In what seems to be somewhat of a novitiate annual tradition, a group of Jesuit Novices spent the Easter Triduum helping out on the Stonyhurst Easter Retreat. We were working alongside Fr John Twist SJ and Sarah Young, the chaplaincy team at Stonyhurst College, to provide faith-filled fun sessions for children who attend the retreat with their parents. Our activities allowed parents to attend a series of talks given by Jesuits such as Nick King, Philip Endean and Geoffrey Wheaton and also gave the children a chance to celebrate the Paschal Mystery in a variety of creative ways. This included acting out the Stations of the Cross and the Passion of Our Lord, designing artwork and actions to accompany the Genesis and Exodus readings at the Easter Vigil Mass and also leading a procession into St Peter’s Church on Easter Sunday morning with a bright and beautiful banner proclaiming ‘Alleluia’.
On a personal note it was another great way to get to know the ‘wider family’ of the Jesuits in Britain, meeting people who have engaged in the work of the Society for much longer than I have. Furthermore, the warmth of the welcome I received from the families who took part in the retreat helped to dispel some lingering feelings of homesickness I experienced upon realizing that I wouldn’t see my family over this Easter period.
Days later the entire novitiate community reassembled, fresh from the variety of experiments we have all been on, and were soon on our way together to a Province assembly in Swanwick, Derbyshire. We participated in a range of fascinating presentations and workshops, as well as the all-important social time that bookended such events nicely. We heard Jesuits speak on a variety of topics. The history of the Society was considered in a discussion on Pedro Ribadeneira, a Spanish Jesuit who joined the Society at the age of thirteen (!) in 1540. He enjoyed a close relationship with St Ignatius of Loyola and later wrote a biography of Ignatius. Ribadeneira was discussed by Fr Joe Munitiz SJ who has been working on a new translation of a memoir of Ribadeneira regarding governance in the Society of Jesus, a potentially important and illuminating document considering the author’s proximity to Ignatius as Father General in the Society’s early years. As well as the history of the Society, the future of the British province was outlined by Fr Provincial Dermot Preston, who led us through some important issues that face Jesuits in Britain in the future. One particularly fascinating presentation came from Fr Tony Corcoran SJ, Regional Superior of the Jesuits in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, who outlined his experiences and gave us a flavor of the international nature of the Society. As a novice this was another great opportunity to meet a variety of Jesuits who are leading by example in the way they are serving God with their lives. By listening to their advice and enjoying their community we all received a reassuring, even exciting, glimpse of what life in the Society looks like in the longer-term.
We have all now returned to the novitiate for six weeks’ worth of studies but hopefully our temporary geographical stability will not see our reflections shared here dry up over this time. A belated ‘Happy Easter’ to all readers.