Thursday, October 8, 2009

African Synod in Rome -- October 4-25, 2009!

The Second Synod of African Bishops is ongoing right now and several Jesuits are receiving updates from the work going on there and have been writing various pieces. I share one with you below from Ghislain Tschikendwa, the Secretary of the Social Apostolate from JESAM (Jesuits of Africa and Madagascar) and Michael Czerny, SJ, Director of the African Jesuits AIDS Network (AJAN).

Benedict XVI : “Africa represents an enormous spiritual “lung” for a humanity…”
As you know, last Sunday 4 October 2009, at 9h15, the Holly Father Benedict XVI presided at the Solemn Concelebration of the Eucharist with the Synodal Fathers, for the Inauguration of the II Special Assembly for Africa Bishops, to held in the Synod Hall of the Vatican until 25 October 2009, on the theme: The Church in Africa at the service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world” (Mt (:13, 14).
Concelebrating with the Pope were 239 Synod Fathers (33 Cardinals, 3 Synod Fathers of the Eastern Churches, 75 Archbishops, 120 Bishops and 8 Priests) and 55 Collaborators.
At the start of the Mass, during the Rite of the Aspergillum presided over by the Holy Father, the choir and assembly sang “Asperges me” and “Nakoma peto” (“That I may be made pure”, song in Lingala sang by the Congolese choir).
At the end of the Concelebration (11h15), the assembly sang a final hymn in Lingala to Mary “Tokobondela yo e, Mama Maria” (We pray you, Mother Mary).
Let me recall one of the most powerful statements of our Pope: “When we speak of the treasures of Africa, our thoughts immediately turn to the resources its land is rich in and that, unfortunately, have become and often continue to be a reason for exploitation, conflict and corruption. The World of God, instead, makes us look at another inheritance: the spiritual and cultural one of which humanity has even greater need than it does of raw materials. (…) From this point of view, Africa represents an enormous spiritual “lung” for a humanity that appears to be in crisis of faith and hope. But this “lung” can take ill as well. And, at the moment, at least two dangerous pathologies are attacking it: first of all, an illness that is already widespread in the West, that is, practical materialism, combined with relativist and nihilist thinking. Without entering into the merit of the origins of such sicknesses of the spirit, there is absolutely no doubt that the so-called “First” World has exported up to now and continues to export its spiritual toxic waste that contaminates the peoples of other continents, in particular those of Africa. In this sense, colonialism which is over at political level, has never really entirely come to and end. But from this same point of view we also we have also have to point out a second “virus” that could hit Africa, that is, religious fundamentalism, mixed together with political and economic interests…”

Ghislain, SJ
Interview Michael Czerny, S.J.
Rome, 4 October 2009

“The spread of AIDS is a terrible and worrying fact. Through the African Jesuit AIDS Network, the African Assistancy is doing remarkable efforts to help victims of this scourge and, even more important, to educate people in proper moral conduct.”
Father Adolfo Nicolás SJ, October 2008

1. Vous êtes le Coordinateur du Réseau Jésuite de lutte contre le Sida (AJAN) dont le siège est à Nairobi, au Kenya. Pouvez-vous décrire très brièvement votre travail ?
AJAN’s mission is to help Jesuits in sub-Saharan Africa – their works and communities, individually and with their colleagues – to respond to HIV and AIDS in an effective, coordinated and evangelical manner. We are about 1340 priests, brothers and scholastics in some 30 countries of the Assistancy, and over 200 of us are currently involved in different ways. Most of our AIDS ministries are modest efforts embedded in traditional Jesuit works such as parishes, social projects and communications, high-school education and university chaplaincy, Ignatian spirituality and our own Jesuit formation.

