Hand-in-hand with the poor and the marginalised

Jesuit Mission Australia’s CEO explains why their vision is to create
an inclusive and just world where all of humanity can flourish.

Jesuit Mission Australia CEO Helen Forde welcomes Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ to the function with JMA benefactors in Sydney on the evening of 24 January. Photo: Giovanni Portelli Photography / JMA


This speech was delivered by Helen Forde, CEO of Jesuit Mission Australia, to welcome Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ to Sydney at a function on 24 January

We open our welcoming arms  

On behalf of our Board and our team here this evening, I really warmly welcome you to this very special gathering. In particular, I’d like to welcome the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Father Arturo Sosa SJ. It’s an absolute honour for us to have you with us this evening. We also open our welcoming arms tonight to dozens of Jesuits and lay collaborators from more than 17 different countries across Asia, Europe and of course here in Australia.  

A JMA screen in the function room, as seen through the light-halo bokeh effect of a pair of large illuminated metal globes in the foreground. Photo: David McMahon

You give life to our vision  

I’d like to thank up front the outgoing and incoming Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific Presidents, Fathers Tony Moreno and Jun Viray, for accepting our very humble invitation to host this event tonight. We do feel truly honoured and privileged and a little bit nervous too. And of course, we extend a very heartfelt welcome to the Jesuit Mission Australia family, benefactors and supporters. You are such an important part of our mission. You give it life, you make it happen.

Outgoing JCAP President Fr Antonio (Tony) Moreno with Kath Rosic of JMA. Photo: David McMahon

The 1951 legacy of Australian Jesuit missionaries   

Jesuit Mission Australia was born when six young Australian Jesuits travelled to India in 1951. Their mission was to establish quality education for marginalised and remote communities in Hazaribag in Jharkhand State in eastern India. Today, well over 70 years later, the legacy of those 50 Australian Jesuit missionaries lives on and continues to flourish in the Hazaribag province through 65 education institutions and village centres. The Australian legacy in Hazaribag, in my belief, is embodied in the 25,000 men, women and children who are educated every year by the Hazaribag Jesuits.  

Zach Martorana, JMA Communications Officer, keeps his finger on the pulse. Photo: David McMahon

Delivering programmes that truly make a difference

I ask you to join me in saluting the courage, zeal and audacity of all our Australian Hazaribag Jesuits, past and present, including the four Australian Jesuits who still reside there. In the late 1990s, Jesuit Mission Australia extended its Jesuit partnerships to support projects across Southeast Asia, not only in Hazaribag. Many of our Jesuit partners here tonight whom we work with deliver programs such as education, livelihood, agriculture, water and sanitation, emergency response, refugee accompaniment and pastoral services to the poor and marginalised.

A panel of four Jesuits spoke eloquently about the nature of their work and the people whom they serve, as well as narrating some extremely moving moments from their mission. From left to right: Fr Simon Oh-chang Kwon SJ, Fr Girish Santiago SJ, Fr Eric John Gerilla SJ and Fr Miguel Garaizábal SJ. Photo: David McMahon

Working with those who face injustice, discrimination and marginalisation  

At Jesuit Mission Australia, our vision is to create an inclusive and just world where all of humanity can flourish. And at the heart of our mission are the millions of women, men and children who are living in poverty or facing injustice, discrimination and marginalisation.

Nick Dunstan, Chair of the Jesuit Mission Australia Board, with Fr Mark Raper SJ, a former Australian Provincial who has years of experience in the Myanmar Region. Photo: David McMahon

Fr General asks, “What do the poor ask of the Society of Jesus?”   

Inspired by the gospel of Jesus and the spirit of St Ignatius through our Jesuit partners, enabled by your generosity, we serve at the margins of society and walk alongside the excluded and outcomes. In his book, ‘Walking with Ignatius’, the Father General asks a question, what do the poor ask of the Society of Jesus? His response is simple but profound: to be close to them. He goes on to say, we grasp this when we look them in the eye. Although the poor do not tend to be demanding, their position makes them feel that they have no right to demand. They like to be treated with consideration and be in a fraternal relationship with us. He concludes by saying it’s about us being able to really live together as brothers and sisters, to be mutually enriched through our differences.  

Photo: David McMahon

In solidarity, we work together 

We are indeed one human, global family, and each and every one of us here this evening champions and promotes the voice of the voiceless. In solidarity, we work together to deliver programs that cultivate resilience and self-reliance for vulnerable communities. And we empower them to free themselves from poverty and injustice.  

Photo: David McMahon

To thrive, to heal and restore  

Imagine a movement of people carried by love for strangers from a distant shore who would leave the safety and comfort of home to walk amongst the outcast and the poor. Imagine a faith that is alive, bursting with potential to thrive, to heal and restore. In this way, those without hope find something more and imagine a story so vast and yet so dear to our hearts, that somehow we are held near in its arms, that our lives are destined to hum its sweet tune and moved by compassion to grasp in full bloom the beauty of God in our soul.

Photo: David McMahon

Creating a path to a better future  

Imagine living in a remote village in Timor-Leste and receiving a scholarship to study at a Jesuit school, giving you the opportunity to build a path out of poverty and bringing you hope for a brighter future. 

Imagine, after years of living in the slums of Myanmar, being gifted a micro loan, enabling you to start a small business, to make enough money to meet your family’s needs. 

Imagine being a farmer in rural Cambodia and learning new techniques to double your rice yield for the year, earning enough to provide food and education for your children.

Nick Dunstan, a Melbourne-based barrister and former Jesuit who is the JMA Board chair, speaks at the function. Photo: Giovanni Portelli Photography / JMA

Create positive change and transform lives  

Through the faithful gifts of prayer, service and financial support, these imaginings have become realities for thousands of people. We now reach over 10 countries throughout Asia and Africa, supporting programs run by partners on the ground. We invite you to join us and ignite your imagination, to create positive change and truly transform the lives of people in need.

Fr Jose Magadia SJ, Helen Forde, Fr General and Fr George Mutholil SJ. Photo: Giovanni Portelli Photography / JMA

This line-up in this photograph, as well as the one below, was expertly choreographed by Giovanni Portelli, the tireless JMA photographer who covered the event. He arranged the banners and made sure everyone was standing in precisely the right position. Then, immediately after the first shot, he organised everyone else into position on the dais for the second shot (below), even going to the trouble of moving the potted plants so that they would not intrude into the frames. Photos: David McMahon

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