The Jesuit Vocation in Ireland today
Dear Brothers in Christ
The Peace of Christ!
I write to you on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Fr Pedro Arrupe, which takes place on November 14th 2007. It is a time across the Society when we remember with great gratitude the gift Fr Arrupe was to the Society in the years after the Second Vatican Council. They were years of great turmoil, creativity and change. During all of this, Pedro – as we knew him – led the Society boldly with vision, equanimity and a deep personal love of Christ which he shared with us in a transparent and profound way. Through his example, as well as by his words, he helped us to be courageous in facing the challenges of the contemporary world. For all of this we can be profoundly grateful. I ask each community to have a special liturgy on the 14th of November or as close to that date as possible where we give thanks for Fr Arrupe’s life and legacy. I also encourage those who can to take part in one or more of the events being organized – most of them are in the Dublin area – to commemorate Fr Arrupe’s anniversary. See the list on Jesuit.ie.
I would like to pay tribute to Cecil McGarry, Irish Provincial from 1968 to 1974 and Assistant to Fr Arrupe from then until 1983. Cecil took important initiatives here in Ireland which began a transformation of the Province. His role at the universal level of the Society is remembered with great appreciation, and the contribution he made to the Society’s renewal is one of which we can be justifiably proud. I assure Cecil of our thoughts and prayers for him at this time.
We also remember at this time the Province of Japan, where Fr Arrupe spent so many years, and, in a particular way, the Irish Jesuits who have worked or are still working there: Gerry Bourke, Dermot Brangan, Donal Doyle, Bill Johnston. We pray too for the Loyola Province in Spain, where Fr Arrupe joined the Society and where special ceremonies are being held during these days to mark the anniversary. These ceremonies include a visit to the birthplace of Fr Arrupe by Fr Kolvenbach, his last international journey as our Superior General. We welcome a scholastic from the Loyola Province here – Cristóbal Jiménez Ariza – who is studying for an STL at Milltown and living in the Leinster Road community. We remember at this time the Arrupe community at Ballymun and pray God’s blessing on the men there and their work. Finally we remember the work here in Ireland and abroad of the Jesuit Refugee Service founded by Arrupe in response to the heartbreaking situation of refugees from the South East Asia conflict at the time. Unfortunately similar situations continue today throughout our world. Let us remember in prayer all who work in JRS to try to reach out to refugees today. Finally we remember the Arrupe community at Ballymun and pray God’s blessing on the men there and their work.
As we celebrate Fr Arrupe’s anniversary it is a time to give thanks for our own calling. Our vocation, at its core, is to proclaim Christ prophetically at the frontiers. Ignatius, Xavier and the early companions followed this call, some of them going to the newly-discovered geographical frontiers, while others found new possibilities in the changing face of Europe. Fr Arrupe followed the same call, going to Japan and working there for many years, most memorably after World War II and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today, we are still being called to new geographical frontiers, especially in China and Africa. But other frontiers closer to home beckon us as well, where faith is yielding to unbelief and where justice is threatened by values inimical to the Gospel. The upcoming General Congregation will explore this theme in a widely-anticipated decree on Jesuit mission.
Fr Arrupe’s creative spirit led to a great flourishing of new apostolates in the Society, among them the Jesuit Refugee Service. He travelled extensively and, despite the enormous difficulties he was facing, always exuded confidence and optimism, based on his trust in God and his conviction that the Spirit was at work unceasingly. That conviction must be for us today the unshakable source of our own confidence and optimism. I can think of no better way of honouring his memory than to pray for this grace for us. This must be the bedrock of our own vocation and the foundation of all our efforts to live our vocation and to promote it as a way of life which our world needs today, perhaps more than ever.
Arrupe’s predecessor in the East, St Francis Xavier, has words which are apt at this time in the history of our Province. He asks his companions to
‘Judge now for yourselves how calm, consoled, and completely filled with joy our lives would be if we were what we should be, having all our hopes in him from whom all good comes. He does not deceive those who trust in him, but is, instead more generous with his gifts than men are in their requests and hopes. For the love of our Lord, help us to give thanks for such great favours, so that we do not fall into the sin of ingratitude, for in those who wish to serve God this sin is the reason why God our Lord ceases to grant greater favours than he does, since they fail to recognise and profit by so great a good’. (To his companions living in Goa, para 43)
As we remember Fr Arrupe, each of us can ask at this time for the grace of gratitude for our own vocation. We can also reflect how to become promoters of Jesuit life, considering and sharing with each other what we find challenging about this task and asking for God’s help.
We give thanks this week for the Irish novices currently in the Novitiate in Birmingham. Their act of faith and courage in joining our Society and offering themselves to follow Christ in this way of life is an invitation to the rest of us to deepen our own commitment and to continue on the journey that we have begun. A vocations weekend will be held, November 16th to 18th, at Birmingham. Please pray for its success. If you know of someone who would wish to take part please give them Conall Ó Cuinn’s contact details. Already we hope that two people from Ireland will be present.
I close by asking that you remember in your prayers the General Congregation which starts in about eight weeks.
With every good wish
Yours sincerely in Christ
John Dardis SJ