“The African Jesuit AIDS Network has been able to strengthen and co-ordinate the efforts of many individuals, give respectability to the Church's involvement in resisting the pandemic spread of AIDS and, above all, accompany with dignity many of those suffering from its effects.”
Former Superior-General, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., January 2007

AJAN House is located in Kangemi, a Nairobi slum. The role of this coordinating centre is to encourage and support AIDS ministries run by Jesuits or related to the Society of Jesus in Africa, that is, the members of AJAN. The small team at AJAN House tries to consolidate what Jesuits are already doing and make these efforts known, strengthen initiatives already underway, help potential programmes to get off the ground, and link everyone together in a network of communication and mutual support.

2. Nous avons appris que vous prendrez part au prochain synode africain. Quelle relation établissez-vous entre le thème du Synode (« L’Eglise en Afrique au service de la réconciliation, de la justice et de la paix ») et le travail que vous faites à AJAN ?
Although it is not explicitly mentioned in the title of the Second Synod for Africa, HIV-AIDS remains one of the challenges the Church faces in the continent and therefore an important topic for the Synod. The Church in Africa cannot work for reconciliation, justice and peace without seriously addressing the issue of HIV and AIDS. We cannot be completely in peace and reconciled with ourselves and others while this challenge is cruelly assaulting us in our families, our communities, our societies.
The Synod seems to me a great opportunity to work and reflect about reconciliation, justice and peace, not only in terms of war and economy but also anthropologically and culturally in terms of health and customs and morality. We need a prophetic voice to speak for the forgotten people.
We need Church agents and prophetic leaders to defend those who are forgotten. So I hope that the Synod will take into account AIDS the other real problems of the Family of God on the continent and address them with courage and love.

3. Et pourquoi, d’après vous, avez-vous été choisi pour prendre part à cette grande Assemblée dont l’importance pour la vie de l’Eglise en Afrique est indéniable ?
The relatively new ministry of AJAN somehow seems recognized as valuable and valid.

4. Quelles sont vos attentes par rapport à ce deuxième synode ?
My first hope: that the Synod help the Holy Father as pastor, help the African Bishops in their pastoral responsibility for the Church in Africa. Secondly, a renewal, a new Pentecost of the Church as Family of God in Africa. Thirdly, the Synod is an extraordinary grace for each bishop to discover the challenges of his own diocese and country in the context of the whole continent. For me, even more, a unique chance to get to know Africa better as it really is, not the “jungle of chaos” to which the media too often reduce it. And finally: the very best thing, says a companion Jesuit who served at an earlier one, the Synod will be a month-long opportunity to get to know the Holy Father, the African Bishops and the other participants very well.

5. Quels conseils donneriez-vous pour que les résultats du synode aident effectivement le continent africain à renaître?
I would put special stress on communication and on formation.

“True to our Jesuit charism, we should seek to form men and women for others who will take up leadership in HIV/AIDS ministries in the Church and throughout society. Above all, we should place ourselves wholly at the disposal of the Church, our dioceses, and our Bishops, supporting and stimulating our fellow priests and religious and galvanising a total response by the people of God to combat the enemy that is in our midst.”
AJAN Assembly, September 2003

Michael Czerny, S.J.,

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Congressional Call-In Day for Healthcare Reform, Tuesday, September 15th

As a member of the Ignatian Family, the PICO Network is informing many Jesuit Provinces, institutions and networks around the healthcare debate. We are encouraged by their leadership in this issue and support their call for a Congressional Call-In day next Tuesday, September 15, 2009. Don't wait -- do it now!

"We are not here to fear the future. We are here to shape it." - President Barack Obama (9/9/09)

If you heard President Obama's health care speech last night, the most important thing each of us can do now is to communicate our support for health reform to our Senators and Congresspersons.

And now is the time to not just make your own voice heard, but to ask your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to weigh in as well, even if it is the first time they've called their Members of Congress.

That's why PICO and our faith allies are organizing a massive Congressional Call-In Day next Tuesday, September 15. The goal is 30,000+ calls to Congress in support of health reform on the same day. We want our Members of Congress to hear loud and clear that people of faith feel the moral urgency of fixing our health care system and strongly support reform that includes strong affordability protections for working families.

