PRAYER AND SPIRITUALITY

Helen Forde: The Gift of the First Spiritual Exercises

'The Jesuit approach to service and outreach to the marginalised, the concept of living our faith in action kept me connected to the church,' Helen Forde, CEO of Jesuit Mission, said. 'It’s living out the gospel message and bringing good news to those in need.'

‘The Jesuit approach to service and outreach to the marginalised, the concept of living our faith in action kept me connected to the church,’ Helen Forde, CEO of Jesuit Mission, said. ‘It’s living out the gospel message and bringing good news to those in need.’

Helen’s faith journey includes being educated in the Loreto tradition and attending a Jesuit parish for nearly 30 years. ‘So, I’ve had a lens of Ignatian charism for most of my life,’ she said.

But what really transformed me was when I spent a couple of months in Cambodia; with daily Mass I have never felt closer to God – in a small room cross-legged and everyone participating in the Eucharist.’

When Helen had the opportunity to lead Jesuit Mission, it was like coming home to a place where she felt she belonged. She was the first lay CEO for Jesuit Mission and conscious of needing to keep the Jesuit identity and Ignatian spirituality alive. ‘How do we employ what’s worked for over 500 years in the way we deliver our programs at Jesuit Mission,’ she asked.

After experiencing the First Spiritual Exercises, Helen approached Fr Michael Hansen SJ and asked if he could develop some Spiritual Exercises especially for Jesuit Mission. Helen wanted to offer something that could relate to Jesuit Mission’s work in poverty, protection, disability and hunger. ‘I wanted to bring together our supporters, board members, staff and volunteers with partners overseas, and share stories.’

Michael developed a suite of spiritual exercises for Jesuit Mission which were piloted in 2019. ‘Michael took us through the process of giving the exercises. I felt a little apprehension, but it ended up being one of the most enjoyable and deep experiences for all of us,’ Helen said. ‘We were sharing our stories and moved by the simplicity and depth of these exercises.’

‘The most special pilot we did, and it was our first experience on Zoom only 14 months ago, was when we did an exercise with our partners in Myanmar and Cambodia… There was such solidarity in our coming together and sharing stories; all of us had different contexts in different countries, but there was a commonality of gratitude!’

‘This was something really unique. Over different countries and time zones, it was a bond of being one faith family; it bought us into a reciprocal relationship! Often our relationships can feel one-way, but this spiritual exercise was drawing us into giving and receiving together.’

Helen then reached out to Jesuit Mission’s supporter base in Australia, and with the onset of Covid-19, Jesuit Mission Rector Fr Trung Nguyen SJ was filmed sharing some exercises. ‘The first one we offered had over 700 people participating’ exclaimed Helen. ‘It was a nice way of us giving something back, something from the heart of Ignatian Spirituality.’

‘We had lovely feedback from supporters, that these exercises allowed them pause; to watch the video, take time to listen to the readings, consider some questions and reflect on their desire around a particular theme.

The relationships have changed because of those spiritual conversations. I have seen more shifts and movements, more gratitude and authenticity,’ she said.

To experience these Jesuit Mission spiritual exercises, go to: https://jesuitmission.org.au/who-we-are/our-spirituality/. 

Originally published on jisa.org.au

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