"It’s of the Spirit and Ecclesial."
With these words, The Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., characterized the gathering of some 200 Jesuits and their friends in Midland, Ontario. It was a time to remember, recall and celebrate the arrival of the first Jesuit missionaries to these shores in 1611.
The invitation to friendship and community today is often challenged and undermined by an ever prevailing experience of fragmentation. The Jesuit Congress in Midland, Ontario, at the end of July, spoke to the very best values that so dramatically characterized the small community of Jesuits, lay persons and First Nations people at Sainte-Maire, Midland, in the 1600's. This community was the headquarters for the French Jesuit Mission to the Huron Wendat people.
Fr. General and the Congress delegates received a tour of Sainte-Maire, and were afforded a unique opportunity to learn about the earliest Canadian pioneer life. From that context, Fr. General gave a moving tribute to the significance of that early first work and from its best values, he offered encouragement and clarity as we collectively, Jesuits and our lay collaborators, endeavour to discover the call of Christ in our time. Fr. General remembered and made reference to the example of the Jesuit Family that was Jean de Brébeuf and his companions, and indeed all Jesuits that have worked in Canada from that time to this. Moreover, he stressed that this family also included lay données
and friends from the Wendat people. The experience of togetherness from that short lived time at Sainte-Maire points toward a unity in diversity that is at the heart of the universal mission that Jesuits and their partners are invited to live again today, and do live today.
Such a dynamic and inclusive gathering created a context in which we all had to speak to each other—whether Jesuit or lay, working in social justice or high schools, parishes or higher education-- is in the words of Fr. General, both of the Spirit and Ecclesial. He noted that this unity through diversity breaks us out of our localized and narrow horizon, making us available instead to respond in a generous and available way to the call of Christ today. Admittedly, he acknowledged that he does not know what our future works in Canada will look like. At the same time, he stressed that the procedure, discernment through spiritual conversation, by which we are examining our current works and imaging new works will lead us in a way whereby we can respond generously and freely to Christ's invitation. The address was warmly and enthusiastically received by all those present. In his opening remarks, Fr. General noted that memory and the imagination are the two faculties that Ignatius loved most, more than thinking!
The Congress employed both memory and imagination, and perhaps the greatest expression of both these faculties is love. Appropriately, the General ended his address by sharing with us the words of his predecessor, Fr. Arrupe, S.J. Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love, in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.