Ignatian Assignment Year 2010-2011
The major work of General Congregation 34 has been the revision of our Law and the orientation of our mission for today. It was good on the part of the congregation to evaluate the mission so we could come to know where we stand and to which direction we are heading.
1.United with Christ on Mission
The first decree which is “united with Christ on Mission”. This decree emphasizes on the faith perspective. The decree by this topic does show its concern for the Jesuits in terms of faith of Christ and faith like Christ.
Ignatius our founder presents a Christ who is on the move, traveling through villages and visiting synagogues to preach the Kingdom, going where people dwell and work.
I have seen the Jesuits working in Gujarat from my childhood they all carried this zeal to establish the Kingdom of God. When I did my course with our province historian Fr. M. Diaz Garriz I came to know so many Jesuits who gave their life for the mission of Gujarat. They hade no proper accommodation to live in and no proper food to fill their stomach. In-spite of this difficulties they worked tirelessly to established the kingdom of God. They lived with the people and ate with the people whatever they could get. Today it is concern for the province that we are living and a modern world and so there is a possibility of carried away with the wind of the modern world. When there were no means to approach to people the missionaries went walking or swimming but now when there are means available to reach to the people the question arises how far do we utilize those means? There is a constant complain of the people that they are not visited regularly. So from this decree I want to conclude that though the 34th congregation has given some guidelines we have somehow failed to follow them. We need to bring back that zeal and enthusiasm back in our life for the propagation of faith. Its time that we all say that as pilgrims on Christ’s mission, we are ready to be dispersed to any part of Christ’s vineyard, to labour in those parts of it and in those works which have been entrusted to us.
2.Servants of Christ’s Mission
The very word ‘servant’ is loosing its meaning and essence in today’s world. Son of man came to serve and not to be served. When Ignatius was confirmed in this mission at La Storta, the Eternal Father said to Christ, “I want you to take this man as your servant” it was at the will of the Father that Jesus Christ carrying his Cross as a standard of victory, took Ignatius as servant of his mission, to labour with him under that same Cross until his work is accomplished. It is a vision which confirms the call which Christ the Eternal King, extends in the Spiritual Exercises: “Whoever wishes to come with me has to be content with the same food I eat, and the drink, and the clothing which I wear, and so forth. So too each one must labour with me during the day, and keep watch in the night, and so on, so that later each one may have a part with me in the victory, just as each has shared in the toil.” Sp Ex .
If Christ and our founder Ignatius call us to be servants we need to keep in mind the role of a servant and work in the vineyard of God as servants and not as masters or Lord. Jesus has put forward a better example for us to be a good servant. On the day of last supper he had washed the feet of his disciples and had asked them to do like wise. By and large in Gujarat mission I have not observed Priests acting as Masters and Lord of all. We have kept up the identity which the GC 34 has given us as “servants of Christ on Mission”
3.Our Mission and Justice
In response to the Second Vatican Council, the Society of Jesus set out on a journey of faith as we committed ourselves to the promotion of justice as an integral part of our mission.
This is the area which is flourishing in a full swing these days. We have done enough in many ways. The promotion of justice has been integrated into traditional ministries and new ones, in pastoral work and social centers, in educating “men and women for other,” in direct ministry with the poor. The province has many institutions to witness that we are working earnestly for the Justice.
Several social institutes of our province speak on behalf of our ministry in the filed of Justice. Some of the well known institutes are like St. Xavier’s Social Service Society Ahmadabad, “SHAKTI” Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre, Rajpipla Social Service Society etc. These are the centers which are fighting for the rights of the people who can not afford to fight. The only draw back we Jesuits face is that many of us think that when it comes to the question of justice only these handful institutions are to fight for the downtrodden. The decree reminds each one of us that it is each Jesuit’s duty to fight for justice in whatever ministry he is involved in. The school people have to fight for the rights of the children and the pastors have to fight for the rights of their flock. I think if each Jesuit in his own responsive ministry tires to work for the justice I think the whole country will be at peace and people will get their justice.
