Saturday, March 31, 2012

Aphorisms for a Meaningful LIfe

These are twenty nuggets of wisdom to remember as you go throughout your day.

ONE.
Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.

TWO.
Choose a friend you love to talk to. As you get older, their conversational skills will be as important as any other.

THREE.
Don't believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want.

FOUR.
When you say, 'I love you,' mean it.

FIVE.
When you say, 'I'm sorry,' look the person in the eye..

SIX.
Believe in love at first sight.

SEVEN.
Never laugh at anyone's dreams. 
People who don't have dreams don't have much.  

EIGHT.
Love deeply and passionately.
You might get hurt but it's the only way to live life completely.

NINE.
 In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling.

TEN..
Don't judge people by their relatives.

ELEVEN.
Talk slowly but think quickly.

TWELVE.
When someone asks you a question you don't want to answer, smile and ask, 'Why do you want to know?'

THIRTEEN.
Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

FOURTEEN.
Say 'bless you' when you hear someone sneeze.
FIFTEEN.
When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

SIXTEEN.
 Respect for self; Respect for others; and Responsibility for all your actions.

SEVENTEEN.
Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

EIGHTEEN.
When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

NINETEEN.
Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.

TWENTY.
Spend some time alone.





Friday, March 30, 2012

Support in times of disaster


Fr General Adolfo Nicolás has sent out guidelines to Jesuit communities around the world to help them better support communities in times of disaster.

In a letter to Major Superiors on 12 March, Fr Nicolás provided eight practical guidelines for Jesuits to ‘help us render service that is both more effective and more evangelical’.

The guidelines include:

1. Responsibility for responding rests with Jesuit communities and institutions located in a country struck by disaster.

2. Care for disaster victims must be both practical and spiritual.

3. Jesuits are called to be open to, and indeed, to build up forms of collaboration.

4. Share information.

5. Show and welcome international solidarity.

6. Transparency and accountability.

7. Continuing support after the immediate emergency phase.

8. The importance of reflecting on root causes of the disaster after the immediate crisis is over, to prevent future crises.

He said the response to disasters is guided by the examples of St Ignatius, St Francis Xavier and the first companions, who were committed to serving their neighbours both spiritually and bodily. They are also informed by the experience of Jesuits in more recent disaster situations.

‘These and other disasters have given rise to an impressive movement of compassion and solidarity among many groups, organisations and individuals’, he said.

‘Moved by the love of God that we ourselves have experienced, we are invited to collaborate with others in order to contribute what we can to alleviate the sufferings of people affected by these calamities.’

Source: SJ News

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.

I made an impromptu trip to Northern Virginia to visit my brother and his family before he moves to California to begin a new job this week. I'm glad my schedule was able to accommodate a visit. He bought a spacious house a few years ago and was able to begin a landscape project around it. I will post photos of his project. He is disappointed that he will not be able to see them bloom as his job takes him away from home.

After my visit, I helped direct a weekend Ignatian retreat for Georgetown University. I was able to work together again with a dear friend. I was pleased to meet the faculty, staff, students, and alumni who travelled to Bon Secours Retreat House near Baltimore to make this retreat. I moved by their stories and their search for a meaningful relationship with God. Every story is unique and moving. I am privileged to do this type of work. I'm very grateful.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Questions for the General #6: Social Justice


Libby Rogerson is a Loreto Sister with a long involvement in Social Justice. Libby is presently the Acting Executive Officer of Mary Ward International, the Loreto Sisters’ overseas aid, development and volunteer organisation. Libby is also a longstanding and much appreciated member of the Board of Jesuit Social Services.

Libby’s question: Fr General, I am on the Board of Jesuit Social Services and we grapple with the obvious contrast between the affluence and rampant consumerism of much of Australian society and the poverty and alienation of our Indigenous Australians and other groups who cannot make their way in this system. What do you see is the role of the Jesuits and the Society's works in promoting a more just society?

So we had a difficult question at the beginning and a difficult one at the end. I have been - naturally, it is part of my job - reflecting about the mission of the Society of Jesus, and therefore the mission in which we are all involved and I have come to the conviction that the challenges we have are the same challenges that humanity has. These are the challenges of poverty, hunger, injustice, unemployment, migration, violence, war, suffering, alienation; and then also the need for things that seem very often lost - joy, hope and meaning.