We'll be using PICO's toll-free hotline 866-279-5474 so that we can track the number of calls into each state and district. This number is available now and until we've won health reform.

PICO is a non-partisan organization that does not endorse or support candidates. PICO strongly encourages people of faith to study the health care teachings and policy positions of their own religious denominations and traditions.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Human Efforts, God' Grace" by Joe Mulligan, S.J.

Published in the Catholic Worker, June-July 2009

“The people united will never be defeated” has been a popular slogan of struggle in Chile and other Latin American countries.

“We shall overcome,” proclaimed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., along with those who organized, marched, and went to jail with him.

“Yes, it can be done” (“sí, se puede”) chanted César Chavez and the United Farm Workers.

“Don’t mourn, organize” was the message of labor songwriter Joe Hill and other union activists.

These encouraging messages show us how to cooperate with God in bringing about the coming of the Kingdom and the implementation of God’s will. It couldn’t be clearer that God’s will for the Kingdom is to be carried out on earth, not just among the departed souls and angels. How? By using our God-given intelligence and freedom to solve our problems, working together with God for a better world.

We must let God’s will be done in our lives, families, and communities and organize so that God’s will for justice and freedom may become a reality for all in social, political, and economic structures. In these structures and systems, it is people’s power, united and smart, which makes change, for the entrenched power of the ruling class does not yield without a struggle. As Dr. King said in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

Organized Truth-force, speaking truth to power, non-cooperation, boycotts, marches, sit-ins, draft resistance, tax resistance, and other forms of civil disobedience, organizing unions and neighborhood groups, especially when the stakes are significant -- these are some of the methods of exerting power non-violently at our disposal.

God’s will is not that women and children be beaten, that more people be unemployed or exploited, that millions suffer malnutrition or AIDS, that the prisons and jails of the U.S. contain over 2 million inmates, that the U.S. invade other countries at will. These evils happen because we misuse the freedom and potential God has given us. Problems made by humans, can be solved by humans. In this seemingly impossible and overwhelming task, we may feel alone, even if we organize millions to act in unison.

But we are not left to our own devices, limited energy, and propensity toward despair. Moses and the prophets were always assured of Abba’s presence and strength even in the face of fierce opposition. Jesus often told His disciples: “Do not be afraid; I am with you.” United to the Vine, we will produce much fruit.
It was not God’s will that Jesus suffer cruelly and perish ignominiously on the cross "for our sins,” to assuage some divine wrath, to make a sacrifice of expiation, to save us. These are images which were applied to Jesus after His death and resurrection. In retrospect, Christian theology sees that they were fulfilled in a magnificent way by Jesus. It was God’s will that Jesus announce the Kingdom of justice and love and inaugurate it by His work, that He be faithful to this dangerous mission in face of the intense persecution it would unleash against Him, and that Jesus and His cause be vindicated in the Resurrection.

“Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want”(Mk 14:36). Jesus’ will was one with Abba’s; He was the faithful prophet and courageous liberator to the very end.


This article is from my journal written while I was in two county jails from late January to late April, 2004, serving a 90-day sentence for “crossing the line” onto Ft. Benning, Ga., in a November 2003 protest against the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas. The School, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), has trained thousands of Latin American soldiers, some of whom have returned to their countries to be notorious torturers, assassins, and other human-rights violators.

The complete version of the article can be found at:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Honduran Updates

Dear Friends,

From the beginning, a Jesuit from the Missouri Province has been sharing updates and reflections on his experiences in Honduras since the recent governmental upheaval. I'm thankful to my counterpart for the Missouri Province, Sean Agniel, for passing these along for our edification.

If you would like to receive them, please email me at or so that I might pass them along.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Violence in Peru - Jesuit Perspective

Thanks to the Social Justice Secretariat for the Jesuits in Rome for this quick headline and information!

