front page gratitudeGratitude Magazine March 2015, Vol. 3, No. 1

This edition of Gratitude focuses mainly on Jesuits and collaboration. It showcases a collection of articles from within our province and from as far afield as Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Middle East, Europe and America. As an institution of Jesuit formation and studies, Arrupe College looks back with gratitude to all those who share the vision of the College and the Society of Jesus. In this edition we also highlight some specific events from the proposed Loyola Jesuit University. The LJU committee is working very hard to meet the target for the groundbreaking ceremony in 2015. In gratitude for the lives of our “60 Angels”, this edition also underscores some activities commemorating the 9th anniversary of the Sosoliso Plane crash in Port Harcourt on December 10, 2005, in which sixty students of Loyola Jesuit College Abuja, died. The activities were held at the LUTH Catholic Chaplaincy Idi-Araba, in Lagos. And finally, Fr. Abuchi Muoneme, SJ, shares with notes of gratitude some of his experiences as a PhD student at Gonzaga University Spokane, USA.

 

 

 

 

 

Jesuits and Lay collaborators in Mission

'Jesuit Collaborators': what is in the name? There are many synonyms that are often associated with the term ‘Jesuit Collaborators’. To some it means Jesuit Friends; others call it Jesuit lay associates and yet for some others it simply stands for Jesuit partners in Mission.  Each of these perspectives is correct, although more still can be said about the term.

As a novice, my novice master used to describe a Jesuit as a man on a mission, that is, a man who has been sent to proclaim the Gospel and to propagate justice to the ends of the earth.  As Jesuits we are aware that we are not alone on this mission; that our mission hinges upon the mission of the Church whose central mission flows from that of Jesus Christ who was "sent" to the world to proclaim the Kingdom of Love and Justice by God the Father.

Jesuits are also aware that this mission has been entrusted to the whole Church: priests, religious, and laypersons who by virtue of their unique baptisms also share in this solemn mission. That is why in all our apostolates, we are always happy and willing to collaborate with many of the faithful in our humble efforts to achieve our apostolic goals.

The Jesuits of North West Africa Province take special delight in so many collaborators who support us in God’s mission.  These collaborators learn about our ministries, value and appreciate our works, encourage our efforts and some even strive to practice our spirituality. As a province, we consider it one of our primary obligations to assist our collaborators in this regard because being a collaborator is not only about helping us to do our work but also doing it in a Jesuit way together with us.

As we cannot ostensibly do everything, the North West Africa Province of the Society of Jesus prioritizes some apostolic activities we consider to be more in line with our Jesuit tradition. Currently, we serve the people of God in different countries as school teachers, professors, administrators, chaplains, parish priests and pastoral ministers, retreat and spiritual directors. These diverse activities make it possible for us to come in contact with so many lay men and women as well as act as a fillip that strengthens the bonds of friendships among us. That is why we always need the support of our collaborators. An important point at this junction may be to know how one can become a part of our Jesuit Collaborators or how to support our Jesuit mission. This question can be answered by reading from the stories we share in this edition of Gratitude.

This edition of Gratitude focuses mainly on Jesuits and collaboration. It showcases a collection of articles from within our province and from as far afield as Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Middle East, Europe and America. As an institution of Jesuit formation and studies, Arrupe College looks back with gratitude to all those who share the vision of the College and the Society of Jesus. In this edition we also highlight some specific events from the proposed Loyola Jesuit University. The LJU committee is working very hard to meet the target for the groundbreaking ceremony in 2015. In gratitude for the lives of our “60 Angels”, this edition also underscores some activities commemorating the 9th anniversary of the Sosoliso Plane crash in Port Harcourt on December 10, 2005, in which sixty students of Loyola Jesuit College Abuja, died. The activities were held at the LUTH Catholic Chaplaincy Idi-Araba, in Lagos. And finally, Fr. Abuchi Muoneme, SJ, shares with notes of gratitude some of his experiences as a PhD student at Gonzaga University Spokane, USA.

The Gratitude team will like to use this opportunity to thank all of you for your abiding support of our ministries. Together we continue to labour as partners in the Lord. Please know that you are always in our prayers. May God bless you mightily as you promote his kingdom on earth.

Yours in Christ’s mission
Fr. Matthew Ma, SJ
Director of Development

 

 

From the Provincial

 

JUST LIKE OUR GOD:

St Ignatius of Loyola had a very creative imagination. And it was within this creative imagination that the concept of collaboration was born. Ignatius imagined that the Triune God looked down upon

 

the earth, and saw a world in need. In response to the world’s needs, the Father, Son and Spirit elects to engage the world in a personal relationship by sharing the “Godself” with the world to redeem it through the Son. In so doing, the Word became flesh! The three-in-one God to work together, by sharing what they have and are with the world for this to happen. Collaboration involves working together, building relationships and sharing who we are and what we have with the people we are called to serve.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola understood the importance of collaboration after his conversion. Burning with a desire to do great things for God through service to humanity, he realized he could not do it alone. He invited others to join in his effort. He gathered companions, and involved friends and benefactors to join him with their time, energy, skills and resources. Some of the companions, infected by Ignatius’s vision, joined him. And the Society of Jesus was born.

Today, we see ourselves as men on a mission, or, as servants of Christ’s mission. And whenever the mission calls, and wherever the mission’s path leads, we go. On this journey, we never walk alone. We walk with the God who calls us, in the spirit who inspires and energizes us, for the Son who leads us, and with collaborators who accompany us.

We are grateful for the many men and women who continue to work with us to serve Christ’s missions by planting the seeds of faith, hope and love in our world that is in dire need of these qualities, especially here in the North West Africa Province of the Society of Jesus (the ANW Province). We thank you for the many ways you give yourselves selflessly to Christ’s mission. We are grateful for your tirelessness in praying for us, for your companionship in walking with us, for your courage in challenging and pointing the way to us, and for your generosity in supporting our ministries with your skills, time and resources. Our Jesuit Communities, parishes, chaplaincies, schools, health centers, retreat centers, and ministries to the underprivileged are as effective as they are today because of your companionship and collaboration.

Thank you for believing in us and for sharing in our mission and vision to build a world where God’s kingdom blossoms.

We pray that the Triune God will bless you and your family with his bountiful graces now and always.

Rev. Fr. Jude Odiaka, SJ
Provincial
North-West Africa Province
Society of Jesus

 

 

Poetry Corner

This place

-Fr. Kevin Odey

 


Below and beyond
A beautiful place
Los Angeles from Loyola MaryMount
Grey-green, light-blue Ocean, the sky undifferentiated
Spans, spans the west.

From the coastline
Towards the horizon
A beautiful city arises
Spreading undulating down south
With a kiss of the mountain range, its fortress.

The mountains meet the sky
Where the restless clouds play and dance
To the whispering palms
To the gentle breeze
To the warm wind, sparing no rains
The sunrise from the east.

Quiet
I feel a unique presence
A still voice calling, calling
Calling me to draw closer
Wonderful, how wonderful
But I’m afraid
My frailty stands before me, between us
So I resist.

Unsettled
In the hush of my heart, the flower
A butterfly flips, flips and flies
Ashes dispel, dispelled away
The sun rises
Colors emerge
Coldness die to cordiality
Darkness swallowed by dainty
As thorns are broken by beauty
Irresistible

“Here I am, Lord”
I surrender
To your joy, the Ocean
To your holiness, the mountains
To your love, the butterfly
To your grandeur, the skies
To your warmth, the sunrise
To your voice, the whisper

Yes
Lost in you
I’m yours, all yours
So, what do you ask of me?
Simple, so simple
To be my friend
To give you my heart
To make a home

 

 

 

Gratitude in Collaboration

-Gabriel Ujah Ejembi, SJ


The contemporary world with its unproductive skepticism and a heightened spirit of suspicion makes it very difficult to express gratitude. Yet, gratitude is an indispensable quality in human relations and interactions.  This indispensable nature of gratitude does not imply that it cannot be exploited as often is the case when someone expresses gratitude hypocritically, that is, concealing an ulterior motive.  This short piece of reflection articulates gratitude as mutual and as an element that enhances effective collaboration.  

In the context of the missionary activities of the Church, God’s people express their gratitude to God by engaging in the ministries of the Church.  This engagement takes one form though expressed fundamentally in two ways.  This form is simply “going”.  To be missioned is to be sent, that is, to “go”.  Some go by offering themselves to serve the mission of Christ through public ecclesiastical responsibilities; others go by providing support, materially and morally, to those who have offered themselves for the mission.  Either one offers one’s self or one’s resources; the indisputable fact is that both respond to Christ mission, thus, both are sent.  

Gratitude spurs us to the genuine recognition of the collaborative effort of the giver (persons who give resources) and the offerer (persons who offer themselves).  This recognition is simply an expression of appreciation of the best that lies in others.  When we genuinely express gratitude, we experience an inner liberation that acts as a catalyst against the spirit of negativism, skepticism and suspicion.  Free from the negativities of our lives, gratitude emerges spontaneously and enables us to initiate harmonious existence as brothers and sisters, friends in the Lord.  This is one of the central messages of Christ, “that all may be one”.  Gratitude, in its mutuality, enhances this oneness that shapes collaboration.  Perhaps, as St Ambrose would testify “No duty is more urgent than that of giving thanks”.  It is in fact a duty to cultivate one heart (to collaborate) in serving Christ mission.

When we express gratitude, we confirmed our essential human nature – a nature that is open to communion and to collaboration.  This nature witnesses to our need for one another because we are, in essence, interdependent.  In other words, an act of gratitude is a testimony to the fact that “we cannot all do it alone.” Our successes are nothing but fruits of collaborative gratitude.  Any instant of gratitude reiterates the dictum “we are because you are”.  We could articulate the latter as signifying: “my success is, thanks to your generosity.”  We may recall the healing of the ten lepers in the Lucan narrative (Luke 17, 11-19).  Here Luke tells us that ten lepers were healed but one returns to express gratitude.  To this one, Jesus says “your faith has saved you.”  This pericope emphasizes the strong connection between gratitude and salvation because we notice that an act of gratitude becomes an occasion of salvation. Although ten were cured, only one was saved.  The leper that was saved attained his salvation because he allows himself to be spontaneously inspired by gratitude that is mutual and collaborative.  This mutuality brought him to communion with Christ – an act expressed in gratitude in the Lucan narrative.  We could elicit from this story that gratitude renders our collaboration effective as persons sent to serve the mission of Christ.  We are therefore more effective when our gratitude emerges from our collaboration because in this context the incapacities, unavailability, and the weaknesses of the one are, in point of fact, compensated by the capabilities, availability and strengths of the other.  

This compensatory nature of gratitude reiterates the common dictum that “if you want to go far, you must walk toghand thanksether.” That is to say, much is achieved and the future is assured when we walk and work together.  Gratitude fuels this working and walking together because it simply affirms the supporting role of the other in our ascend into our future.  In actual fact, we owe gratitude to the hands that supports our future, the hands that assure and insure our future, the hands that stand by those who have offered themselves willingly to serve Christ’s mission.  