I think the challenges are the same. If you look at the history of religion, all the great religions started from here. How can we reduce human suffering? Why does humanity have to suffer so much? Why do we have to endure so much injustice? Why do we have to be so violent? Why war? These things are totally without reason, but they make humanity suffer. The religions, all the religions, are borne out of the desire to make humanity a little more joyful, to reduce suffering. Buddhism for example - the whole question of Buddhism is how can we eliminate suffering.               

The challenges that we have are not about increasing the number of people going to Mass on Sunday. This will be a factor, maybe, in our pastoral work, and we have to ask ourselves why people don't come. But the real problem is, do people find joy and meaning and hope in life? How can we contribute to that?

Now, the basic question, therefore, for us is what is our point of entry?  We are not an NGO, we are not a political group, we are not an ambitious group that drives to perform for its own interest. We have to discern how we can help humanity. Ignatius knew it very well. It is about changing the human heart. 

There was a meeting at which Father Robert Drinan was present, in the United States. He was sitting next to Robert McNamara who at the time was the president of the World Bank and in the course of the meal McNamara turned to Father Robert and said, ‘Father Robert, the world now has solutions for many basic problems. We can solve the problem of poverty. There are solutions to the problem of hunger in Africa and so forth. The problem is that we lack political will. We lack political will and a will of cooperation to make it happen. That is where you religious people of faith can help.’

So maybe this is our point of entry. The concerns are the same as all of humanity, but maybe our point of entry as spiritual people, as people with a vocation to proclaim the Gospel and to bring a new way of life to humanity, is to reach the heart of people so that there is an inner change. If we don't change the heart, society will still change, as we have seen with Communism. It moves to the right, then to the left, then to the right, then to the left, but we never reach the point of balance - where everybody has a chance to feel and to be human.

Therefore, the question is how can we enter and how can we cooperate? That's why a meeting like this gives me so much comfort because is a question of cooperation.  The problems of the world are far beyond what any group can manage - hunger, poverty, unemployment, injustice, ecological destruction, all these things are far beyond what a group of Jesuits can do, but maybe together, networking with many others who have the same power, maybe Buddhists, maybe Hindus, maybe Moslems with the same heart, maybe we can cooperate to make our world a little more human, a little more like God wants the world to be.

We don't have programs that are definite solutions to the problems of the world, but we can make our education an education for values and for promoting contribution to our society, and we can make our pastoral work about creating a better society, and we can make our work with JRS about bringing dignity and hope to people, et cetera.

I think this is the time to dream, to think about the big mission, not reduce it to a particular project or a particular country or a particular area of work.  But we are part of a big mission and in that mission maybe we can do something. Maybe it's a little thing, but that's something. Together with the something that is being done by others, like we have here, maybe it can be a sizeable contribution. 

I think this is a challenge and it is an open-ended challenge, because the crimes of humanity are very serious and it's an ongoing quest. It demands a lot of us to give everything we have because these are the basic questions of humanity.

Fr General fielded questions from six people at his address on 25 January. In this edition of Province Express, we feature the second three questions. The other three questions were featured in the last edition. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fresh and Green (in the late afternoon sun)

To see photos of a version of shamrocks, click on the link below:

Pics of St. Patrick's Day's Greens

Ten Daffodils

Today's warm temperatures allowed me to open the windows of my bedroom to let in a gentle ocean breeze. It is the first time since November since my windows were open for an extended period. The fresh air smells healthy. The sound of the ocean waves rhythmically lapping onto the rocks sounded like a familiar friend returned. Its presence provided peace.

Ten daffodils opened up to the world today. Dozens of plants dot the gardens and forests openings and will soon announce that they have arrived. Once again, it seemed like familiar friends returned.

I spent the afternoon collecting rocks to form a border for the garden beds. I suspect it will neaten up the beds and protect them from grass trimmers. I will work on another bed's border tomorrow. This is getting to be fun. Sometimes I feel like the outdoors is neater than my room.

Another evening stroll concluded my day. I just could not shut myself in my room when the stars were bright and the air so still. The quiet pond is intriguing me. I thought I saw reflecting eyes on the banks of the pond. I'll have to bring some Leki poles with me in case of a scared animal. In the darkness, I was nearly struck by a retreatant bicyclist who did not wear any reflective lights. I turned off my flashlight so I could be still in the darkness, but I see that I am to put safety first.

The evening sounds are different from the day. I feel as if I am more part of the forest because I need heightened senses to distinguish sights and sounds. It really is cool.

