Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Chicago Province Jesuits in Peru.

First off, my apologies to readers who may be disappointed with the paucity of posts on my Peruvian experience. One reason I haven´t posted in the past week is that daily language classes and the challenges of being in a new country, culture and Jesuit community have left me little time for blogging. A second reason I haven´t been able to post is that the juniores I´m living with are in the midst of studying for their semester exams and writing final papers, giving them the most compelling claim on the machines in the juniorado´s computer room. Posting will probably continue to be infrequent while I´m in Peru, but I´ll do my best to keep readers informed of particularly interesting or significant developments that occur during my time here.

One significant aspect of my experience so far has been having the opportunity to meet several Chicago Province Jesuits who have been living and working in Peru for decades. The Jesuits of Chicago and Peru have had a special relationship since 1958, when the Chicago Province began sending men and money to support what was then the Vice-Province of Peru. Since then around 45 Jesuits of the Chicago Province have been missioned to Peru, some staying in the country for a few short years and others remaining for a lifetime. For a short history of the Chicago-Peru connection, check out this article from the Chicago Province magazine Partners.

Over the past few days, the novices have had a chance to interact with several men from the Chicago Province who came to Peru in the 1960´s and have been here ever since. Father Bob Beckman was one of the very first Chicago Province Jesuits in Peru, arriving in 1960. Bob´s ministry in Peru has included long periods as an administrator at the Colegio San Jose in Arequipa, as director of the Centro de Espiritualidad Ignaciana in Lima, and most recently as parochial vicar at the parish of Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados, right across the street from the juniorado. Called back to province in the 1980´s to serve as rector of the Jesuit community at Xavier University, Bob left his heart in Peru and went back for good as soon as he completed his rectorate. A couple other Chicago Province Jesuits who arrived in Peru in the early 1960´s and have remained here are Jeff Klaiber and Matt Garr, who both came immediately after taking First Vows and spent most of their formation in Peru. Jeff has gone on to become a professor of history at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru and is regarded by many as the foremost church historian in Peru. Matt was trained as an anthropologist and is now executive secretary of CEAS, the wing of the Peruvian Bishops´Conference that deals with social justice issues. The preceding Jesuits all came to Peru before or during the time of the Second Vatican Council and thus experienced the changes ushured in by the Council in a somewhat different context than their confreres in the United States. The Chicago-Peru relationship continued through the dramatic changes experienced by the Catholic Church and the Society of Jesus in the mid-1960´s. Chicago Jesuits who came to Peru in the period immediately following Vatican II include Frank Chamberlain and Kevin Gallagher, who both met with the novices during the past week to share their experiences. Frank has spent many years working in Virgen de Nazaret parish in El Agustino, a massive pueblo joven (shantytown) established on the outskirts of Lima in the 1960´s. Kevin spent two decades working with Peru´s large network of Fe y Alegria schools and now resides with the Peruvian novices in Arequipa, holding the position of padre edificante held at Loyola House by our own Walt Farrell.

Speaking with the above men about their experiences was fulfilling on a number of levels. Each offered intriguing perspectives on the history, present and future of the Church and the Society in Peru. More importantly, in ways both overt and subtle, each conveyed something of the deep spirituality that has sustained them through their Jesuit lives. The good example and witness offered by each of these outstanding Jesuits has been very edifying to this novice, and for that I´ll be eternally grateful. AMDG.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

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.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Live from Los Angeles.

I'm writing this post from a computer in the student center at Loyola Marymount University, where I've been spent the past week attending the United States Jesuit Conference 2006 Summer Formation Gathering. During the week, I had a chance to catch up with friends in formation from other Jesuit provinces whom I don't often get to see. With some of these friends I took the opportunity to explore greater Los Angeles on a free afternoon in the middle of the week. Making good use of a fairly decent Metro system (the Day Pass proved a real bargain), we visited such places as the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Little Tokyo, Grauman's Chinese Theatre and Marina del Rey. I'd offer commentary on each of these sights, but I'm at a stand-up Internet terminal and there are people behind me waiting to check their e-mail. Next time I update this blog, I'll be in Peru. 'Til then, greetings from sunny, hazy Southern California, and a very happy Father's Day to my Dad and all the other fathers out there. AMDG.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Briefly in Berkley.

