Picture of the Cover Page of  Gratitude Publication March 2012 vol. 2, No. 2

Gratitude Magazine March 2012, Vol. 2, No. 2

This edition of Gratitude focuses on ministry. It showcases an array of our ministries from within the province and from as far afield as Harare, London, Rome, and Jerusalem. The articles offer us insights into the many engagements of the Jesuits of our province in promotingthe original mission of the Society, a mission made possible by your generous and continuous support, dear friends and benefactors. Indeed, some give to the mission by going and others go by Of particular interest is the Jesuit involvement in education.

Of particular interest is the Jesuit involvement in education. St. Ignatius Loyola said, “All the well-being of Christianity and of the whole world depends on the proper education of the youth.”  Jesuits have bade the unsaid of that statement, i.e., to educate the youth properly, for almost five centuries now.

This edition highlights particularly the proposed Loyola Jesuit University, Nigeria.  Planning has reached advanced stage and the committee works hard to beat the 2015 start off schedule.  We also bring you updates from the Jesuit Memorial College, Port Harcourt, Nigeria.  Work has finally begun on the school site.  This is good news given that it has taken five years to get a proper piece of land to build on.

 

JESUITUDE

The founding document of the Jesuits,The Formula of the Institute, approved by Pope Paul Ill in 1540, states that the Society of Jesus was founded for ''the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine and for the propagation of the faith." And then it goes on to provide a list of ministries by which the twofold goal was to be accomplished.

John W. O'Malley, SJ in his classic, The First jesuits, notes that the primacy of ministry in the Jesuit life is embedded in the fact that the Society was "originally conceived as operating to a large extent in conditions of diaspora" (p.53). This is evident in the fact that merely nine years after their foundation, Jesuits lived in twenty-two cities and towns inEurope, South America and the Far East, unlike their contemporaries (Theatines, Barnabites, and Somascans) who only lived inItaly.

The Jesuits are communitatis ad dispersionem ("a community dispersed," dispersed in the field-andthat field is the world). We are dispersed for ministries: preaching the Word, celebrating the sacraments, giving the Spiritual Exercises, teaching catechism to children and uneducated adults, teaching in schools, providing informed theological reflections on socio-political issues,caring for the poor; serving the church,and the list goes on.

This edition of Gratitude focuses on ministry. It showcases an array of our ministries from within the province and from as far afield as Harare, London, Rome, and Jerusalem. The articles offer us insights into the many engagements of the Jesuits of our province in promoting the original mission of the Society, a mission made possible by your generous and continuous support, dear friends and benefactors. Indeed, some give to the mission by going and others go by Of particular interest is the Jesuit involvement in education.

Of particular interest is the Jesuit involvement in education. St. Ignatius Loyola said, “All the well-being of Christianity and of the whole world depends on the proper education of the youth.”  Jesuits have bade the unsaid of that statement, i.e., to educate the youth properly, for almost five centuries now.

This edition highlights particularly the proposed Loyola Jesuit University, Nigeria.  Planning has reached advanced stage and the committee works hard to beat Fr. Chijioke Azuawusiefe, SJ Director of Developmentthe 2015 start off schedule.  We also bring you updates from the Jesuit Memorial College, Port Harcourt, Nigeria.  Work has finally begun on the school site.  This is good news given that it has taken five years to get a proper piece of land to build on.

One of our benefactors and a parent of Loyola Jesuit College (LJC), Abuja, Dr. Agnes Fasehun, together with other LJC parents (see cover picture) spent time with the Lord this past December in Cape Coast, Ghana, in their first ever Jesuit retreat.  Dr. Fasehun graciously shares with us her beautiful experience of that quality time with the Lord.  We are grateful.

We are also grateful to all of you dear friends and benefactors of the North-West Africa Province.  Thank you for your prayers and for the many ways you support us and our ministries. Be assured of our prayers and Masses for you and your family.  Have a joyous Easter ahead.

Remain blessed and keep smiling.
With you in Christ's mission

Fr. Chijioke Azuawusiefe, SJ
Director of Development

From the Provincial

Fr. Jude Odiaka, SJ Provincial of North-West Africa Province. This edition of Gratitude, among other things, highlights our proposed Loyola Jesuit University (LJU).  LJU is an upcoming university of the North-West Africa Province.  It is projected to open its doors in 2015. I share with you a part of my letter introducing the LJU project in the Loyola Jesuit University Brochure:
One of the greatest legacies of St Ignatius Loyola to the Catholic Church and to the world is the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, which he founded in 1540. The Jesuits are renowned throughout the world for their commitment to education and their passion for the formation of youth. It is this character driven by the Jesuit spirituality and Ignatian pedagogy that has made Jesuit universities, colleges, and schools famous throughout the world.

Our North-West Africa Province of the Jesuits comprises Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia. We want to provide programs that will address the needs of these countries so that we can attract students from them to come to LJU and eventually form satellite campuses in them.  We even dare to dream of one day founding a university in each of these countries.

We envision beginning small with only faculties in liberal arts, sciences and communications, and then developing organically over the years. We want to have land large enough to be able to expand to a large university of up to 15,000 students in twenty years time.  We want an overall plan that will allow for orderly expansion and yet maintain a continuity of building style Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja, is our testing ground for Jesuit education in our province. Founded in 1996, its phenomenal success over the past fifteen years has evoked a huge demand for a Jesuit university of like standard in the province. We are encouraged by the optimism and enthusiasm we have been receiving from various quarters. Together we can set our young peoples' hearts and minds on fire and provide them with the skill, determination and right values to inspire the social transformation of our society. It is this fire that inspires passion in Jesuits and their collaborators the world over.  No student should ever leave a Jesuit school without being touched by this enthusiasm.  We invite you to join hands with us to start a fire that kindles other fires.

The Committee for Jesuit Education in Nigeria (COJUN) is organizing its maiden Friend/Fund-Raising Dinner on July 7, 2012 at the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.  I kindly urge as many as our benefactors as possible to be a part of this event.
Easter may be upon us by the time you receive this edition of Gratitude.  May the peace of the Risen Christ fill your hearts and mind and whole being.  Thank you for your steady support of our works and be assured of my prayers for you and your family.

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

Letter to Fr. John Nunes Barreto

(as St. Ignatius missioned Barreto to Ethiopia in 1554)

picture of St. ignatius writing the constitutions of the Society of Jesus. Do not be afraid of the magnitude
of the undertaking as compared
with your slender resources,
since all our sufficiency must come from Him,
who calls us to this work.  
It is He who must give you
all that is required for His service.

St. Ignatius Loyola

North-West Africa Province: Holds First Province Congregation

 Group Photo of ANW Province Congregation Members

St. Ignatius Loyola was a man of deeds more than of words. He wanted his Jesuits to be available for ministry rather than spending hours and days discussing at meetings.  Unlike other religious orders of his day, Ignatius didn't want General Congregations, meetings of representatives of the whole Society of Jesus, to be held frequently.  They would be too expensive and distract the men from the far more important work of their apostolates.  Rather he put in place an ingenious system of communication (ex officio letters) from the provinces to Fr. General and his counselors.

Aghadi Onu, SJ & Chioma Nwosu, SJ point out the emblem of the Province Congregation. Since the Society's beginning in 1540, there have been only thirty-five General Congregations in its history, that's one in every 13 1/2 years.  They are to be called only when a Superior General dies, or when a special meeting of representatives, called Procurators, decide at a Congregation of Procurators that there are issues so long-term and urgent that they cannot be met by the Society's ordinary governing procedures.  Before these procurators meet, each province must gather for a local Province Congregation to elect the province procurator, and to vote whether they feel a General Congregation should be called.

On March 12, 2011 the present Fr. General of the Jesuits, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, summoned a Congregation of Procurators for July 9, 2012 in Nairobi, Kenya.  This is the first time that such a congregation was called to take place on African soil with procurators from the whole world.

