Institute Connects — December 2020

The office of the Jesuit Institute will be closed from 15 December 2020 and will reopen on 18 January 2021.

We will continue to broadcast the Sunday Masses on our YouTube channel throughout the Christmas season.

As the sun sets on 2020, many of us breathe a sigh of relief, perhaps. It has been a year of tragedy and challenge. The onslaught of COVID-19 gripped the globe and brought our lives to a standstill. It wrecked economies and left many people without means to survive. Churches were closed and all that was familiar to us seemed to evaporate overnight as a new world order emerged. 2020 tested our relationships, our faith and, for many, the very meanings and purpose of our lives. At this stage too, who knows what the future holds as a second wave of the virus begins to take grip.

In these days of Advent, we watch and wait in the hope that despite all that swirls around us, God is in control. In the awaited Christ-child, we see a God who never abandons us but comes to live amongst us as one of us in the midst of tragedy, challenge and opportunity. We hold fast to the great hope that the child, lying in a lowly manger, in a time of social turmoil and struggle, offers us. Though all else around us is in flux, God’s gentle presence remains constant.

The Jesuit Institute thanks you for your support throughout 2020. We hope that our work has, in some way, helped you in the year that has passed. We look forward to new horizons and adventures with you in 2021. We have new and exciting journeys to share with you when 2021 dawns!

We also wish you and your loved ones a time of rest and renewal. We hope that despite all that 2020 has thrown at us, you will find some time and space to experience God’s presence and love in the Christ-child. We wish you all a holy and peaceful Christmas. Please ensure, as you wind down and find rest, that you take all the precautionary measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 and stay healthy.

May God bless you all.
Russell Pollitt SJ and the team at the Jesuit Institute

Jesuit Refugee Service and Jesuit Institute staff members during the workshop
(Image: Abigail Dawson)

Advocacy Workshop: Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and the Jesuit Institute met for a two-day advocacy workshop in November. The workshop went through a process to develop creative advocacy campaigns in response to challenges being faced by refugees and asylum seekers living in South Africa.

(Image: Jesuit Institute)

Hearts on Fire: Facilitators Reggie Venter, Anne Hart and Cherie-Lynn van der Merwe are leading 24 participants, from around Southern Africa, through the Journey of Hearts on Fire – an introduction to Ignatian Spirituality. This is the first time that Hearts on Fire has been offered via Zoom, which has enabled people who may never, due to their location, have had the opportunity to participate in such a prayerful learning experience.

Feedback has been very positive so far, with participants actively participating in the process. Some deep moments have been shared about how the Hearts on Fire encounters are assisting them to deepen their relationship with God through new and life-giving ways into prayer. We have also noticed a few friendships beginning to form between participants, which may well continue long after this Hearts on Fire is over. 

(Still shot: Matthew Charlesworth SJ)

Spiritual Exercises Training: The Spirituality of Jesuits, and indeed all Ignatian ministry, finds its heart and inspiration in the experience of a retreat known as the ‘Spiritual Exercises’. This was a form of prayer and a particular style of retreat borne out of St Ignatius’ own experience and faithfully followed over the years by Jesuits (who normally do it twice in their lives) and their collaborators (who are growing in number and skill in South Africa). It is an experience I described after first doing it over a decade ago, as the ‘Catholic born-again experience’. It radically helps one come into a personal relationship with Jesus and helps one come to know, understand and commit to God’s deepest desires for each person.

The Spiritual Exercises Training – a one year program run by the Jesuit Institute to train Spiritual directors to give the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius concluded in November. The course was a year-long with four modules of four days each interspersed with assignments and reflective work on guiding individuals through the Spiritual Exercises. Over the last decade, the Institute has trained 38 people in this ministry and with the conclusion of this course, another 13 graduates are added to this pool of Directors. The course participants ranged across denominations from Catholic Priests to Methodist Ministers, psychologists and medical doctors and more besides. Each person brought valuable insights to share and learn from. But what united them together, in a rare example of ecumenical collaboration, was the experience of how unifying and life-giving Ignatian Spirituality has been in their own lives and continues to be in the lives of those they minister to. One of the advantages of this course – even though it was finished online because of COVID-19 – was the community that formed that will continue to support each other in the years ahead. With this course complete there are now even more ‘Givers of the Exercises’ available for individuals and religious communities to draw on who can lead others through this powerful and life-changing way of prayer.

Saying goodbye to friends

Farewell: It is with a heavy heart that we bid goodbye to Nonto Mhlongo, Katleho Khang SNJM, and Cynthia Ndala, at the end of December 2020, and Matthew Charlesworth SJ at the end of February 2020. They have all made significant contributions in their own right to the work of the Jesuit Institute. Thank you each one of you for your dedication to expanding the horizons of hope. As you embark on the new work you are called to, we wish you every blessing.

Something New

The Jesuit Institute has recognised the need for spiritual accompaniment training specifically for those in religious congregations who are already doing the work of accompaniment in their communities.

We have created a new one-year programme entitled Spiritual Accompaniment for Catholic Religious which we believe would be an effective way of helping you to immediately learn how to accompany others.

This course will begin in April 2021 and end in April 2022.

For any further details kindly contact training@jesuitinstitute.org.za

What to look out for in 2021

Jesuit Institute Spokesperson
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