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Doing Ignatius today

Martin Scroope, Director of Canisius Retreat House in Australia, led a group of Irish Jesuits and colleagues in two days of reflection and ‘spiritual conversation’ in the Manresa Spirituality Centre in Clontarf, Dublin, on 28-29 January. Martin (‘Marty’) has been responsible for formation and leadership in the Australian Jesuit Province for many years. He was invited to Ireland by the Peter Kenney Project. The project was established to find new ways, for Jesuits, friends and colleagues, to engage collaboratively in order to promote Ignatian Spirituality and the Jesuit vision in all the Province’s ministries.

Over the two days, Marty focused on the three foundational insights of St Ignatius of Loyola – conversation (involving listening and reflecting), life-changing dreams (holy desires), and helping others (saving souls). He guided participants through an experiential process that helped them illuminate the relevance of these insights in their personal lives and in their workplace environment.

These principles were articulated by Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises. According to Joe Greenan, a member of the Peter Kenny Project, “Marty opened the Spiritual Exercises in a fresh and creative way, with great depth. And he did so with the help of The First Spiritual Exercises, a ‘hands-on’ gem of a book by Michael Hansen SJ, a colleague of Marty’s. He also led us in prayer to listen deeply to the Trinity, and to reflect on the many ways we ‘listen to our lives’.”

Marty did this by guiding those present through some of the exercises of St Ignatius, but now adapted and updated by Michael Hansen SJ in his book, in refreshingly clear, modern, jargon-free language. According to Joe, this was a gift that Marty himself had in abundance too, one which participants found most refreshing.

Many Jesuit ministries were represented over the two days, including Gardiner St Church (Richard Dwyer SJ), Irish Jesuit Missions (Emer Kerrigan), Cherryfield Nursing Home (Mary Rickard, Rachael O’Neill), JUST (Sr Maeve McMahon, Sr Aideen Kinlan, Sean Meehan) and Irish Jesuit Communications (Pat Coyle), all from Dublin. Una Allen, of the Galway Jesuit Centre for Spirituality and Culture, joined her counterparts Mary Hunt and Eileen O’Driscoll, members of the Manresa team in Dublin.

Una said she came to the workshop thinking she was going to learn how to integrate Ignatian spirituality into her working life, and she did. “But more importantly,” she added, “I came away with a new and deeper insight into my own way of ‘doing life’ – the wonderful sense that I am inseparable from God’s love, which in turn gives me the impetus and the courage to take up my role as co-creator and co-labourer in my family, my community and my workplace.”

For Eoin Carroll from the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, the two days were a welcome ‘retreat’ experience since it was many years since his last one. “For the most part I’ve learnt about Ignatian spirituality through osmosis – it rubs off on you when you work in a Jesuit apostolate. But I had forgotten about the benefits of deeper immersion – it had been ten years since my last Ignatian retreat,” he said, adding, “Spending the last couple of days with Marty and the other retreatants was both an opportunity for personal reflection and a chance to learn about what we can bring back to our teams. The retreat provided us with a personal road map as well as a resource that we can dive in and out of to support not just the ardent among us, but those who are Ignatian-curious!”

The retreat/training worked on a number of levels and impacted on people who were at different stages of interest, engagement or understanding of Ignatian spirituality. According to James Aherne, a member of the Peter Faber Community, a new Jesuit youth initiative: “As someone still taking their first steps in Ignatian spirituality this was an excellent experience. I received a strong grounding in St. Ignatius’ own story and engaged with several elements of the Spiritual Exercises – the discernment of spirits, spiritual conversation, and the examen. I also gained practical insight into how I could incorporate Ignatian spirituality in my everyday workplace by way of embodying particular Jesuit characteristics as outlined in the booklet, The Jesuit Workplace: Ethos and Practice.” This booklet was compiled by the Peter Kenny Project.

Emer Kerrigan of Irish Jesuit Missions says she found the two days powerful, particularly in regard to her own journey of self-discovery. “One thing that really helped me was the recommendation to have my own listening book, to use it as a tool to collect small snippets of insights…. maybe something that has moved me… or something I want to change or need to change in my life… and writing this down any time of day so that I can come back to it in months to come, reflect and remind myself or the journey I wish to remain on.”

On Monday night the group watched the Swedish film As it is in Heaven, a film about an extraordinary musician who had a dream that every single ordinary person had access to the soul of music within them. This was something he had experienced and lost at 18. With its themes of listening, trusting, conversation, life-changing dreams that changed the lives of others, it was, as Joe Greenan put it, “a most appropriate film to watch in our two days together”.

Martin Scroope is working with representatives from the Jesuit schools in Ireland on Wednesday and Thursday, and with the School Boards on Friday of this week.

“We are fortunate to have people like Marty, steeped in the spirituality of Ignatius, working in the Society,” says Joe Greenan, adding,” Those who attended the retreat/training this week have indicated that they wholeheartedly agree.”