The act of collaborative gratitude gives birth easily to a number of surprises.  It allows us to experience a fullness of life that is whole because in appreciating what the other does; we appreciate ourselves as beings capable of enhancing change.  This fullness of life is experienced as contentment.  A grateful heart is one full of happiness for the reason that gratitude gives us the courage to see what we have as enough and to understand that what we have can transform another’s life.  In this sense, gratitude is a reflective action because it flows from an understanding of the past that shapes the present by providing us with peace.  This peace in turn helps us to shape our visions and projects for the future because we would again and again want to have reasons for gratitude.
 
For the Jesuits, it is commonly sung that “ingratitude is the worst kind of sin.” At first, this affirmation does not appear apparent but a deeper reflection might permit us to see that ingratitude is simply at the root of all sins because sins denote our insensitivity to God’s goodness.  This would also imply that a grateful heart is able to accept and understand everything as a gift.  This is the central message of collaborative gratitude.  It does not only say thank you for gifts received or promised rather it affirms that the giver and the receiver are both gifts dear to each other.  That is, gratitude enhances the experience of intimacy because it permits persons in collaboration to witness to the beautiful gifts that each is. For this reason, gratitude serves as a moment and the ideal place to recognize that we have each other in the walk that we walk and in the work that we accomplish.  

Recalling how I started this reflection, I would like to reiterate that we carry out Christ mission by “going”.  We go by either offering ourselves or by appreciating in kind and in resources those who have offered themselves.  Gratitude energizes the collaboration between the ‘giver’ and the one who offers himself and, for this reason, serves as the ideal place for reigniting our enthusiasm for Christ’s mission.

 

 

 

Nine Years After Sosoliso Crash


-Mr. Ajibola Edwards, Esq

Screams pierced the air and each scream was like a dagger piercing each parent’s heart. The screams continued and the parents watched in agony until there were no more sounds.  Death had enveloped all the Loyola Jesuit College (LJC) students but one. After the screams ended the only thing left was hope and prayer. Parents willed their children to stay alive until the charred bodies were offloaded from the plane like fire wood into pick-up trucks and then, like a dam let loose, the tears, screams and cries from parents became uncontrollable. Then the questions, why, why, why? The lives of 54 families had changed forever, and irreversibly so.

 
The Lagos branch of the LJC PTA was as affected by the crash as their Port Harcourt counterparts, primarily because since our children too fly to and from school, we could easily empathise with them. Secondly these were our children’s friends and schoolmates. We all felt a collective emotional connection. From that day forward the Lagos Branch has hosted a memorial Mass every year and on the fifth year we launched an Advocacy Group consisting of parents. We held a grand memorial Mass followed by a discussion on Safer Skies for Nigeria, with a panel that included the Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Dr. Harold Demuren, who informed the audience of all the changes that had been made to make our skies safer. In attendance at that event was Engineer Okafor, the father of two children who died in the crash, one of whom was the head boy of LJC at the time of the crash. He gave the audience an insight into his family’s emotions at the time and how they had coped with their loss since the crash. But then he a

dded that he and his wife had agreed to send another child to LJC, to show support for the school. There was not a dry eye in the hall at the end of his speech.

The audience, afterwards, directed a number of questions to Dr. Demuren. Questions ranged from why no memorial had been built at the airport to Government’s apathy towards aviation safety. By the end of the discussion, which was covered by print and electronic media, the audience went away feeling that progress was being made.

This year will be the 10th anniversary of the Sosoliso crash and the Advocacy Group of the LJC Lagos Branch will be hosting another discussion titled “Quality Education: The Solution for Nigeria’s Development”.

Our thinking is that with the kind of quality education the Jesuits provide in developing character and academic ability, with emphasis on service to God and others, we will begin to see a positive change in every aspect of Nigeria’s development. Hence, we should all work to get the authorities and civil society to understand what we mean by a quality education and why it is important across all levels of education in Nigeria.

 

 

Mr. Ajibola Edwards, Esq is a lawyer and a parent of LJC. He is currently the Vice Chairman of LJC PTA Lagos branch.

 

 

 

Peotry Corner

 

With Gratitude: A PRICELESS GIFT...YOU!

-Collins Obidiagha, SJ

Life is so much and often an enigma;
Full of mysteries, vaster than man’s mind,
Every simple thing we apprehend,
Flows with streams we can’t comprehend.

Why can a few kobo buy a pint of salt?
Yet no measure, measures its saltiness,
Nor can any pocket pay for it.
For what do you pay the, saltiness or salt.

Why does the gift of a rose give delight?
But no one considers dung as a gift.
Yet roses decay and become dung,
Why is the difference, so small, and yet long?

Truly, the important thing in life,
Are beyond the powers of the eye.
They are not in the nets of concepts caught.
Nor by the capitals of currency bought.

They are what make a rose, rosy,
Then, but a single candle, yet enlivens a room.
We know such gifts are rare and dear,
Yet, God today graces us with one so near.

How many times do we look at the sky this way?
How familiar we are with the stars, moon, and clouds,
Yet how different this unity is today!
Because of the love they share each passing day.

By looking at the sky, we see the unity of the
clouds, stars, and the rising moon.
 We imitate the unity of the creatures of the gods,
and saw the needs to be in a body,
 Like the birds in the sky, we affirmed:  

Our contagious love to another, awakens the Gem,
That lay asleep in the secret room
Of the many-roomed mansions in our hearts’ vastness,
It awakens! Into a dance of Life and selfness.


 As if by Magic’s spell, everything here
Becomes more being by our being here,
Our community is more what it is and should be
Like Salt maketh Soup more what it is.


To word all our love and Gratitude at all
Is to attempt to cup the Ocean in a Cup.
But it’s swelling fullness in our hearts,
Must find an outlet lest we burst!

Compatriots! Are you laughing?
Please do, give that thunderous laugh’s thudding,
that even today rouse the cloud to jealousy weeping.
Let it intone your loving singing.
And inscribe in the clouds– A priceless gift…

 

 

 

 

Deo Gratias and Mucha Gratias


-Fr. Maduabuchi Leo Muoneme, S.J., Ph.D.

The end of every voyage is the beginning of another sojourn. Towards the end of May 2012, I completed the voyage of serving as the parish priest of St. Joseph Parish Benin City. A new voyage commenced immediately. After a send-forth celebration in the parish, I joined Fr. Aghadi Onu, S.J., Christopher Sam, S.J., and Francis Ajayi (Province chauffer) to Lagos. The next day, I set off on a longer journey to Spokane, U.S.A. I arrived in Spokane on Friday, June 1, 2012 and tried to unwind, settle and familiarize myself with the environs on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, I registered for classes and commenced studies. The remainder of this piece is a brief reflection of my experience as a PhD student at Gonzaga University Spokane. When Fr. Matthew Ma, S.J. (editor of Gratitude) requested that I write my reflections for Gratitude, I yielded because it was an opportunity for meta-reflection on personal experience and further expression of gratitude. Ingratitude is the worst of all sins according to St. Ignatius Loyola. Lack of consciousness of God’s goodness or ingratitude is “the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins.” The title of my reflection “Deo Gratias and Mucha Gratias” is a hybrid of Latin (Thank God) and Spanish (Thank you very much).

On May 10, 2014, I completed a beautiful journey in Spokane, graduating with a PhD and embarked on another mission from my provincial, albeit unfolding. There is an African proverb that says, “A child on its mothers back does not care how long the journey is.” When I first arrived to Gonzaga Jesuit Community Spokane to commence my past immediate mission, I knew I was on my mother’s back—I instantly felt at home. This community has been a heartfelt and un-forgettable home. I have treasured every day that I have spent in the Jesuit House. There are so many memories to reminisce—our common Jesuit brotherhood, heartfelt Masses, fellowships, sumptuous meals, breakfast club conversations, gitas, galas, apostolic conversations, travels together, Zag basketball games @ the McCarthey Athletic Center and the Jesuit Community basement, super-bowls, Spokane symphonies, Blooms-day, Hoops-fest, Lilac festival, flows of Spokane River of life, beauty and serenity, and a variety of very rich university intellectual and cultural events, to mention but a few. My experience at Gonzaga University has been cognitively, spiritually, socially, and emotionally transformative. It was intensive at night and during the day.

WP 20140510 049 web

                                                                                                                   Fr. Abuchi After Graduation

 

However, I also learned outside the libraries, classrooms, and books. For instance after the intensive summer sessions in 2013, I was blessed with a seven-day tour to St. Ignatius Mission, Montana, Glacial National Parks, Montana and the Yellow Stone Parks, Wyoming. Fr. Tim Clancy, S.J. (a philosophy professor and Director of the Honor’s Program at Gonzaga University) and I shared the steering and truth-seeking conversations together as we traversed the beautiful natural world of the United States and viewed breathtaking positive and negative landscapes and the geothermal phenomena like Old Faithful. Being buried within nature revealed why Ignatius' greatest inspiration/enlightenment took place outdoors by River Cardoner (Spain), and it happened within seconds or minutes. Perhaps, the same could be said of outdoor poetic inventiveness of Ralph Waldo Emerson who reflected, “Nature always wears the colours of the spirit” or the Walden Pond illumination of Henri David Thoreau, who asserted, “What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us” and “This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”


My doctoral studies and research at Gonzaga University required grounding in philosophy. I took my earlier Jesuit philosophical formation at Ibadan and Chicago seriously, but I did not know that in the trajectory of the scheme of events I would return to in-depth philosophical quest after a passionate interest in physics was set ablaze in me by Professor Jeffry Mallow at Loyola University of Chicago and realized in Boston College after priestly ordination. However, I was proven wrong when I started my PhD program at Gonzaga University, as my professors immediately began to articulate and discuss theoretical wisdom or Sophia and practical wisdom or phronesis from modern and post-modern convergence and divergencevistas in organizational behavior, quantitative data analysis, global issues and policy analysis, leadership theory, and critical and political theory. The title of my dissertation is Hermeneutics of Leadership: The Meaning and Transmission of Leadership and Catholic Jesuit Cultural Ethos and Values through the Lenses of Seven Jesuit University Leaders’ Emeriti and Father Theodore Hesburgh.

Fr. Hesburgh was the president of the University of Notre Dame for 35 years. He is one of the key persons who ignited my passion for this research, after I had read Hesburgh’s (1999)God, Country, and Notre Dame during a course work on qualitative research theory and design. I was blessed to land on a topic that married my heart and mind. My passion for my research area was further fueled by a visit to the University of Notre Dame for research and to interview Hesburgh in 2012. Instantly, the research became a 24/7 project. Along the voyage of enhancing critical understanding of leadership styles and ethos in the landscape of Catholic universities, I lost my mum. It was a thunderbolt experience that shattered the “crystal” glass of meaning in my life. Through spiritual direction and meditation, I quickly gained the insight that Mum was now a clout interceding for me. I asked her and other heavenly beings to continue to intercede, and I slowly, but steadily, got healed and threw my nets deeper, confident that “all things work for the good of those that love God” (Rom 8: 28). My dissertation is dedicated to the memory of my beloved mum Mrs. Cecilia Muoneme (1940-2013), who wanted to see the completion of this work while on earth, but she was called by God on September 14, 2013 to see it from a greater perspective, and to my loving dad Mr. Leonard Muoneme, who witnessed its completion and witnessed my graduation.