I love my work. I enjoy my life. A retreatant asked me if I like what I do and I thoughtfully responded yes. Even though I hear great stories of suffering, I hear tales of tremendous faith and a seeking of a God who desperately loves us and wants to be found. The sacred in my work increases each day and God is more present to me. I'm grateful. I'm damn grateful.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Happy St. Patrick's Day

I finally was able to get outside and do some lawn work. I began tidying up the place as I've created woodpiles all over the property. I want to get them all placed in one heap before the warm weather comes to stay.

In the areas I cleared of brush debris, tons of daffodils are coming up. The once thick forest now looks like a meadow glen. Within a day or two, one quarter of the daffodils will blossom. Crocuses are ready to peak through and narcissus and tulips are well on their way. Tomorrow, I will build a rock border around the flower beds.

The St. Patrick Day celebration went well. A cooked breakfast with tasty Irish Soda bread from Br./Fr. Ricky Curry's recipe in his "Jesuit Guide to Bread-Making." The boiled dinner hit the spot as well. Mass was lovely, if I do say so myself, with the festive decorations for the altar and ambo.

For an evening celebration, our guest Irish tertian, who is here on experiment, regaled us with traditional songs and guitar strumming. It is a lovely way to celebrate in the middle of a retreat. We watched a couple corny Irish Leprechaun movies on the Hallmark channel at night. They were   entertaining, but they will never be given an award by the Academy of Motion Pictures. So what! It's all about enjoying frivolity.

Oh, I listened to our recording (Chorus North Shore) of Handel's Messiah. It is great. It is a professional performance. We have to now rehearse for our June performance of Verdi's Requiem.

Questions for the General #5: Communications


Since 2006, Michael Mullins has been editor of Eureka Street, the daily online public affairs newsletter from Jesuit Communications. Prior to that, he established the CathNews online Catholic news service for Church Resources, after working for the international office of Jesuit Refugee Service in Rome.

Michael’s question: Since the time of the early companions, it has been a special mission of the Jesuits to confront atheism. My question is about how much of a priority this is currently, and what exactly the Society is doing about it. It seems to me that, in recent decades, religious indifference has been considered a more serious threat than militant atheism. But now, certain high profile atheists such as the late Christopher Hitchens have helped to make atheism fashionable again. I imagine it would be a challenge for the Society to maintain a coherent approach because so many Jesuits are working in countries such as India where religion is hardly questioned.

I think, as you said very rightly, the perception of the modern world is changing and not only among Jesuits but even at the higher levels of the church. The Pope has invited a few agnostics to the meeting at Assisi. He invited not only Buddhists and Hindus and Baha'is, but he invited well-known agnostics from Mexico and France. So something is changing and the range now of positions has widened very much. 

We still have some people that could be called militant atheists. We also have peaceful atheists, and I have to say that when I came back to Europe after spending more than 30 years in Japan I was surprised to see that European atheism is very militant. It is anti-something, anti-clerical or anti-God or anti-church or anti-Christianity. Meanwhile agnosticism, or even atheism, in Japan is very peaceful, and they respect the Buddhists and the Christians and the Moslems. They respect religion, but they make their own personal choices and when the beginning of the year comes, I think 90 per cent of the Japanese pray for a good year, even if they consider themselves agnostics. There is a totally different feeling. So there are militant but also peaceful atheists.

There are non-searching agnostics and there are searching agnostics.  An article was published about three days before I left about the agnostic from Mexico, and he was saying that Assisi has changed his perspective.  He continues to be an agnostic, but he searches.

The Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, continue to be concerned with the service of faith. This is our mission. It is a service of faith. But the question is, how do we serve that faith? It will depend very much on with whom we deal, with whom we talk or with whom we search. The first step is to respect the position of that other person.

What is important to my mind is the search. It is very different to be convinced that what I think in my small brain is the final truth of everything, or to remain open and searching. I think this basic attitude determines whether we are people of faith or not.  I think a person that has closed the mind to a few tenets of our faith can be a fundamentalist but not a good believer.  I think that the prayer of the New Testament is, ‘Lord, I believe but help my unbelief’. We believe, but now and then we have doubts, and what I said before about crisis - crises are very good because then we keep questioning and we go deeper and deeper into the questions.

