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Novitiate of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus
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Ultreia!

13 Aug 2018

In these months I’ve been asking myself where I will be in a few years’ time. Where will my work be and what will my responsibilities be? Where will I live? Will I have to learn new languages?

Many years ago, journeying on foot towards Santiago de Compostela we met a pilgrim with a white beard and a series of strange objects hanging from his neck. He had glasses held together with tape and an eye which was covered, like a pirate. In a mixture of French and Spanish, he explained that the difference between a beggar and a pilgrim is in the destination. He saluted us saying: “Ultreia!”, which we later discovered to be the ancient pilgrims’ motto which means “move on!”. After saying goodbye, I felt the desire to look back to see if he was still there or if he had been an angelic apparition.

Eighteen years later something made me recall that episode between the plates of trofie (a type of pasta) of the feast of San Marcellino, in the square in front of the church. My spirit mingled with people’s stories. There were Jesuit novices, employees and volunteers from San Marcellino, guests to whom we offer shelter and homeless people who were passing by so as to eat something. There were so many different tales that were recounted. Among these, I was struck by the stories of the volunteers regarding the world of work, a world that I know very well from direct experience. A continual reduction of personnel and costs with the increase of working hours. The closure of businesses and the fear that their own company will close. Unemployment at fifty is not always accompanied by a social safety net. All this mixed with stories of the homeless, their continuous search for a place to stay and a warm meal to eat, hours and hours walking around the city without a destination, waiting for the right time to enter a meal center or dormitory . I saw a precariousness of the world in which we live. It is a precariousness that touches different people on different levels, from work to the search for a roof over their heads, from the search for the ultimate meaning in life to the increasingly difficult reconciliation between one’s own desires and the reality of things.

Then came the experiment of “the pilgrimage in poverty”, once again on pilgrimage after many years, once again in this great and symbolic journey that represents our life. In the  difficulty and tiredness I remembered the episode of the pilgrim who told me “Ultreia!”. We did not know where we would sleep and what we would eat but we knew for Whom and for what we were walking. We were trying to follow the footsteps of the great King and nothing could have given a stronger flavour to our progress and a more profound answer to my questions.

Interview with Umberta Parodi, teacher of ancient Greek

19 Dec 2020

Once a week we have a lesson in ancient Greek. For more than 10 years Professor Umberta Parodi has been teaching novices and thus has the opportunity to get to know the new generations of Jesuits. Here is an interview to get to know her better.

It is not only in the novitiate that you have met the Society of Jesus, but you have been influenced by meeting various Jesuits in your life. Can you tell us a little about how they have left an impact on you?
The first Jesuit I met was Fr Giuseppe Carena, who was in charge of the so-called ‘mass of the poor’ at San Marcellino. I was a volunteer there from 1970 onwards and met Alberto Remondini, who later joined the Society. Together we ran an after-school centre for children in the old town, which over time became a social service cooperative, the Cesto.
Fr Maurizio Costa, rector of the Arecco Institute, was my husband’s and my spiritual director, and prepared us for marriage. He also followed us afterwards. Then there is Fr Biagio Spessa, who was a very good friend of my husband, and was very close to our family. He was a teacher at Arecco, very intelligent, but also very humble.

Is there one thing that characterises the novices you have met over the years?
The attitude of searching is common to all those I have met. They have come here in search of the right path, and they have been left free to leave if their path was elsewhere. It is also good to see that space is left for their very different personalities.

In the lessons we not only learn the grammar and etymology of various words, but together we also read the Gospel passage for the following Sunday. What is your relationship with the Gospel and has it changed in any way over the years?
When I was a girl I read the Gospels with a Franciscan friar, so I have been reading the Gospel for many years. But it was only when I started teaching here in the novitiate that I began to delve deeper into the language, which allows me to discover remarkable spiritual horizons. In fact, I could do this for every Sunday, but I only do it when I prepare my lessons, because the journey of faith is a journey of community. That is what I have discovered here. So I hope every year that the novice master will confirm me for the following year.

Can you share with us a desolation you have received recently?
A daughter of a friend recently died of cancer at only 40 years of age, but she had not shared with her family the fact that she was ill, and this was a great sorrow.

Can you share with us a consolation you have received in this recent time?
That there is room for encounter with others and with God when we put ourselves in an attitude of welcome.

2020-12-19

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