We gathered at Peter Canisius House last week, nearly 100 of us Jesuits of the Australian Province. It has been at least ten years since we had gathered for such an extended time together. This Assembly was timely, encouraging and renewing.
Most of our men who have been studying or working overseas were able to make it home. Some of our men who are older and in frail health, unfortunately, could not join us. We were very well looked after by Michael Ryan and the staff at PCH.
At such times, many stories are repeated and past events remembered. There are many opportunities for humour and expressions of care and of interest in what others are doing. We can experience that depth of blessing being ‘Friends in the Lord’.
During our time together we prayed, listened and shared. Fr Michael Hansen SJ led us during the preparatory day of prayer on the theme of ‘inflamed audacity’, picking up the image of ‘audacity’ often repeated at GC36.
Fr Chris Willcock SJ and Fr Andy Hamilton SJ composed a new hymn for our gathering, ‘Companions in Venice’, linking with another theme often mentioned in GC36, the gathering of Ignatius and his first companions in Venice in 1537 at a pivotal moment in their discernment of their future .
We celebrated the lives of our Jubilarians for this year, some twelve of whom were present: those who have spent 50, 60 and 70 years in the Society, and those who have been priests for 50 years.. After a Eucharist at which Fr Andy Bullen SJ presided and Fr Terry Kelly SJ preached, Fr Bill Uren SJ led a toast to them during dinner and Fr Joe Sobb SJ replied.
We shared our experiences of community life and our three Province foundations for mission — Ignatian Spirituality, Solidarity between Jesuits and Lay People and Mission with the Poor. We reflected on the quality of our Jesuit life. We shared in a liturgy of lament in relation to sexual abuse. We listened to one another and any issues people wanted to raise. The time together went very quickly.
We were fortunate to have Fr Tom Renshaw SJ as MC and Patricia Bergin as a ‘listener’ at our open sessions. They, along with my consultors, will now help us prepare for the Extended Consult of Jesuits and lay companions in October.
This recent Assembly and coming Consult are important steps along the way to our articulating and renewing our Province mission.
Fr Brian F. McCoy SJ, Provincial