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SJ alumni in Vienna

vienna_01b.jpgThe Irish Jesuits, though they run six schools, have no Federation of graduates. However two Irishmen, Michael Sheil SJ and Dr Ray Murphy (respectively the Past President and the incoming President of the Clongowes Union) attended the European Confederation of Jesuit Alumni/ae, meeting in Pallottihaus, Vienna, (pictured) this month. They reported on the Sli Eile project in KwaZuluNatal, which engages each of our five schools for a ten-week project to build an orphanage for Double-Aids victims in the town of Franklin. They desribed the Belvedere Union’s continuing work for the homeless of Dublin, and the involvement of Clongowes past pupils and Poetry [Fifth Year] students in Lesotho, combatting soil-erosion, and building. Read Michael’s report below.Pallottihaus, a Conference Centre run by the Pallottine Congregation, in Vienna was the venue this month for the autumn meeting of the European Confederation of Jesuit Alumni/ae. Ireland was represented by two members of the Clongowes Union – the Immediate Past President, Michael Sheil, S.J. and the President-Elect, Dr Ray Murphy (son of Dr Tom, a former President of UCD).

Pierre Salembier, S.J., Fr General’s Delegate to the World Union of Jesuit Alumni/ae, said the opening prayer and the delegates were welcomed by the European President, M. Eric de Langsdorff, of France. After a review of the spring meeting in Turin, each Federation was invited to share with the congress what events had been taking place during the past half-year. Unfortunately, Ireland is one of the few countries which does not have a Federation. However, Michael and Ray were able to give an account of what has been happening here in the various work of Alumni/ae of our schools. The Sli Eile project in KwaZuluNatal, which engages each of our five schools for a ten-week project to build an orphanage for Double-Aids victims in the town of Franklin, aroused a lot of interest and commendation, as did the Belvedere Union’s continuing work to alleviate the problem of homelessness in Dublin also Clongowes’ other project involving past pupils and Poetry [Fifth Year] students in Lesotho (building and combatting soil-erosion).

The last meeting of the World Congress in Kolkata in 2003 and one of the main tasks on this agenda was to prepare for the forthcoming Seventh World Congress in Bujumbura, Burundi, next July. The current President of the Burundi Federation, Grégoire Banyiyezako, came to Vienna at the invitation of the European Committee. He was warmly welcomed by all and expressed his gratitude for the encouragement he received in his preparations for the meeting of Congress in his country.

On the agenda at that Congress will be the call to further the collaboration of Jesuit Alumni/ae with the Society of Jesus and among themselves in the light of the impetus given by the recent General Congregation and the election of Adolfo Nicolás as General. The challenge is seen as an invitation to come together in unity and, in spite of differences, to act in concert with each other and the Society of Jesus A.M.D.G.

Special emphasis was placed on the need to attract younger members from among the Alumni/ae and to encourage them to become more actively involved in the work of the Confederations and Federations. With this in view, during the Vienna Congress, the younger delegates held some meetings on the side in consultation with Eric de Langsdorff and Pierre Salembier.

On Saturday evening the whole group came together for Mass in the magnificent baroque Jesuit Church in central Vienna. St Peter Canisius came there in 1552 at the request of King Ferdinand I – and it was then that he composed his famous Catechism. The Church itself was consecrated in 1631 and, at the turn of the century, the Emperor Léopold I brought to Vienna the famous architect, sculptor and painter, Brother Andrea Pozzo. To-day the church is the property of the State but the Society has pastoral responsibility there for students and young artists.

The Congress concluded with a review of the financial statements, the next Confederation Congress-meeting in Budapest in March 2009, a vote on changes in the Constitution of the Confederation, and a renewed call to sign on for the Burundi World Congress.