Within days of beginning an experiment at Jesuit Missions as part of my Jesuit Novitiate, I was given the opportunity to accompany Sam (Jesuit Missions’ Education for Justice Coordinator) to a meeting of The Climate Coalition which I outlined here on the JM website. This week I was fortunate enough to accompany Clara (Jesuit Missions Volunteer Coordinator) to one of her ongoing commitments: a meeting of the Lay Missionaries Volunteer Network. This meeting took place at Milleret House (a building owned by the Religious of the Assumption) which is placed inside Heythrop College (a Jesuit university) and so was a good opportunity for me to see another of the institutions of the British Province of the Society of Jesus.
The meetings of the Lay Missionaries Volunteer Network take place every few months and are designed to help Catholic faith groups develop the volunteer programmes they run. Present were representatives from the Salesians, the Religious of the Assumption and several others. The focus of the morning session of the meeting was on the topic of culture shock among the participants who such groups help to take part in voluntary programmes abroad.
Firstly we heard from Mauricio, a Chilean Columban Lay Missionary, on his experiences of coping with the culture shock that comes from relocating to Britain from South America. It was a fascinating insight that made us realise how our British culture, however ‘normal’ it becomes or ‘developed’ it seems to us, can be difficult to adapt to for others. It was also intriguing to hear Mauricio’s experiences of raising his young family in Britain and the subsequent juggling of Chilean roots and British reality that takes place in his life.
Secondly, I was invited to speak about my time volunteering in Senegal, West Africa. It was a pleasure to share my experiences with the group in the hope it can help inform the practice of future voluntary programmes and deepen the faith and experience of those people who take part. One interesting reflection we all made was how such voluntary programmes, in exposing participants to a culture very different to their own and in providing participants with a safe platform from which to experience such cultural differences, provide an enhancing, illuminating and potentially life-changing service. In returning to this realisation, all present were affirmed in the work they are engaged in providing to others. If you are interested in taking part in one of the volunteering programmes run by Jesuit Missions, please visit the volunteering section of their website.
Again it was great to see the collaboration that Jesuit Missions is engaging in with other faith-based charitable organisations and to meet members of the Catholic community who contribute to charitable work in London. To make a final comment, I have been struck and deeply affirmed by how, in providing a service anchored in our Christian faith and imbued with the values of Ignatian Spirituality, Jesuit Missions enhances its own employees’ faith life by giving them an outlet to practice a faith that does justice. It has been a privilege to experience this myself and to see it very much ‘in action’ in the daily work of Sam and Clara over the past ten days.