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In recent weeks, we have been reflecting on the gathering that brought together many members of the province at Pilgrims Together: A Joyful Gathering with Ignatius of Loyola, held in Midland last July. This article will highlight the elements that emerged from the various testimonies, in light of the province’s document on apostolic discernment. This first gathering of the new Jesuit Province of Canada was a reminder and a confirmation of the importance of working collaboratively to carry out the Jesuit mission and journeying together towards the four universal apostolic preferences.

Towards greater humility

Pilgrims Together states, “Towards the end of the expanded consultation…an image emerged that seemed to capture some essential elements of our reflection and conversation: that of pilgrimage. For many of the Jesuits in the room, this image evoked the humility, poverty, and reliance on God alone experienced during our own pilgrimages as novices and tertians.”

The need for this spirit of humility that animates us as a province, as pilgrims journeying together, was raised several times. With the image of a humiliated Church, a Church wounded because of the behaviours of some of its members and the fragility of the Church, “we need to be aware that we are fragile and that as people of faith, this fragility gives us the opportunity to be more open, to trust more, to deepen our faith,” noted Fr. Lissaint Antoine, SJ, Provincial Secretary of the Jesuits of Canada.

In addition to the quadrilingual mass presided over by the superior of the Jesuits in Haiti, Jean-Denis Saint-Félix, one of the most striking moments of the meeting was the impromptu panel of people who had participated in various events of the papal penitential pilgrimage. The discussion opened the eyes of the participants to the way many Indigenous people experienced the pilgrimage and the Pope’s apology, but also to the pressing need to walk with Indigenous peoples.

The discussion opened the eyes of the participants to the way many Indigenous people experienced the pilgrimage and the Pope’s apology, but also to the pressing need to walk with Indigenous peoples.

A spirit of collaboration

As Jaeison Monteiro, SJ, and Pilgrims Together mentioned, laypeople are important to the Jesuit mission and share that mission. Tevfik Karatop, project manager at Jesuit Refugee Service, has seen just that: “people embracing their vocation, whether as Jesuits or as laypeople,” and it made an impression on him. Annette Marie Mallay, head of administration, Ignatian identity and student formation at St. Bonaventure’s College, also appreciated this spirit of encounter within the Ignatian community. She was able to reconnect “with others who have the same Ignatian values, mission, and experiences.” The meeting in Midland, where lay and consecrated men and women were able to share together, was clearly in the spirit of the province’s document on apostolic discernment.

Pilgrims Together, in reflecting on the process that led to the final document, also explains that, “Throughout the process of discernment, many people noted the frankness, vulnerability, and trust that characterized our conversations. This is a source of genuine gratitude. As a result, the fruits of our discernment are a realistic assessment of where we really are, of our limitations, and also of the way in which the Spirit has already given flesh to the UAPs among us.” That same spirit of trust and candid conversation was found at Midland. “The Holy Spirit was there,” noted Scott McMaster, director of the Advancement Office of the Jesuits in Canada. The collaboration was seen in the hospitality and heartfelt discussions among all the participants. André Brouillette, SJ, in presenting with others various perspectives of the future Church, stressed that we are called to be ever more collaborative.

The collaboration was seen in the hospitality and heartfelt discussions among all the participants.

Conclusion

“The image of an apostolic pilgrimage transforms the diminishment of our means from a problem to be overcome to a gift that lightens the load and keeps us attentive to the signs that show us the way with Jesus on mission. On pilgrimage, we are beggars who rely on the kindness of others and who learn from others the goodness of God. A pilgrim can identify the direction that she or he is called to follow in the present but has at best only a general sense of the destination. When one is on pilgrimage, the temptation lies in wanting to see the entire journey in order to control it; consolation lies in the openness to take another small step in the direction that is indicated. For us as pilgrims, secular society is the gift of a place within which to journey.” – Pilgrims Together.

The meeting in Midland allowed us to take a step towards the universal apostolic preferences. But much remains to be done: “We need to do more, and we need to work for truth and reconciliation,” said Ms. Mallay. And as Rosella Kinoshameg, DOS, noted, “The Pope’s talks were not even a first step towards reconciliation. He has simply lifted his foot. We need to put that foot down on the ground and keep moving forward.”

 

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