Although the first objective of the novitiate is not study, the different courses are part of our life, helping to deepen some aspects of the Society and the life of the Jesuit.
This Monday and Tuesday Father Remondini, a Jesuit from the community of Turin, came to talk to us about the social apostolate of the Society of Jesus. We had two intense days, with so much richness, inspiration and thoughts for reflection.
On Monday morning we started from the roots, which is the experience of Saint Ignatius, then we briefly saw how this area has developed over the centuries: what were the most important moments and the people who made the changes. We continued with the situation of our days, seeing some Italian but also foreign examples. We made acquaintance – in addition to the various institutions and realities – with a method, a process of Ignatian pedagogy, which can be used in many areas. During the course it was not only Father Remondini who spoke, but also we could share our experiences, express our questions, opinions, doubts. This also brought a lot of color. A particularly beautiful moment of the day was watching a film together after dinner, which presented a very interesting and particular reality, the life of the people of a small village in the Amazon region, in Bolivia, where an Italian missionary has been working for many years.
The second day was no less rich than the first, indeed.
The focus was on human relationships which are the most important part of social activity and where the heart of this ministry can be found. Also because usually we are not sociologists, and often we cannot even solve a problem, but what we can give, what we can do is to be present in the situation, to listen, to accompany – and in that way grow something within the other and equally within ourselves. Speaking of the last and the poor of our society, very legitimate but not simple questions have come up, to show that alongside the beauty there are always many challenges and difficulties, even complex ones. At the end of the day we closed with a sharing of our reflections.
I am personally very grateful for this course, which helped me to discover many things. I will definitely take them with me, trying above all to put them into practice.
In September a new Socius arrived in our community: Fr. Davide Saporiti SJ. His predecessor Fr. Iosif Şandoru SJ began the third year in the Dominican Republic.
You have been for 10 years in the retreat house in Bologna. How did you take the news when the Provincial communicated your new destination?
Initially with a bit of sorrow at having to leave a place I knew and loved where I spent all my energy; loved for the activities I carried out and the beautiful relationships I experienced. Later, however – I say this without rhetoric – deep inside me I felt peace because I understand the apostolic mobility that is part of our vocation. The Jesuit is a man sent for others. I understand that staying too long in reality runs the risk of becoming its owner, of taking root, of no longer having pastoral freshness and therefore not doing good for the work itself. In this new destination, i.e. in the Novitiate, I have no problem with the type of work or the environment, but – as often happens – a sense of inadequacy arises in the face of novelty: am I capable of doing well the things that are asked of me? At the same time I feel that in the Novitiate I can give the best of myself.
You celebrated your 25th anniversary in the Society of Jesus a few weeks ago. You are now 6 Jesuits in the Society of your year. What is your memory of the Novitiate?
The first thought is that we are half the number of novices I entered with. Thinking of former companions, I realise that those who continue the journey in the Company are no better than those who leave: indeed, the vocation is something personal. (Although it has to be confirmed by the Society).
For me it was very formative to join a heterogeneous group. Companions with very different ecclesial experiences, different maturations, different tastes, have opened my eyes to so many sensitivities that I had not considered before. The most emotional memories are definitely with the people, both novices and formators. A unique bond remains with the companions of the novitiate, even if we hear each other very little. I also have vivid memories of the typical novitiate experiments: the month of Cottolengo, the Lent experiment with students from one of our colleges and, of course, the Month of Spiritual Exercises; these were the passages that marked me deeply: every time I think about them a light goes on.
And what is your memory of your Socius? In what aspect do you want to be like him?
In the two years of novitiate I changed Master and also Socius. The first was very gentle and also very learned without showing it. The second was good at accompanying and guiding Spiritual Exercises, I saw in him a model of a Jesuit. Both were very helpful and I too would like to be helpful in what was asked of me. Above all, God willing, I would like to witness with my life more than with words the joy of following the Lord in the Society. But this is also true in other environments, not only in the Novitiate.
What will your commitments be this year?
I am understanding little by little, because some things have changed since I did the Novitiate. I interpret my role in concentric circles. The first circle (and the most important) is the life of the Novitiate: the formative modules with the novices, the instruction for the Month of Spiritual Exercises, the re-reading of the Month and everything related to the life of the Novitiate in the strict sense. Then, a subsequent “circle” concerns the life of the house and our works in the city: guiding guests who make the Spiritual Exercises, spiritual accompaniment, helping the pastoral care of the Jesuits in the city (SEEL for young people, CLC…). Finally, the more ‘external’ circle includes all the requests that arrive from the diocese or from our Province: formation courses, Spiritual Exercises courses and so on…
What memory would you like to leave in the memory of the novices? What message would you like to communicate through your example of life?
As mentioned earlier, I would like to communicate the joy of following the Lord in the Society. When I think of the Jesuits I admired in my youth, what impressed me about them was not only and above all their great pastoral skills (although they are important) but that they taught me ‘who a Jesuit is’: a person sent because he feels part of a universal body, a person in love with the Lord who can only spend his life for others, a person capable of self-denial and obedience, capable of living in community with a constructive style (today we would say ‘synodal’) but always in obedience to the superior because the two are not mutually exclusive. I too would like to testify, at least in part, to all this.