a new General.  The responsibility entrusted to the members is  huge  to listen and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the coming days in order that the best person be chosen.  All were  grateful that this process is not being rushed but  taken at a gentle rhythm.   

Friday, 7 October 2016

Dancing in the rain and getting drenched- 5th day of GC 36

The 5th day of GC 36 began with Mass at 7.30am in St Peter's Basilica at the altar of St. Peter.  It was a special way to begin the day as the Congregation prepares for the murmuratio- that is the prayerful conversation and consideration of  candidates for a new General.  It belted rain from the Curia to St. Peter's Square.  Vatican security were not fully prepared for such a large crowd so early on a very wet morning so  one  waited in the rain to get through security.  Many people got soaked wet but all was taken with a sense of humour and fun. Some said it as like a pilgrimage experience with the heavens opening with thunder and lightning and rain- a sign of real blessing at the beginning of a discernment for a new General!  Others who were soaked in their sandals and prayed that the sun would appear.

After Mass conversations begun according to Assistancies -that is different geographical areas of clusters of `Provinces- about the election of a Secretary for the Congregation and two Assistants.  In the last session of the day  3 people were elected.  Fr. Luis Orlado Torrres Santos from Puerto Rico  who speaks several languages was elected  Secretary and his two elected Assistants are Agnelo Mascarenhas  from Goa and Francisco Javier Alvarez de los Mozos from Spain.  They have a huge job to do in terms in terms of recording minutes in different languages, planning the daily schedule  and keeping everyone informed on procedures.

The Delegates will continue to work on Saturday until midday.  It  has been a full week  and with a feeling  a lot of work was done in terms of getting to know each other, beginning to discuss some serious themes of the Congregation and in making a good preparation to elect a General next week.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Slowing it down- 4th day of GC36

The last  three days have been intense with 215 delegates getting to know one another, discussing wide ranging topics  from community life to ecology and preparing for the murmuratio which is the process of prayerful conversation between members about possible candidates for  the post of General.  This process was to begin on Friday but will now begin next Monday.  This gives the Delegates a chance  to savour what has been shared, catch their breath and continue  to meet, greet and connect with one another.

The challenges ahead for the Society was discussed and the kind of gifts a new General might need to carry out these tasks was also the subject of shared conversations. Deepening the Ignatian legacy of  the Spiritual exercises in each member and sharing it with other, consolidating  the universal and local mission  of the Society of Jesus, being present to migrant and refugee crisis in the world today and  strengthening the intellectual  work of the `society in the service of the `church and world were but a few of the tasks mentioned.

The qualities of the new General are to name but a few,  he needs to be a man of God, who loves the the Church and the Society of Jesus and who loves the poor and can continue the way of Pope Francis who shows by his words and actions how to be Church today.

Tomorrow all the Delegates will concelebrate Maas in St Peter's Basilica.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The encounter continues- day 3 of GC36

The General Congregation continues  in small group meetings enabling the 215 delegates to get to know one another in different language groups.  The group sharing includes not only discussions about the identity and mission of the Society but also invite the participants to share  morsels of their life story.
What continues it amaze one is the variety and richness of peoples' personal and mission stories.  The variety of work Jesuits do in the world  from astronomy to working with tribal and marginalised groups, to working in education and spirituality, ecology and pastoral work to name but a few.  All this  is indicative of the different gifts members bring to the Congregation.

There is  a retreat like atmosphere of silence, prayer, discussion and reflection.  All this is done  in the the light of choosing a new General in the days to come.  This process should begin next Friday.   

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Meeting of cultures and change of cultures -Day 2 of GC 36

The sun is shining in Rome and the Congregation this morning began with song and  prayer. A German and Chilean Jesuit Scholastic led the assembly in a Taize chant and spiritual reflection.

Everyone is now getting accustomed on how to use their Tablet- this new technology was a challenge at the beginning but now members are getting more familiar with its use.

The morning and afternoon was spent in different language groups centring around focussed questions on the documents which were prepared before the Congregation.  The great gift of these groups is not only a lively exchange of reflections on different matters relating to the identity and mission of the Society of Jesus  but also encuntering   one another from different corners of the world.  Such a variety of backgrounds, difference of cultures, riches of work experience makes these meetings so fruitful and life giving.  The increasing demographic changes with the majority of delegates coming from the Southern Hemiphere brings new cultural perspectives in being a Jesuit today.   Amidst the difference there is a unity and solidarity in companionship and mission.

This group work is also part of the preparation in helping the delegates to get to know one another  before the election of a new General.  It is indeed an experience of the universality of the Society of Jesus and the depth and variety of service it renders to the people of God where it is present.  It is indeed a privileged moment to witness this.