In my experience, novitiate life has only two speeds: very slow and very fast. We novices enjoy weeks or even months of relative stability, remaining in one place and living according to a stable routine of work, study and prayer. At other times, however, we find ourselves almost constantly on the move, making several long or short trips back to back with little time to rest or regroup in between. Right now, the novitiate is definitely on 'fast' speed: today the novices of Loyola House returned to Berkley from Bi-Province Days in Cincinnati - where we had a lot of fun - in order to start readying ourselves for further travel to Los Angeles, California and Lima, Peru. Tomorrow morning we leave for Los Angeles, where we'll spend a week at the first-ever national conference of Jesuits in initial formation, a group of over two hundred men that includes everyone from first-year novices to newly-ordained priests. On Father's Day, we head from Los Angeles to Lima, where we'll spend the next six weeks or so studying Spanish and getting to know some of our Jesuit brethren in the Province of Peru. I don't know how often I'll be able to post over the next several weeks, but I'll do my best to keep you informed of my activities. AMDG.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bi-Province Days in Cincinnati.

Early tomorrow morning, my fellow novices and I will be driving to Cincinnati for "Province Days," an annual event where all (or at least most) of the Jesuits belonging to a particular province get together for a weekend to catch up with one another and to reflect on their common identity. Typically, Province Days include a special Mass honoring Jesuits celebrating significant anniversaries of entrance or ordination, a speech by the provincial on the state of the province, a few dinners and receptions, and sometimes a priestly ordination or two. Normally, each province has its own Province Days - last year, for example, the Loyola House community split up for Province Days, with novices from the Chicago Province going to Province Days in Chicago while Detroit Province novices took part in a similar weekend in Cleveland. This year is exceptional in that members of the Chicago and Detroit Provinces are celebrating Province Days together at Xavier University in Cincinnati. In coming together, the two provinces have an opportunity to reflect on our shared future in the light of the ongoing process of Assistancy Strategic Discernment. These Bi-Province Days also give Chicago and Detroit Province Jesuits a chance to socialize with one another at a time when we would ordinarily be apart. I'm looking forward to an enjoyable weekend with my brother Jesuits in Cincinnati, and I'll be sure to post a report on the experience when I return to Loyola House on Sunday. AMDG.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Happy Birthday, Walt!

Today the Loyola House community celebrated the ninetieth birthday of our most accomplished yet humblest member, Father Walter L. Farrell, S.J. Now in his seventy-second year as a Jesuit, Walt has served the Society and the people of God as a teacher, writer, administrator and spiritual guide. Following a distinguished career that has included stints as rector of a Jesuit theologate, provincial superior of the Detroit Province and president of the United States Jesuit Conference, Walt currently works as treasurer of the Detroit Province (a job that has earned him the nickname "Walt the Vault") and resides here at Loyola House. Living with Walt has been a real highlight of my time in the novitiate. Through his prayerful celebration of the Eucharist and his eloquent homilies, through his thoughtful conversation and perceptive commentary, and through the example of his great generosity and simplicity of life, Walt is a great blessing to me and my fellow novices. I'll miss him dearly when I leave Loyola House, and I pray that novices to come will gain as much from his presence as I and my companions have these past couple years. I hope that we have blessed Walt as much as he has blessed us. Tonight at dinner we all wished Walt a happy birthday and thanked him for his presence among the novices. Though we'll never be able to repay him for all he has given us, for the rest of our lives we'll carry a sense of deep gratitude for his companionship. Happy birthday, Walt! AMDG.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Notes on the Memorial of St. Norbert of Xanthen.

