Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.I.,
Superior General of the Society of Jesus
at the Opening of the 5th Congress of the World Union of Jesuit Alumni/ae
Sydney - Australia - 9-13 July 1997
I begin by expressing my thanks to Mr. John Bowie and the committees he formed. I thank Dr. Ciro Cacchione and his colleagues at the Executive Secretariat of the World Union. And I thank all the other people who have been closely associated with the planning of the World Congress. I am grateful to the community at St. Ignatius College for making their campus available for the Congress and to the Province of Australia for offering us all its warm welcome. I am very happy to have this chance to greet you in the name of the entire Society of Jesus, and most particularly in the name of all those Jesuits who were involved in your education. In my own name, too, I personally greet you all.
The fact that this Congress is being held in Sydney, Australia. is witness to the universality of your organization. The many different nations, universities. colleges, and schools which you represent are a concrete manifestation of this universality. The common bond that you share - namely, your formation in a Jesuit school according to the spirit of Ignatius - provides the unity within your diversity. Your unity respects both freedom of conscience and the amazing spectrum of gifts the Lord has given to each of you. Thus, among you are people from every walk of life, every profession. Among you, too, we discover the richness and variety of ways in which you relate to God. With you, I pray that these days together may be a time for increased mutual understanding, a time of unity and hope, as well as a time to plan strategically at the dawn of a new millennium.
This Congress has been describes as 'strategic.' A strategy is a careful plan, employing one's experience and resources, to achieve a goal.
What is that goal? As former students you join together for a variety of reasons to recall the experiences and ideals of your youth, to share in professional development, to assist your school and its students through financial aid and personal service in order that new generations might have opportunities to qrow with a worldview and excellent formation for all aspects of life as you did. These are admirable reasons for an Alumni Association for any school or college. But as Jesuit alumni and alumnae you are called to a goal beyond this.
The pursuit of each student's intellectual development to the full measure of one's God-given talents rightly remains a central goal of Jesuit education. Its aim has never been simply to amass a store of information or to prepare for a job, though these are important in themselves and useful to emerging leaders. The ultimate aim of Jesuit education is. rather, that full growth of the person which leads to action, especially action which is suffused with the spirit and presence of Jesus Christ, the Man-for-Others. The goal of action, based on sound understanding and enlivened by contemplation, urges students to self-discipline and initiative. to integrity and accuracy. At the same time, it judges as slip-shod or superficial ways of thinking unworthy of the individual and, more important, dangerous to the world he or she is called to serve.
Fr. Arrupe, my predecessor, formulated that goal as becoming 'men and women for others' - highlighting the Ignatian ideal of service. In developing this goal he pointed to the need for all former students to humanize the world. Since Fr. Arrupe's death his formulation has become more urgent in light of the unspeakable inhumanity we have witnessed in Rwanda and Burundi, in Bosnia and Bangladesh. to mention only a few examples. But more subtle and therefore more treacherous to the human quality of life are ingrained prejudices based on status or caste or race. And in very recent years the dominance of economic systems purporting to offer hope have sadly resulted in the rich getting richer and the poor getting much poorer. Something is wrong. Fr. Arrupe, speaking to Jesuit alumni and alumnae at Valencia in Spain in 1973 pointed to a root cause of many of these fundamental problems when he urged a new humanism. He said:
What is to humanize the world if not putting it at the service of mankind? But the egoist not only does not humanize the material creation, he also dehumanizes people themselves. He changes people into things by dominating them, exploiting them, and taking to himself the fruit of their labor. The tragedy of it all is that by doing this the egoist dehumanizes himself: He surrenders himself to the possessions he covets; he becomes their slave no longer a person self-possessed, but an un-person. a thing driven by his blind desires and their objects.
Somehow we must break through the cycles of injustice to enable human persons to enjoy their birthright as children of God.
You are gifted people. God has blessed you with life and love and family and friends - with a good education and profession - with talents which enable you to appreciate creation in its splendor and possibilities.
In Sacred Scripture all gifts. talents. wealth move in a circle. First there is the openness to see that the gift is from God. Then the gift is received and appropriated. Next, one grows through the gift by sharing it with others. Finally, the gift is returned to God through praise and thanksgiving. But at the moment when sharing should take place, there can e the great temptation to hold on to the gift and to turn it into a means of accruing personal power. And thus the desire to seek more and more power through wealth becomes insatiable. Thus the seeds of injustice are sown. The example and testimony of Jesus teach us an alternative to such destructive actitudes and practices. In following Jesus, we are reminded that, 'The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.' This saying grounds Ignatius's understanding of the great venture of life which is building the Kingdom of God. This saying is the foundation of Fr. Arrupe's call that we be 'men and women for others.'
