‘Shared dream for a better world’
“What we celebrate today is a shared dream for a better world.” So said John Guiney, Director of Irish Jesuits International (IJI), who launched their Strategic Framework 2022 -2027 on Wednesday 10 August 2022, 12-1.30 pm, in the Arrupe room in Milltown Park.
After a warm welcome to all and some housekeeping instructions from Amanda Bermingham of the IJI team, Dearbhaill Rossiter, a board member of IJI kick-started proceedings. She spoke of how struck she was by the passion and commitment of the IJI staff and how they wanted to make a positive impact on the people they serve. She praised them for their teamwork, camaraderie, and discipline, which made this type of service possible.
She then introduced John who welcomed the large international group of Jesuits and colleagues present for the launch from China, Zambia, Kenya, Syria, Scotland, Italy, and Ireland.
He said the event was a celebration of past and present Jesuit missionary work. He was aware that he and his team at IJI in Dublin were standing on the shoulders of the men and women who had gone before them encountering new cultures, countries, and situations. “Over 300 Jesuits left Ireland over the last 100 years,” he said, “not to speak of the lay volunteers. And all these men and women gave us new ways of being in solidarity and partnership with those on the peripheries in our world.”
John was keen to point out that missionary work was not just about giving but also about receiving. He quoted the President of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar Fr Orobator SJ who once asked him a question he never forgot. “What do you in IJI get from your partnerships in the countries you go to work in?” John answered this question by saying that the IJI staff are inspired by the resilience, endurance, and forgiveness of those they work with. “They teach us less is more.”
John also thanked John Moffatt and Misean Cara for their support for Jesuit missionary work all over the world from Aleppo to South Sudan “As they try to help eradicate world poverty and promote the dignity and well-being of the poor and those on the margins”.
Joe Munnelly (see photo) is the recently appointed Communications Officer with the IJI. Following John, he spoke briefly about his work which includes research, advocacy, fundraising, and liaising with the Jesuit schools in Ireland.
He spoke briefly about the new IJI teacher/alumni programme which avoids the trap of ‘volunteer tourism’ by allowing students, teachers, and past pupils to work on placement in particular countries for five weeks with the possibility of returning for further sustained work.
In his input to proceedings from the schools, Padraig Swan, Director of Faith and Services Programmes in Belvedere College SJ referenced one such past pupil who will be availing of the new programme. Having visited Zambia with the college in 2017 Sam Duff now plans to return and work there for an extended period of time to give something back from what he has learned.
Padraig shared how his own personal and spiritual development was deeply impacted by the missionary work he undertook both with Slí Eile and with the Belvedere students. He said he was changed from within by what he witnessed in Zambia and in the Jesuit Chikuni and Taonga schools in particular.
Padraig spoke warmly about the work of Irish Jesuit missionary Frank Wafer SJ who died last year. Frank wanted to help protect the Taonga language and cultural heritage of the people he worked with and to do so he recorded their stories and traditions all across the country. Padraig and Kevin Reynolds (former Belvedere Parent and RTE radio producer) are assisting the Mkunzubo Kalinda Institute with the filing, digitisation, and preservation of Frank’s 500 taped recordings.
Elizabeth Clarke, Padraig’s counterpart from Clongowes Wood College SJ, also shared the partnership activities that Clongowes students are engaged in with the IJI. She spoke about the school’s consistent culture of reflection on care of the earth and how countries in the developing world are unjustly impacted by climate change because of the greed of the first world. In this context, she referenced the Transition Year social placements at the IJI that students have taken part in where they are encouraged to reflect on their own lives, and the situation of people in places like South Sudan so that they can walk in solidarity with them.
She highlighted a visit by transition year students to the IJI in Dublin as part of a one-day Laudato Sí walking retreat and how moved the boys were by what they learned not just on the day but during the follow-up week that they spent with the IJI team painting a Laudato Sí mural in the IJI garden.
Yanira Romero, a long-time member of the IJI team told those gathered that in 2021 the IJI was working with 30 partners in 16 countries on 46 development projects. She then introduced a series of short videos recorded by the staff working on some of those projects.
Caroline Sanga from MAJIS in Rumbek, South Sudan, spoke about a Jesuit project providing counselling for those affected by sexual violence and abuse and another training programme to assist women in good agricultural practices.
Norbert Tembore, Director of the Zambia/Malawi Development Office take about the Jesuit Centre for Ecology and Development in Malawai and their work of uplifting the livelihoods of local people whilst helping them to take care of the environment at the same time.
Daniel Corrou from JRS Middle East and Northern Africa Regional Director spoke of the solidarity engendered as they distributed blankets and emergency food to displaced women and children in Lebanon and Syria, particularly on cold winter nights. This distribution was made possible by the support of IJI and she thanked them for it.
From South Sudan, Noelle Fitzpatrick, Country Director of JRS, told of the work of JRS in four refugee camps where they provide counselling, and educational services. Noelle was framed against the background of the new concrete library they had just recently opened, the last one being a less stable mud hut.
Emer Kerrigan, Operations Manager with the IJI was present in person and spoke about IJI’s pastoral work supporting parishes with their various needs. She also addressed the IJI’s role in child protection with 30 partners overseas and with the 14 members of the Xavier Network in Canada, the US, Europe, and Australia. The IJI supports those Xavier Network members in promoting protection amongst their partners in over 87 countries in the Global South.
Irish Jesuit Tony O’Riordan SJ has returned from Syria for a summer break and he spoke movingly about the plight of the people there, especially in the cities of Homs, Aleppo, and Damascus. Inflation is rampant and escalating, food is costly, and services are pitifully poor.
After a short Q&A session, as time was moving on, Shane Daly SJ brought proceedings to a close by thanking all those present and the IJI office in particular. He said that IJI played a pivotal role in linking the Irish province with the important work of its Jesuit partners in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
Once again Amanda had some housekeeping news this time a welcome announcement of directions to the barbecue lunch for all involved, in the Milltown wild garden, in beautiful August sunshine.
On their way there guests were able to stop at the stall of wonderful goods, all handmade by refugees in the Mikono refugee craft shop and on sale in the Arrupe corridor. (See photo). The bowls, throws, backpacks, bags, cushions, and cards were brought over from Kenya by Emer and Joe. All the proceeds go back directly to the refugees who made them. They can be purchased from the IJI office in Gardiner St.