WP 20140510 064webIn my hermeneutics of leadership, the purpose was to discover and understand the phenomena of Catholic and Jesuit university presidential leadership through the lenses of seven Jesuit university leaders’ emeriti and Father Theodore Hesburgh. Beyond the general backdrop of higher education in America, a systematic overview of organizational culture theory was a wholesome backdrop to situate this study of Catholic Jesuit university leadership by these emeriti leaders. My research questions were concerned with the essence of styles and leadership behavior of these priests, their lived experience in preparing for leadership, the nature of the cultural norms and values that they represented, and their trajectories from philosophy to praxis. The research questions were addressed through in-depth and semi-structured interviews. The methods that were employed in the research, analysis, and interpretation are Husserl’s phenomenology, Heidegger’s hermeneutic phenomenology, and Lonergan’s insight to human epistemology.

In my study, the epistemological notion in the making of meaning of Catholic university leadership was constructed by the mind through “engagement with the realities in our world” (Crotty, 1998, p. 8). In analyzing the data, I used the theoretical perspective of hermeneutical phenomenology (Creswell, 2013, p. 284; Heidegger, 1953/1996; van Manen, 1990) to decipher and gain deeper understanding and meaning of research data (Crotty, 1998, p. 91). Hermeneutics is the study of understanding and interpretation (Palmer, 1969, p. 8), and phenomenological hermeneutics (Palmer, 1969) or hermeneutical phenomenology (Creswell, 2013, p. 284; Heidegger, 1953/1996; van Manen, 1990) unravels the lived experience of people. Since my research was housed in an interpretative framework, I chose a hermeneutic-phenomenological outlook to leave open-ended what was in due course revealed by my research participants. The eight university leaders I researched manifested the life-force of democratic leadership. They were democratic leaders because they empowered others, they set clear goals, they were vigilant and decisive, and they facilitated the collaboration of others in executing the mission of their respective universities. Besides empowering and delegating others, Via, Hesburgh, Clarke, Coughlin, Sheeran, Currie, Skillingstad, and Spitzer all collaborated with lay people and other priests and fashioned a synergistic vision for teamwork—a common leadership behavior that seemed predominant during their leaderships.

The synthesis of the academic leaders’ rejoinders echoed a convergence of the meaning of Catholic Jesuit education. Some of the nexus of meanings can be seen in the inherent values and philosophies that they all held. These include 1) emphasis on formation of youth and passing on of values and norms for the good of society, 2) excellence in scholarship and research, 3) meaningful relationships between the university campus and its local and national contexts, 4) personal care of students, and 5) promotion of faith and justice. Yet, I discovered there is no one way to embed Catholic Jesuit norms into the ethos of their respective universities. These priest-leaders were all nurtured in their formative years by their families; and their formal religious formation and academic training from grade school to their graduate studies expedited their leadership success.

Leadership traits that seemed common to the eight leaders are alertness, shrewdness, sociability, authenticity of self, insightfulness, intelligence, friendliness, humility, and integrity. In spirituality, tDSC 0142hey were contemplatives-in-action—reflectively and prayerfully disposing themselves to God’s action in the world. An emerging theme in my study is leadership and spirituality and the role of transcendence in the heart of leadership. Interpreting the analyses of their styles of leadership, I found they all possessed elements of servant leadership paradigm, transformational leadership model, and situational leadership dynamics. The eight leaders mirrored a transformational philosophy of leadership through actions in the form of idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. Their narratives revealed effective team spirit and good-working relationships with their administrative subordinates, a behavior that is associated with leadership member exchange (LMX)—enriched relationship between the leader and his subordinate. The open-door policies, leadership by example or inspiration, and deep respect for other human beings by these leaders pitch them as Theory Y leaders; however, the tenure system operative in their universities also revealed shadows of Theory X style of academic management.

From the Jesuit point of view, my research fitted into one of the five global priorities outlined by a Jesuit General. The five global apostolic priorities that were singled out by Peter Hans Kolvenbach (29th Superior General of the Jesuits) are Africa, China, the intellectual apostolate, inter-provincial institutions in Rome or common houses, and migration and refugees (General Congregation 35, 2008, Decree 3). Thus, my study focused on the Jesuit intellectual apostolate (especially understanding university leadership), which the 35th General Congregation viewed as a “defining characteristic of the Society of Jesus from its beginning” (General Congregation 35, 2008, Decree 3).  

It is significant to understand how university leaders “transform organizational reality, challenge the institutional status quo, and encourage deep organizational and individual change” (Amey, 2006, p. 55). Another epistemological importance of my research is knowledge of how these intellectual leaders make meaning of their leadership roles.

 

 

 

 

Loyola Academy, Port Harcourt


-Rev. Sr. Roseanna Ene Okafor (SHCJ)

headLALoyola Academy (LA) is a Montessori based Catholic, Jesuit, coeducational, primary school under the trusteeship of the Society of Jesus. It is part of the world wide family of schools run by the Society of Jesus; in this case, the first Jesuit primary school in Nigeria. With other Jesuit Schools, it shares a common vision and philosophy. The school is located in a suburb community of Mbodo-Aluu, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. It is attached to Jesuit Memorial College (JMC), in the same location, and therefore shares the same environment, spirituality, methodologies, and administration. The school opened officially on October 20th 2014 with the first set of pupils.

Loyola Academy forms an integral part of the Jesuit mission and vision of educating people who will be citizens of competence and leaders of conscience. It is a need based tuition-free primary school, established to respond to the needs of economically disadvantaged families, as well as collaborate with the host communities in the education of their children. The vision of Loyola Academy is therefore to prepare the children of low income families with strong academic potentials to be able to pass the best secondary schools in the world and compete favourably through carefully designed and rigorously implemented curriculum, small class sizes and individualized attention (cura personalis).
The school uses a comprehensive curriculum which bridges international and Nigerian Basic Education Curriculums, thus offering variety subjects including: English Studies, Mathematics, Basic Science and Technology, Vocational Studies, Cultural and Creative Arts. Others are Christian Religious Studies, Computer Studies/ICT, Nigerian Language, Physical and Health Education, and Social Studies. French language was also introduced to give the pupils a good foundation for a polyglot world. As a Faith based/Catholic school, emphasis will also be placed on moral education, discipline and living the Jesuit spirituality of being “men and women for others”.

pupil LAThe school currently has 33 pupils (14 boys and 19 girls) who are guided, cared for and taught by eight qualified teachers and administrators. With the initial apprehension and anxiety of new ways of doing thing - extended school day, rigorous academic work, intense participation in extracurricular activities – overcome.  The natural potentials of the children are gradually being realized; what with the wonderful presentation of the children at Christmas and the well over 80% performance indices at internal competitive examinations. The commitment and competence of the head teacher and staff cannot be over emphasized in this progressive development of the children. Along this line are the support and encouragement of the board of trustees of Jesuits of The North-West Africa Province of the Society of Jesus in collaboration with Society of the Holy Child Jesus.

As a new school, some levels of support is expected. This is mainly due to shortage of funds to provide adequately the material needs of the institution. We therefore thank you all who share our vision and mission. More than prayers, we need your financial support especially in the areas of:


ITEMS                                               AMOUNT

1 Montessori materials                        784,000
2 Library/Computers                           790,000
3 Text books/Furniture                        783,000
4 Equipment/ Musical Instrument         660,000
5 Sport/Recreational                           312,000
6 Scholarship Fund
Total                                                 3,329,000

Music (Instruments)              270,000

 

In all, we say thanks be to God.

Rev. Sr. Roseanna Ene Okafor (SHCJ) is a member of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. She is currently the Head Teacher of Loyola Academy, Port Harcourt.

 

 

 

 

 

ARRUPE COLLEGE LOOKS BACK WITH GRATITUDE

-Gustav Kofi Karlson Kpeyibor, SJ

ac 1As an institution of Jesuit formation and studies, Arrupe College has not failed to embrace the responsibility of nurturing the African diversity resplendent in its student body. That responsibility stretches across the mere art of forming future African Jesuits. Apart from harmonizing the cultural and national differences among scholastics, there is that conscious effort to integrate the universal character of the Society into the daily life of the college. This universal character, for us here at Arrupe, is not solely confined to the Society as a whole, but extends to non-Jesuits as well. Our friends and collaborators are key in defining our universal mission. This long-standing partnership with those who share the Ignatian vision has become part of our Jesuit identity. It not only broadens our horizon, but also enables us to appreciate the inherent diversity of the world as St. Ignatius envisioned it and shapes our response to its demands.

The one event that marked our life at Arrupe over this past year was the year-long commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the universal Society of Jesus and 20 years of the founding of Arrupe College, properly dubbed ‘The Double Anniversaries.’ A special committee, the Double Anniversaries Committee, was constituted to plan and organise series of events to mark the year-long celebration. Each of these events attracted lots of friends and collaborators to the college to participate and share in our joy and gratitude for the gift of the Society of Jesus and Arrupe College.

There were seminars and public fora on the history of the Jesuits in Zimbabwe and southern Africa and other topics related to the Society’s presence in Africa. Professor Eddie Murphy, SJ and Dr. Virgilio E. Costa, SJ gave lectures on ‘Why the Jesuits Were Suppressed, 1773-1814’ and ‘The Suppression and Restoration of the Jesuits in Angola’ respectively. Professor Pat Ryan, SJ came all the way from Fordham University to give a two-week lecture on the ‘Origins of Islam and Its Development in Africa’. It was an opportunity to acquire vital knowledge for the service of a world that is gradually growing in consciousness of the challenges of Islam, especially with extremist groups such as Boko Haram and Al Shaba on the continent. Arrupe scholastics, Muslims, Christians of various denominations as well as some diplomats serving here in Harare participated in this lecture.ac 3

The college was blessed with the presence of world Kantian expert, Professor Philip Rossi, SJ of Marquette University, who visited to offer a two-month intensive course on Immanuel Kant. During the period of his visit, he was generous to deliver two public lectures on Kant. One of them was an open lecture on ‘The Human Place in the Cosmos: Reading Kant’s Philosophy as Critical Anthropology’. He gave his interpretation of Kant’s critical philosophy as fundamentally a project in philosophical anthropology that is centred upon the articulation and understanding of humanity as the unique juncture between nature and freedom. Apart from Arrupe scholastics, the lecture drew scores of philosophers from the University of Zimbabwe and other educational institutions in Harare.  

