"Friendship in the Lord" across continents

Province assembly Zimbabwe Mozambique
Province assembly Zimbabwe Mozambique

Fr Brendan Callaghan SJ travelled to Zimbabwe and South Africa last week, touching base with most of the “Class of 68” – the men who joined the then English Province of the Jesuits back in 1968 – and revisiting some of the places that marked the start of his Jesuit life.

The main purpose of the trip was to help facilitate the Province Assembly for members of the new Zimbabwe-Mozambique Jesuit province.  Drawing on his professional background as a psychologist, Brendan delivered a series of training sessions and reflections on personal development for mission, alongside Roland von Nidda SJ who started the process with  a session on spiritual development for mission. The theme followed on from the previous year’s focus on physical health, and in exploring spiritual and personal development for mission the sessions picked up one of the key ideas from the recent 36th General Congregation.  Participants, some of whom had travelled for ten hours or more from the Mozambique coast, were given a number of presentations as well as opportunities for group work and general discussion on integrating these personal dimensions with the essence of Jesuit life – mission in the service of the Kingdom of God.

“Welcome home” said Fr Cesar Jo Augusto SJ, the Socius to the Provincial in Harare, on meeting Fr Brendan on his arrival, and the trip was indeed something of a homecoming for him.  A providential muddle over university applications had made it possible for him to spend a year working in what was then just-post-UDI Rhodesia, teaching at St Ignatius, Chishawasha while considering joining the Jesuits. As it has turned out, almost all of those who were subsequently in the novitiate with him in Edinburgh have spent the intervening 50 years working in Zimbabwe or South Africa, so along with revisiting significant places such as St Ignatius’, Brendan was able to catch up with many of his contemporaries.

The timing of the Province Assembly ruled out a reunion as such, but provided the opportunity to meet up with Fr Joe Hampson SJ and Fr Nigel Johnson SJ, Treasurer and Development Officer for the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Province, and a few days’ break in South Africa brought Fr Chris Chatteris SJ and Fr Michael Lewis SJ into the loop. Chris, formerly Regional Superior of the Jesuits in South Africa, is on the staff of the Seminary in Cape Town, while Michael, a previous President of the Conference of African Jesuits, is the founding Tertian Director for Southern Africa (tertianship is the •	Frs Bboloka Nchimunya  (Zambia) & Gilbert Banda (Zimbabwe-Mozambique) – “Tertians cooling off” final stage of Jesuit training).  A new tertianship for the whole of Southern Africa was established last September in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape area of South Africa, and Brendan was able to stay there for a few days, only a few miles away from where, back in January 1967, he had made his decision to join the Jesuits, having hitch-hiked down to the Cape during the school holidays. Some of the tertians were away on various “experiments” – testing experiences that form part of the tertianship – but he was able to meet several of them, as well as Fr Jim McGloin SJ, the former Provincial of Zambia who works with Michael Lewis in running the tertianship.

‘Reunions such as these, built around particular events and tasks, help maintain that “friendship in the Lord” which is a mark of Jesuit life’, said Fr Brendan. With the cheapest way of travelling involving “flying the long way round”, i.e. via Dubai, the travel time might seem to be too demanding – “But the real-world graces that emerge in such meetings make it well worth-while”,  commented Fr Brendan. “Seeing the life and energy and commitment of the young Jesuits in this newly-formed Province is a real experience of hope, while meeting up with the indominatable  “elders” of the Province such as Fr George Croft SJ and Fr Tony “Seamus” Watsham SJ, (both active in their 90’s) made me feel that 50 years of Jesuit living was only a start…”

Fr Tom "Seamus" Watsham SJ

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Fr Anthony "Seamus" Watsham SJ (pictured left) who died on 17th January aged 94, since Fr Brendan's return.