The new Child, Jesuit Chennai Province is now born in the context of the disturbed, distorted and divided world.The first challenge to us is to look at this distorted world from the eyes, hearts, minds and the perspectives of the people of the periphery.
In his Apostolic Letter (Nov, 2014) to all Consecrated People, Pope Francis emphatically says that a prophet is someone who listens to the words of God, who reads the signs of times, and who knows how to move forward towards the future.
In the meditation on the Incarnation, St Ignatius invites us in the Spiritual Exercises (Sp. Exs. 106), to gaze at the reality of the world. Vat II calls us to read the signs of times and do a thorough study before we enter into action.
Our Mission Statement (Dec, 2018) explicitly reflects our context and challenges. “rampant casteism and corruption, unfettered crony capitalism, fast spreading fascist fundamentalism, alienating technological culture, pervasive criminalization of politics, alarming erosion of moral and spiritual values and gross degradation of the environment in our country stare at us defiantly. Untouchability, discrimination, oppression and violence of varied forms have become almost the order of the day. The commercialization and corporatization of healthcare and education and other basic services and the denial of human rights appall us”.
What we need, to face these challenges is the creative fidelityin our apostolic commitment, for the growth of Chennai Province. It is our owning and serving the unserved and the underserved.
In this context, with your collaboration and cooperation, particularly the members of Chennai Province, I would like to give top priority to the following orientations in Chennai Province.
1. Sharing the struggles of our people: In all our ministries,our commitment to accompany and to be part of the struggles of the worst affected and marginalised,Dalits, especially Dalit Christians, Tribals, Migrants, Refugees, Women, Youth and other vulnerable sections of society, who are pushed to the periphery, be given top priority. In giving proper and quality education, trainings in overall development,moving beyond charity and developmental works, we need to look at the social movements as a tool to transform the social order.For all thesefaith with commitment to Justice is essential.
2. Strengthening the existing ministries: Our educational and Technical Institutions, parishes and social, spiritual and dialogue centres in further reaching out the people of the peripheryand building up the needed resources and personnel.While we feel the need of extending our mission to new areas, we will also learn to deepen our existing ministries with certain focus. Our Apostolic Planning would do that part.
3. Building up the structures:We need to mobilize the local, and other financial resourcesinensuring the sustainability of our apostolic activities. Structures are for us, we are not for structures. However fluid some of the structures may be, all that we need is to aim at the ultimate goal: greater glory of our creator in the service of His people. I believe that resources are everywhere. We only need a heart and a team to tap them!
4. Nurturing fraternal communion among us: Strengthening the belongingness among us as the members of the Chennai Province going beyond any sort of divisiveness, knit together with bonds of caring and loving and rooted in the spirit of the first Companions and to work together in union of hearts and minds.
5. Focusing on Vocation Promotion and forming quality men for our ministries who combine spiritual and intellectual depth with competence and commitment. People wonder that we are bifurcated, while many provinces are merging. We accept wholeheartedly that we have good and quality men in our provinces. We also need to explore new areas for new vocations so that our mission would not suffer a lack of human power.
6. Seeking and creating systems to network and collaborate with our collaborators, Coworkers, Human rights defenders, all like-minded women and men of different churches, religions, ideologies who are committed for a just world. This is very much needed in today’s world. The political and bureaucratic impunity, the endless struggles of the victims, the callousness of middle class people, the helplessness of the impoverished masses and tortures meted out on the human right defenders and activists are rampant everywhere. We need to build grand alliances among ourselves. We shall stand in frontiers towards this purpose.
7. Implementation of PAPs and UAPs: We collectively underwent a long process of preparing our Province Apostolic Preferences. We also did the exercise of preparing the Chennai Apostolic Action plans. It is time for us first, to own the action plans of our communities of Chennai Province and the overall action plans of Chennai Province and second, we need to commit ourselves generously in implementing these action plans of PAPs and UAPs in the coming days.
8. Media Intervention:Another major concern is the Media, the media intervention of ours in today’s context. As social media plays a vital role in determining the future of youth, we Jesuits mostly working among the youth, both urban and rural, and organised and unorganized, we need to concentrate our commitment to Media education and media Intervention. Since Chennai Jesuits own institutions in the Capital city, we have the duty also to intervene positively at the level of policy making, advocacy and lobbying at all levels.
At this critical and historical juncture, we need to focus our energies and resources towards building up the newly born Chennai Province with utmost fidelity and prophetic audacity.Our Mission Statement reiterates that our commitment to this mission flows from our steadfast faith and hope in God and passionate concern and love for the marginalized people we have chosen to journey with. Their liberation becomes our goal, their hopes our inspiration and their struggles our challenges.
I would like to profusely thank each and every one of you for your overwhelming presence and your active participation in the proceedings of Province Assembly, particularly in this ceremonial way of establishing the new Chennai Province and I assuming the responsibility as its first Provincial.
The PrepCo headed by Fr. Francis P Xavier, SJ, meticulously planned and executed the Assembly with utmost precision and perfection. Together with the members of the PrepCo there is an army of men. Already three months back, Jesuits and others, took responsibility and started their works. On behalf of all of you, I would like to express my wholehearted thanks to the organising committee, all the members of the other sub-committees and the members of the Loyola Community the Rector and Fr. Justin, our Minister and the heads and Directors of various Institutions, for their tireless hard work to excellently accomplish the Province Assembly. Special thanks to all our Scholastics who had silently contributed much to the success of this Assembly as well.The contribution of the collaborators and Co-workers from our Institutions, Centres and Parishes of Chennai Province is also much appreciated. I would like to express my sincere thanks to all of them for their forthright and genuine sharing in the Assembly.
All of you made the Assembly meaningful and joyful and let us together as one Holy Family, collectively own up the new born baby, march forward with collective hope that springs fromwith Collective Magis, following the footsteps of our founding Fathers,in contributing our mite in our commitment to build up the new born Jesuit Chennai Province. Let us continue to pray to Jesus our Master, to our dear Mother Mary, St Ignatius our Leader and all the Saints of the Society of Jesus, to give the spiritual power and strength to all of us to lead the new Province in His own way.
Let us surrender ourselves to the Holy Family which adorns the humankind. The Holy family symbolizes ‘togetherness’, ‘acceptance’ and ‘forgiveness’. Togetherness is what we have in the Ignatian legacy: Union of minds and hearts (unioanimorum). All of us share in this union because all of us have positively responded to the call of the Eternal King. It is in union with Christ we orient ourselves in companionship with others. GC 32 (203 & 212) exactly brings out this orientation: ‘…we treat of our union with God in Christ, from which flows our brotherly communion with one another…’ The life in communion demands accepting other as they are, not as we want and forgive ourselves and others whenever we fall. We have voluntarily chosen this life in communion, not just for narcissistic love but for others in our mission. So, this life in communion has an apostolic dimension, as well. We live together so that we will love our mission together. Holy Family reminds us of greater values for our vocation to Jesuit companionship.
I earnestly seek your blessings and prayers to walk together with you all steadfastly especially the members of Chennai Province, to feel free to interact with me and counsel me, in ourcommitment to the liberation of the people of the periphery and to rededicate and radiate ourselves joyfully and to develop the Jesuit Chennai Province under the banner of the Cross.
Let us walk together as a family, in the footsteps of our Master Jesus Christ.May the Lord of History, who called us to the least Society, may lead us in imitating Jesus to be partners in accomplishingHis redemptive work of liberating the downtrodden, empowering the broken hearted, and elevating the lowly in the Society. It is He who created this Province and He will make miracles in and through us. He is the God of History and He is a God of surprises.Infant Jesus, Bless us all.