The calling of the Congregation of Procurators also initiated another first on African soil.  Our North-West Africa Province was required to summon a Province NW delegate, Fr. John Ghansah, SJ,(R) & his substitute, Fr. Chuks Afiawari, SJ. Congregation to choose our procurator from among the professed Fathers.  And so, on January 4 and 5 of this year, twenty six members of the province assembled at the Jesuit novitiate in Benin City, Nigeria to begin this first-ever North-West Africa Province Congregation.

Three of the delegates for the province congregation come ex officio: The Provincial, his Socius (assistant) and the Province Treasurer.  Twenty others are elected by secret written ballots conducted among those who have completed at least five years as Jesuits.  Fifty percent of the elected members of the congregation are required to be finally professed, which meant thirteen since we had twenty-six delegates.  We had exactly thirteen men who were finally professed and so able to attend; we snuck in just under the wire.  Otherwise we would not have been able to hold a Province Congregation.  The Provincial is allowed to choose three delegates as well, to be sure that there is a good representation of members.

After being welcomed to the novitiate, the first liturgy is traditionally the Mass of the Holy Spirit.  This was celebrated on the first morning by the senior member of the Province, Fr. Don Hinfey, SJ, working in Cape Coast Ghana, who will celebrate his 80th birthday later this year. He just edged out Fr. Bob Dundon, SJ for the honour by one month ballot.

The instructions for counting the votes read:  “After the ballots have been collected, they are first of all to be counted by the first examiner, who sits at the rightJerry Isidore Jude1a of the Provincial; then they are to be examined by the Provincial and the two examiners; next they are to be read aloud by the first examiner; the outcome of the vote is to be announced by the Provincial; finally, the ballots are to be destroyed by the first examiner after the close of the session.” INEC take note!

At the end of the day, the procurator elected was Fr. John Ghansah, SJ, Director of Novices.  An alternate was elected in case he is indisposed, Fr. Chuks Afiawari, SJ.  The Congregation voted that it is not necessary to call a General Congregation at this time. And the Province Congregation also discussed the "State of the Province" so that those in Rome can have a good idea of what is happening here in North-West Africa. Before Fr. Ghansah travels to Nairobi to represent ANW Province, he will consult with other members of the province to fill out his “State of the Province” report.

Fr. Jerry Aman, SJ is the outgoing socius (assistant) to the Provincial. He becomes minister at Arrupe College, Zimbabwe in July.

Quality Time with the Creator: A Retreat Experience in Ghana, for Parents of Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja

By Dr. Agnes Fasehun

It couldn't have been a more divinely ordained day than 11.11.11 to set out on what was to be for most of us our first ever spiritual getaway ñ a special qualityPicture of Dr. Agnes Fasehun. time with God.

The six of us arrived at Kotoka International Airport Accra before 8 AM and were received by our driver and guide, Mr. Andrew. The 145-kilometer drive from Accra to Cape Coast not only provided us with sightseeing opportunities but also enough time to get to know each other. We blended so easily that by the time we were alighting from the bus at the retreat centre it was like we left from the same home in Lagos.

The retreat center is in the Brafoyaw suburb of Cape Coast. Located on the top of a hill, it overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and the sprawling fishing village of Monree. The breeze was fresh, and the lawns and trees well groomed; the environment was so serene we could hear the birds chirping and the trees whistling.  The sky was so close; we could almost reach out to touch it and possibly hear the angels singing. We were warmly welcomed by our retreat director Fr. Don Hinfey, SJ and we knew we could not have chosen a better place to accomplish our mission, that is, spend a quality time with our Creator.

The three days of our retreat were spent praying and meditating. We had daily early prayer sessions as a group at 6.30 AM before the 7 AM Mass.  Fr. Hinfey delivered talks directed at building our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ and we had group discussions after each session. Although Fr. Hinfey's inputs were short, they were nevertheless always direct, thought-provoking and left us with vivid images of Christ and his ministry in our minds.

I was particularly struck by his input on the Christian vocation (Mark 10:17-27): 21 "Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, 'You are lacking in one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.' 22 At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, 'How hard is it for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!' 25 It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." (NAB)

Picture of LJC parents on retreat in Cape Coast Ghana. This got me thinking, pondering and questioning my followership of Christ. Can I really give up everything I have for Christ, my spouse, children, possession, and career? Is Christ truly number one in my life? Although life with Christ is joyful, I cannot follow Christ without pain and suffering. I must carry my cross and follow him cheerfully.  The truth, as I have come to understand it according to Colleen Townsend Evans, is that faith is one area in our lives where growing up means we must grow to be more like a child, trusting simply in the goodness and complete knowledge of a Father who has our best interest at heart.

The visit to Elmina Castle was another high point of the retreat. The historic castle, built as a fortress by the Portuguese in 1482 through which slaves were transported across the Atlantic, now serves a tourist attraction. A tour of the castle took us through the dungeons where slaves were kept and the "exit of no return". The tour guide described the inhumane conditions the slaves were subjected to before they were shipped to foreign lands. It echoed the height of man's inhumanity to fellow man.

As a group, we had a great time. It was a unique opportunity to bond with like minds. We shared a lot of personal experiences. Nothing is more consoling than finding out that others go through the similar pains, fears and daily life issues as one does. We transformed into a support group to encourage, support andPicture of the Jesuit Retreat Centre in Cape Coast, Ghana. pray for one another and our families.

Personally, the experience was awesome. I was excited to be part of a Jesuit  spiritual exercise that I had only read about. This is an encounter I'd love to repeat over and over again.

My appreciation goes to the LJC PTA for organizing the event. Also to Fr. Hinfey, Bro. Joseph, the kitchen staff and all other wonderful people at the retreat centre who contributed to making our retreat a memorable one.

Dr. Fasehun is a parent of Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja. She heads Swancape Ltd., Lagos.

From Rome to Israel: The Diary of a Pilgrims' Companion

 Picture of the Edo State contingent on a Christian Pilgrimage to Rome and Israel.

Shalom, brothers and sisters!  Between December 5 and 17, 2012 I was privileged to accompany the Edo State contingent on a Christian Pilgrimage to Rome and Israel.  What a blessing that was!

Our flight touched down in Rome at 7:10 AM to the delight of and thunderous applause from the pilgrims.  That first day, the ninety-two-member Edo State contingent walked the footsteps of the greatest missionary ever, St. Paul and then visited the St. Paul Basilica Outside the Walls.  With no prior notice, I was asked at the basilica to lead an ecumenical service for numerous pilgrims visiting Rome.  After the service, we prayed by the chains that were used to bind the Apostle Paul.  Our first day in Rome came to a memorable end with a night tour of the city.

Day two began with a visit to the Vatican City for a general audience with Pope Benedict XVI.  Vatican City overwhelmed me with a feeling of awe.  St. Peter's Basilica is a true wonder of the world.  After the audience with the Pope, we prayed at the tomb of Blessed John Paul II.  Thanks to the graciousness of our guide, Marcellino, we had a smooth tour.

We left Rome for Tel Aviv on the third day.  What joy filled our hearts again as we landed on the Holy Land.  We took up lodging for the night in Tiberias, Galilee. The following morning, we had a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.  During the boat ride we read and contemplated the “Calming of the Storm” by Jesus.  Then we visited the Mount of Beatitudes, Mount of Multiplication of Loaves, Capernaum, Nazareth, and Cana.  I celebrated Mass after dinner at the Golan Hotel.

“‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight the crooked way; make smooth the rough road.  Let the mountains be lowered and let the valleys be raised.” That was my message from the Prophet Isaiah the following morning as we left for River Jordan where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.  Our destination that day was Sinai, Egypt.  On that long journey we visited the Mount of Temptation, Jericho, Dead Sea, Sodom and Gomorrah region, and Eliat.

We arrived Egypt and went to Nuweiba for dinner and wash-up.  We had a big challenge ahead of us, namely to climb Mt Sinai.  The night was cold, and at about 10 PM I celebrated Mass with some pilgrims near the Red Sea. By 12 midnight, we travelled to St. Catherine, Egypt.  At 2 AM, those us who had made up our minds decided to climb the Moses Mountain, Sinai.  This was the most challenging aspect of the pilgrimage.  We reached the peak around 5.30 AM.  It was a bitter cold, dark, steep, frightening, long journey.

