Going to the Frontier

Australian Jesuit Provincial Fr Quyen Vu SJ reflects on the call to go to the frontiers and help heal humanity and our world.

In 2013, early in his time in office, Pope Francis received an audience from La Civilta Cattolica, together with members of Jesuit community, and their closest writer collaborators. During the address, Pope Francis offered three words to help guide his writer audience, and by extension, people throughout the Catholic Church, in their work. The three words were Discernment, Dialogue, and Frontier.

Our 2019 – 2024 Australian Province Apostolic Plan calls us to ‘Heal Humanity and our World’ where we ‘walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world and those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice’. This plan sits within the context of the global Jesuit community’s commitment to seek God in all things and contemplative in action.

How do we go about answering the Call to ‘Heal Humanity and our World’?

In this contemplative time, of global readjustment in the midst of a pandemic, local crises, and the reckoning of community values, how do we go to the frontiers of the world from our own homes?

Locatelli’s words provide us with guidance, despite the year they were written:

‘The twin factors of globalisation and universality will require of us spiritual depth and intellectual rigor, and only when both factors are addressed will Jesuit ministries be effective in restoring justice.’

Together with the Catholic Social Teachings, we in the Society of Jesus are guided by Ignatian Spirituality and the gift of the Spiritual Exercises. Because of this, we are encouraged in our journey, to seek the extreme limits of the world, in the name of God. But God does not exist in a confined space, or definition, and the limits of the frontier is not always a geographical notion. And so, the frontier emerges in our heart.

Of the Frontier, Pope Francis explained:

Your proper place is at the frontier. This is the place of Jesuits. Today too what Paul VI said about the Society of Jesus, taken up by Benedict XVI, applies in a particular way to you: “Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and extreme fields, at the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches, there has been and there is confrontation between the burning exigencies of man and the perennial message of the Gospel, here also there have been, and there are, Jesuits” (Address to the Fathers of the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, 21 February 2008).

So, what about the frontiers that exist among us? How can we as Jesuits continue to attend to those who are marginalised? How do we engage in contemplative action alongside those we wish to accompany? Despite our changing landscapes. Locatelli says: ‘Frontiers beyond geographical definitions await us; these include those who are poor and displaced, those who are isolated and deeply lonely’.

Here in Australia, we are blessed with our Parishes, Our Jesuit Schools and companion Schools, Jesuit Social Service, Jesuit Refugee Service, Jesuit Mission who live in service to the frontiers of our global community here and abroad, and the frontiers we all feel in our hearts, when we seek God in all things. As Pope Francis reminded us in a Tweet: Let us pray for all the sick that may no one be left alone, that everyone receives the anointing of listening, closeness and care. We can all give it with a visit, a phone call, an outstretched hand.’

Fr Quyen Vu SJ

– Locatelli, P. Review of Ignatian Spirituality, XXXIX, 3/2008.

Video by Janark Gray.