We have initiated a new tradition in the Province. At the end of the academic year, every superior writes an annual letter to the Provincial. It is basically the view and review of life and mission. One of the aspects that the 2019-20 annual letters highlighted was the fruitful community life.
The annual letters concurred that it was the annual plan, which is drawn up at the beginning of every academic year, and the integration of three things: a simple lifestyle, deep life in the spirit and a strong life in common that ushered in a fruitful community, and consequently, aggressive apostolic life.
By and large, communities adopted a simple lifestyle with adequate facilities and each one made an effort to grow in contemplation even in action: the scholastic communities introduced the practice of praying together in the chapel, some apostolic communities began the common Eucharist in the morning, regular faith sharing during the monthly recollections, and yet others started common prayer sessions for domestic helpers on weekends.
One of the much sought after activities in the communities was the evening recreation. After supper, all sat together to relax and to relate experiences. It was fun, a booster to work and the strength to face crises. The other main feature of our communities was consultation. There were a variety of meetings: community and consult, registered society and core group, and of course, the meeting of the individual Jesuits and DoWs with the superior. As this initiative made the Jesuits feel valued, it unleashed creativity and commitment.
Yet another feature was the outreach programmes. Besides the regular work, most of the Jesuits took up spiritual ministries and mercy visits. In fact, this way of proceeding took the communities much closer to the suffering during the pandemic. On similar lines, the other significant development was the twinning of rural and urban communities. It bridged the rural-urban divide. All owned the Province, and freely shared all that they are and have.
Although St Ignatius stressed dispersion, which implied apostolic availability, mobility, universality for the sake of mission, he knew well that union of hearts and minds was absolutely necessary for the preservation and progress of the Society. In fact, during his studies in Paris, he relentlessly worked for this fellowship. Hence, the first companions called themselves ‘friends in the Lord’, persons, who were close to one another, because they were above all close to Christ. They believed that the friendship was a grace for them to overcome and to celebrate all their differences.
We are in difficult times. Among other things, COVID 19 has also engendered social distance. In this context, let us make every effort to build a good community among us not only because it guarantees spiritual vitality and apostolic efficacy but also because it is the only way to take all towards a better future.