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Tertians get inside the mind of a journalist

Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications ran a media training workshop for Jesuit tertians in the grounds of Manresa Spirituality Centre, Thursday 12 April 2018, on invitation from the two tertian directors, Jan Van der Poll SJ and Paul Pace SJ. In this podcast interview, she speaks with one tertian, Jean Claude Ralaivaonirina SJ of the Madagascar Province who did a placement at Cherryfield Lodge, a nursing home in Dublin for Irish Jesuits, and at the Clongowes Wood College farm in Co Kildare. Fr Jean Claude said that he had learned a lot from the wisdom of the older Jesuits. And the farming experience will help him in his new role working with the homeless in Madagascar. There he will be involved in a project or rural resettlement for homeless people. To his delight he found that the Irish return to bio-organic farming is exactly what they do in Madagascar though not from choice – they just don’t have any electricity!

The media training workshop included modules on making a story newsworthy, writing for the web, and producing a good press release. Pat Coyle is a former journalist with the BBC and RTE, and she has experience in radio and television both as a producer and a presenter. After leaving the BBC in Belfast she returned to Dublin and set up media training workshops with Alan McGuckian SJ, the then Director of Jesuit Communications (now Bishop of Raphoe). Irish Jesuit Communications delivers training workshops for Jesuits and colleagues.

Tertianship is the final stage of Jesuit formation after a priest or brother has usually worked for several years, leading to the professing of Final Vows. Also referred to as the ‘second novitiate’ or the ‘third stage of probation’, tertians (Jesuits on tertianship) complete a 30-day silent retreat (The Spiritual Exercises); undergo ‘experiments’ or placements in various ministries; study the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus; and the General Congregations. They also study and reflect on Final Vows and there may be workshops on Jesuit formation and personal growth. Over the course of nine months, it is hoped that the men involved strengthen and affirm their call as a Jesuit or Companion of Jesus.

During the training with the tertians Pat conducted radio/podcast audio interviews to prepare them to interact with the media in their diverse roles into the future. Gabriel Khairallah SJ is a Jesuit from Lebanon,  who spoke to her about the increasingly fraught situation of refugees from Syria in his country.  In a very short interview he was nonetheless able to give good insights into the complexity of the situation in his country. He noted the hopeful signs of how Lebanese people have welcomed refugees from Syria even though they were at war in the not too distant past. But he acknowledged the difficult conditions the refugees were living in, and the challenge their presence poses to the whole country.

Andrew Downing SJ, from North America did an interview on his ‘experiment’ as a tertian. He had moved out of his comfort zone as a lecturer in the Gregorian University in Rome to work as a pastor in a busy parish in  New Jersey. “It was a big shift”, he told Pat, “But an enjoyable one, sharing parishioners lives.”

Xavier Zong SJ from China spoke with Pat about the situation of Catholics in China today. He said that the experience of Christians in the country at present, whilst far from perfect, had definitely improved in the last ten years. He instanced public worship as being much more common than heretofore.

Peter Musekiwa SJ is from Zimbabwe and he spoke to Pat about his hopes for his country after the resignation of former President Mugabe. “We are a country dreaming of a new beginning”,  he told her, adding that the black and white communities were getting on well together after the racial violence that spread across the country. But as elections approach, he said, it is possible that politicians would stir up racial strife for their own gain.

Tertianship is a journey of companionship with other Jesuits of various backgrounds and talents. The ‘schola affectus’, or ‘school of the heart’ is emphasised during this time in order for the tertians to enter into the experience with depth. Upon approval by the Jesuit Curia in Rome, tertians pronounce Final Vows whereby they reaffirm their First Vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and they may also make a ‘fourth vow’ (special obedience to the Pope regarding missions) and promises such as not to strive or ambition for high office. Importantly, their original commitments made at the end of their novitiate are ratified by the Society.

Commenting on her time with the tertians and the interviews they gave her, Pat said it was clear that these tertians had certainly lived out to the full the potential and gifts that such a year offers to them on entering the final phase of their Jesuit lives.