Irish Jesuit Gerry Whelan SJ is a theologian writing and teaching in the Gregorian University in Rome. He is also working with the Jesuits and their co-workers in Hong Kong, a place where the Chinese government has been clamping down on pro-democracy protestors. One aspect of Gerry’s work involves supporting Jesuits and their lay colleagues who are facilitating dialogue in their local retreat center, between protestors and those who disagree with them
In an interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, during the lockdown in Rome, Gerry spoke about this work and also about the other dimensions to his outreach with the Hong Kong Jesuits including the training and formation of lay spiritual directors. He says he is struck by the commitment of both Jesuits and their co-workers to the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Jesuit Father General (his four priorities for the future) which they are seeking to integrate and develop as part of their apostolic work.
Gerry is a Bernard Lonergan SJ scholar and the Hong Kong Jesuits have also asked him to work with them from an academic standpoint in their Centre for Catholic Studies which is part of their university there.
The question the Director of the centre wanted to explore with Gerry was how one could move from study arising out of the social sciences to theological reflection on society. Gerry brings the Lonergan method to bear on this type of reflection and he outlines that cross-cultural method in the interview. He notes that Pope Francis (about whom he has written a book) is truly Lonergan-like in his own ‘way of proceeding’ even though he has not read the philosopher/theologian himself.
Gerry also talks about the openness of the people there to the work of Bernard Lonergan SJ, not least he says because of the groundwork already done by many Irish Jesuits before him. Gerry says those Jesuits are all held in high esteem to this day. You can listen to the full interview above.