* Hotspots: Jesuits "cannot stay on the sidelines of events" in Peru

Violent clashes between police and indigenous people in northern Peru on 5 June left, according to official sources, 23 police officers and 10 protesters dead. Two hundred indigenous were injured, 61 are said to have disappeared and 83 have been arrested, of whom 61 are now on trial. Those who have been released from prison said they had been subjected to physical and psychological abuse.

The indigenous had been peacefully blocking a road for weeks to protect their land from the effects of a law passed in 2008 allowing its exploitation through the growth of biofuels, mining and oil drilling The violence was unleashed when police officers, who were given the word from the capital Lima to remove the protesters, moved in with tear gas and automatic weapons. The protesters were armed largely with spears. The law was subsequently revoked on 18 June.

A number of Jesuits are closely involved with the indigenous tribes of Awajun and Wampis in the area and are supporting the affected communities by reporting events, helping the wounded, visiting those in prison, advocating for detainees and facilitating the return of the displaced. César Torres SJ, coordinator of the social apostolate in Peru, said in a statement issued on 10 June: "It is our vocation to protect the life of all people and we feel sadness and outrage about any act to the contrary. Our presence in the area (Vicariato de Jaén) responds to a mission that the Society of Jesus has been entrusted with by the Holy Father; therefore we cannot stay on the sidelines of events."

For more information, links and videos, go to the SJS webpage that we have created here:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

WHINSEC Voting and Actions -- Courtesy of Ignatian Solidarity Network

Action Alert
From the School of the Americas Watch
House of Representatives Votes to Force the Pentagon to Release Information to SOA WatchThanks to your efforts and hard work in defense of human rights, the culture of secrecy and lack of accountability surrounding Defense Department policies suffered a blow today when the U.S. House of Representatives approved the McGovern-Sestak-Bishop (GA)-Lewis (GA) amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010.

The amendment forces the public release of names, rank, country of origin, courses and dates of attendance of WHINSEC's graduates and instructors to the public. The amendment was approved with a 224 to 190 vote! This is a major victory for the international human rights community! You spoke up and now we are one step closer to transparency and to closing the SOA/ WHINSEC!

But it's not over...In order for this amendment to become law, the text of the amendment has to be approved by a joint House and Senate conference committee. We need you to sustain intense pressure on the Senate for the next few weeks to make sure this amendment is approved by the conference committee!

Click here to send a letter to your Senator asking that they work for passage of this language -->

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Ignatian Spirituality Website!

Loyola Press, a ministry of the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus, is pleased to announce the launch of

We developed the website in response to the Society's 34th and 35th Congregations' call for "an Ignatian family network" to promote greater cooperation and unity among Jesuit apostolates. offers information on and experiences of prayer, spiritual direction, retreats, and good decision-making from Jesuit and Ignatian sources. I believe that these resources will be helpful to you in your important Jesuit high school ministry. You will be able to direct students, staff, alumni, and parents to one place online where they will find practical information and suggestions for integrating Ignatian spirituality into their lives.

I'd be happy to talk with you at any time to get your ideas or reactions. Please call me at 773-281-1818 ext. 314, or e-mail me at

Paul Brian Campbell, S.J.
Vice President
Loyola Press

Friday, June 5, 2009

New FMLN President in El Salvador - invokes Romero!

El Salvador Inaugurates its First Leftist Government

On June 1 2009, Mauricio Funes and Salvador Sanchez Cerén were sworn in as the President and Vice President of El Salvador at the Feria Internacional Convention Center in San Salvador. It was a magical day for the Salvadoran people, social movement organizations, and the leftist FMLN party which Funes and Sanchez Cerén represent. Check out a video of the celebration here and view pictures of the inauguration here and here.

In a powerful inaugural address, President Funes promised that the change the people asked for with the election of the FMLN “begins now” and is in the hands of the people, not just the individual will of the President. He vowed to work with sectors of the social movement to “create a new national project” based on social inclusion and guided by the forces of hope and optimism.