But when we reached the mountaintop, we were in no hurry to go down.  We waited for about an hour to witness the sunrise on Sinai.  As the red sun appeared from the horizon, we burst out singing praises to God.  The brief moment of watching the sunrise was a glorious one.  However, although the mountaintop experience was comforting, we could not remain there.  We had to descend.  At the foot of the mountain, the rest of the pilgrims awaited our return.  Together, we offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Looking back at it, Mt. Sinai was a test of character, perseverance, and courage.

Later that same day, we returned to Israel, and travelled to Bethlehem the following day.  It was an amazing experience visiting the birthplace of Jesus and the Field of the Shepherds.  More so, it was a grace to celebrate Mass in Bethlehem during the Advent Season.  In Bethlehem, we were amazed to meet a Nigerian nun, Sr. Paracleta, who had been a hermit for 26 years in Israel.

After Bethlehem, we were all excited about the next stage of the pilgrimage—Jerusalem.  On arrival in Jerusalem, we visited the Wailing Wall, where Jews and Christians fused to pray together for different intentions, inserting these prayer intentions into the cracks of the Western Wall.  That was an overwhelming experience for me.  Another overwhelming encounter was the visit to the Pools at Bethsaida in the Old City of Jerusalem as well as the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows).  I led the pilgrims through the Stations of the Cross, the last four of which were completed on the top of an Ethiopian Church in the Old City.  After that, we had a solemn visit of the Holy Sepulcher.  Back in our Jerusalem hotel, we secured a space to celebrate a thanksgiving Mass for the Catholic pilgrimsPicture of Fr. Abuja Muoneme, SJ with another pilgrim. and other interested pilgrims.

At the end of this enriching spiritual exercise we arrived Benin City, Nigeria on December 17 physically exhausted but spiritually uplifted and renewed.  Besides being a time of prayer and contemplation, the pilgrimage was also for us a school of learning and community building.  During the pilgrimage I often thought of St. Ignatius of Loyola who had visited the Holy Land during his formative years.  He also had the desire and dream to remain there forever, but God had a bigger dream for him.

Since my return, the experience of reading the scripture is no longer the same.  The texts now come alive, as I see the places, mountains, waters, and people that are referred to.  I am grateful to God for this one in a lifetime experience.  The offertories the Catholic Church collects on Good Fridays for the support of the Holy Land makes all the sense in the world after this experience.

I thank my provincial, Fr. Jude Odiaka, SJ for giving me the permission and encouragement for this spiritual exercise.  I am grateful to all the people of good will who supported me morally and financially to be able to undertake this pilgrimage. Thanks to Fr. Andrew Obinyan who challenged me to desire to have this experience.  May God bless Ven. Osueni, Sir Best Iriabe, Ven. Uadia and others who sacrificed their time in the planning and logistics.  Finally,  may God bless all my fellow pilgrims.  “Like Mount Zion are they who trust in the Lord, unshakeable, forever enduring” (Psalm 125:1).

Fr. Abuchi Muoneme, SJ is the parish priest of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Benin City, Nigeria.

Magis : A Christian Orientation to Life

By Kpanie Addy, SJ

A couple of years ago, during a visit to St. Ignatius College, a Jesuit high school located in Chishawasha, Zimbabwe, I was graced to overhear a deeply Picture of Kpanie Addy, SJ. consoling prayer. The pray-er, a form three student of the college, began pretty much along these lines: “Dear Lord, over these past few years at this school, I have come to learn that life is not all about being the best, but about doing my best...” These first few lines of the young man's prayer remained with me. I dwelt on the words for some time and drew much fruit from them. It is this fruit that I share.

It is perhaps a little surprise that such thoughts about what life entails – doing one's best and not necessarily being the best – should occur to students of a Jesuit school. For the idea of doing one's best, giving one's all is in keeping with a key characteristic of Jesuit and Ignatian spirituality; a trait identified by the word, magis, Latin for “more.” Especially for students of St. Ignatius College, the notion of the magis is probably something they can identify easily with, the Prayer of St. Ignatius tripping off their tongues every so often: “Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous; to give and not to count the cost...”

Yet, in a school with a keen sense of achievement and excellence, this student's prayer remains instructive for how it identifies the magis not in terms of achievement, prizes, and laurels – being the best – but in terms of self-exertion, self-commitment, and self-application – doing my best. Life, as this young man rightly identified, is not all about achieving success, fame, and honour, sometimes regardless of how these are achieved, but about faithfully and conscientiously applying oneself to one's task, indifferent to the success or failure that may attend it. This understanding makes a difference. For going by the latter understanding of life, I  will replace frenzied, frenetic activity aimed at being number one with equanimity and yet enthusiasm in performing one's duty; replace underhand dealings, back-stabbing and all manner of dishonesty, simply to get ahead, with honesty, uprightness, and appreciation of my talents and those of others. And if in doing my best, I end up – not altogether surprisingly – among the best or indeed, the very best, I am not haughty and inflated. I will be unlike the other, who in aiming at being the best understands life as one continuing ego-trip, confusing worthwhile ends with their off-shoots, and who, should success elude him, is seized by despair, bitterness, and anger.

It is not difficult, then, to realise that both within the particular context of St. Ignatius College and society at large, the view this prayer expresses is profoundly counter-cultural.  Ours is a society characterized by the adulation of the best movie stars, musicians, and athletes. We celebrate and live in the thrall of such people and, thanks mainly to Forbes, are able to rank them and the most successful business people according to who is richest or has the most cars. Yet magis, rightly understood, says life is not all about this. Indeed, it opposes these “values.”

There is yet another societal “value” that magis stiffly opposes and this too is brought out well in the prayer of our anonymous student. To do my best rejects the minimalism that grips contemporary society. In a world of several instants – instant coffee, instant lasagna, instant weight reduction – it is not surprising that we are often given to settling for less, doing the very least possible to attain desirable goals. Should I be able to complete my academic programme by taking a trifling number of courses when it is within my capacity to do more and acquire knowledge for my good and the good of others, I'll settle for the easier option. This is the course of minimalism, the course of laziness, the curse of our contemporary age and something that the magis opposes.  For while being economical – efficiently using one's resources – is a virtue, laziness – refusing to exert oneself fully on account of ease and comfort – is a vice. Remarkably, society urges us to aim at both being number one and achieving this with as little effort as possible. This describes the “get-rich-quick” attitude prevalent in society today. Little wonder then that there is so much deceitfulness involved in climbing up the ladder of riches and honour.

Thus, the magis emerges as a vintage Christian attitude to adopt in the face of the ego-centred quest for success at all costs and the malaise of minimalism. It opposes both of these extremes that are valorised by our contemporary society, two poles that unify in the pervading “get-rich-quick” attitude. It is Jesuit, Ignatian, and yes, truly Christian. To that young man whose appropriation of this attitude and expression of it in prayer provoked my thoughts and inspired this reflection, few words seem more appropriate than this paraphrase of the Master: “He has chosen the better part, and no one can take it away from him.”

Kpanie Addy, SJ is a first year theology student at Institut de Theologie de la Compagnie de Jesus, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

Recruiting Laborers

By Aghadi Onu, SJ

Picture of Fr. Aghadi Onu, SJ Vocation Director for the Jesuits of ANW Province. The vocation drive season peaks at this time, the first quarter of the year, when candidates are more closely evaluated and processed for admissions come July.  Last November, those involved in formation from various religious orders and congregations in Nigeria gathered for four days in Enugu, Nigeria for the annual conference of Formators Association of Nigeria.  The topic for discussion was self-care, accompaniment and supervision for formators.

The conference opened with a Mass presided over by the Bishop of Enugu, Rt. Rev. Dr. Callistus Onaga.  In his homily, he enjoined all those involved in ministry of formation to a life worthy of emulation. He reminded us that formators are models for those in formation.  Besides, they have to make their offer attractive to this generation; they have to be attentive to the signs of the times in order to harvest that which God is offering at this august moment in our history.

