Novices return from their experiments
The Jesuit novices based at Manresa House in Birmingham have completed their ‘experiments’ – assignments during which they have experienced faith and justice in action in situations which might be unfamiliar to them, in a variety of apostolic works either at home or overseas. Among the experiments this year in Britain, for example, novice Stephen worked at a hospice where, he said, he found God’s love to be very tangible; Vincent got an insight into parish life in North Wales; while Christopher not only worked with teenagers while at Jesuit Missions, he also took part in a range of multi-faith activities in St Anselm’s parish in Southall.
Away from Britain, Mark was based with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Lebanon where he experienced the daily challenges being faced by Syrian refugees; and Richard found his experiment in Zimbabwe particularly powerful – especially over Holy Week and Easter.
God's love challenges us
Richard was based in Makumbi, where he joined training sessions at the Bakhita Centre, helped with schoolwork in the Children’s Home, and met parishioners at Makumbi and the Mass centres. He witnessed at first hand the conditions in which people are living, conditions related to Zimbabwe’s socio-economic policies and exacerbated by the current environmental crisis brought by another year of drought. “This has caused the maize crop to fail and livestock prices to tumble,” he wrote on the blog Manresa Amigos. “Zimbabwe, once known as ‘The Bread Basket of Africa’, is importing maize from its neighbours.”
The situation in Zimbabwe is also having a severe impact upon education, Richard found. “Falling incomes mean children, particularly girls, are being withdrawn from school because their parents cannot afford the fees,” he wrote. “Some children in the area around Makumbi only go to primary school because the mission pays their fees at the state primary school. Meanwhile the food shortages mean increasing numbers of children go to school hungry because they must survive on only one meal per day. In the past month Makumbi Mission, assisted by the Jesuit Relief Fund, has distributed food aid to 300 local families affected by shortages and crop failure.”
Holy Week and Easter provided an opportunity for many of the Jesuit novices to experience the reality of hope – of light conquering darkness, of life overcoming death. As Richard wrote: “Faced with the daily plight of many Zimbabweans, talking about God’s love for us can sound glib and facile. But God’s love is not something frothy; instead, it challenges us. When we reflect on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we see one who entered into the brokenness of our world and who continues to be a part of it.”