Several steps that he and cabinet members, who were sworn in immediately following the ceremony, will take to confront the deep economic and social crisis in El Salvador include an employment program to build over 25,000 new houses, a central bank to guarantee credit to small-scale agricultural producers, and the re-imagination of the Rural Community Solidarity Network to guarantee access to health, nutrition and free public education for the most vulnerable sectors of society.

The address was imbued with the themes of social justice, equality, and of a “peaceful and democratic revolution.” He stated that El Salvador would no longer have a “government of the few, of the privileged” but one where all people would be “recognized for their talents and honesty, not for their connections or their last name.” He spoke of his teacher and mentor, Monsenor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, whose tomb he visited the morning of the inauguration and whose vision of a “preferential option for the poor” was a pillar in Funes’ discourse during the campaign.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Honduras Earthquake Updates from Jesuits in the region

Find below two, short narratives from Jesuits (MIS Province) living in the region about the 7.1 earthquake the struck the Atlantic coast of Honduras on Thursday, May 28, 2009.

Dick Perl
have been through about 8 of these quakes in three different countries (Belize, Guatemala and Honduras), but today's shake at 2:25 am wins the prize.

I was awakened with the whole house shaking. My room is on the second floor, and at one point I thought, "The whole house is going down." The 7 foot high bookcase in my room (and another one like it in my office on the first floor) fell over. It fell across my door -- if I had had to get out quickly, it would have taken me a couple minutes to move the book case and books piled up in front of the door. Lamps on desks through the house also fell over. I couldn't believe the noise of the house shaking.

It lasted about a minute.

The 7.1 quake (which is pretty strong), had its center in the Caribbean about 85 miles from Punta Gorda. It was felt as far north as Mexico, and as far south as Nicaragua, and even some islands in the Caribbean. Relatively little damage in Belize, fortunately.

Jack Warner
Greetings from a shaken and very shaky Progreso. Just to let everyone know, since we seem to be in international news: We had a serious earthquake last night about 2:30 a.m. It was a 7.1 intensity; the epicenter was at sea some 10 kms. to the north of Roatan.

Given the intensity, we got off light; the thing that saved us seems to be the fact that the center was very deep, and the quake itself did not last too long. No one is hurt either of the Jesuit community nor of the Teatro family.

The BIG damage here in Progreso is the bridge over the Rio Ulúa: there are (were) two parallel bridges which handled the two different directions. The older one (from the 60's) is completely fallen; the newer one (built by the Japanese government some 5 years ago) is closed for the moment due to serious damage which hasn’t been evaluated yet. That is a major problem which it is going to cost a good deal of time to fix.

The anti-earthquake design of the San José house served us well; a lot of shelving that fell over and left a mess of litter, and that sort of thing, but no serious damage to the building.
The teatro building suffered a lot of small damage, and is going to take a considerable amount of repair. It’s here that the shortness of the quake clearly saved us: most of that lesser damage is in joints of the wood, which have come loose but not completely apart. That all needs considerablerepair, but only the doors of the building actually fell (and a lot of stuff: file cabinets fell over, shelves collapsed, that kind of thing). The lighting system was seriously shook up, but as far as we can tell so far no major damage (we’re not real sure because there is no electricity in thatzone of the city – a number of transformers fell downtown, which seems to be the reason for that). The house right across the street from us (also an ex-fruit company building) fell.
So we’re spending the day picking up the pieces – literally.

I haven’t been able to get much reliable info yet on what was the damage in the rest of the country. There are serious alerts in all the coastal towns for the possibility of some sort of tsunami-like thing, but that danger seems to me to be very remote. There seems to have been only one certified death in this area, a child in San Manuel (near Lima).
teatro la fragua
apartado 70
el progreso, yoro
honduras, c.a.
(504)647-0974fax: (504)647-0907

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bombing of Catholic Church in Kathmandu

The Detroit Province has long had a relationship with the people and Jesuits of Kathmandu, Nepal. Please read the above story about a bombing of the Church of the Assumption, Kathmandu's only Roman Catholic place of worship.