The Provincial Superior of the Eastern Africa Province (AOR), Very Rev. Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, SJ spent an afternoon of ‘intellectual conversation’ with the Arrupe Jesuit Community, discussing Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium and ‘The Challenge for the Church in Africa’. The discussion opened doors to other pertinent issues in African theology as well as the seeming tensions between the African family and Church traditions.

The newly appointed Nuncio to Zimbabwe, Archbishop Marek Zalewski, was gracious to give an afternoon talk on Papal Diplomacy. It was an occasion to understand some of the Church’s diplomatic policies and to learn more about the Vatican and the Holy See.

There were open interviews that brought together staff and workers of Arrupe College over the period of the college’s 20-year history. Most notable among these interviews were those of Professor Anthony Chennels who has taught at Arrupe for many years, and Mr. Mapira, who has worked with the college since its inception in 1994, making him the longest serving non-teaching staff at Arrupe. These men were full of praise and gratitude to God for the cordial and fulfilling working relationship they continue to enjoy with the Jesuits over these past years.

The first Dean of the college, Professor John Stacer, SJ, who has been a pillar and an integral part of the gracious growth of Arrupe over these past 20 years, was honoured on Arrupe Day. He continues to nourish and animate the life of the college by imparting his wealth of experience to both lecturers and scholastics. He often expresses that his greatest joy has been the gift of Arrupe scholastics over the years – gifted friends, committed men and women who are ready to give their lives for others creatively.

The diversity of the African continent was represented in traditional clothing, food and drinks on Cultural Day. It was a day to appreciate the colours and splendour of African attires from different countries, and to savour various local drinks and well-garnished traditional delicacies prepared, displayed and served by friends and collaborators of the college. It was a day to make new friends from one’s own country, and to experience other cultures that make Africa a beautiful continent. There were also traditional music, dance and drama from various groups representing different African countries and cultures.ac 4

One cannot forget the heavenly sounds and angelic voices of the Choral Festival. The Arrupe Choir and various choral groups in and around Harare entertained guests to diverse sounds and rhythms that made Arrupe echo to the highest heavens. Performing at the festival were the children, boys, men and female choir groups as well as classical music performances from individuals. Children were not left out of the festival as they played bouncing castles, video games, hide-and-seek, egg-and-spoon race, and various games in the company of one of our lecturers, Dr. Claire Nyandoro and other scholastics.

The Double Anniversaries Mini-Marathon brought together scholastics, formators, friends and collaborators of Arrupe College as they competed in an 8 km race for various prices and certificates. There was also a 4 km fun-walk for those who could not put up with the long distance of the marathon.

As the college marked the end of the Double Anniversaries and officially dissolved the Double Anniversaries Committee, one could only look back with joy and gratitude and appreciate the abundance of God’s graces over the Society of Jesus and Arrupe College. This past year has been a year of celebrating community, solidarity and collaboration with those who share the vision of Arrupe College and the Society of Jesus. It has also been a year of deep reflection on our history as Jesuits and as a College Community: past, present and future. It was a valuable opportunity to draw fruit from the relationship we share among ourselves as Jesuits, and with our friends and collaborators who support our vocation as men for others. It has truly been a great year worth looking back to with gratitude.

 

 

 

 

Frontiers of Friendship with Difference

-Fr. Tyolumun Kinga-Upaa, SJ

ty1 webGratitude impels me and I realise that if I wasn’t a Jesuit then I’d probably never be a priest today; and if I wasn’t a priest I could not have dreamt of courting Islam. Both states are frontiers in today’s world but it is the Islamic studies that I have recently noticed is bringing more anxiety to not a few of my family and friends. My visit home last summer was indeed revealing. All the same, I remain hugely grateful for both my Jesuit priesthood and this privilege to know something about and to befriend Islam.

What has life been concretely? At the moment it is quite a lot of course work and reading, of course in Arabic. And the revelations of my new trade are far more consoling than the dangers – of living in the middle of an uncertain and volatile political region – are troubling. After all, which part of the world is safe today? None!

I ‘migrated’ to the Middle East a little more than a year ago to live, study and experience a different reality for two years. In my Beirut Jesuit community we share more than just a religious identity, for even that is determined by the variety of cultures. In this part of the world even being catholic doesn’t mean having the same kind of liturgy or Mass. And because the Jesuits in the Middle East are Byzantine and Latin, Maronite and Coptic, not forgetting Armenian, we divided the liturgical year according to the seasons and have prayed each season according to a specific rite so as to give every scholastic a sense of belonging. I am in the Middle East to learn about differences between Christians and Muslims but I now have added value for my efforts. I also live the differences between the Catholic churches even in my Jesuit community.

Now imagine being father Provincial for the Jesuits of the Middle East. Although we all have permission to celebrate Mass and administer sacraments in all the Catholic rites there is a tendency to be at ease in and prefer one’s original rite. Frequently the Provincial is concelebrating at vow Masses and comes to the centre of events only at the moment of the pronunciation of vows. It was the case last year in Damascus and this year in Beirut. And what about ordinations? Wao! Bishops come in amazing varieties. In this Church of the Middle East, one is constantly learning new ways of being a priest. On a few occasions I have even had the privilege of being invited for Sunday afternoon lunch at the house of a Catholic priest with whom I concelebrated and his wife has served us a lovely meal; yes, his wife! For a Latin priest it’s quite an experience to sit around eating with another priest and his family – wife and children.

Just a few Sundays ago, on 9 November 2014, I had once again a rare experience of religious dialogue. A Muslim Sufi group in Beirut invited us to experience prayer with them. Our group was of students in this year’s course on Sufism. We opened the invitation to fellow Jesuits who are not members of this course and a few other Muslims who are not Sufi. We began the evening as observers but as things progressed we found ourselves gliding into the prayer with them. The spectators had vanished and we were united in prayer, following some of their jests. We began with humming along and then entered the chanting. They were later to introduce us to a spiritual dance. There is a variety of Sufi groups and this was just one of them. Each group has its specific character but they are all united by the one goal of fidelity to Islam through Spiritual unity with Allah.

After praying with the men the Sheikh led us to the section for the women where we met and greeted them. There was a lot of goodwill on their part. Later on the Sheikh gave us a welcome conference in which we were reverently served refreshments. He explained some Islamic doctrines and Sufi spiritual methods. The day left one with the true impression that Islam is also diverse and rich in culture and tradition. It is very unfortunate that the loud cries of the bad and the ugly drown the good and the beautiful. This reminded me of a similar experience I had in Egypt in 2007. The promise of these experiences from within Islam is that not all is gloom. There is a light of hope. I have been moved on many occasions when I have found Muslims asking the same questions you have on your mind about Islam and expressing the same concerns and spiritual hopes you carry for yourself and others. And this has left me with nothing else but deep gratitude.ty1a

And now let me introduce to you an Arab Jesuit novice on experiment in my community who had to leave his country to join the Society elsewhere. His is a simple story of personal faith, but his situation is still precarious and so his identity will remain concealed. These are his words:

[I was born in a Muslim family and my father was an imam. When I was a child, I learned the Koran and Islamic theology. During my youth and after doing special studies, I taught the Koran and theology in the Mosque as my work. I taught what the holy book explained about God and how the relationship between man and God should be. At the age of 19, my mother suddenly got very sick. We discovered that she had cancer. She needed chemical treatment. So, we went to the hospital in Cairo. This period was hard for all of my family. But it was in this darkness that God made me find Him and then He invited me to know Him. It is the best personal event and the most important step of my entire life. It was like a new creation for me. I was given new eyes and a new spirit such that I am ready to go to the last point in this world for this God.ty 2 web

It happened that I witnessed a healing miracle for a Christian woman. She was healed of Cancer, not through medical intervention but through the powerful intercession of the Virgin Mary from whom she constantly asked for intercession. This sign shattered my life and I lost my way. From here God called me through this woman and from that moment on my search for this new vision of God deepened. In my search for this truth the first question was always: “who created me and why?”

It was really hard to accept that until the age of 24 I didn’t know anything about God even though I was teaching about Him in a Mosque. Where and why had he been hiding from me? Why did He do that? It was the first time I was hearing about a God who listens and speaks to his people, interacting with them in their lives. This search took me seven years after which I was secretly baptised and I left my country to start a new life, seeking a new culture.]

You must have heard that youngsters from Europe and elsewhere, Christian and otherwise, are converting to Islam and coming over to the Middle East to help the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS) in its fight to re-establish the Caliphate. Well this too is an example of the Muslim youngsters here finding the conviction to convert to Christianity. This young Arab Christian, Jesuit novice, now lives his new faith in the Society in one of its North American provinces. He represents the situation of converts in this region. Some choose to stay clandestinely, others damn the consequences and make themselves known and you can only imagine their situation. Still others exile themselves so as to live, practice and preach their new faith.
 
The Middle East is the land of monotheism and yet of great religious diversity, sometimes outright split. The reality is such that even when the language is the same and words are identical there is huge divergence of meaning and temperament. In such a place one must relearn to speak. But even with the complexities being here is a rare privilege, may be even an advantage for those with the preoccupation of wanting to enter deeply into the mysteries of the one God of unity in rich diversity. My trade for now is to find ideas that can contribute to the patching up of relations, seeking the movement away from the violent effects of the splits that have appeared in what should ordinarily be a blessing. With such a project, there is no better place to be than in the abundance of the spiritual cultures of the Middle East. And Pope Francis certainly knows something about this as you could see from pictures of his recent visit to Turkey, especially the media coverage of his ecumenical prayer with Bartholomew I, the Patriarch of Constantinople, of the Eastern Orthodox Church that split with Rome in the year 1054. That event on November 29, 2014 does assure me that my mission is at the heart of the Church’s desire for our times. And to be useful in this manner, I can only be filled with Gratitude.                          

 

 

 

 


EDUCATION IS A WORK OF LOVE
Interview of Fr Michael Schultheis, SJ (PhD, Cornell).

The Gratitude: Fr Schultheis, thank you for accepting to grant us this interview for The Gratitude Magazine.
 
The Gratitude : Tell us a little bit about your background.

 
mike 2My Jesuit coordinates originate from the Oregon Province of the Pacific Northwest/USA.  I grew up surrounded by the love and care of a pioneer Catholic family who had helped to plant the faith in southeastern Washington State, on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains.  Jesuits were part of our family traditions – in the late 1880s and 1890s, Jesuit missionaries would find welcome for themselves and stable for their horses when they travelled with the Gospel and Sacraments to native American communities in central Idaho.  Raised on a wheat and cattle ranch, my brothers and I helped with the many chores and learned the satisfactions and rewards of hard work.  An active Jesuit priest-uncle contributed to my decision to join the Jesuits in 1952. I was ordained in 1965 and later completed doctoral studies in economics at Cornell University/Ithaca NY/USA. Instructors and students from Eastern Africa led me to Makerere University/Uganda for dissertation research and teaching, 1970 - 1973.  I returned to East Africa in 1976 for five years at the University of Dar es Salaam, during the days of President Nyerere and Ujama. In 1984 I was assigned to Rome to strengthen the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), which Fr. Arrupe established in response to refugee crises in Asia, Africa and Latin America and returned to Africa in 1988 to set up JRS as a means of helping the Jesuit provinces respond to refugee and displaced communities.  Since the late 1990s, I have been involved in establishing and running universities in Africa: Catholic University of Mozambique (1996-2002), Catholic University College of Ghana (2002-2006), and Catholic University of South Sudan (2007-2014).
 
