Nepal, a small, landlocked Himalayan country in South Asia, has some unique achievements to its credit. It was never colonized. Its constitution, adopted in 2015, affirmed Nepal as a secular, federal, parliamentary republic, despite the fact that Nepal was officially a Hindu Kingdom until recently, and of course, it gifted Gautama Buddha to the world.
But the Jesuit tryst with Nepal was only relatively recent. At the invitation of the then Government of Nepal, Fathers Marshall D. Moran, Edward Saton, and Frank Murphy arrived in Kathmandu in 1951.
They began the Mission with the foundation of St Xavier’s Godavari School and thanks to the efforts of all subsequent Nepal Jesuits, Nepal Region is a flourishing mission now, with a variety of ministries. Some of the incarnational apostolic interventions of Nepal Jesuits are the following: the pastoral service to the Catholic Santals living to the east of Biratnagar by Fr Edward Niesen, service of the orphans started by Fr. Gafney which quickly grew into the St. Xavier’s Social Service Centre, and the care for the deaf and differently abled initiated by Fr. Akijiro Ooki.
It is not only the service in and through formal apostolates that won Nepal Jesuits a name and fame, but also the creative and committed response they gave to the lethal earthquake that shook Nepal. Despite all snags and difficulties, including the hassles by the government, they assiduously attended to the needs of the earthquake stricken people. Establishing the Nepal Jesuit Social Institute (NJSI) on 19 May 2015, they have been actively involved in the process of rescue, relief and recovery, rehabilitation and rebuilding people and their properties. Along with the initial distribution of relief materials, gradual construction of houses and other amenities, they have been instilling hope among the battered people.
In addition to the great contribution of Nepal Jesuits, Nepal is important for the JCSA as well. It was here in Nepal that the JCSA formulated and promulgated the famous, ‘Kathmandu Statement’ (KS), which gave a new definition and direction to formation. KS aligned formation with mission. It tried not only to understand and explain formation, which was previously separated from mission, as a process in and through mission, but also propagated the ideal of formation in mission.
After 30 years since that great event, JCSA met again in Nepal to discuss and discern its South Asian Jesuit identity and mission in the context of the UAP. What made it a memorable event and experience was the presence of Fr General. With his innovative interventions he did give new directions to the discussion and discernment. The call of UAP is personal, communitarian and institutional conversion. The Provincials of South Asia have decided to do a retreat together during the JCSA Madurai. Shall we, all, be messages and messengers of conversion in South Asia?