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‘A quiet ministry of presence’

‘A quiet ministry of presence’ is how British Jesuit Philip Endean describes his week working with in Ballymun, Dublin. He’s part of a five man interprovincial team including fellow British Jesuits Keith McMillan and Michael O’Connor, Flemish Jesuit Walter Ceyssens and Irish Jesuit Kevin O’Rourke. They in turn are part of a larger group of Jesuits from the four provinces who have come together this month to discern what the future might hold for them in terms of collaboration. Part of this process involves Jesuit teams working in various apostolates in the four countries.

In Ballymun, a poverty black spot in Dublin, the team are assisting the parish priest with masses, meeting the local people and giving talks and guided prayer sessions. Michael O’Connor says they have all been really touched by the warm welcome they’ve received from the local community. “We conducted a healing service on Tuesday evening and it was really prayerful and moving”, he said. He was also touched by the presence and participation of people at the ‘holy mindfulness’ sessions he’s been giving in the Virgin Mary Church.

Keith McMillan says they’ve been kept busy “but it’s a pleasant busy. We have had plenty of offers of tea and the hospitality of the people is wonderful”. But there’s a downside to the work too he adds. “It’s daunting really as we sense a great need in the people and we’re only here for a few days, but what little we can do we do and its been very well received.”

Philip Endean echoes Keith’s sentiments. “People do share their very real problems with us, possibly because of Kevin O’Rourke who was a PP here for some years. The people here have a great welcome for him these days and they trust us. They talk about the drug and alcohol problems here, and the stress that poverty and unemployment can put on relationships. You really would like to be able to do more than you can in a short week but at least we can be a quiet ministry of presence”.

Flemish Jesuit Walter Ceyssens is helping our Kevin O’Higgins SJ, director of JUST – a support group set up by the Irish Jesuits and Dublin City University to help local people access third level education. “It’s a really impressive project and it’s really getting results. Before the Jesuits started the work only two per cent of the local community went to university or third level, now it’s nine per cent.”

For Walter, the whole interprovincial collaboration this summer has been really worthwhile, encouraging him as a Jesuit to feel part of a wider Society of Jesuits who together can really make an impact on the world they are called to serve.