Cardinal Ravasi, who was one of the new cardinals appointed last year, is a real humanist and a great thinker. He says, ‘Searching in agnostics is already part of the encounter, with the truth or with mystery or with God... Searching is already part of the journey towards God.’ It's this search that I think is important. The Pope himself has said, ‘It is better to be an agnostic who is searching than a Christian who doesn't search anymore.’ That reminds us of St Augustine, who said, ‘If you understand Him, he's not God any more.’

Therefore, it is better to keep searching and to regain - we Catholics and Jesuits in particular - the humility of good theology.  Good theology is always very humble, and again I can quote Ratzinger. When he was young he wrote in a booklet, ‘Theological language has only an approximative value.’ I think this is very wise.  We can never be in God with any confidence. God remains elusive. 

What we said before about the poor, nobody has seen God but if you befriend the poor, God will be there.  You will have each other, you can build a community of love and compassion and mutual help, God will be there. But the face of God will not be seen, so He continues to be a mystery and we have to learn and relearn the humble language of theology. Not the proud language of theology, which says many things but says nothing, but the humble language that points the way. The Chinese said it very wisely, ‘The wise man points to the moon and the fool looks at the finger.’ So theology is just a finger pointing to the moon which is God.

Fr General fielded questions from six people at his address on 25 January. In this edition of Province Express, we feature the second three questions. The other three questions were featured in the last edition. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fresh Air

Tonight I took an evening walk as the rains ended and the clouds were clearing. The temperatures were mild and though daylight savings time is in effect, the land was dark. Clouds low on the horizon reflected light back onto the pond, which lightened the sky. The moist air made breathing very refreshing.

I hadn't taken an evening walk since daylight savings time ended in November. I felt invigorated as I needed only a light jacket to warm me. It feels as if the seasons are changing quickly. New life will be teeming soon.

The pond was very quiet. The ducks and swans were nestled into wherever they go. Only a few droplets of rainwater from the trees interrupted the silence that hovered over the pond. The water seemed to be replenishing life. Birds were quieted; the nocturnal world remained silent.

I felt like I was walking with eyes upon me. I imagined deer, foxes, and coyotes noticed I was an interloper in their playground, but I stealthily kept moving forward enjoying the barely cool breaths. Winter's hibernation seems to be over for me. My day has been extended into the early evening hours and I can find solace in regular peaceful evening strolls. I just want to breathe and take in this still, but active world.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Retreat to Belfast

This past weekend I traveled to Belfast, Maine to direct a retreat and make a few days of prayer. I typically lead St. Brendan the Navigator parish on a Lenten or Advent retreat. I love the choice of the parish name, especially as all the towns are on Maine's coastal waterways.

The trip north was fun. To break up the four hour drive, I met a friend in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for lunch. We ate at the Library restaurant near the downtown area, which is furnished with many old books and has the feel of an English smoking room.

I called on a friend in Portland before stopping at LL Bean's in Freeport. From there, I met former Cathedral choir members who live in Bath. They are in the process of selling their house because they just bought another one. Each sale was done with great rapidity. They are excited because the town of Bath is finally getting their first seafood restaurant. One would expect there would be half a dozen, but this is the first one in the area. It was great to see them and to catch up on the many events of their lives.

The retreat was great fun. It was on "being open to God" and "healing painful memories." Twenty-six parishioners attended. They were very silent and took advantage of the great opportunity for prayer. I enjoy being with them as they evolve through the dynamic changes of the Portland diocese.

On the return trip, I caught up with a friend who was a colleague at Cheverus. She is now a mom of two young children and enjoys being a parent to them. She and her husband are enjoying their new house. I'm delighted I had a chance to catch up on their lives. It makes me so happy that people are doing well with their choices in life.

Now, we are beginning another retreat. This retreat will canvas three great days - St. Patrick's, Laetare Sunday, and St. Joseph's. This is a powerful three days. Besides that, spring temperatures are expected in the area. All is good.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Questions for the General #4: Refugees


Associate Professor Marie Joyce is an academic and clinical psychologist, and a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society. She is an Honorary Fellow in the Quality of Life and Social Justice Research Centre at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. With Father Michael Smith SJ and others, she was a founding member of the Refugee Tertiary Education Committee (RTEC) which works to advocate for refugees to bring free tertiary education to overseas camp-based refugees. Marie is a Director of the Board of the Lighthouse Foundation which cares for homeless young people in Victoria using a therapeutic model of care. She is also a member of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R) and a member of the Australian Girard Seminar (AGS). Marie was a Consultant to the Provincials of the Society of Jesus, and the Jesuit Province Consult from 1994-2002. Marie and Gerry Joyce entertained Fr Nicolás and Fr Raper for dinner at their home in Melbourne on Fr Nicolás’ last visit to Australia.

