Generally speaking

Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ spoke at several events in Australia, but on
Saturday 27 January, he criss-crossed Sydney on a very tight schedule.

 SHOWING THE WAY TO GOD

By David McMahon, Communications Manager, Society of Jesus in Australia

It’s midday and Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ has just wrapped up a meeting with fellow Jesuits at Peter Canisius House in Pymble, Sydney. But the pace is about to pick up quite considerably. Yes, it’s a Saturday but it’s the middle day of the long Australia Day weekend and the traffic is heavier than normal.

Next appointment: 1PM-2.30PM. The Cardoner Network, Broadway (inner-city).

From left to right: Br Ian Cribb SJ, Fr Robin Koning SJ, Fr George Mutholil SJ, Fr Jose Magadia SJ, Australian Provincial Fr Quyen Vu SJ, Stuart Salier, CEO of The Cardoner Network, Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ, Fr Ramesh Richards SJ and Julian Butler SJ, Provincial Assistant for the Young Adults Ministry and chair of The Cardoner Network. This photo was shot on the roof of the Cardoner building, with the distinctive architecture of the two historic former Grace Brothers buildings on the other side of the street. All photos in this feature: David McMahon

This little chapel in the building that houses the young adult ministry known as The Cardoner Network has an interesting back story. Because a bank was once located on the premises, this used to be the vault, hence the thickness of the walls. While this area was once used to hide material wealth away, it is now used to open minds, deepen connections and strengthen the trend of serving others. Removing the front wall has opened the place up, both literally and metaphorically. 

Fr General deep in conversation with Harry, a teenager who recently returned to Australia after a stint with The Cardoner Network in Thailand, teaching English to children in a rural area. Harry confessed to being “very nervous” when he stood up in the crowded room to explain how significant the trip had been for him, but the General later sat beside him at lunch, immediately putting the young man at ease. Another speaker, a multilingual young woman, addressed the General in Spanish as she narrated her own experiences. She also spoke in French to Fr Pierre Belanger, a French-Canadian Jesuit from the General Curia Communications Office in Rome.

This painted wolf is just one part of a mural that stretches across the laneway leading to the entrance of the building that houses The Cardoner Network. The mural includes two different wolves, a few metres apart. The imagery is a reference to the two wolves on the family crest of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order. It directly influenced the name Two Wolves Abroad, a Cardoner Network initiative that is a not-for-profit, student-focused hub for volunteering. The young men and women who participate in this programme follow the Jesuit model of love for service and the poor. 

Next appointment: 3PM-4PM. St Canice’s Church, Rushcutters Bay

This photo captures a remarkable meeting between Fr General and Charlie, a familiar figure at St Canice’s Kitchen, the outreach service that has been providing meals to the underprivileged for 35 years. Charlie was chosen to address the General in a packed room. Shifting his weight nervously from one foot to the other, he introduced himself and said, “I’ve been homeless all my life.” After his speech, he confessed to a sleepless night because he didn’t know what he was going to say. Then he asked softly: “Do you think the General would allow me to take a picture with him?” Not only did they get a picture together, they spent several minutes in conversation and he presented the General with the black folder visible in the lower part of the frame. It contains, he said simply, the story of his life.

One apt description of St Canice’s Kitchen is that it is a beacon of light for the street community, walking alongside people of all descriptions and backgrounds as they navigate their own personal challenges. Some of the familiar faces at the Kitchen were gathered unobtrusively around this table while Fr General spent several minutes talking to all those who wanted some of his time and a picture with him. But as soon as he could, he strode purposefully to sit with the people who rely on the Kitchen, so that he could listen to their stories and ask them questions about their own lives.

Fr Jose Magadia SJ, one of the Curia-based Jesuits, displays a packet of Tim Tam biscuits that a well-wisher presented to Fr General during the open-air tea and snacks after the formal speeches and presentations. The three young people in the picture are all volunteers with St Canice’s Kitchen. The one nearest Fr Magadia is an American who has only been in Australia for a month. He is wearing a JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) T-shirt that has the country name ‘Luxembourg’ printed under the logo.

Fr David Braithwaite SJ, the parish priest of St Canice’s. Named after a sixth century Irish monk, St Canice’s is a Jesuit parish in the heart of Sydney and its parishioners span both sides of the spectrum, from the well-heeled to those who literally have no idea where their next meal is coming from. Deeply committed to Catholic faith and values, the parish seamlessly blends worship as well as service to people from all walks of life, creating more doorways to encounter the Heart of Jesus.

Next appointment: 5PM-9.30PM. Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview

Fr Tom Renshaw SJ, Rector of Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview, points out the sights and highlights to Fr General in the few spare minutes before Mass in the college chapel at 5.30pm. The school dates back to 1880 but the skyline of the Sydney CBD can be clearly seen across the water, visible proof that the site was well chosen. Despite the high humidity across the week and into the long weekend, the college chapel was packed and the choir, from Our Lady of the Way in North Sydney, was in magnificent form. They were conducted by Danielle Whitmore and accompanied by organist Christine Moriarty, a teacher at Riverview. The Acknowledgement of Country was delivered by Dr Paul Hine, the Principal of Riverview.

Fr General, presider and preacher, at the altar of the beautiful chapel, flanked by principal concelebrants, Riverview Rector Fr Tom Renshaw SJ (left) and Australian Provincial Fr Quyen Vu (right). Despite being unwell that evening, Fr General continued without missing a beat. However, his wellbeing was uppermost in the mind of Fr Andy Nguyen SJ, Province Liturgical Master of Ceremonies and assistant priest at the parish of Our Lady of the Way in North Sydney. The latter, concerned about the raspy voice of Fr General during the homily, discreetly vanished briefly before reappearing with a glass of water for him.

Although the conditions were overcast when the Mass ended, the late-evening summer light was still good enough to highlight the colours of the chapel’s stained-glass windows. The shot, taken from one side of the altar looking directly across to the opposite transept, takes in the flames on both altar candles beyond the microphone. And the striking floral display highlights the symmetry and hues of the distant stained-glass windows, with the straight lines and right-angled forms softened by the tiny segments of the arch that is visible in the top left and top right segments of the frame.

While the Latin phrase “Ad maiorem Dei gloriam” can be clearly seen in black on yellow in this stained glass window in the Riverview chapel, can you see the English translation as well? In cursive script in a semi-circular arc from left to right, the words “to the greater glory of God” can be seen as transparent lettering on the glass. Often abbreviated to the initials “AMDG”, the Latin words are the motto of the Society of Jesus.

Final commute of the day: 10PM. Back to Peter Canisius House, Pymble 

To enquire about becoming a Jesuit in Australia, contact vocations@sjasl.org.au and for more info, visit our Vocations page.