Live from Lima.
Today the Church remembers St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the 16th century Jesuit scholastic who gave up his life caring for plague victims in Rome and who became in death the patron saint of Catholic youth, Jesuit scholastics and the social apostolate of the Society of Jesus. In the southern hemisphere, today is also the first day of winter. Compared with the northeastern and midwestern regions of the United States, Lima enjoys fairly mild winters - temperatures in the fifties or even lower sixties are typical, though it´s still cool enough here that I wear a sweater in the house and a wool jacket outside.
For the next month, my fellow novices and I will be staying at the Juniorado San Juan Berchmans in Lima. The juniorado (known in English as the ¨juniorate¨) is a residence for newly-vowed Jesuit scholastics (juniores) engaged in academic studies in humanities. The formation that Peruvian (and, on occasion, Bolivian and Ecuadorian) Jesuits receive here at the juniorado program is roughly similar to that experienced by American Jesuits in the period of formation we know as First Studies, notwithstanding a few differences in content and structure. The juniores have been unfailingly charitable and generous in welcoming the novices of Loyola House into their home, patiently enduring the many disruptions that we inevitably bring to their common life. Our new companions have also done a great job helping us get back and forth between the juniorado and the Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, where many of the juniores take classes and where we novices will be studying Spanish for the next month. My first two days of intermediate-level Spanish classes at the UARM have provided me with a thicket of new verb tenses to conjugate, while every conversation I´ve had with my brothers in community has reminded me that I have a rather feeble grasp on the nuances of Castillian grammar.
Though the novices of Loyola House have only been in Peru a few days, we´ve already found an invaluable resource in Father Kevin Flaherty, a Chicago Province Jesuit who has been in Peru on and off for nearly thirty years. Kevin directs a post-graduate program in clinical psychology, teaches classes in the same discipline at the university level and to groups of women religious, and also serves as spiritual director to the young Jesuits at the juniorado. In addition, Kevin also finds time to assist with vocation promotion and does pastoral work in the Lima barrio known as El Agustino, where he previously spent many years as a parish priest. Kevin has done a lot to help us adjust to life as gringos in Peru, and he´s also been an excellent tour guide, showing us some of the sights in downtown Lima and introducing us to a few of the Society´s apostolates in the city. Kevin and the other Jesuits here have been a great blessing to us, and I hope to learn much and grow in unexpected ways over the coming weeks. AMDG.