Message from Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach
Superior General of the Society of Jesus
to the Congress of the
European Confederation of Jesuit Alumni(ae)
Malta, 1-3 November, 2001
[Franšais] [Espa˝ol] [Nederlands]
It is truly a pleasure to join you, by means of this video, at the European Congress of Jesuit Alumni taking place in Malta. I am especially grateful to Mr. Louis Cooreman, President of the European Confederation, who extended to me an invitation to greet you personally and send you a short message. Unfortunately, a visit already scheduled to the provinces of South America prevents me from being with you in Malta.
You have wanted to make this Congress an "Ignatian encounter", in order to give a push to the realization of a very specific goal: "Working for Others". This expression cannot but bring to mind the Congress of the European Confederation which took place in Valencia in 1973, when Fr. Pedro Arrupe threw out the famous expression "Men for others." Give me the permission to recall his vibrant words, in this year in which we commemorate the tenth anniversary of his death. Father Arrupe stated:
"Today our prime educational objective must be to form men for others; men who live not for themselves but for the Lord and his Christ [ů]; men who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbours; men completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for men is a farce."
lt was at that same meeting that Fr. Arrupe posed the famous question: "Have we Jesuits educated you for justice?". In order to respond in all sincerity and humility:
"No, we have not". Those words are still haunting us today.
My predecessor's address was not well received by many alumni at the Valencia meeting, some of whom felt extremely hurt. I hope that the same thing will not occur with my address today! Nevertheless, from the Ignatian perspective, after almost thirty years, we still perceive the relevance of those words. Justice, solidarity, and the service of others, especially the excluded, has risen in these last years to first place and has become a burning issue, both in the Church and in the global society.
One characteristic of those who seek to share lgnatian spirituality is immersion in the world and in the reality of each day, with its lights and its shadows, in order to "seek and find God in all things." The Lord challenges us, through the persons and situations that surround us, to make present the Kingdom. What is important is to discern what the Lord is asking of us and to make the correct decision.
The globalised world of today, with its tremendous potentialities and its terrible threats, presents new challenges that Jesuit alumni, individually and as a group, cannot evade. Permit me to remain within the European scene, where you are immersed, and offer for your consideration three specific fields of action.
- The first is the search for meaning in an environment in which the transcendent dimension seems to have vanished. Barely two years go, in its message to the citizens of Europe, the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops made a reading of the signs of the times, to highlight the many "signs of hope" which spring from the life-giving gift of the Lord. And, at the same time, it pointed out fears and signs of uncertainty which constitute challenges that all Europeans face. It is on this concrete ground that our alumni must prove their hope, and help those around to discover the profound meaning of life. The Risen Christ does exist, and you give witness to Him through an authentic Christian spirituality made incarnate day by day, with the scale of values that you communicate, and with your personal and social behaviour.
- A second field of action is offered by the profound cultural mutation which Europe is experiencing, due to immigration. The period we are going through is characterized by a new phase in the process of European integration and by a powerful evolution in the multiethnic, multireligious, and multicultural sense. Depending on the way in which we place ourselves in view of this challenge, this integration will either become a richness or it will become a missed opportunity.
Renewing the call of the bishops of Europe, I invite you to continue to respond with justice and with a great sense of solidarity to the growing phenomenon of migrants and refugees. As alumni, you are also qualified to create public opinion, and to exercise your influence in the levels in which policies are made and decisions taken, if you have the capacity to strike at their causes. This will be a very concrete form of "working for others" such as you propose for yourselves.
- A third field of action that I permit myself to propose to you, is that of a special attention to Africa. Although strictly speaking this concern extends beyond your frontiers, for historical reasons Europe cannot rest idle before the "ocean of misfortunes" ravaging the African continent. In the most recent meeting of Jesuit Universities, last May, our universities committed themselves to providing institutional support in developing or improving the Catholic higher educational institutions in Africa.
The practical ways in which alumni can, for their part, help Africa, will have to be discussed attentively. However, beyond the specific help that you can lend to concrete projects, the Jesuit alumni possess no doubt the professionalism and the capacity to effectively influence, on both the national and international planes, to change attitudes and behaviour towards Africa, certainly not very far from Malta, the place chosen for this meeting.
Before these and other challenges, you are not helpless. You have received a formation and share a spiritual heritage, that of Ignatius of Loyola, which prepares you to work together, in partnership with Jesuits and others, and to face the new European and world scene. The European Confederation and the National Associations have a key role to play in this regard. More than a place where the "old boys" occasionally get together to cultivate nostalgia, the Associations should be the meeting point for the alumni to share the same vision, to feed anew at the sources of Ignatian spirituality, and to find the necessary support to make a reality your commitment to "work for others" through works of justice and compassion.
This, I think, is the profound meaning of the mission which corresponds to the Jesuit Alumni Associations. Along this line, I am pleased to know that the European Confederation, in the framework of the World Union, has the concern for promoting Ignatian spiritualitv and of helping its members to integrate this dimension in their daily lives. This means not only putting into effect concrete projects to help others, but above all offering alumni the possibility of growing themselves in Ignatian spirituality. Particularly, familiarizing themselves with the Spiritual Exercises, which have not lost their effectiveness for our commitment as Christians in today's Europe.
I wish you much success in this Meeting, and ask the Lord that, under the inspiration of Ignatius, you may discover new ways to work with others and for others in the building up of a more just and fraternal world.
[Jesuits in Europe] [Jesuits in Europe Documents] [Jesuit Alumni/ae Congress Malta 2001]