The ministry of formation of others in the religious life involves a vocation within a vocation.  It is an introspective journey in which one is invited to journey into one's self and to minister to one's companions, in this case, those aspiring to become members of the religious order. In order to sustain such a life in which one is constantly evaluating others and at the same time being evaluated, prayer becomes paramount.  Prayer has to be central to the life of the formator who in turn is called to constant discernment.  In order therefore to lead the young religious to God, the formator must know God.  They have to be familiar with the ways of God, just as Eli was (1 Samuel 3:1-10), in order to lead the young men and women who come knocking at our doors, saying: Here I am, for you called me.

What do I take from this and how does it affect us as a body in the Church?   As a nation of over a hundred and fifty million people, Nigeria is bottom heavy in demographics.  In the parish of Christ the King Church (CKC), Ilasamaja, Lagos where I reside, the average monthly baptism of infants is eighty-five.  Eighty-five new babies are born and baptized into the church monthly in one parish.  On the positive side, we can smile knowing that the future is secure, bright and beautiful.  But in the immediate, it means that we need more laborers in the vineyard of the Lord.  We need priests to respond to their sacramental and pastoral needs, we need teachers to respond to their educational needs, we need pastoral ministers to work with and bring them up in the Ignatian way.  In a nutshell, we need more Jesuits.

The average intake into the Jesuit novitiate does not in any way match the number of those coming into life and into our ministries. Jesus's saying becomes more pertinent to us today than ever: “The harvest is plenty but laborers are few; pray therefore to the Lord of harvest to send laborers into the field.”

By the second week of Easter, I will be spending a fortnight with twenty young men who are considering entering the Jesuits this July.  I chuckle when I consider the number of baptisms at CKC in a month in relation to the annual number entering the Jesuits in our province.  It makes me shudder.  In the coming weeks, the candidates will be travelling from across Nigeria and Ghana to Iperu Remo, Ogun State, for the candidacy program.  By bringing all of these young men together, the Society of Jesus begins to remold and to reshape them towards becoming ministers of the gospel. This is the first inkling of what might become a whole journey to religious life.  They become the seed of our hope that there will always be Jesuits to respond to the ever-teeming young population of our people.  Their response and perseverance will serve as a guarantee that God is with us, that this enterprise is of God and that there will always be Jesuits to baptize the many babies being born in our parishes.  Jesuits will always be there to preach and respond to the pastoral needs of the people; Jesuits will always be there to educate the young in Ignatian spirituality; yes, Jesuits, by the grace of God, will continue to respond to the ever increasing demands of the apostolates.

As the candidates gather for the two weeks introduction to community living, let us pray, not only that the Lord of harvest send good men as laborers into his vast vineyard, but that he also send in abundance, generous people, men and women of good will, who will support our ministries.  God bless you.

Fr. Aghadi Onu, SJ is the vocation director of the North-West Africa Province and the superior of the Jesuit community at CKC, Lagos.

A Grace Above All Others

By Francis Azruah, n, S.J.

I sat in the bus at the Yaba Park on March 17, 2012, waiting to begin my journey to the ancient kingdom of Benin City, after a ten-week community/pastoral experience at Christ the King Church (CKC), Ilasamaja, Lagos. I was returning to the Jesuit novitiate, to a life of scheduled prayer, studies, activities, and most importantly, to continue the discernment of my vocation. It is a very different world from the one I had just left.

I had had a one-day stopover at CKC in 2010 on my way to entering the Jesuit novitiate. This time around, I lived and worked with the people for ten weeks. Itua Egbor, SJ introduced me to the parishioners on my first Sunday at a 6:30 AM Mass. He introduced me as his Jesuit brother from the novitiate in Benin City, and the welcoming applause from the congregation was moving.  Listening to the choir sing and observing the active participation of the entire congregation at that Mass, I felt the energy of CKC, the Royal Family, as the parishioners call themselves.

CKC must be among the busiest parishes in the Lagos Archdiocese, with its two daily and six Sunday Masses.  Its over 18,000 population and location within the bustling and vibrant Ilasamaja environs add to its busy pastoral traffic.  The parishioners are warm, prayerful and devout. I was always amazed at their commitment to their faith.  They are reverential too.  They always greeted me as “Brother” (the traditional way of addressing seminarians, “Good morning, Brother”), with bows, curtsies, and brightest of smiles.

As part of my mission, I maintained a weekly schedule of communion calls, visiting the sick in their homes. It takes grace to visit about twelve to fifteen homes on each round.   Of all my experiences at CKC, nothing could top the grace of simply being “present” to the people, offering them a listening ear. Parishioners approached me at different times to pour out their heart. Sometimes, I had nothing to tell them, other than to assure them of my prayers. It was quite inspiring and consoling too to see some of them come back later with testimonies of God's answered prayers, sometimes sharing also of some positive improvements inFrancis distributes ashes on Ash Wednesday. their lives, as a result of a counsel I had offered them. These encounters strengthened my faith and confirmed how God could use me to bring smiles to his people.

The goodwill of the people made me feel at home. Many of the people I met reminded me of my own parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers.  Seeing in the parishioners' eyes, especially in those of my catechism class, the subtle resemblance of relatives or friends confirmed for me that the Lord has invited me to this experience.   My experience at CKC was also a journey into my own heart, a journey to discern what God is calling me to become.

In the midst of the calls and struggles for passengers by the conductors at the park, I wondered what it would profit anyone to gain the whole world and lose their soul. Was it not the desire to be a “man for others” that was leading me back to the novitiate in Benin City? I remembered Fr Ikenna Ikechi, SJ's observation that “life is built on opposites”: Because there is darkness, light also exists; man and woman exist to complement each other.  It therefore suffices to say that because we struggle for perfection, we are naturally imperfect and hence we make mistakes. If one half is not true, then the prayers, spirituality, priestly training, novenas and vigils in parishes may after all come to naught.

I became aware again of my environment.  I noticed my brother novice, Lawrence Ezemagu, sitting next to me in the bus lost in his own thoughts, probably reminiscing also about his CKC experience. One of its highlights was attending the Julius Agwu's Valentine's Day Festival of Love Show at the MUSON Center, Lagos Island, courtesy of Fr. Chijioke Azuawusiefe, SJ. By an  “unmerited grace,” Lawrence's birthday falls on February 14 and he was invited to the stage, along with other birthday mates, to cut the event's cake with the likes of 2-Face Idibia, Julius Agwu, Eldee, Gordons, Joddy, as well as the children from The Good Hope Orphanage, and a host of other entertainment celebrities. It was quite a moment for my brother.

Looking back at it, I have no doubt that CKC provided me the space to live my Jesuit experience outside the novitiate. Fr. Aghadi Onu, SJ, my superior, guided me through this period.  He listened to, observed and advised me, as I struggled to articulate and live my life as a novice in an active community. In one of his letters to the English Province of the Society of Jesus in 1970, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (former Superior General of the Jesuits) cautioned: “to have problems is not a sign of decadence or sorrow, but a sign of vitality and of service. Not to have them would be a sign of death.” Fr. Aghadi understood my strengths and challenges, and helped me channel them to the greater glory of God and the service of his people at CKC. As the bus pulled out of the park, I was filled with gratitude to God for the people he had sent me to serve, for my brothers in the community and their encouragement, and for his mission which we accomplished.

Francis Erzuah, nSJ is a second year novice at the Jesuit novitiate, Benin City, Nigeria.

ANW Province Blessed with Two new Deacons

Provincial, Fr. Jude Odiaka, SJ flanked by Revs. Kevin Odey, SJ (R) & Raymond Tangonyire, SJ.

Two Jesuits of the North-West Africa Province, Kevin Odey, SJ and Raymond Tangonyire, SJ, were ordained deacons in Nairobi, Kenya on February 18, 2012.  Revs. Odey and Tangonyire, together with eighteen other Jesuits from different parts of Africa, were ordained by His Grace, Most Rev. Peter Kairo, the Archbishop of Nyeri, Kenya.

