I spent the second last week of the Ignatian Year with the other leaders of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It was helpful to join with Jesuits from across the region to be reminded that this has been a year we have shared together. We have shared it with all Jesuits across the globe, as well as with so many religious and lay collaborators who share in our mission.
Since being back in Australia I have continued my schedule of visitations to Jesuit communities. As Provincial I am required to visit each Jesuit community and to meet with each Jesuit annually. In significant ways this is at the core of the Provincial’s role. In the conversations, which are called a manifestation of conscience, I am able to hear how each Jesuit is in his life and ministry. These conversations allow me to consider how best to mission each Jesuit, what support he might need to fulfill his mission, and how we are journeying together as an apostolic body.
The Provincial has a special care for the individual Jesuits and communities in his Province. He must also care of our common mission. This is a global, even a heavenly, mission. It is not confined to our Province, even though we seek to live that mission as Jesuits and through our ministries, with the significant support of those with whom we work. We are always balancing the local context with the universal and shared mission. If we do this well, we have the best chance of helping to build the Kingdom of God here and now.
In his own time as Superior-General of the Jesuits, St Ignatius of Loyola was concerned with this balance of the shared mission and the local context. He was sending men to places he had never been, with peoples and cultures he had never experienced. This was at a time when any communication was comparatively very slow. Ignatius put in place a rigorous system of letter writing and document maintenance that ensured that while he placed trust in those on the ground, there was a steady stream of communication between them and his office in Rome.
As I have gone about my visitations, I have been writing letters essentially following the processes Ignatius put in place. After each visit I write to the community I have seen, sharing my reflections on the visit with them. I also write to Fr General so that he and his advisers are aware of the situation here. This is about sharing the mission, collaborating, and remaining open to the ways the Holy Spirit moves in the lives of individuals, communities, and our ministries. It helps us see how the way we work here fits with what is being done elsewhere. It opens the capacity for us to see our individual, communal and ministerial works not in and for themselves but as part of a wider mission to which we all contribute.
The meeting in Cambodia, the country in which I worked for six years, reminded me of this broader view. We do not make decisions disconnected from the realities of our brother Jesuits around the world, from those with whom they minister, and especially from the needs of those they serve. In reconsecrating the Society of Jesus to the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the conclusion of the Ignatian Year, our Superior-General, Fr Arturo Sosa, has reminded us that the love of God pours out over all the world. If we are going to work to spread this love, we will need to continue our conversion, individually, communally and together in our ministries, just as Ignatius did for the rest of his life after that cannonball struck his leg.
Fr Quyen Vu SJ