The Jesuit Superior General, Fr Adolfo Nicolás, has appointed Fr Tom Layden as Provincial of the Irish Jesuit Province. He will take up office on July 31st, the feast of St Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits. He is 52 years old and has worked for the past 12 years in Belfast. Born in Dublin, Tom Layden lived in Keadue near Boyle in Co Roscommon until the age of 12 when he went to school in Clongowes. It was there that he first encountered the Jesuits and joined the Order in 1979. See the Jesuit.ie homepage for a video of Fr Tom talking to Conall Ó Cuinn SJ about his work in ecumenism in Belfast. In another video, on YouTube, he speaks about his vocation to the Jesuits. The rest of the press release about the appointment can be read below.
In Fr Laylen’s words, “”I remember the big step it was for me when I entered the Order and looking back I am so glad I took the risk and tried out this way of life. It has been a wonderful way of living and serving. I am sure there are men out there who will find this is the path for them also. We want to let them know that we are here and interested. It has been encouraging to see three men from Ireland enter our novitiate in Birmingham last September.”
Fr Layden’s family moved to Greystones, Co Wicklow in 1972. He studied history in UCD and theology in the Toronto School of Theology. He says there are many needs in the Irish Church today and Jesuits want to play their part in the process of renewal that is badly needed.”So many of the issues,spiritual hunger in young people, a thirst for justice in society, giving religion its place in a changing world,are not unique to Ireland but are to be found across Europe also. I am just back from a visit to the Jesuits in the Netherlands who are small in number but enterprising in spirit. In these Easter days we remember how the Risen Lord put new heart into the disciples who had been devastated by his suffering and crucifixion. In the Church we are invited to let the Risen Lord heal us and invite us to new ways of working together as laity and religious to allow God’s reign of love and justice break in upon us”
As Provincial Fr Layden will guide the work of around 170 Irish Jesuits and in addition to working in Portadown and Belfast, Irish Jesuits and their colleagues are engaged in a variety of different works including seven schools, spirituality centres, a centre for Faith and Justice and a special project in Ballymun (JUST – www.justballymun.org) to help people access 3rd level education. They are part of a consortium of orders which run the Milltown Institute of theology and Philosophy.”I am delighted to be appointed and am a peace within myself about this new mission”, says Fr Layden. “Of course I am also somewhat apprehensive about the challenges ahead but I know that the encouragement of the Holy Spirit and the support of my fellow Jesuits and of all those who work with us will help me to fulfil all the tasks ahead.”
Irish Jesuits serve as missionaries (www.jesuitmissions.ie) in Zambia- Malawi, Cambodia, Singapore, Japan, the US and Hong Kong. Here in Europe they work in Brussels, London, Liverpool, Munich and Rome. Two Irish Jesuits are currently working with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS – www.jrs.net) in Congo and in Rwanda.