The two will be ordained priests in July in Nigeria and Ghana respectively. After their ordination, Rev. Tangonyire will serve as the superior of the Jesuit community at St. Anthony's Parish, Accra, while Rev. Odey, who, before his theology studies was the director of the Jesuit Development Office, Lagos (2006-2009) will return to the development office as the director of development.

Loyola Jesuit University, Nigeria: Kindling a New Fire in West Africa

By Fr. Enyeribe Oguh, SJ

Proposed Loyola Jesuit University Brochure“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X

It is a golden year in the North-West Africa Province. 2012 is a year of memories: the joys and pains of our pioneer, Father Joseph Schuh, who first arrived in Nigeria in 1962. A man of faith and valor, Fr. Schuh plunged into the deep right away. Nigeria was then just recovering from the ecstasy of her newfound freedom from colonial subjugation and from the opium of sovereign independence. Optimism was high but skills grossly short. Expectations were huge though time and resources constrained. In the vortex of this ebbing euphoria and rising realism, Fr. Schuh landed in Lagos from New York and was joined a year later by Fr. Joseph Schuyler.

Both men blazed the trail at the University of Lagos by being the first to introduce local Nigerian students to Jesuit education with its concomitant Ignatian pedagogy.  Fr. Schuh taught biology, while Fr. Schuyler taught sociology at the same University of Lagos. The Ignatian pedagogy is a potent tool central to Jesuit education all over the world. It aims to train the whole person: head, heart, soul, tongue, hands, and body. It seeks to imbue students with sound integral formation and confidence for success, leadership, peace, and social responsibility in a fast-changing world.

Although a few more Jesuits had relatively brief stints in some Nigerian universities and later in some Ghanaian universities, the Jesuits' inroad into the tertiary education apostolate in the province died out in time. Yet many former students taught by our revered pioneers continue to applaud the educational tradition of the Jesuits, and some of these students have come urging us to build our own university so as to make a lasting difference in the educational system in West Africa. Many lament the ever declining standards and rot in the educational sector, mostly in Nigeria.

Often, university staff unions compete with student unions to shut down state universities indiscriminately in pressing for material demands from the State. Cultism, kidnapping, and terrorism continue to devastate lives and menace the university environments while gay clubs and prostitution hold sway on many campuses. Besides, many local universities in Nigeria operate with the barest or makeshift infrastructure. A number of students take class tests and final examinations standing outside lecture theatres because the halls are too small and the desks/chairs are either broken or insufficient.

So many students graduate from engineering and science faculties without ever touching a computer or conducting any lab experiments. Poorly equipped libraries stock outdated books with several key pages ripped off by students. Thus, thousands of students graduate each year feeling woefully undereducated, unmarketable, and lacking enterprise and innovative spark. Yet when put in a different and better enhanced learning environment many of these same students shine and even outperform their counterparts.

The time is perhaps ripe and right for Jesuits to lend a hand to redeem Africa's future. To save this sinking ship we need men and women of imagination,A model sample of the Loyola Jesuit University gate. competence, conscience, compassion, and discipline. And with all due humility and sincerity, Jesuits have the proven capacity to produce these leaders. Through our educational models we have helped to influence positive change in Europe and to lead transformation in America. A revolution in the educational sector in Nigeria, nay Africa, is of the essence if this continent is to belong to the future. This change has already been triggered by our model secondary school in Abuja, Loyola Jesuit College (LJC).

In barely sixteen years of its existence, LJC has become a brand name for excellent education in West Africa. The school and many of her students have garnered numerous national and international laurels for various feats of distinction. Some of the alumni have already become professionals while many are abroad doing graduate studies. These explain why various alumni and their parents are the most vocal and Partial aerial view of Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja. most zealous crusaders in the quest for a Jesuit university in Nigeria. Every year, graduating students from LJC survey our local tertiary educational landscape but often all they see is a nightmare. Only a few lucky ones succeed to leap over the void to continue their training overseas at some Jesuit or other leading universities.

But soon this nightmare will end. A Jesuit university is coming to Africa. Others will follow suit in no time. The new university will be called Loyola Jesuit University (LJU). It will be located in Nigeria, but will serve the West African region and beyond. Its vision is to “form leaders, professionals, and scholars of competence, conscience, and compassion as agents of positive change to bring about a more just society.” Part of its mission is to shape “the entire person within the Catholic, Jesuit tradition” while upholding sound African values and engaging global challenges. Its motto, drawn from a core Jesuit fiber is: “a fire that kindles other fires.”

LJU will build upon the tradition of quality education as found in some of our renowned universities like Georgetown, Fordham, and Santa Clara in the UnitedLJU fundraising Invitation Card. States. But its growth will be in phases. LJU will start with only two or three faculties: humanities, social sciences, and business management, operating in a collegiate structure. The second phase will integrate natural sciences and information technology/engineering faculties, while the final phase will include the faculties of law and medicine as well as the postgraduate schools. The full capacity of the school will be about fifteen thousand, but we may kick off with about five hundred students. The time it takes to move from phase one to three will depend upon the availability of resources.

So far we have received various pledges and animated supports from all walks of life across the country. We hope that this optimism eventually translates into resources in cash or kind. The excitement in the air is palpable, especially from our LJC alumni and their parents. As Jesuits we are ever ready to take risks to serve the greater good and the ultimate glory of God. We believe that no difficulty can long withstand the relentless assault of focused minds. We cannot continue to wait. As George Herbert once said, “the time will never be 'just right'. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.” In this golden year of Jesuit work in Nigeria, each and every one of us have cause to think with deep gratitude and pride of those pioneer Jesuits who lighted the flame of Jesuit education in this province. May God rest their bones and grant wisdom to their living successors.

Fr. Enyeribe Oguh, SJ, the associate parish priest of St. Joseph’s Church, Benin City, is the project coordinator for LJU.

Learning Together about AIDS in Africa

By Isidore Bonabom, SJ

People living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are often targets of prejudice. Their HIV +ve status shifts their positioning within the community from thePicture of Fr. Isidore Bonabom, SJ. middle to the peripheries, with dire consequences for their overall welfare. Sometimes what is forgotten is that being HIV +ve does not make one less human; quite the contrary, sensitivity is often heightened in people with HIV. To forget this is to ignore their humanity.

In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, a famous quote by Shylock poignantly describes this reality: I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? Shylock's words are a reminder that, lest we forget as a society, people with HIV will bleed when pricked, laugh when tickled and die when poisoned. As a community, our actions, inactions, words and silence towards people with HIV is symbolic 'pricking', 'tickling' or 'poisoning'.

I shared this quote recently during a conference organised by the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) in Nairobi; the conference was part of a book project initiated in June 2011, marking 30 years since the first cases of what would later become known as AIDS were reported. Sub-Saharan Africa has borne a disproportionate burden of the AIDS pandemic, with current estimates of 22.5 million people living with HIV, 68% of the global total. As part of the need for greater reflection on this pandemic, AJAN issued a call for papers for a book exploring the multi-faceted response to AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

In late January 2012, AJAN invited the book contributors for a conference to present and debate their papers. Twenty-six Jesuits and their collaborators attended, representing a wide range of academic disciplines, from theology and philosophy to human rights and ethics to medicine, as well as considerable field and advocacy experience.

Those of us who responded to the AJAN call for papers did so for a number of reasons. HIV/AIDS is an important pastoral issue in our ministries. Many governments, especially in Africa, have yet to incorporate the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS into mainstream legislation. The dearth of legislation comes to the fore when we work with and for people with HIV at the global, national and local levels. We wanted to learn more about the pandemic and some of the best ways to respond.

At a personal level, I came to the conference with indispensable resources to help me understand more about the pandemic: the first is what in Ignatian parlance is called cura personalis [care of the whole person], the second is an open mind to learn from fellow Jesuits and our collaborators. My contribution threw some light on the discriminatory practices, inequalities and unfair power relations surrounding AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. It was important to reflect on these issues because at the heart of our conversations was an understanding of the human being as created in the image and likeness of God and therefore as a rights-holder.