Marie’s question: Since 2000, the group in Melbourne known as the Refugee Tertiary Education Committee (RTEC), in collaboration with universities in Australia and overseas, has been working to bring free higher education online to camp-based Burmese refugees on the Thai-Burma border. A major issue for many refugees to confront is the matter of transitional justice in the post-conflict context when they are able to return to their countries, for example to Burma/Myanmar. How can RTEC and the universities advance and expand this educational work to foster peace-building and reconciliation in post-conflict settings?

I have to say that the first time I heard about an online tertiary education project was here in Australia when I visited Australian Catholic University, and some of the priests here were involved. Since then I have admired very much what has happened and the number of refugees supported by this program, so I think it is an excellent initiative, a magnificent initiative. My hope is that the number of countries that are going to use this is going to increase.

I am very positive about the project. At the same time I think that this is a very specialised kind of project that requires a lot of expertise and thinking and reflection. I am sure that you have thought about this much more than I have and, therefore, I feel unable to say more than the admiration I have felt.  I know that Jesuit Refugee Service is very keen on continuing this kind of service and we have in the Society now what they call Jesuit Commons which is a way of continuing with these kinds of projects and offering them to different parts of the world. I hope that this will continue because the possibilities are enormous.

The questions of transitional justice, and then reconciliation and peace, in these educational environments are obviously primary concerns, and they are being reflected upon by the different institutions and networks.  Not only JRS, but the universities are also thinking about creating a network on precisely these topics. The Jesuits in Africa consider that this is one of the priorities that they have to bring forth. Because on the one hand they have a great need to cover all the conflicts that have occurred in Africa, and on the other hand they feel that they can help other provinces in the world with their experience of reconciliation.

When we had the meeting in Mexico of Jesuit universities the idea and the concern for creating meaningful networks was strongly raised, and I know that it's being followed up. There is going to be a meeting in Boston to apply the same visions and the same perspectives. So my hope is that this is coming to fruition, but the specifics require professional thinking, and I think you're more equipped than I am. 

Fr General fielded questions from six people at his address on 25 January. In this edition of Province Express, we feature the second three questions. The other three questions were featured in the last edition. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Questions for the General #1: Education

Adam Lewis is the Director of Co-Curriculum at Saint Ignatius' College, Riverview and will become the Director of Students this year. He spent eight years working at Clongowes Wood College in Ireland and prior to moving to Riverview he completed an MA in Developmental and Educational Psychology at the Society’s Boston College in the USA.

Adam’s Question: A significant component of Jesuit Education is the pursuit of excellence. In contemporary society, ‘excellence’ or ‘success’ or ‘achievement’ seems to be measured increasingly by material or superficial outcomes, such as exam scores and statistics or a physical result on a sporting scoreboard. While these are important, surely an overemphasis on the ‘product’ diminishes the importance of the ‘process’ of education, where the real learning occurs in our context in terms of the education of the whole person. I feel this is a real challenge in our schools, that is, to be counter-cultural to an extent and draw our students back to the ‘process’. How do we do this in a society that is placing increased pressure on the ‘product’ over the ‘process’, when it comes to education?

I think this is a very relevant question. This will be, to my mind, an ongoing challenge to us.

My impression is that this will never be solved fully, because part of the process of education is that an education is successful when it's freely received, so education is a dialogue. It is not the work of the teacher, it's a dialogue, and therefore the receptivity of the student and their ability to digest and make it part of their lives is going to be always a part of education. Therefore it's going to be always an open question how much of what we give is digested, accepted and incorporated into a new frame of mind or a new spiritual framework.

Even so, the question at the end is, what can we do to encourage or to improve on this matter? I would say the first thing is to deepen the sense that excellence has nothing to do with social, financial or professional success, it's an excellence in humanity. It's forming better human beings; people with a heart, with compassion, with understanding; people who can understand our society without bias, without ideological impositions; people who can be attentive, responsible, understanding, et cetera. It is an effort of the whole Christian institution to help young men and women grow with this openness and this understanding. Whenever this excellence is put in terms of immediate results, we are being unfaithful to our message, so we are not giving the totality of the person, we are giving only one part.

