Fr James Conway SJ professes Final Vows
Please remember in your prayers Fr James Conway SJ who professed his Final Vows at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm St, on Friday 8th June - feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Final vows are traditionally made on a feast of particular significance to Jesuits. Devotion to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus was originally championed by the Jesuit Saint Claude La Colombiere.
In his homily, principal celebrant Fr Provincial Damian Howard SJ focused on the call to transformation invoked by the Sacred Heart: “the Divine Heart astonishes us by not only calling us to join Him in the outreach of His loving but enabling us to do so. To bear the embrace of mercy to others. To host His love in our freshly humbled hearts, now made supple and real and strong. In all humility, we set out at last as active participants in the love that changed our lives.”
Fr Damian reminded the congregation that Christ’s Passion and the agony in the garden of Gethsemene is central to the original call to the Sacred Heart and commented on the fitness of the feast for Fr James’s final vows of dedication:
“It is entirely suitable that we are surrounded by a spiritual impulse which welled up in the groves of Gethsemane as we celebrate an act of definitive self-offering to Christ and His People. Jim has done his fair share of wrestling with God’s will over the last twenty-four years…. But in a few minutes’ time, he will kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and pronounce his final “yes” to the Lord. And it’s good that we are all here to celebrate that because it is a real victory, and just as we are called to share in the Lord’s agony, so we are invited to participate in His glory, in a modest way, even in the here and now”
Fr James is originally from Newcastle. He joined the Society of Jesus 24 years ago, at the age of 31. “Looking back on those years, it has been an amazing journey” he reflected. “The sense of a journey has been very real as God has accompanied me all along the way: through thick and thin He has been faithful to me, though I have not always been faithful to Him. Making my first vows was the first milestone. The final vows are a full incorporation to the Society – the Society is saying to me that I do truly belong as part of its incorporated body, and this sits very comfortably and tenderly with me. It is the equivalent in St Ignatius’ own personal journey of his vision at La Storta, where he saw himself placed alongside the Son.”
Fr James has lived for the last five years in the remotest parts of Amazonian Guyana. “This years I have just spent in Guyana working with indigenous tribes in the Amazon have been very challenging,” he says , “but they have confirmed for me that St Ignatius offers something universal to the Church. Our gift of Ignatian spirituality is relevant to everyone around the world from the rainforest to western Europe.”
In his note to the order of service, Fr James thanked all his Jesuit brothers, family and friends, and all the people who have supported him both in Britain and Guyana.
His next ministry will see him in London, developing a project to inspire young people with the values of integral ecology, as expressed by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’. “My work will definitely be flavoured by what I learned from the people of the Amazon – that human and environmental ecology go hand in hand.”
Read the whole of Fr Provincial's homily