The demographic shift is one  point of interest that has captured many peoples' attention about General Congregation 36.  It  is the growing presence of active members from provinces of the global south. For GC 35 this region already represented the majority (54%). Now, however, their percentage has increased to represent 59% of the Congregation. Among other aspects, this reflects the growing number of vocations in Asia and Africa in these past years.
Asia and Oceania have grown from 28% to 33%. A third of the Congregation comes from the East, mainly from the South Asia Conference, and to be more precise from the provinces of India. 72 members of the Congregation will come from these regions in the East. Africa, also, has grown from 8% to 10%. 21 members of the Congregation will come from provinces in Africa.
The greatest novelty is that almost all the electors coming from these regions are born in these continents.    
Latin America’s presence, however, has diminished. In GC 35 their representation was 18% and in GC 36 it will be only 16%, just slightly above the participation from North America (15%) which has maintained stable. This drop is due largely to the restructuring of provinces, which has reduced from 16 provinces and two regions to only 12 provinces.
The greatest diminishment, however, is from Europe. This region has dropped from 31% at GC 35 to 26% at GC 36. As a result Europe is no longer the largest, nevertheless, continues to have the most members represented by right of office. 56 Jesuits from European provinces will participate in the Congregation, of which 35 are elected members, 14 are provincials and 7 are members by right of office.
GC 35GC 36
Latin America18%16%
Asia and Oceania28%33%
North America15%15%

Monday, 3 October 2016

Day number 1 of GC 36

The most moving moment of the opening morning of GC 36 was Fr. General offering his resignation to the Congregation  and asking that this request be granted.  After the request was granted  words  of appreciation were shared in thanking Fr Adolfo for his leadership which was conducted in such a collaborative style and with a kindness, humility, simplicity and good humour which touched so many people.  His attention to universality and depth in mission and service, to governance issues, his support of the intellectual apostolate, his wisdom and calmness in dealing with all kinds of people and situations were but a few of the characteristics mentioned.  After a number of standing ovations he took his place at the back of the Aula in his designated  chair as a member of the  Congregation.  It was indeed a touching moment for all present and a moment of deep gratitude for his life and service as General.

In the afternoon Delegates were divided into groups to discuss various topics but above all to share their vocation and a little of their life story.  The richness and diversity of backgrounds, the depth of experiences of works  and the sharing of dreams for the Congregation led to conversations of real depth.     The day ended with Mass on the Feast Day of St. Francis Borgia, the third Superior General of the Society.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Society of Jesus invited to dare the audacity of the improbable at the GC 36 opening Mass

GC 36 has begun with the opening Mass at the Gesu Church in Rome.  The Gesu Church is the mother Church of the Society of Jesus and holds the tomb of St Ignatius of Loyola.  Over 300 concelebrants took part and Fr. Bruno Cadore OP,  the Master of the Dominican Order at the invitation of Fr. General SJ, was the chief celebrant and homilist.

Taking the Sunday readings of 2nd October , 2016 and inspired by the Gospel of today which begun with the apostles asking Jesus "Lord increase our faith' he continued to say this pressing request to the Lord is the most beautiful prayer one can imagine to open the celebration of the General Congregation.  He continued to  say that in the Gospel of today Jesus point out two reasons  why this prayer is so right.  This faith is necessary-even if it remains as modest  in appearance  as a mustard seed- because it is about daring to aim for the improbable:constantly calling the Society to dare the  audacity of the improbable
 and the evangelical witness to do it with the humility of those who know that, in this service where the human engages all his energy, everything depends on God.

In short this was was a call to the Jesuits to be courageous in their deliberations during this Congregation.  The deliberations begin tomorrow morning at 9.15am, 3rd October, 2016 and  may they be filled with the Holy Spirit and with the gift of courage.


Opening Mass for GC36

It is lovely cool morning in Rome.  The night rains have cleansed the air and there is a pleasant and peaceful atmosphere in the gardens of the Jesuit Curia. Everyone has arrived for the opening Mass at 5pm this afternoon in the Gesu Church.  There is an air of joy and expectation amongst the delegates coming from different parts of the globe.  Many know one another from former gatherings or places of studies.  The Jesuit communities in Rome have made huge preparations to accommodate over 220 delegates.  It is indeed a moment of blessing and grace for the Society of Jesus as it elects a new General and renews and reinvigorates its mission to the peoples of the world.  The success of this Congregation depends  on all our prayers and the docility of the delegates to the urging and voice of the Holy Spirit.  Pray for us. 

Saturday, 1 October 2016

The gathering has begun for GC36 in Rome

Jesuits from all over the world are gathering to elect a new General and discuss the renewal and updating of the mission of the Society of Jesus in the world today.  It is wonderful to meet so many from the diversity of cultures and continents where Jesuits work  live and work. These are priviliged moments of meeting one another and getting to know the different contexts of the work of the Society of Jesus from Syria to Sri Lanka, from Delhi to Dublin. In the orientation hour given to all the Delegates from the different Provinces and Regions around  it is amazing to sit in a newly restored Aula/ Hall where all the proceedings will take place and to receive instruction on the use of a Tablet which enables delegates  to vote, make interventions, receive translations of interventions and outlines the plan and proceedings of each day.  New technology has been introduced to the proceedings which will hopefully, allow proceedings move more smoothly and effectively.  The opening Mass takes place in the Gesu Church on Sunday 2nd October, 2016 at 5pm.