I remember I studied with De La Salle Brothers and Jesuits in my last three years, and that in the old times in order to stimulate the students to keep trying and to study hard there were some prizes set up, and the prizes were very much in the line of what you seem to criticise. The prizes were now we would say childish. I got a couple of them but they were childish, because they centred us on ourselves, and they were prizes about results, about performance, exactly what you were saying. Maybe if we as a school or as an educator or as an institution, we have some form of encouragement for serious study, maybe we could set up also prizes for process. If we want to underline process, maybe we should celebrate service. How do we grow together with others? How do we play? How do we exchange?

From my class of 99 students, 19 joined the Jesuits. It was a special year - that was not the norm. But I have asked myself several times why, and I think that for three years in a row we got very good Jesuits to accompany us, and in the last year one of the ways of accompaniment was precisely that when we were preparing for a test the Jesuit would ask those who were doing well to help those who were not doing well. So when a student came to him to ask a question he would say, ‘Go to so-and-so and he will help you’, and he encouraged that. So we were all helping each other, and I think that created a sense that this was something worth continuing for life. I think maybe we can encourage service, and I would say I would include failure in the process as a normal event.

I feel that the majority of humanity experiences failure in life. Failure of communication with children, failure in marriage, failure in their job, failure in promotions that don't happen, et cetera. So failure is very much part of life for the majority of humanity. There should be a way of incorporating failure also in celebrations, and I say we should celebrate failure for the kingdom of God, when someone really goes so much out of himself that in a sense he doesn't respond to expectations of others, but thanks to this sacrifice in a sense others do much better. This I think is a very good way of channelling the energies and the talents that God has given us.

When I went to Japan to study theology, I thought well sometimes we think ‘I have to perform’, but sometimes performing less myself but helping Japanese seminarians to move ahead is much better for the kingdom of God than if I am a star. Stars are very good for looking at, but not for life. If I help others, maybe I don't get the same results, but together we get better results in other ways. Ten plus four plus six is only 20, but eight plus eight plus eight is 24, so that's more.

This kind of encouragement, or these kinds of symbolic gestures where we evaluate the part of process that we want to encourage, would be a way of supporting students. We need something visual, something that we can bring home and be proud of. But knowing that at the end it is going to be about the freedom with which the person accepts these values or not. Particularly I would value teamwork rather than individual performance. I think this is something where schools can be very good, to create teams of people who know how to work together, how to help others who are not doing so well, et cetera.

Fr General fielded questions from six people at his address on 25 January. In this edition of Province Express, we feature the first three questions. The other three questions will be featured in the next edition.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Night of Honors

On Saturday night, the Chorus North Shore performed its commemorative concert at Our Lady of Hope church in Ipswich. Sunday's concert will be at St. Ann Church (Holy Family parish) in Gloucester.

The concert series commemorates 80 years of Choral Music on Boston's North Shore and 50 Years of Conducting by Sonja Dahlgren Pryor.

The chorus began in 1931 as the Community Carol Choir based in Rockport, Massachusetts. The next year it was renamed the Rockport Community Chorus. It changed its name again in 1983 (Rockport Community Chorus of the North Shore) to reflect the more diversified group of musicians from the North Shore. Finally, it was called Chorus North Shore in 1995.

To honor Sonja (Sunny), the chorus sang songs from her first year as conductor (Rose Marie, The Desert Song, and a French Military Marching Song), and three American patriotic songs. The next song was part narration, part collection of African-American spiritual songs fused into an 18-minute piece called God's Trombones. The second half of the show was a composite Mass with Beethoven's (86) Kyrie, Misa Criolla, Shubert's Credo, Sanctus from Verdi's Requiem, the Agnus Dei from Faure's Requiem, Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus, Virgil Thomson's My Shepherd will supply my Need, and William Dawson's Soon Ah Will Be Done.

Pre-concert activities featured notable representatives from the Commonwealth's government. Federal House Democrat John Tierney from the Sixth Congressional District was the first to present a citation to Sunny for her 50 years of service to music on the North Shore. Senate Republican from the First Essex and Middlesex District, Bruce Tarr, gave a charming presentation to Sunny. House Republican, Bradford Hill, from the Fourth Essex District, recalled the time he was one of Sunny's students in the Hamilton school system before giving a citation first to the Chorus North Shore and then to Sunny for their notable achievements. The chair of the Ipswich Board of Selectman, himself a singer, gave the final citation to Sunny.