Today the Church remembers St. Norbert of Xanthen, a 12th century Rhenish nobleman who forsook a life of privilege and comfort to found a religious order called the Canons Regular of Premontre, also known as the Premonstratensians or the Norbertines. As my brother novice Jake Martin noted in a reflection at this morning's community Mass, there are some interesting parallels in the lives of Norbert of Xanthen and Ignatius of Loyola. Though the two men lived four centuries apart, the experiences they shared are significant. Norbert and Ignatius could both claim the title of 'reckless youth,' living somewhat profligate lives as courtiers. Following profound conversion experiences, both men adopted the mantle of the pilgrim penitent and chose to lead lives of intense prayer and rigorous penance. Living in times when the Catholic Church stood in need of renewal, Norbert and Ignatius responded by founding new religious orders to inspire the faithful and bring new life to the Church. Though the similiarities between Norbert of Xanthen and Ignatius of Loyola must not be overstated - the two men were also very different - the things they had in common are nonetheless worthy of our attention. Though the Norbertine and Jesuit Orders are also very different, they share an interesting distinction: in the 1970's, priests of both orders - Robert F. Drinan, S.J. and Robert J. Cornell, O.Praem. - served in the United States House of Representatives, representing Massachusetts and Wisconsin respectively. I'm sure there are other Norbertine/Jesuit parallels to be noted, but my unfortunate lack of experience with the Norbertines prevents me from doing justice to the topic. Though I must admit to a certain fascination with the Norbertines, I've never met any - not even Abbot Astrik Gabriel, a Norbertine medievalist and longtime professor at Notre Dame, who lived in retirement in South Bend during my time as a student. Hopefully at some point in my Jesuit life I'll actually encounter some Norbertines and gain a more experiential sense of their life and ministry. When that happens, perhaps I'll be better qualified to comment on the similarities and differences between two great orders, the Canons Regular of Premontre and the Society of Jesus. AMDG.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Busy, busy, busy....

My apologies to regular readers who have loyally checked this blog each day only to find that I haven't posted anything new since May 31st. I generally try to post updates on this blog as regularly as possible, which usually means once each day or sometimes every other day depending how much time I'm able to make for blogging. However, due to a conspiracy of circumstances I've found myself too busy to post anything over the last few days. Maxima mea culpa. Friday was a novitiate 'work day,' meaning a day on which novices attend to various tasks in the realm of building maintenance that are not covered by routine house jobs on Saturday morning. My task for Friday's work day was to help reorganize the garage, which took me and my companions most of the morning and afternoon. On Friday night, I and a few of my fellow novices went to Comerica Park to see the Red Sox defeat the Detroit Tigers 3-2 on the strength of an incredible two-run homer by Kevin Youkilis in the ninth inning. I returned to Comerica Park on Saturday with my dad and my sister Elizabeth, who came to town (along with a lot of other Sox fans) to attend the second game of the Red Sox-Tigers series. Though Saturday's game started nearly an hour late on account of early evening rain, fast pitching and few runs meant that the park emptied out no later than it had the night before. Though the Tigers beat the Red Sox 6-2 on Saturday, I was cheered by the Sox' 8-3 win over the Tigers this afternoon in the final game of the series. While we didn't have tickets to today's game, Dad, Elizabeth and I made good use of the day with a visit to Greenfield Village. In some sense, this stop marked a continuation of last weekend's visit to the Henry Ford Museum, which shares a campus with Greenfield Village and operates under the same auspices. A sprawling collection of historic buildings relocated from their original locations, restored to period appearance and filled with enthusiastic interpreters and reenactors, Greenfield Village has a few things in common with places like Colonial Williamsburg, Old Sturbridge Village and Plimoth Plantation. Unlike previous history attractions I've visited with my family, Greenfield Village has a relatively limited focus, emphasizing the development of industry and invention over the span of American history rather than seeking to provide a comprehensive and scrupulously faithful reproduction of a single place and period in time. In some respects, Greenfield Village also takes a 'greatest hits' approach to history, giving particular prominence to buildings associated with famous people like Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln and Noah Webster. Though Greenfield Village's resonances with other attractions can give the visitor on occasional sense of deja vu, it is still a great place to spend a Sunday afternoon. Dad, Elizabeth and I all had a great time there, and perhaps you would too. AMDG.