Our conversations drew attention to the 'signs of the time' visible around us in the AIDS pandemic, such as the problem of stigma, universal access to antiretroviral therapy, and poverty of resources. These 'signs', in turn, raised the question of 'what God is saying to us?' and 'where does he want us to be within this pandemic?' Even with limited resources, it was clear that God is calling us to be present to those who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

I left the conference, as I am sure the rest did, with new insights about how different organisations, not least the Catholic Church, are responding to the problem at several levels. But, more importantly, I learned that God is calling us to help reveal his face in this pandemic.

What makes the AJAN project unique is how the day-to-day work with people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS has led us to a deeper understanding of an issue affecting Africa and the rest of the world. There is every hope that the book emerging from the project will make an important contribution to literature about HIV/AIDS and a deeper commitment to work among the affected people.

This article first appeared in the Online SJES Headlines of the Social Justice and Ecology secretariat of the Society of Jesus (ENG 31 March 2012).

Fr. Isidore Bonabom SJ, the socius (assistant) to the ANW Provincial, obtained his MSc in human rights and LLM from London School of Economics. He has just completed a doctorate in human rights law at the University of Sussex.

 

In Rome with St. Ignatius: Becoming a Better Jesuit

By Benedict Mayaki, SJ

Picture of Benedict at Castel Gandolfo, Rome. Ciao! Come stai?”

You get that a lot when you arrive in Italy. It is the Italian equivalent of the English “hi, how do you do?” or, as we say in Pidgin English, “how far?” Comically, the response is similar to what you would probably get in Nigeria; it is usually an automatic, unprocessed “bene” (fine). This gets me thinking though, how do I really feel?

Roughly two years ago, I was “missioned” to Rome for a masters program in social communications at the Gregorian University. After the euphoria of arriving in Rome faded off, the cold reality set in: I was in a new context, I had barely one month to learn enough Italian to take my courses and I had to get used to the new food and a new way of life. Interesting eh?

I have lived for the past 2 years at the International College of the Gesù or the “Gesù” as we call it. It is the house where the rooms of St. Ignatius are preserved, the place where our founder lived and died. I have walked in his rooms and even had the opportunity to give small tours to tourists about the history that is still preserved there. It hits me time and again that the vision of a 16th Century Spaniard is responsible for the path that I am choosing for my life.

Walking through the streets of the centro storico of Rome has been a very interesting pastime for me. I experience a sense of awe at the story that every building tells, the different sculptures, piazzas, churches, historical monuments… the list goes on. The sheer quantity of history that is preserved in the streets that I walk through everyday is overwhelming. I see things that I read of only in books… the place where Julius Caesar was assassinated, the Coliseum where the early Christians where martyred, the Spanish steps, the…

School life has been hectic - very hectic. I have classes practically every weekday in the morning and in the evening. I spend hours listening to the usually loquacious professors, infusing our brains with the concepts of communication in the rhythmic Italian language. By the way, I hear that Italian is a romantic Benedict reading at Mass at Chiesa del Gesu, Rome. language. Try listening to my professors for the amount of hours that I do daily and tell me your impression afterwards. Do not get me wrong though, I love the language and I love the field of communications. I think that as a future priest, I am getting prepared to make use of the media and other means to create a multiplier effect. To show what I cannot preach in a homily through a film, to hear what the untrained ear would not hear in a conversation, to improvise effectively to communicate the good news. Most importantly, I am learning to become a better human being – a better Jesuit.

I spend most of my weekends doing the assignments that are not in short supply. I also spend it doing my apostolate at the Casa di Giorgia, a Jesuit shelter for immigrant women who have no jobs or no place to live. It is an experience that I usually look forward to because it gives me a legitimate excuse to go out of my scheduled, structured life of a Jesuit student which basically involves the University, the library, the chapel and community. I go there on Saturday evenings and spend the night till Sunday morning. My work usually involves listening, holding the house together and preparing breakfast for the ragazze (ladies) the following morning.

Community life has been wonderful so far. I live with 39 other Jesuits from about 16 different countries. My community has been a crucial support structure for me. We pray, share our lives, our experiences and fears. Our solidarity of hearts and minds has made my stay here so far a beautiful experience. It has also been a very rich multi-cultural experience for me; I have had the opportunity of sharing my Nigerian culture with Jesuits from all over the world and I have also learnt from them about their cultures. It is always comforting when we discover that we share the same values about a certain issue or we have the same word for two different things.

It has not all been rosy I must confess, I have had my struggles, my disappointments, and my down moments. Nevertheless, I will say that the good experiences outweigh the not so good ones. Ask me again “come stai?”  and I will give you my response: “Sto bene, e tu?”

Benedict Mayaki, SJ is a second year Masters’ student of Social Communications at the Gregorian University, Rome, Italy.

REDEMPTION HAPPENS

- Fr. Peter Chidolue, SJ

picture of a Crucifix.

It is our fears that He carried
    That the brightest light
        May not chase our shortest nightIt is our hopelessness that He bore
    That the best maps – His voice
        May not lead our lost feet back home
It is our shame that He hugged
    That Love's embracing heart
        May stop at the sight of the scars of
        our waywardness and sin
Easter, He breathes
    Into our fears
    Into our hopelessness
    Into our shame and ah!
        Our night
        Our lost feet
        Our scars and Hell's deepest laugh
            Convulses at Love's sight
For even here
    Redemption happens

“Mummy Enitan”

By Miss Oluokun Maryam

I, alongside seven others, was assigned to the Nigerian Red Cross Yaba, Lagos for the three-week school's Service Program. The program commenced on thePicture of Miss Oluokun Maryam. August 1, 2011. The division officer, Mr. Umoh, welcomed us warmly on our arrival and gave us a general orientation of the Nigerian Red Cross. He informed us that we would be working with children: motherless babies, the abandoned and the humanitarian babies—those brought to the home as a result of disputes between their parents. Afterwards, we met the matron, Mrs. Obanefe, who briefed us on our various duties forthe entire duration of our stay.  That first day, I was particularly impressed with the neatness and quietness of the environment.

My first encounter with the children was so wonderful that a feeling of happiness and joy suddenly took over me. I felt something hard to explain; the children were very nice and friendly to us.  I could not help but look at their innocent, pretty faces. The way they played around was so much fun to watch. We danced with them too. For the first time in my life, I felt something I had never felt before when a little boy called me mummy. I was so shocked that I did not know what to say and all I did was just smile at him. He surely had no idea what that meant to me. At the end of that first day, it was as if I had discovered a whole new me. After dinner that night, I went to bed dreaming and thinking of how beautiful the following day would be.  And indeed, it turned out beautiful too.
Everyday, we woke up at 5 AM to bathe the children, thirty-eight of them. At first, we were all reluctant to do this but later I realized that I actually learnt a few things like bathing little babies and wearing diapers on them. Most of us found sweeping and mopping very hard considering the fact that the place was very large, but surprisingly I found it quite interesting though it was not something I normally do at home. We also helped in the kitchen. We taught the children how to read and write, which though was a frustrating task yielded encouraging results. Watching over the children was a full-time job; they would run around the entire place. They could also be stubborn and annoying sometimes. However, although our jobs were strenuous, the smiles and chuckles from the children kept me going. In all, they are very cheerful and wonderful children.

St. Francis students on service program in a motherless babies home, Lagos. I developed a special kind of bond with one of the babies.  Her name is Enitan. She was barely three months old; oh, how beautiful and tender she is. At times, people teased me by calling me mummy Enitan. That made me so glad that for the first time I actually thought about the possibilities of adoption.
Besides the joy of being with the children, two other things inspired me.  First, I was impressed by the motherly care of the matron.  She was truly a mother not only to the children but also to us. She took very good care of us to the extent that I almost did not miss home. Second, it was touching to see that some people in our society remember these lovely children. They donate items of all sorts when they come to celebrate their birthdays with the children.
Three weeks passed by so quickly and like a dream it was over. Finally, it was time to say goodbye, a day I wished would never come. I looked back and tried to recollect the happenings of the past few weeks. It was then that I realized that my experience at Nigerian Red Cross, Yaba would be something I will always remember for the rest of my life, one that made a positive impact on me. It taught me things I needed to know about being a good person, a good human being, and yes, a good mother. It made me see life from a different perspective. That very day, all the children and the workers came out to bid us farewell. It was so painful. My eyes filled up with tears, but I struggled to fight them back. My heart was heavy and I wish I never had to leave.

