I am writing this from the small Micronesian country of Palau where we have been holding an assembly of the Jesuit Major Superiors of our Asia Pacific Conference. It is a beautiful and friendly place, sensitive to its fragile coast and sea environment.
In the weeks prior to this meeting I visited our St Xavier School in Cambodia where Australian Jesuit Fr Quyen Vu is Director. And, just before Christmas, I visited our St Ignatius of Loyola College in Timor Leste, which was celebrating its first graduating group of secondary students.
The school in Timor Leste opened in 2013 and is currently teaching more than 700 secondary students. At the school in Cambodia there are already more than 500 students, primary and secondary, and this will increase to 1400 by 2023.
The Australian Province has been greatly involved in building and supporting these new schools. Fr Mark Raper SJ, as major superior for Timor Leste, led the project, and, as president of the conference, has supported both schools. Fr Quyen has taught in Timor Leste and Cambodia and Neville Harpham (alumnus of St Ignatius’ College Riverview, ex-chair of its board, and engineer) has guided and advised.
Those who made the ceremony in Timor Leste last 22 December will never forget the joy and pride of more than 100 students, accompanied by their family members, who graduated that day. Not only did all the students graduate but some finished among the top students in the country.
Neither school could have been built without the generosity, sacrifice, support and financial help of many people, including Jesuit Mission and many others in Australia — students, families, teachers and donors. These have been enormous achievements of collaboration with each other and with many others in our Asia Pacific Conference.
As we begin 2019, we might wonder what lies ahead of us. Do we think our own small efforts can make any difference in a world often seen as divided, angry and resentful? Will we see peace in the Korean Peninsula? Will our government finally close Manus Island and Nauru? What of Brexit, Venezuela, China and Russia? So much lies unknown and seemingly fragile in our world and in the year ahead.
What gives me hope, as recently witnessed in Timor Leste and Cambodia, is when new life is promoted, shared and strengthened, when new bridges into neighbouring communities are built and friendships shared.
Our ongoing commitment to listening to the needs of our Province and Asia Pacific Conference, our ability to work together and willingness to share our many resources, grace our Province mission and lie at the very heart of it.
It is a dream worth believing in and further deepening in 2019.
Fr Brian F. McCoy SJ, Provincial