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Tertians begin experiment

Jan Van der Poll (pictured here) looks happy, unburdened. He has just despatched the tertians to their “experiments” – meaning the short-term (3-month) ministries in which they would experience a particular role and afterwards reflect on their experience.

Jan, a quiet, benign Dutchman, is Instructor of Tertians, charged with supervising the final stage in a Jesuit’s training. The centre for English-speaking tertians is in Manresa House, on the edge of Dublin Bay. Jesuits are usually in their mid-30s when they gather there – about a dozen of them each year – for several months.

Since the sad loss of Fr Joe Dargan, Jan is managing the instructor’s job on his own; he has doubled his productivity. Assigning the tertians to their experiments, missioning them to a range of continents, countries and operations, was a Pentecostal moment and had its complications. The mission to Moscow needed particular preparation. It involved careful paper-work, persuading the Russian embassy of the important standing of the tertianship and its Director, and the qualifications of the Polish Jesuit whose Russian was up to the task. By dint of careful diplomacy and preparation Jan was able to win approval and a working visa from the Russian embassy.

Another difficult task was to find an Arabic-speaking tertian to work among the refugees in Lebanon. But the work sits lightly on 71-year-old Jan, who starts his day with a swim and a prayer.