Miss Oluokun Maryam is a Senior Secondary 3 student of a Jesuit school, St. Francis Catholic Secondary School, Idimu, Lagos.

A WEEKEND WITH OUR PARENTS

By Franklyn Eboh Ibeli, nSJ

Truth by its nature invites and challenges, it strips and shakes even to the very foundations all the false notions we hold. But more importantly, truth sets usPicture of Franklyn Eboh Ibeli, nSJ. free.  The 2011 family weekend at the Jesuit novitiate in Benin City, Nigeria has come and gone but memories of the events still linger on. It was both exciting and challenging for me because it was a time to reconnect with family members, catch up on some “family gossips” and come face to face with the truth of the life I have embraced, its consequences as it affects my family, especially in the last eight months.

Parents of Chukwunonso Obiora, nSJ blessing him. But one thing was clear: my love for my family has not in any away diminished and neither has theirs. If anything at all, this love has become even stronger because I now love them in God and as members of the larger family of God's people whose care and concern is the object of my prayer and not of undue anxiety and worry as it used to be. So, my ears were rather attentive to their joys and pains.

The family weekend also gave me the opportunity to meet the family members and friends of my brother novices. This encounter gave me a sense of belonging to them as true brothers. The bond of brotherhood seems to go beyond my brother novices and me as each one introduced the others to his families. I was amazed to see our parents and relatives, particularly the mothers, accepting and treating all the novices like their own sons, and each family relating with the others in a very friendly and familiar manner. We all got along as though we have known one another for ages. It was simply an atmosphere of one big and happy family. In truth how good and delightful it is to liveFranklyn (center) with fellow novices and family members. as a family. I realized now that I have families other than my own.

Lastly, the hard realities of the rigorous Jesuit formation, the vows and their social implications, as they affect the fulfillment of one's responsibility to family, especially to one's parents, and also separation which mission demands were indeed tough for our parents. I was in solidarity with them in their pains, knowing that it entails a great deal of sacrifice on their path. I prayed that somehow God will help them come to terms with the reality of the new way of life their sons have chosen. To see our parents in solidarity with one another in pain was also a testament to the bond our families have created. More so, to see them give their blessings anew and pledge their support was for me a heroic gesture. Though challenged by the demands of our vocation, we and our parents have been set free by the truth we have both accepted.

Franklyn Eboh Ibeli, nSJ is a first year novice at the Jesuit novitiate, Benin City, Nigeria.

Who am I: Discerning my Being in Prayer

Ujah Ejembi, SJ

Who am I?  The question of identity is an essential one.  One fact we cannot deny: on some level we are all seeking ourselves consciously or unconsciously.Picture of Ujah Ejembi, SJ.   We live in a world of mirrors not windows.  Our daily experiences are ways through which God reflects our lives back to us.  But for many of us, it seems like our world is full of windows.  We concentrate on looking outside, looking at others and failing to realize that we are looking at ourselves mirrored and reflected back to us by others and by the events of life.

Who am I?  This is a question that key figures in the Holy Bible grappled with.  In Exodus 3:13-14, Moses struggles with this question but with particular reference to God's identity.  In Matthew 16:13-20, Jesus raises the concern of his identity with his apostles: “who do people say the Son of Man is?”  We may be quite unsure of who we are.  But the good news is that God knows us: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you...” (Jeremiah 1:4-5). It is not surprising that David exclaims in Psalm 139:2, “God you examine me and know me, you know when I sit and when I rise, you understand my thoughts from afar.”  Who am I?

I am that person whom God loves and would never abandon.  This should give me courage and hope to choose God.  Choosing God requires discernment.  We can only choose well through the process of discernment. In order to be effective in the choices we make we need discernment. 

The Holy Spirit is the humble face of God. The Spirit is the one who gives itself so that we can come to know God and the Son.  The Spirit leads us to truth and peace.  Truth is the realization of who we are.  This realization will certainly lead us to attune ourselves to this truth.  Thus truth is a basic human reality and what we become.  Since this truth is also the fruit of the Spirit, it also brings about peace in our hearts, and minds and of course in our lives.  Peace, in fact, is a sense of fulfillment before the truth.  Because we live in a world characterized by the struggle between the forces of the good and evil, we need the practice of discernment to recognize more effectively where God's Spirit is leading us.

Discernment of spirits helps us to choose truth and a life informed by God's commandment.  It helps us to follow God's command amidst the challenges of daily living.  Actually, discernment is a realization that God is not only creating and offering me Jesus as a model but that God is within me. St. Ignatius Loyola calls us to be aware of the tools of the evil one through the practice of discernment.

For St. Ignatius, the evil sprit is a withdrawal from the human race, a withdrawal from genuine companionship and support of one another. The consequence of such withdrawal is that one becomes so-called perfect and lonely because no one associates with Mr. Perfect.  The evil sprit bothers us and leads us into desolation.  Discernment is like going to a battle.  One usually sits and weighs the cost of such a battle before embarking on it.  As Christians we do such weighing through prayerful discernment.  Discernment of spirits helps us to be engaged with Christ in our daily functions such that Christ becomes the criterion for acting.

Discernment enables us to listen to God's spirit and to embrace a reflective life that is informed by God's command.  It calls us to pause, to reflect, to pray and to make decisions in the light of God's gentle presence.  For this reason, it is very important that in moments of doubts, discouragements, disappointments, desolations and cynicism of life we pause and discern what God might be inviting us to learn and to do.

Discernment helps one to look back and see how far he or she has come in order to make improvements for the future.  It helps us to react slowly and rightly to situations.  It is an invitation to a life of awareness.  It is a schooling of the mind and the heart, and above all, it is a call to be present to what the Lord is doing with me and expects from me.

To discern is to pray.  St. Augustine says, “True, whole prayer is nothing but love.”  In prayer, God invites us to his heart's living room where we are always welcomed to get in and share freely.  In God's heart, new peace is found and it is a place we can be so free and vulnerable.  The heart of God is also the place of deepest intimacy, where we know and are known to the fullest.  The key to God's heart is prayer, the door is Jesus and the formula is love.  To be prayerful people we need to be loving people.  Samuel Coleridge declares, “S/he prayeth well, who loveth well.”

To pray is to change.  The movement inward comes first because without interior transformation the movement up into God's glory would overwhelm us.  Dom Chapman challenges us to pray as we can, not as we can't.  Some of us do experience the agony of prayerlessness because we think prayer is an action we need to master the way we master Pythagorean Theorem in mathematics.  To pray, writes Emile Griffin, “means to be willing to be naïve.”

Prayer is traditionally said to be the raising up of the mind and heart to God.  We may ask: what is the common understanding of the heart and the mind?  The heart is generally the seat of passion, of love, of what we feel, the seat of our intentions and desires, our emotions; and the mind is more a rational seat in the sense of dealing much with thoughts and reasoned judgments. The mind is able to engage metaphysical realities like the spirits. Our hearts and minds therefore represent our bodily and spiritual side.

In other words, prayer is the raising up of my entire being, body and spirit to God.  It is a total focus of my whole being, thoughts, words, will and intellect on God.  But this is not easy because often the body and spirit have a very tough time negotiating what to do.  St. Paul even attests to such struggle.  He talks about the spirit who gives life and the body which most times delights in sin (Romans 8).  St. Paul however reminds us that this tension, between the body and the spirit, can be resolved.  This is why God sent his son Jesus to be the sacrifice for resolving such struggle. Paul suggests that prayer is letting nature obey the spirit who gives life.  In following the spirit who gives life, the challenge for a good prayer, which becomes good life, is to avoid sin and commit oneself in total surrender to God, a raising up of the mind and heart, thus one's whole being to God.