The Gratitude :You have had many years of experience working in Africa. You have also been involved in the setting up of three universities across Africa. From your experience, what does it take to set up a Catholic University in Africa? 


As in most endeavors, the work of establishing a University has three principal components: first, the dream; second, the decision to proceed; and third, the realization of the dream.  It is evident that many dreams fall along the way. The third step, “to get the baby born,” is the challenge.  One of my favorite parables – if niece Theresa comes to tell me: “Fr Michael, Benjamin and I are married now for four years and have been trying to begin a family; the good news -- we think I am a ‘little bit pregnant’! Can you help us? My answer –“dear Theresa, you know I love you, but I have many nieces and nephews and some also need assistance. When your pregnancy is confirmed and the baby is born, of course I will help you’.” The meaning of the parable is clear. The final challenge of setting up a University is “to get the baby born”! 



The Gratitude : Most of the universities you have helped to establish are non-Jesuit Catholic universities. What role has collaboration with others played in such endeavors?


The Society is committed to the work of the Church, to spread the Joy of the Gospel!  Bishops’ Conferences at times approach the Jesuits to assist in undertaking demanding or specialized work.  Since my experience matches some of those requests and when I was available, Superiors assigned me to work with the Bishops in coordinating the planning and mobilizing the resources to establish Catholic Universities in their countries.  This involves working with National Education Boards, with other institutions of higher education and with a range of support groups and stakeholders.  

The Gratitude : What challenges have you faced in beginning a university, and what satisfaction/fulfillment have you had?  
Both Mozambique and South Sudan went through several years of destructive civil conflict, which left those countries devastated, with physical infrastructure destroyed and communities uprooted and in exile.   In post conflict situations, the priority is to accompany communities as they return home, to help them as they begin to rebuild their lives and their basic institutions.  The personal satisfaction is the realization that one has contributed in a modest way to accompany communities as they rebuild “the footpaths and bridges” and to offer educational opportunities to young people who look to build their future and contribute to the construction of their countries. mike 1 

The Gratitude : You are currently in Nigeria, part of the North-West Africa Province; kindly tell us why you are here?

Fr. Jude, the Provincial, asked if I might assist the University Planning Committee in its efforts to establish the proposed Loyola Jesuit University. My provincial agreed and as my work in South Sudan was coming to an end after seven years there, I passed through Nigeria in May to do preliminary work on the LJU business plan. After some months in my home province, I returned in early November to help complete the planning documents. Although I have other commitments, I expect to return as a consultant two or three times during the coming year, if my presence will assist LJU in the next steps to getting underway.  The hope is that LJU will be able to accept its pioneer intake in August 2016.


The Gratitude : Why did you accept to collaborate with the North-West Africa Province in setting up the proposed Loyola Jesuit University?  


As a Jesuit, I am available to serve and to assist where the Society assigns me.  Based on several years in Africa and experience in University work, it seemed that I might help the Province in its efforts to establish the proposed LJU. If I can assist in a modest way, that is sufficient.  Of course it is exciting to live and work in Nigeria, for me the ninth African country that I can call home and it is a personal grace and blessing to work with my brother Jesuits in helping them realize some of their dreams for the Church and for Nigeria!!

The Gratitude : You were in this province for the Loyola Jesuit University project in May 2014; you are currently here for the same project since November 6, 2014. What have you found most remarkable as you work on the proposed Loyola Jesuit University and meet with collaborators for the proposed university?


mike 3I am much impressed by the support that so many people show to the Jesuits and their work.  The legacy and history of the Jesuits over the last half century is recognized. I met the first team of Jesuits in Lagos in 1970 when I was on my way to Uganda, visited in the mid-1980s for a Conference on Refugees in Port Harcourt, and in 2005 joined the Jesuits in Benin City for the inauguration of the North West Africa Province.  What you have accomplished is truly impressive -- Loyola Jesuit College in Abuja, the Parishes in Benin City, in Lagos and in Accra. In meetings with educators and Church personnel in May and in recent weeks, I am continually impressed by the genuine appreciation for the work you are doing.

The Gratitude : As a consultant, and from your expert experience, what do you think the proposed Loyola Jesuit University has as its strongest point, and what challenge do you think it needs to prepare itself for.

In my opinion, I see the strengths of the proposed LJU as twofold.  First, although a young Province, the ANW Province Jesuits have great enthusiasm and dedication in the best traditions of the Society of Jesus.  They are aware of their limitations and yet face the challenges ahead with faith and confidence.  Indeed, the harvest is great and the laborers are few. But as the work of the Jesuits is becomes more widely known, talented young men are coming forward with the desire to share in their vision and their work.   The second strength is an extension of this.  As families and communities become familiar with the apostolic work of the Jesuits, as evident in the secondary schools, the  parishes and the retreat work, they respond with respect for and the desire to assist with the work of the Jesuits.  Both of these are strong features in the development of the proposed Loyola Jesuit University.   


The Gratitude : What are your hopes and expectations for LJU? What words of encouragement do you have for friends and collaborators who are anxiously waiting for the proposed LJU to be born?


My great hope is that we can move forward and soon with the implementation of LJU.  The dream of the University is articulated; the decision to establish has been made; the next step is “to get the baby born”! The planning process is well along and a substantive proposal is in the hands of the Jesuit Major Superior and his advisors in Rome.  The hope is that LJU will be ready to accept a first intake of students in August 2016 in the Faculty of Business Administration and Computer Science and tmike 4wo years later, to inaugurate the Faculty of Environmental and Agricultural Sciences.  To realize this dream, LJU needs ongoing support from many stakeholders, for their financial assistance, for their creative ideas and for their prayers. Together and with God’s help, the dream will be realized!  
 
The Gratitude : On a different issue. You are a proud octogenarian and we were delighted to celebrate your 82nd birthday with you on May 9, 2014. However, those of us who know you know that you are a man with remarkable enthusiasm, very positive energy, highly motivated, lively to be with, one with a great sense of humor and an indefatigable spirit. What is your secret? Or, what is your philosophy of life?  

Yes, in the spirit of a good Jesuit, I try to respond to the needs around, together with my Jesuit companions and as formulated by the Society in its documents and discernment.  The phrase that somehow marks my life is captured in the “The God of Surprises”—whatever my plans might be or might have been, the Holy Spirit continues to lead in ways not foreseen.  And with this, I am grateful for the warm welcome of students, families and communities in the several countries where I have been privileged to work and that I continue to call home.  Few people of my age group are blessed with the opportunity to be able to walk with young people and open possibilities for them to advance their education and to contribute to the development of their communities and societies.  From them I draw energy and creativity and life! Another expression of the Joy of the Gospel that Pope Francis invites us to live.   

The Gratitude: Any closing remarks?
 
As Pope Francis has said, “Education is a work of love.”

___
Fr Schultheis is a Jesuit priest and the consultant for the proposed Loyola Jesuit University. He has a doctoral degree in Economics from Cornell University in the United States. He is the Emeritus President of the Catholic University of South Sudan.

 

 

 

 

When Evil becomes Institutionalized: Recounting a
Personal Experience in Auschwitz


-Francis O. Koshoffa, SJ.

Fk3They once lived normal lives, they had good carriers, some of them were medical doctors, lawyers, engineers, and professors; others were simple housewives who took care of household chores, some worked on the farm or as manual workers in different factories.  They had picnics, celebrated with friends and families, took their kids to amusement parks, went to movie theaters and to concerts, and the list goes on. Unfortunately for them, all these beautiful activities of life would never be repeated again the day they boarded those dreaded trains. From different parts of Europe they all headed for one destination: Auschwitz. It was here that one of the horrifying crimes in human history was committed.

In November, I visited the concentration camp in Auschwitz and Birkenau. It was an unforgettable experience. Just at the entrance into the camp, one is greeted with the German words „Arbeit Macht Frei.“ This may be roughly translated as “work makes you free.” These words said a lot about the fate of those who could not do manual labor due to ill health or age.


fk 1During the tour of the concentration camp, so many thoughts and questions ran through my mind. To begin with, I was taken aback by the structural nature of the camp. To think that such a place could be built, and machines and chemicals produced, for the purpose of exterminating other human beings was unimaginable to say the least. There were different departments to ensure effectiveness at the camp. These included the department of stores and maintenance, whose duty was to ensure the purchase of chemicals (such as Zyklon B for gassing), weapons and to ensure the incinerators and other equipment were in good conditions. Another department was charged with gassing the prisoners, and another department was responsible for collecting the bodies to be incinerated. Perhaps, I thought to myself, children, out of mercy might be spared such a terrible experience. I could not be more wrong! Both parents and children suffered the same fate. In fact, one Herr Dr. Mengele carried out medical experiments on some of the children. Human beings thus became lab guinea pigs. How sad!

But how is it possible that a fellow human being could be so indifferent to the ineffable suffering of others? Was it human beings like myself who committed this atrocity? Possibly these were not normal human beings, I said to myself. Perhaps they had three eyes, or four legs, or six arms, or had water running through their veins which made them so cold. Could these human beings be some strange being devoid of emotion, devoid of sympathy for the other? Maybe this could explain why what happened in Auschwitz happened. I realized that these were normal human beings like myself, with two eyes, two legs, and with blood running through their veins. In fact, many of those who took part in this atrocity had wives and children. Paradoxically, after exterminating men, women and children during the day, they would return home to their wives and children in the evening. At that point, I could not help but think of the cynical German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who holds a very pessimistic view with respect to human nature. He describes man as “l’animal méchant par excellence” (man is a wicked animal par excellence). The life of man at the camp, to use Thomas Hobbes’ words was indeed “solitary, nasty, brutish and short.”

It seems the police officers at the camp were able to commit such atrocities without scruples (who knows, maybe they had had internal scruples) since they believed they were not dealing with human beings. They achieved this by stripping the prisoners of their humanity on arrival at the camp. The prisoners were given new “identities” which were numerical and it was tattooed on their bodies. This was to serve as a psychological bonus for the officers since they would be dealing with numbers and not human beings.