Everyone enjoyed their night. One more concert and then we begin preparations for Verdi's Requiem on June 2nd. Please come.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Photos: The Massive Leap Day Storm

We have been waiting all winter long for a good snowstorm. February was one of the least snowiest on record, but with Leap Day adding a day to the month, this month's record fell. However, cumulatively, I have to imagine a record is being set for the three winter months of December, January, and February. Even November had no or little snow. The Leap Day storm was to bring 6-10 inches of snow to the area. These photos show the amount we received. To see photos of the Snowfall from the Leap Day Storm in Massachusetts, please click on the link below:

Pics of Leap Day Storm

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Questions for the General #3: Youth

Chris Chan attended St. Aloysius College in Sydney, graduating in 2009. He is about to start his third year of a Bachelor of Medical Science degree at Sydney University. He works as a swim instructor, as well as a counsellor at a kid's holiday camp, and he has a keen interest in swimming. He is a volunteer on the St Vincent de Paul Society’s ‘Night Patrol’ feeding program for the homeless on the streets of Sydney. While at St Aloysius College he participated in the Philippines Immersion Program and has since been back to the Philippines to do volunteer work.

Chris’ question: What advice would you give to a young person trying to discern their career or occupational path, who has an interest in serving the poor, but does not necessarily want to dedicate their entire life to this service?

This is a very good question, and I guess it's quite common. Many people who want to do something meaningful with the poor are called to them, and yet they don't see themselves as involved for life in this kind of service.

I would say I don't think I have an answer to these people, a definite answer, but I would say let the Spirit guide you. Let the Spirit guide you, and do not anticipate too much.

I told myself when I was elected General – and General is for life in the Society - I said, ‘Let's live it one day at a time’. And it works. So one day at a time is always possible.

In the early Church the poor were called the vicars of Christ. Before they called the Pope Vicar of Christ they called the poor Vicars of Christ, and the Pope was Vicar of Peter. The poor are always there for us, inviting us.

If we come in touch with the poor we should come in touch deeply. Make friends with them, not use them for our own growth, or not use them for our own - let's say - moral sense of, say, ‘I'm doing something,’ but truly make friends with them. Enter into their lives, give them the dignity of feeling that they are lovable and they are worth all the attention that we give them, and then decide in the middle of that. Because making friends with the poor changes very much our relationship, and that gives us new elements for the sermon.

Ask, how is the Spirit guiding you? And the key question would be, what is it that touches your heart? Because where you feel that your heart has been touched there is an invitation to do something about it.

I think if we go to the poor because we have to go, if I were poor I would not be very happy. But if we go to the poor because we have made friends and there is something in my heart that leads me there then I have the energy and I have the joy and I have the spirit to communicate with them. I would say it is a question of allowing yourself to be led by the Spirit. This is one aspect.

The other aspect, I would say if you have a real concern for the poor but you have a professional career, make sure that your profession is open to the poor. So find space, room, emotional and professional, so that the poor are part of your work. Then it's not just one time a week where you go and volunteer because otherwise you feel less, but it's your whole orientation that includes the poor, therefore you are doing something for society where the poor need attention.

I know people - psychologists, lawyers - who have a percentage of their clients who are poor, whom they will serve pro bono, without charging, or others who charge only according to the capability of the person. They always charge something because that helps to appreciate the service being done. If it's totally gratis people think that there's no value. But they adapt it to the capability of the other person.There are many ways to include the poor among the beneficiaries of your professional service, and find different initiatives.

Even among Jesuits, there is a tendency to divide ministries into sectors. It makes sense but it's not totally adequate, and now we are discovering that there are areas of our mission that are dimensions of us, that no matter what we do they have to be there. Service of the poor is one of them, or promotion of justice, or the service of faith, defending of faith, or cooperation with others. These are dimensions that no matter where we are, no matter what we do, we have to incorporate.

So if we think like this, that the poor are not just one section of society that I can look at or avoid looking, but that they are part of my society, and if I want to serve this society I have to include that, otherwise our society will not be a healthy society, if this is the perspective with which we incorporate our service of the poor then many things can be done, and the profession itself gets a new colour. This time we can paint it red.

Fr General fielded questions from six people at his address on 25 January. In this edition of Province Express, we feature the first three questions. The other three questions will be featured in the next edition.