To fight for the justice of people the requirement for it would be to be one among them. We need to live with them in the reality as Jesus dwelt among us. Our communities should be located among ordinary people wherever possible. I think most of our missions have this type of set up wherein people have an easy access to the Jesuits. The best example I could give is of ‘Ashadeep’. This is the institution where boys and girls feel at home to be with the fathers over there.
GC 34 suggested that during the formation young Jesuits should be in contact with the poor, not just occasionally, but in a more sustained manner. Gujarat Vidya Deep is such an institution from where we the theologians are given a privilege to be with the people on week ends.
4.Our Mission and Culture
The Christian message is to be open to all cultures, bound to no single culture and made accessible to every human person through a process of inculturation, by which the Gospel introduces something new into the culture and the culture brings something new to the richness of the Gospel:
“Through inculturation the church makes the Gospel incarnate in different cultures and at the same time introduces people, together with their cultures, into her own community. She transmits to them her own values, at the same time taking the good elements that already exist in them and renewing them from within”.
I have just come back from South Gujarat. I was sent to Bardipada mission for contextual theological program for 21 days. I have seen that south Gujarat has done justice to the General Congregation 34th in terms of Inculteration. Well not only south Gujarat but the in whole of Gujarat the Jesuits have tired their best to adopt the culture of the people because the Jesuits have understood what GC has to say that “Evangelization is not possible without inculturation. Inculturation is the existential dialogue between a living people and living Gospel.”
GC 34 has given some guidelines in context with the inculturation. We are living in a world which is rapidly changing day by day. Therefore to strike a balance between the local culture and western culture is not an easy task. When we talk about the mission of Gujarat we have local communities and the communities which have migrated from other parts of Gujarat. Now when a priest has to work with this multicultural society he finds it very hard to manage. Most of our Jesuit parishes have managed to keep the culture of the people rather then imposing a foreign culture.
Our province has Jesuits from all over India and that is why there is lot of cultural differences but apart from differences we have been working wonderfully that is because we are taught to adapt the cultures of other people. Right from the beginning of the formation a candidate is given ample opportunities to experience the culture of Gujarat in terms of work camps, mission experience or village experience. The study of theology does provide us with such exposure like Contextual Theological Program wherein a Jesuit scholastic goes to a particular village, studies the people and culture and thereafter presents the paper in the college.
The living example of inculturation is our Liturgy. The Gujarat Jesuits have beautifully involved the culture of people into liturgical celebration. Some of the adaptations are use of shawl during the mass, Arti, Prasad to those who are non Christians etc. The architects of our churches are of local temple styles.
So in conclusion I can say that we the Jesuits of Gujarat Province have done justice to the guidelines given to us by the GC34 for the inculturation.
5. Our Mission and Inter religious Dialogue
General Congregation 34 encourages all Jesuits to move beyond prejudice and bias, be it historical, cultural, social or theological, in order to cooperate wholeheartedly with all men and women of good will in promoting peace, justice, harmony, human rights and respect for all of God’s creation. This is to be done especially through dialogue with those inspired by religious commitment, or who share a sense of transcendence that opens them to universal values.
So far everybody followed St. Cyprian’s words “outside the church there is no salvation” but now the time has changed and there is a new understanding that there is no discrimination about the salvation. We have begun to be united with the other religions too. GC 34 mentions that Holy Father has repeatedly asked Jesuits to make interreligious dialogue an apostolic priority for the third millennium.
The province of Gujarat has considered the words of Holy Father and already taken some steps in the line of dialogue. Fr. Ishanand, Fr. Willaim and Fr. Vijay are doing some work in the apostolate of inter religious dialogue.
Since dialogue is becoming a global concern, such planning should include inter-Provincial and international exchange of persons which is visible in case of Fr. Jimmy Dabhi and Scholastic Sandesh who are rendering their service among the Muslim brethren of Afghanistan.
So I could firmly say that the Province has certainly done justice to the guidelines given to us in regard to inter religious dialogue.
This has been an enriching experience for me as I was writing the Ignatian Assignment on Decrees of GC 34. I had a chance to go through all the decrees and assimilate them for life in order to be strengthen in my future ministry. Finally I could say that yes GC 34 has really put all the Jesuits on a right track in terms of Faith, Justice, Culture and Inter religious dialogue.
Kamlesh K Raval S.J.
III Year Theologian