But one might ask: What offence did the prisoners commit? What was their crime to deserve such treatment? To my mind their “offence” was basically “to be” and this was enough to generate such a degree of animosity. Those in charge of this barbaric system believed they had more dignity than the others, they believed they were of a superior race than the others. And, to preserve the purity of this race others had to be exterminated.

fk4It is surprising that people held such a bizarre view. This is the force of ideology at the highest degree. It creates a kind of phantasmagoric reality which serves as an impediment to confront the truth; and the truth within this context is the truth of our common humanity. Truth can sometimes be violent, carrying an earthquake effect. It is violent because an encounter with the truth may shatter all our illusions, and false consciousnesses, which are the building materials in constructing a fantastical reality. In a similar vein, the forces behind the concentration camp could not confront the falsity of what the Germans call „Überlegenheitsanspruch“, that is, a claim to superiority. Confronting the truth that those brought to the concentration camp had as much dignity as they did was unbearable. Such a truth was too violent for them to confront. Even if they refused to confront this truth, the illusion on which such an evil system was built was bound to produce internal contradictions through a double negation, i.e., a negation of negation. Through this means, the system ultimately ends up destroying itself. The dynamic here is that the system can only destroy itself precisely by preserving itself.fk 2

 In stripping the dignity of those at the camp the oppressors thought they were affirming their own dignity and superiority. But the reverse was actually the case. They were really stripping themselves of their own dignity by denying dignity to others. Within this context, one may read one of Karl Marx’s famous phrases from Das Kapital where he writes: „Sie wissen das nicht, aber sie tun es“ (they do not know it, but they are doing it). The oppressors do not know they were dehumanizing themselves, yet they went on. It is for this reason that I agree with the South African Philosopher Mogobe Ramose when he writes: “To be human is to affirm ones dignity by recognizing the dignity of others and, on that basis, establish respectful human relations with them.”

This sad event in history is a reminder of our temporal vocation namely, to create heaven on earth by making the world a better place. And when all is said and done, “The King will reply, truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

 

 

 

 

An Interview session with Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, SJ
Out-going Provincial of the Eastern Africa Province of the Society of Jesus

“I was blessed to have a team of amazing, dedicated and hardworking collaborators at the Curia of the province”.
Out-going Provincial, Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, SJ

 

After serving as a major superior for six years, Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, SJ takes stock of his stewardship of the East Africa Province. In this interview with Fr. Matthew Ma, SJ and Collins Obidiagha, SJ, Fr. Orobator looks at the highlights, challenges and joys of his tenure.

Gratitude: You were the Provincial of Eastern Africa Province (AOR) for 6 years. What were the highlights of your tenure?
    
bator 1
Fr.Orobator : As you know, Eastern Africa is a vast province of six countries – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan. Each country is unique in its history, culture, politics, sometimes even religions. I consider it a special grace of my term in office the ability to sustain the works and ministries of the Society of Jesus across such a vast and diverse terrain. The mission of the Society continues to grow in all countries of the province despite the challenges. Also, as a province, we have made considerable progress in the training and formation of our members and collaborators. Such formation programme entails making sure they have the expertise and competence to excel in the ministries and works of the Society. Critically, I might add, we have been successful in developing new sources of support for and new partnerships in support of the formation of Jesuits in the province. All of this is in keeping with the Apostolic Plan of the province which commits us to goals such as formation, education, promotion of faith and justice, and developing local and new sources of funding.

Gratitude: What were some of the challenges you encountered in office?

Fr.Orobator: The resources that we have for forming Jesuits and developing new ministries and works are never enough. We have struggled to build up these resources. Thanks to some creative local initiatives, such as investment in property, we have recorded considerable success. Also, very importantly, we have been blessed to have the support of some “partner” provinces and a supportive network of Jesuit mission offices. A second challenge is the fact that as a relatively young province we cannot claim to have achieved a sufficient bator 2level of wisdom, experience and depth to complement our youth, energy and passion. This is work in progress.

Gratitude: If you were to serve again as Provincial, what would you do differently?

bator 3Fr.Orobator: Obviously, this is a very hypothetical question, since I don’t expect to serve again as provincial. We have a group of solid Jesuits in formation and in ministry who have leadership qualities that could be very beneficial for our province. My hope is that some of these companions would be missioned to the task of leadership and service in the province. For the future I foresee the need to strengthen the bonds among the provinces and regions of Africa and Madagascar, so that we can act in a more corporate and collaborative manner. I would also like to see more opportunities for the formation and adequate training of Jesuits who are given the mission of serving as local superiors and directors of works. Nowadays, we talk a lot about ecology and care and compassion for creation. I would like to see us take more responsibility for promoting this dimension of our mission.

Gratitude: What was your greatest joy, your greatest consolation as Provincial?

bator 4Fr.Orobator: Without a doubt, it was the grace of knowing and journeying with so many Jesuit companions and the opportunity to support their work, care for them and challenge them as and when needed. Also, I was blessed to have a team of amazing, dedicated and hardworking collaborators at the Curia of the province. Without their support and commitment it would have been impossible to make the progress that we have made as province. So, these things console me deeply.

Gratitude: You have just been appointed the new principal of Hekima College. What is your vision for this College?

Fr.Orobator: Before announcing any vision, I intend to take time to listen to the colleagues, companions and collaborators working in Hekima College. It would be important to hear from them their experience, challenges and expectations. I believe that learning from their wisdom and listening to their experience would help me to formulate a creative and innovative vision for the College. One thing that I am certain of is that the College has made great strides under the previous leadership. I would like to consolidate and build on that success even as we try to explore new horizons of growth and innovation in the field of theological education and formation of ministers for the church in Africa and beyond. I am excited about what the future has to offer for Hekima College.

 

Gratitude: Thank you, Father for making yourself available for this interview. We wish you all the best in your new assignment.


Fr. Orobator: You are most welcome.

 

 

 

ST. ANTHONY CATHOLIC CHURCH

Teshie-Nungua, Accra, Ghana.

 

-Fr. Raymond Tangonyire, SJ

ghaSt. Anthony Catholic Church and its sister stations, Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLAPH) and St. Ignatius Catholic Church, since their establishment, have grown in many ways. The notable areas include territorial and numerical expansion, physical infrastructure, social bonding, and spiritual growth. Historically, Jesuits who have worked at St. Anthony Catholic Church had one thing in common, the compelling drive to reach out to many people in the neighbourhood who yearn for the Good News. The establishment of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. Ignatius Catholic Church and its basic school, the Mass Centre at Manet Estates and the acceptance of responsibility as chaplain of Regional Maritime University and custodian of Quaye Nungua Roman Catholic Basic School are vivid indications of this drive to reach out to God’s people in our neighbourhood.

Infrastructurally, there has been a considerable quantum of change in the three worshipping communities. At St. Anthony, the major infrastructural change included the concretization of the storm drain, its ceiling or “roofing”, and the complete walling of the Church premises. The most recent development is the ongoing new church building project. Although we have a very long way to go with this project, however, there is an ongoing fundraising for it. Similarly, OLAPH is constructing a church building which is close to the level of roofing. The St. Ignatius church’s building has been roofed and this offers a conducive ambience for our liturgical celebrations.

Despite inconveniences generated by the ongoing construction works coupled with the migration of some of our members, our worshipping communities, nevertheless, have grown and are growing. The estimates of the lay faithful stand as follows: St. Anthony: 4, 466; St. Ignatius: 1, 300; OLAPH: 350; Maritime University: 150; Manet Court: 35.

Moreover, owing to the idea of DAY GROUPS, the different communities that we serve enjoy a strong social bonding among their members.  This idea, instituted by Fr. Timothy Baghrmwin S.J., brings people whose birthdays fell on the same day of the week to come together to initiate activities that further their spiritual and human growth while at the same time strengthening their bonds as lay faithful of the parish.  Besides, the traditional social/devotional groups and church committees constitute another source of community bonding.  

Our community enjoys a rich and active spiritual life.  With twenty two regular masses a week, we have developed the culture of inviting both Jesuit and non-Jesuit priests to celebrate the Eucharist with our faithful thus offering our different communities a rich variety of experiences.  Different spiritual programmes such as retreats, days of recollections are also in place to help enrich the people spiritually. We are simply continuing and building-on on the labours of our predecessors.  


St. Ignatius of Loyola Church has a basic school (from playgroup to Junior High school) attached to it. The school has a population of 286 students and current staff (regular) strength of 18. It is purely a private school run by the worshipping community. Attached to OLAPH is also Quaye Nungua Roman Catholic Basic School, which has a population of about 700 students. This school is government assisted and so the teachers are paid by the government. The Priest-in-Charge is the local manager of these schools. Both schools can be described as average in terms of academic and infrastructure pursuits.

One of the challenges in our hands is to inculcate in the people that we serve the fundamentals of Jesuit Spirituality, for example, embracing retreats, days of recollection, and personal examine, etc. Although these activities are not novelties for the lay faithful, it remains however a challenge to bring them to carry out these activities in our Jesuit way in order to draw from them rich fruits and profound spiritual insights.  We are also confronted by challenges relating to our building projects because values like trust, sacrifice, generosity and charity are constantly confronted by personal interests. Nevertheless, we are not intimidated by our challenges.  We are clinging on to patient trust rooted in an oasis of hope that keeps us on the tract of achieving our set goals.

 

 

Interview with LJC PTA Members (Lagos Branch)
at the 9th Anniversary Memorial Mass in Honour of 60 Angels
of the Sosoliso Plane Crash Held at LUTH/CMUL Chaplaincy Idi-Araba Lagos

 

The month of December is usually packed with events for the Jesuits of the North-West Africa (ANW) Province. One of these events is the anniversary of the Sosoliso plane crash in Port Harcourt on December 10, 2005, in which 60 students of Loyola Jesuit College (LJC), Abuja died. On December 10, 2014, there was a memorial Mass in honour of the 60 Angels at the LUTH Catholic Chaplaincy, Idi-Araba, Lagos. In this edition of the Gratitude Magazine, Collins Obidiagha, SJ and Miss Amaka Okemadu caught up with some parents of LJC students after the memorial Mass for a brief interview on what has been their experience 9 years after the crash.

stellaINTERVIEW I: With Mrs. Stella Beni

Gratitude: Good morning, madam! May we know who you are, please?
    
Mrs. Beni: My name is Mrs. Stella Beni. I am not directly related to any of the 60 Angels but by extension. This is because I am a parent of an LJC student who is currently studying in the school. I am also a member of the LJC PTA, Lagos State Chapter.

Gratitude: What has been your experience about this tragedy after 9 years?

Mrs. Beni: My child got admission into the school long after the Sosoliso plane crash, but from the very day of the crash to this moment, I am touched by the stories I hear about this tragedy. Each time the tragedy is mentioned, my heart usually goes to all the families that lost their children on that fateful day. Every year, we gather together to remember them because they are not dead but alive, and just as the officiating priest elucidated in his homily, the lives of these innocent children can never be forgotten.  Therefore, even though I am not a direct parent of these angels, I am always emotional on a day like this.

Gratitude: What advice or words of consolation would you like to offer to the parents of the 60 Angels?