What a good prayer does is to bring life and peace which are gifts of the spirit.  Prayer is being attracted to the things of the spirit.  The struggle to pray is not something I can achieve by my own self; it is something that God wants to achieve in me by God's spirit who prays in me and enables me to call God, Abba Father.

Ujah Ejembi, SJ is a Jesuit regent at Arrupe College, Harare, Zimbabwe. He teaches philosophy.

Let the Youth Come to Me:  Breakfasting with the Lord

By Chris Sam, SJ

Picture of Chris Sam, SJ. The youth of St. Anthony's Catholic Church, Accra, Ghana and its out-stations had their maiden Joint Youth Mass on Saturday, December 17, 2011 at the church premises. The out-stations are St. Ignatius of Loyola Church, Baatsona, Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLAPH) Church, Nungua Barrier, and St Gregory the Great at the Maritime University College, Nungua.

The program, aimed at promoting unity and interaction among the youth of these sister stations, brought together a good number of youth from all the stations. It started with a Mass presided over by the youth chaplain Fr. Chikere Agbo, SJ and concelebrated by Fr. David Ogun, SJ, assistant priest-in-charge. During the faith sharing, most of the youth expressed their readiness to share their faith with their neighbor, in their communities, wherever they found themselves.  The sharing concluded with Fr. Agbo encouraging participants to bring their intentions and aspirationsA cross section of participants at the event. before the Lord. This elicited a lot of thought-provoking responses from the youth who expressed their desires and hopes for the New Year. Fr. Ogun praised the youth for their active involvement in parish activities and encouraged them to take their prayer life serious as well as to show concern for the well-being of their fellow human beings.

The Mass was followed by a “Breakfast with the Lord” repast. The breakfast table showcased a variety of light dishes. As participants partook of the “Lord's breakfast,” many a youth also engaged in assortment of games to exercise both the mind and the body. The day ended around 4 PM with the youth bowing out whenever they “heard their mama call.”  However, everyone left with the satisfaction that the program achieved its aim of bringing the youth of the parish together to socialize within a faith community milieu.

Chris Sam, SJ is a Jesuit regent at St. Anthony’s, Accra, Ghana.

REST IN PEACE FR. CAL POULIN, SJ

Picture of Fr. Calvin H. Poulin, SJ. The Jesuits of North-West Africa Province pay tribute to a companion and true missionary, Fr. Calvin H. Poulin, SJ.  Born on April 18, 1931, Fr. Cal, as he was fondly called, entered the Jesuits on July 30, 1949 and was ordained on June 16, 1962.  A native of Upstate New York in the USA, Fr. Cal spent most of his priestly ministry in the Philippines where he was a professor of moral theology at Loyola School of Theology.  He later became Vicar General and Chancellor of the Prelature of Malaybalay for ten years.

Fr. Cal's missionary work also brought him to Africa, where he spent nine years in four different communities in Nigeria and Kenya; teaching moral theology and canon law, acting as superior and spiritual father, giving retreats and engaging in pastoral ministry.  He was the superior of the Jesuits community at Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja.  Before that, he had taught at the Sts. Peter and Paul Major Seminary, Bodija, Ibadan between 1990 and 1994.  While at Bodija, his students honored him with the “Baba Rere (kind-hearted dad) of Bodija” title as a testimony to his amiable nature.

Fr. Cal died on February 19, 2012, few months short of his 81st birthday and 50th ordination anniversary.  He was buried on February 23 in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines.  May his soul and the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

 

Of LJC and the Love of Sports

A member of Connelly House lifts the trophy, while a parent, Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi cheers him.

Loyola Jesuit College (LJC), Abuja on February 18, 2012 hosted its Annual Inter-house Sports Competition. Connelly House emerged winner in the robustly contested competition.  It beat the other three houses, Regis, Loyola, and Xavier, to lift the coveted trophy.   Parents of LJC attended en masse to encourage their children and show their solidarity and support for the school.  LJC used the occasion to launch its N20 million naira (about USD125, 000) Sports Development Fundraising Campaign.  The encouraging support of the parents for the campaign is indicative of their love for the school and for sports in general.

    The President of LJC, Fr. Ehi Omoragbon, SJ, summed his joy at the events thus: “This year's inter-house sports at the den (LJC's mascot is the lion) was true to the spirit of the Pride of Loyola: winners gave reason to those who lost to celebrate as a family.  The generosity of all who gave toward the rehabilitation of our lawn tennis court put a song of gratitude in my mouth.  And I sang.”

Jesuit Memorial College (JMC),PortHarcourt  : The Journey thus far

Faces of the LJC 60 angels.

Last July, the JMC project received a significant boost when the Governor of Rivers State, His Excellency Rotimi Amaechi, laid the foundation stone on the twenty-one hectares school site.   The present site, in Mbodo-Aluu community, is the third piece of land allocated for the JMC project by the Rivers State Fr. Jude Odiaka, SJ (4th right) and Bro. OT Jonah, SJ (1st left) look on as  Governor Amaechi lays the foundation). government in five years.  The first two were swampy grounds and needed massive sand-filling and ground-piling which would have enormous JMC logofinancial implications. With the assistance of the Administrator of the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority (GPHCDA), Dame Aleruchi Cookey-Gam, this latest allocation was made to the JMC project and work has since began on the site.

The first phase of the construction contains fourteen units out of the proposed twenty-five needed for the completion of the project.  Of these fourteen, construction has started on the administrative building, classroom block, and the primary school.  The idea of a model primary school is to offer free primary education to the residents of the locality.  This model primary school will assure that some of the children in one of the poorest sections of Nigeria will reach the standard where they can qualify for scholarships to JMC and other top secondary schools in the country.

JMC, fondly called 'Hope Reborn,' is a Jesuit response to the December 10, 2005Construction at Jesuit Memorial College, PortHarcourt. Sosoliso plane crash in Port Harcourt in which sixty students of Loyola Jesuit College (LJC), Abuja lost their lives.  It hopes to immortalize the souls of our sixty angels, help bring healing and closure to any of the fifty-four families who may still be grieving the loss of their dear children, as well as bring Jesuit education to the restive Niger Delta.

The Project Coordinator, Bro. O.T. Jonah, SJ, in expressing his gratitude to all those whose generous assistance has brought the project this far, sounds optimistic that “the Holy Spirit which has led the project through what was feared to be insurmountable challenges, will certainly bring it to a speedy completion.”  In the words of the sixteenth century English Jesuit, Edmund Campion: “The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood.”

Nature

I love open places, open spaces, open fields and open air
But I don't know why
I love to see flowers bloom, purple lilacs, and meadows green
I love to carry babies in diapers but I can't tell why
I love to sit on golf courses, on lawns cute and trim
I love the sight of trees, of ferns great and small
Of gardens, spiky hedges and creeping stems
I love to hear the soothing sound of tropical rains
Of waterfalls, cold or warm falling onto rugged rocks
Hewed from aged caves or mountain peaks
No delight equals feasting on a dish of poems
With a pen and pad under a rosy shade in a brilliant garden
To the honeyed melodies of chirping kites and flapping eaglets
The squeaking bamboos, hissing snakes, and whistling crickets
The nibbling squirrels, the caressing winds, and droning airplanes
All beneath the shifting white blueberry skies

I love the quiet, the silence, the peace, the tranquility
That envelops this space, this emptiness, this time
But it's so bad that I can't tell why.
I really love to watch the dropping sprigs
And the withering leaves, flowers, and twigs
I saw them too in their bloomy heydays
I love the hum of cars stilling the silence
Oh the cries of gleeful sparrows and preying hawks
I love to see delicate butterflies merrily flying
Silently, gracefully, and wisely in the flowing wind
Not like the bumbling bees pouncing on pink flowers
See, some friendly insects now encircle my scented feet

Picture of a Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

THOU ART INDEED JUST, LORD

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners' ways prosper? And why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?
Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now, leaved how thick! Laced they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build-but not I build; no, but strain,
Time's eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.