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The sun refused to set

Ugandan Charles Jaryekonga SJ spent two years of his Jesuit formation as a regent in Belvedere College SJ from August 2016 to May 2018. In this first of a series of blog posts, he fills the reader in on his background, the purpose of regency, his unexpected mission to Ireland and his first impressions.

I count myself privileged and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity I was given to serve Belvedere College as a regent. Regency is a key stage in the formation of a ‘young Jesuit’ because it is the first-time that he undertakes an active full-time role in an apostolic work while living with other Jesuits in an apostolic community. This provides occasions for learning and growth as well as providing challenges which are also occasions for growth. Other than personal growth, the regent is meant to make a positive contribution to the apostolic duties assigned to him and to take responsibilities for the work given him and for his actions. It is like what the Chinese people call a ‘win-win situation’ whenever they talk about their external investments. Often one party wins a bigger share than the other party or parties (something my BELL – Belvedere English Language Lessons – students strongly feel is an injustice) and, in my circumstance, I think I am the biggest winner, followed by the Jesuits, and then Belvedere community. Hopefully there is no loser.

Regency fits in the wider formation process that includes novitiate, philosophy of first studies, regency, theology, and tertianship. A candidate to the Society of Jesus goes through these processes as he prepares for the ministry that awaits him. My personal formation journey followed the traditional formation process that started with novitiate in Arusha, Tanzania from July 2010 to June 2012, followed by four years of integrated philosophy and humanities in Zimbabwe from August 2012 to May 2016, and most recently the two years of regency in Belvedere College from August 2016 to May 2018. This will be followed by three years of theological studies in Nairobi, Kenya and hopefully one day tertianship if that is God’s will for me. Every Jesuit goes through this process even though the length of time spent in formation and the route each person takes is in many cases unique and different.

The purpose of regency for the regent, the Jesuits, and for the apostolic community

Regency as a stage of formation provides the ‘young Jesuit’ with the opportunity to grow as an adult human being. The document on formation of Jesuits refers to regency as a period in which a young Jesuit is helped to achieve “personal human equilibrium and its effectiveness so marked in the incorporation of the young Jesuit into the apostolic body of the province (society).” In view of that,

the first aim of regency is the growth of those engaged in it; its aim is their growth in virtue and psychological maturity, so that their talents may find expression by the way in which they accept their responsibility for the communal apostolic tasks assigned to them, and that thereby their possible aptitude for special studies may be gauged. One must also appreciate the apostolic help they give to the apostolic work of the province (society); they are to take on responsibility for the work as well as participate in discussions about it…

Thus, the fruit/s of regency should be noticeable in the apostolic, spiritual, community, as well as intellectual life of the regent. It is my belief that my time in Belvedere College has been fruitful in achieving the goals of regency, of personal growth as well as contributing to the apostolic life of the school community.

Step into regency

I woke up early one morning in May 2016, fresh and with a strong desire to speed up my preparation for the oral defence of my dissertation in philosophy, only to see an email from ‘someone in Ireland’ asking me to start processing a visa for the Republic of Ireland and the reason being that I was missioned to Belvedere College SJ for regency. It was a big surprise for me and something I never envisioned. In fact, I had very little knowledge of what the Republic of Ireland was. This kind of missioning is something that happens in the Society of Jesus and many generations of Jesuits underwent similar experiences including the likes of Francis Xavier and other early companions. Despite this ‘normal abnormality’ which every Jesuit must be familiar with, it can still take one by surprise when it actually happens to you as it was in my case.

On reflection, I was reminded by the writing of David Strong SJ about the Jesuit mission in China that “Jesuits assigned (to various missions) received little or no prior education about the land to which they were sent, nor how they might conduct their mission.” As a man in formation, such a mission provides an opportunity for growing in the awareness of the world and finding one’s place in the world, contributing to the universal mission of the Society of Jesus in the context in which one finds himself in. It is because of this that Jerónimo Nadal SJ emphasized that as Jesuits, “the world is our house.” That means being ready to live and work in the world and not to limit ourselves in a kind of cultural monasticism or in a geopolitical confinement. That was enough consolation to get me going.

It is easier to say “the entire world is our home” than making ourselves at home wherever we find ourselves. One is bound to face cultural challenges in a new place that requires open mindedness, ‘freedom from self’, and a positive disposition to be able to enter fully into a new culture and appreciate it. This can potentially turn the challenges into important moments of growth and diversification of one’s cultural horizon. I find it easy to appreciate differences and diversity when one is in touch with the other who is fundamentally different from me. As one can imagine, the fear of losing something is not very far and anxiety kicks in but also moments of excitement as well. It was, therefore, important for me to face my fears and capitalize on the excitements to be able to start life in Belvedere College with magnanimity.

First impression of Belvedere College

I arrived in Ireland on 24 August 2016 and entered the gates of Belvedere for the very first time on 25 August 2016. Amidst the jet lag and the drama of the sun refusing to set as I was accustomed to it doing, I attended the staff seminar that took place over two days in complete bewilderness. Nevertheless, the first few days in the school were important for me because I picked up a sense of warmth and genuine concern for one another among the staff which added to my excitement and the fears started melting away.

I thought to myself the school must be a wonderful place for kids to study in and for the staff to work in. From then on, I consistently felt and encountered Jesus speaking to me in Matthew 7:7; “ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” It was also important for me to have another scholastic-regent (Mateusz Basiejko SJ from North Poland) in the school to learn from. His initial guidance on the different tasks for regents in the school cannot be underestimated. Cura Personalis (‘care for the whole person’) is evident in the school everywhere you turn. The regency program is divided into first year and second year activities, even though many of the activities overlap.

In the next blog post, Charles will pick up on his diverse experiences during regency. 

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