Mrs. Beni: I pray for them that God will grant them the strength and courage to bear this loss, and for our angels, that they will rest in the bosom of the Lord. This was a great loss to the nation, but when we reason with the mind of God, we can only say that everyone should be consoled by the fact that these children are already Angels in heaven. As Christians, our aim is to be with God at the end of our journey. We believe that these children are happily with God. There are many people out there who have died without knowing whether they will achieve this aim – to be with God. For these children, we know that they have already arrived at their final destination and are interceding for all of us. This alone should be a source of consolation to the family and to all of us.

 

ceciliaINTERVIEW II: With Mrs. Cecilia Sienna

Gratitude: Good morning, madam! What is your name?

Mrs. Sienna: My name is Mrs. Cecilia Sienna.

Gratitude:  Are you directly related to any of the 60 Angels?

Mrs. Sienna: I am not directly related to any of the 60 angels, but I have a child studying at LJC at the moment. Presently, I am the secretary of the Lagos LJC PTA. So, with my position as the secretary, I am always available when we organize a memorial Mass for our Angels. It has become a tradition that we organize a memorial Mass in honour of these children every year. This year is the 9th anniversary of these Angels. Next year, we shall celebrate 10 years anniversary in a grand style. I use this opportunity to thank the Chaplain of LUTH for hosting us for the past two years. Indeed, we have become part of the Jesuit family. We are grateful for their availability whenever we call on them.  

Gratitude: Besides your position as the secretary of the PTA, what does this celebration mean to you today?

Mrs. Sienna: This celebration speaks volumes. Every year we celebrate these children to remind our Government that we lost these children because someone did not do what he or she was supposed to do. This disaster would have been avoided or the impact would not have been as much as we saw if there was sanity in the aviation industry. We celebrate them because we believe that the spirit of these children lives on. Secondly, we celebrate to pray to God to continue to give the parents of these children the courage to bear the loss. I know it has not been easy for some of the parents because many lost two or three children in this disaster. For others, that child was just the only child they had. Often, when I reflect on the incidence, I keep asking myself what if I were one of the parents, how would I have handled this to this moment? Today, I am consoled by the fact that out of a tragedy came something good. First, we are united by the spirit of these children, and second, through them hope is reborn and the hope is the construction of Jesuit Memorial College, Port Harcourt. We thank God!

Gratitude: You said that this memorial is a reminder to our Government that someone did not do what he or she was supposed to do. Please, do you mind telling us what exactly that thing is?

Mrs. Sienna: If you take a look at the aviation industry, you will agree with me that, even as we speak, all is not well. If we had emergency equipment at the airport functioning effectively on that day, some of the children would not have died. If that airport were well equipped, just as an airport is supposed to be, this would not have gotten out of hand. We are calling on all stakeholders to do their jobs well.  We call on everyone to do the right thing at the right time so that such a disaster will not repeat itself.

Gratitude: Is this publicity enough to awaken the consciousness of the people and government?

Mrs. Sienna: We are trying our best because every year there is a memorial Mass for these children across the nation. The Jesuit schools in Nigeria also do something special every year for these children. Next year, it is their 10th anniversary. Our hope is to do something bigger for this celebration. We are hopeful that with these celebrations, we will awaken the consciousness of the government and the people of Nigeria so that this will never happen again.

 

edINTERVIEW III: With Mr. Ajibola Edwards

Gratitude: Good afternoon, sir! You gave a beautiful speech during the Mass. Please, can we know who you are?

Mr. Edwards: My name is Mr. Ajibola Edwards, the president of the LJC PTA, Lagos chapter.

Gratitude: Are you related to any of the 60 Angels?

Mr. Edwards: I am not related to any of the children, but I am a parent of LJC, and my child is presently studying in the college. I am also an active member of the PTA, Lagos State branch.

Gratitude: What is the significance of this memorial Mass for you?

Mr. Edwards: This memorial Mass is very important because an unfortunate incident happened in our nation where 60 children and others died as a result of failure of our government. Therefore, this memorial Mass, which we celebrate every year, reminds me that in what concerns my responsibilities, I should play my part very well so that this kind of tragedy does not occur in our land.

Gratitude: Which part do you think the government did not play well?

Mr. Edwards: Well, I think that from the way the tragedy happened, if we had done what was supposed to be done in the first place, we would not have had that kind of casualties. This is because the plane did not explode mid-air, but it exploded after it got to the ground, and some of the children were screaming for help. There was a delay in bringing emergency equipment, so the children died. If the emergency equipment had arrived on time, some of the kids would have been rescued. So, every 10th of December, we gather as PTA members to keep the hopes of these children alive. We gather to remind ourselves that this country has a lot of work to do. We also gather to remind ourselves that we will all meet one day somewhere.  Let us not forget, let us remind ourselves that death can happen at any time. Therefore, we should take our responsibilities seriously to make sure such a tragedy does not occur again.

Gratitude: As a parent, are you in any way nervous when your children travel by air?

Mr. Edwards: Yes, I am always nervous each time my children are in the air. But, at the end of the day, we have to bow our heads to the almighty God in prayer. Anything can happen even if you are on the land. However, we have to keep reminding ourselves that God is in control and that we have to place all our hopes and fears in his hand.

Gratitude: Any words of encouragement to the parents of our 60 Angels who are not here with us today?

Mr. Edwards: I will just say that the parents should keep hope alive, that we are behind them, and we continue to pray for them and for the repose of the souls of their children. You know it is not an easy thing to lose a child, but we all have to take solace in God because he is the one who gives life and takes it.

 

evaINTERVIEW IV: With Mrs. Eva Edwards

Gratitude: Can you please introduce yourself to us, madam?

Mrs. Edwards: My name is Mrs. Edwards, and I am a parent of an LJC student.

Gratitude: Are you directly related to any of the 60 Angels?

Mrs. Edwards: I am not directly related to these children, but since they were children of members of LJC, I am related to them by extension. Therefore, as a member of the LJC PTA family, these children are now mine, so I can say that we are related.

Gratitude: Were you already a parent of LJC when this tragedy happened?

Mrs. Edwards: No, I was not yet a parent of the school when the tragedy occurred, but I heard about it in the news as I watched television that day. It is a day I will never forget.

Gratitude: So, you knew about this tragedy, yet you took your child to LJC for admission! What a brave move!

Mrs. Edwards: Shortly after the school was established in 1996, I read an article about it in the newspaper. Then, I said to myself that this is the school that has all the qualities I am looking for, and I wanted my children to study there. Even when this tragedy occurred, nothing could change my conviction that this school is the best in the country. Therefore, even though the tragedy happened, that did not stop me from making sure my child got admission into the school.

Gratitude: What are those things you read about LJC that convinced you the school is the best?

Mrs. Edwards: First, I read they have a co-educational system and a unique combination of the spiritual life and the academic life. Secondly, the fact that it is run by a religious congregation (the Jesuits) means that it will surely be a standard school with solid religious values and excellent academic performance.

Gratitude: How many children do you have in the school at the moment?

Mrs. Edwards: I have one that graduated this year in July, and there is another one who is now in Senior Secondary 2.

Gratitude: You said you admire the religious. What if your children want to become priests, what would you do?

Mrs. Edwards: Fantastic, fantastic…. you know, maybe, it is the will of God.

Gratitude: Excuse me, madam! I am talking about your four children. What if all of them want to become priests?

Mrs. Edwards: It will be a blessing. Let God’s will be done. It will be a fantastic blessing.

Gratitude: How has collaborating with the Jesuits been for you?

Mrs. Edwards: It has been a very good experience. We have had a good and cordial relationship with the Jesuits since we became parents in the school. We have collaborated with several principals and presidents of the school. We also like what the Jesuits stand for. They are men for others who are called to propagate the faith and promote peace and justice in the world. They live a very simple life, and we have seen it ourselves since the time we became parents in the school.

 

toniaINTERVIEW V: With Mrs. Tonia Onabajo    

Gratitude: Excuse me, madam! What is your name and what are you doing here today?

Mrs. Onabajo: My name is Mrs. Tonia Onabajo, and I am here to attend the 9th anniversary of the Sosoliso plane crash, which took place on 10th December 2005 in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

Gratitude: Are you in anyway related to the 60 Angels?

Mrs. Onabajo: I am not related to any of the Angels by blood, but by extension they are all my children. I must particularly mention Chioma Nwigwe, who was very close to my daughter. They got admission into LJC the same year, 2005, and it was unfortunate that this disaster happened the same year when they were coming home for holiday. You will recall that in LJC there is nothing like mid-term break. Once the children are in school, they remain there until the end of the term. As a first timer, there is some kind of excitement that comes with going home at the end of the term. So, you can see how much these children were excited leaving the school environment. Just imagine the stories they must have been sharing on the plane on what to do during the Christmas holiday. So, it really hurts if you listen to the story of how this sad event took place. The friendship of Chioma Nwigwe brought me closer to this tragedy. That is why every year we hold a memorial Mass for these Angels. So, to your question I will answer that the tragedy has brought LJC PTA members together as one family.

Gratitude: You said one of the Angels was a friend to your daughter. What was your daughter’s reaction when the tragedy happened?

Mrs. Onabajo: She could not believe it was true at the beginning. Now she misses her a lot. Remarkably, my daughter received a gift of a T-shirt from her before she died. Even long after this tragedy, my daughter has refused to wash this T-shirt so that it does not become pale. She has kept this T-shirt as a relic in memory of her.

Gratitude: Do you have any word of encouragement for the parents in case they are reading this interview?

Mrs. Onabajo: Keep the faith no matter what happens. Today’s reading remarkably says: don’t give the devil or evil the final say; God has the final say. And no matter how dark it will be, there will always be light. The smallest amount of light will dispel darkness no matter how thick the darkness is. Let this hope be a source of consolation to everyone and every parent. Miraculously, the younger brother of Chioma Nwigwe gained admission to the school after the demise of his sister in that crash. The boy has since graduated with flying colours. What a mighty God we serve! Such is the faith of many of the parents. After we lost the head boy and the head girl in the crash, the twin brother and sister later gained admission into the school and became the head boy and girl, respectively. What a mighty God we serve! Such news gladdens the heart. It strengthens our faith and gets us on our toes to believe that evil will have no power over us.

Gratitude: How has collaborating with the Jesuits been for you?

Mrs. Onabajo: Oh amazing, amazing. Their spirituality is just overwhelming, and their simplicity is what makes us come close to them. There are many times when I have tried in my own little way to introduce some aspect of Jesuit spirituality in my parish. Just look at the memorial Mass, for instance, the liturgy was superb, very simple but solemn, the homily was down to earth and we used the readings of the day. So, you can see that their simplicity is just what draws every one of us closer to them.

Gratitude: Madam, thank you so much for your time!

Mrs. Onabajo: You are most welcome!

 

 

 

From Nairobi to Benin City, Nigeria: An Ordination “Pilgrimage”


-Lucy Mwangi, Nairobi

hekima 3Our pilgrimage to Nigeria was made possible by a seemingly disconnected series of events. The Archdiocese of Nairobi had established the opportunity for Catholics to read and understand the Bible through the help of her priests. Deaneries were encouraged to start bible study groups that would cater for this need. In 2005, a bible study class was established at St Paul’s with members from other parishes of the Archdiocese such as Holy Family Basilica, Don Bosco, Consolata Shrine, St Teresa and St. Paul Chaplaincy. Priests from different parishes of the archdiocese took turns to teach the classes until January 2008, when with the guidance of Fr. Kanja, the bible study was officially handed over to Hekima Jesuit College.

hekima 1Hekima Jesuit College is a constituent college of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). It is owned and run by the Society of Jesus (The Jesuits). This is where African Jesuit scholastics and Jesuits from other parts of the world undertake their Theological Studies before priestly ordination. Fr. Protas Opondo SJ, began the bible study group with 50 members. Classes were divided into two groups with each class assigned to a Jesuit scholastic.

In my group, we had Br. Chikere Ugwuanyi SJ who journeyed with us through the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) for three years. After Bro. Chikere, Br. Macharia, SJ took up the class briefly before going to USA for further studies. Then came Br. Isidore-Splendour Obinna Chukwu, SJ. With him, we studied the Gospels of John and Mark and the Acts of the Apostles. Br. Isidore-Splendour is a Nigerian from the Igbo ethnic group. His teaching was profound and inspiring as we got deep insights from the Gospel of Mark, divided into the gradual and full revelation of the identity of our Lord Jesus Christ with the uplifting Messianic Secret. We discussed a lot about evil spirits and how to conquer them. We also compared Christianity with traditional African beliefs and used the customs of the Igbo people as a case study to discuss how inculturation has brought about the growth of the Catholic Church in Nigeria as well as in Africa. Br. Isidore-Splendour exposed us to various guests who shared with us their immense knowledge particularly of the Scriptures. Some of these guests included the renowned Professor of Scripture, Rev. Prof. Chukuwmeka Orji, SJ who is also well known to St Paul’s as Rev. Chuk.

From these sharings we learn that to survive in this turbulent world, one has to be faithful to his or her Christian faith no matter the storm. This is because the Love of God is greater than any challenges in our life. We also explored deeply the conversion of St. Paul, and God’s desire to save humanity as a whole. During the three years that Br. Isidore-Splendour was with us we had two days of recollection each year, one at Easter and Advent Seasons, respectively. On these days, he brought several theologians from Africa and other parts of the world where Jesuits work: Tanzania, Zimbabwe, USA, Germany and India, and so on. They were generous enough to share with us their in-depth knowledge for what we hunger for in Jesus Christ. Since every good thing must come to an end, the time came for our dear Br. Isidore-Splendour to return to Nigeria to prepare for his priestly ordination. This was shortly after his diaconate ordination in Nairobi by Bishop Alfred A. Rotich at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, in March 2014.

nairobi 2A group of 10 bible study members decided to “accompany” him to Nigeria for his ordination. Where there is a will there is a way. God indeed made a way for us through Kenya Airways introductory-fare offer for the Nairobi-Abuja route. We grabbed the offer and 10 of us landed in Abuja on the morning of 17th July 2014. The priestly ordination was scheduled to take place on the 19th of July. From Abuja we travelled for about 1000 kilometers by bus (matatu), to the south-western city of the ancient Benin Kingdom.

Nigeria is indeed beautiful! We enjoyed the beautiful tropical forests and the mighty confluence town of Lokoja, where Rivers Niger and Benue joined together. On the various stop overs we picked a bit of the pidgin English: “how u dey?”. The roads are good but we were surprised as it seemed nobody was observing or enforcing speed limits. We were doing an average of 140-160kph but the driver was also very good and careful. At a particular point we took our rosaries to pray and calm our nerves followed by praise and worship songs. It worked for us as we slept for the rest of the journey. We arrived safely in Benin City to a warm welcome from our host. We resided at the Convent of the Medical Missionary of Mary Sisters near the Jesuit Novitiate for the rest of our stay in Benin City.

Since there were two days before the ordination, we took some time to relax and enjoy the beautiful environment. We had time for recollection and sharing. Our other host in Benin was none other than Fr. Chikere, our former Bible teacher in Nairobi. He gave us a grand tour of the novitiate with stimulating history of how the land was acquired, how the trees of various types were planted and what they symbolize. The climax of the tour was the beautiful chapel where there is a painting of Christ reaching out to us to come and serve him. There was the amazing oratory; a private place of prayer, with the Blessed Sacrament is present. Amazingly, the Blessed Sacrament is kept in the womb of Our Mother Mary which was the first place Our Redeemer resided for nine months. Fr. Chikere is also of the same ethnic group with Fr. Isidore-Splendour, hence, he filled in the gaps which Fr. Isidore-Splendour left on the traditions and culture of the Igbo people and many other ethnic groups in Nigeria. It was another surprise as we got to learn that there are about 240 ethnic groups in Nigeria. What we observed that is of a very high significance to Nigerians is the kola nut and palm wine. These two items are a-must-have in any occasion. They symbolize hospitality, good relationship, love and goodwill. On this note Fr. Chikere “broke” the kola after a prayer said by the eldest in attendance, Dr. Njoroge.

The climax of the visit/pilgrimage was the ceremony of the priestly ordination. It took place in a magnificent and huge edifice of St. Joseph’s church. It is a Jesuit Parish! It was indeed an occasion like no other I had ever witnessed! There were hundreds of priests from all over the world, mainly Jesuits. Three priests were ordained on that day, two from Hekima, Frs. Isidore-Splendour and Anthony Babajide, and the other Fr. Joseph-Stanislaus Okoye who studied in the USA. To the delight of many, the first reading was proclaimed by one of us. The Homily was deep and dwelt on service to God and evangelization. The offertory procession was led by the liturgical dancers to the tune of a special Yoruba number and the first items to be offered after bread and wine was the Palm wine and Kola nut followed by many other symbolic items.

The new priests were finally vested by their priest-brothers and congratulated by all the priests’ present beginning with the bishop. The ceremony lasted for about four hours with the magnificent St. Joseph’s choir thrilling the entire congregation with praises and songs. It was indeed a joyful occasion for us! After Mass, the newly ordained priests took turns to bless the congregation starting with the bishop, priests and religious and their families. Finally we had thanksgiving song and dance; the choir kept us on our feet for two good hours! Nigerians can dance o! We Kenyans blended in well and also danced our hearts out. The celebration continued after Mass with songs, dances and plenty of food. Indeed it was an occasion like no other. The family of each of the new priests could be identified with their unique native attire, and we could be easily spotted donning Fr. Isidore-Splendour’s family attire. All thanks to his aunty for making us look like people from Nigeria.

ord bwThe following Sunday was Thanksgiving Mass by the three new priests. We were well prepared, wearing our Kenyan national rugby t-shirt. Indeed, the presence of Kenya was visible at the Mass. Fr. Babajide celebrated the Mass, Fr. Isidore preached, while Fr. Joe-Stanis gave the vote of thanks. The powerful choir lived up to everybody’s expectation with songs and dances. During the offertory, we Kenyans happily joined in bearing the gift of tea which was highly appreciated. After Mass there was lunch during which we had an opportunity to present our gifts to the new priests, decorating Fr. Isidore-Spendour with our Kenyan national rugby t-shirt. We sang and did a Kenyan jig to the delight of our host.

Monday was our day out; we toured the city of Benin once again. We also visited the palace of the Benin monarch, known as the “Oba” in Bini language. Unfortunately, the Oba was not receiving visitors on that day so we could not see him. The ladies indulged in serious buying of materials until we exhausted all the money in our purse! Fr. Isidore-Splendour and his aunty were our tour guides/hosts. The evening was more relaxed as we sat round the table chatting the night away with our hosts. We also broke kola nut and prayed together. Come Tuesday, we had to say goodbye to our host, as we had to leave for the overnight stay in Abuja.

However, before our departure we experienced another wonderful occasion of “First Vows Mass” of four Jesuit novices who after the vow ceremony became Jesuit scholastics ready for the next stage of their priestly formation as Jesuits. It was quite an experience seeing four handsome young men vowed before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament to follow him wherever He leads them. “Like the sunflower that follows every movement of the sun, so I turn towards you to follow you my God” the Responsorial Psalm powerfully resounded. After this experience we left for Abuja and early Wednesday morning we passed by Wuse market to exhaust the last naira before boarding our very own KQ for Nairobi.

Glory to God for granting us this rare opportunity!

 

 

 

 

Jesuit Memorial College (JMC), Port Harcourt: The Journey thus Far

Saturday, December 10, 2005 is a hallowed date in the hearts and minds of many Nigerians. It is a date that we still cannot forget how shaken we were as individuals and as a nation over the dreadful news of the Sosoliso plane crash in Port Harcourt that consumed the lives of 60 bright children of the Loyola Jesuit College [LJC], Abuja. On their way home for the Christmas holidays, those children had left their school and friends barely two hours earlier and were hardly minutes away from re-uniting with their families when that tragedy struck. It was an overwhelming calamity that cast a long shadow in the lives of the school, the Jesuits, the nation, and especially the families of the bereaved.
Following that fatal crash, however, a collective decision was taken to honor the memories of those 60 angels in the same locality where they had perished in Port Harcourt. That decision was the genesis of the Jesuit Memorial College [JMC], Port Harcourt. Through the abiding support of the Port Harcourt branch of the LJC PTA the Jesuits of North-West Africa Province of the Society of Jesus seek to build the JMC as a fitting memorial to our unforgettable best and brightest angels. In JMC is a new ‘Hope Reborn’ in the hearts of all who were shaken by the tragic event of December 10, 2005. Like the phoenix this ‘Hope Reborn’ from ashes shall immortal remain to reign with the sun.

The first phase of the JMC project comprising fourteen units of the proposed twenty-five needed for the entire project is underway. Major construction work began in 2012 and has seen the completion of a number of structures, including the administrative block, the classroom block and the primary school block. A model primary school offering free qualitative service to the residents of the area is an intrinsic part of the JMC project. The College welcomed its pioneer students in October 2013 while the primary wing followed suit last September. Today, the second part of phase one of the constructions which consists of another classroom building is almost completed. But owing to fiscal constraints, work is yet to begin on the phase two, which comprises the: female dormitory, Jesuit residence, Sister’s residence, chapel, clinic, science and arts laboratories and library.

Thursday, December 10, 2015 will mark the 10th anniversary of the transition into glory of our 60 beloved angels, so the Port Harcourt branch of the LJC PTA has decided to commemorate this special day with a major fundraising event which is aimed at kick-starting the second phase of the construction of the JMC. We, therefore, kindly appeal to all our benefactors, friends and supporters, educationists and those who believe in the Jesuit education to donate generously towards this project. Long Live our 60 Angels! Long live the Jesuit Memorial College, Port Harcourt!

B 1

 

B 2

 

 

 -From the Development Office
of the ANW Province of the Society of Jesus