In this Congress, your planning and strategy-making must arrive at concrete approaches to make a difference for the better in your own lives and in those of the people who most need deliverance from the powers of death. Here. let me mention a few Ignatian themes that can enlighten and give impetus to your strategic planning. The Ignatian worldview is world-affirming. comprehensive. It places emphasis on freedom. It faces up to sin, personal and social, but points to God's love as more powerful than human weakness and evil. The Ignatian worldview is altruistic. It stresses the essential need for discernment, and gives ample scope to intellect and affectivity in forming leaders. Are not these and other Ignatian themes also essential to the values Jesuit alumni and alumnae should bring to the next century? And in so doing, you will challenge much that contemporary society presents as values.
Each of our lives is set in a specific context which can affect what we think and how we act. Let us consider the context of the world of Ignatius Loyola and the context we face today. There are similarities.
Ignatius Loyola lived in an age comparable to our own in its turmoil and promise. Like us, he lived at a time when one world order was crumbling and a new one was struggling to be born. 'Voyagers dreamed of new worlds and journeys to the end of the earth. The code of chivalry stirred youthful imaginations, but the beauty of love was often perverted to license. Petty Jealousies tore the fabric of Europe in bloody wars. The Church of Rome was under siege from corruption within and self-proclaimed reformers without. Church and civil society, the pillars of human culture and aspirations, seemed to be toppling. Christendom was suddenly coming apart at the seams. In the midst of uncertainty, people's reactions varied from nostalgia (a denial of reality) to hedonism (eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die), to rationalization and romanticism. The world reeled in culture shock, disoriented and disillusioned. And typically. insecurities gave way to selfishness, which only further eroded needed concern for the common good. In the midst of all this confusion, people yearned for understanding, for meaning, for wholeness.
One factor common to the time of Ignatius and our own, in spite of so many obvious differences, one could say that the common factor is the discovery of the
human capacity to make sensational progress in technology and culture, as well as the discovery that such progress work against humankind if the Creator and Redeemer of all is not respected. We should not be tempted to block progress. Rather there is need to redeem progress, to make it an instrument which benefits all of God's people. In this sense, for Ignatius and for us, the great problems are basically spiritual problems. Father Arrupe summed it up when he said 'The human person can transform the world, but does not really wish to do so." In such a case. progress is transformed into disaster and frustration.
In the past three decades, the social, cultural, economic, technological, political and educational contexts in which we live and work have changed irrevocably. We do ourselves no service by lamenting or denying this fact, or, on the other hand, by claiming that every change has been an unmixed blessing or the result of wise decisions. Whatever the case, this changed world of ours is the only one in which we are called to work out our mission. How best to exercise our Ignatian influence in the present is the only question worthy of our attention.
As alumni and alumnae of Jesuit schools, colleges, and universities, you are called by the Society of Jesus to be men and women who reflect upon the reality of the world around you with all its ambiguities. opportunities. and challenges in order to discern what is really happening in your lives and the lives of others, to find God there and to discover where he is calling you. to employ criteria for significant choices that reflect Godly values rather than narrow. exclusive selfinterest, to decide in light of what is truly for the greater glory of God and the service of those in need, and then to act accordingly.
You are called to make these choices from among competing values. A value literally means something which has a price, something dear, precious, or worthwhile and hence something that one is ready to suffer or sacrifice for. A value gives one a reason to live and, if need be. a reason to die. Values. then, bring to life the dimension of meaning. They are the rails that keep a train on track and help it to move smoothly, quickly. purposefully. Values provide motives. They identify a person, give one a face, a name and a character. Without values, one floats. aimlessly like the driftwood in the swirling waters of a river. Values are central to one's own life, and to every life. and they define the quality of that life, marking its breadth and depth.
Values have three anchor bases. First, they are anchored in the 'head.' I perceive, I see reasons why something is valuable and am intellectually convinced of its worth. Values are also anchored in the "heart.' Not only the logic of the head. but also the language of the heart tells me something is worthwhile so that I am not only able to perceive something as of value, but I am also affected by its Worthiness. 'Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.' When the mind and the heart are involved. the person is involved, and this leads to the third anchor base, namely the 'hand.' Values lead to decisions and actions -- and necessarily so. 'Love is shown in deeds, not words.'
THE IDEAL HUMAN PERSON
The schools. colleges, and universities from which you come make their essential contribution to society by embodying in our educational process a rigorous, probing study of crucial human problems and concerns and the values that are at stake. Por each academic discipline within the realm of the humanities and social sciences, when honest with itself. is well aware that the values transmitted depend on assumptions about the ideal human person which are used as a starting point. It is for that reason that your Jesuit education strove for high academic quality. Por we are speaking of something far removed from the facile and superficial world of slogans, or ideology, of purely emotional and self-centered responses, and of instant. simplistic solutions. Teaching and research and all that goes into the educational process are of the highest importance in our institutions because they reject and refute any partial or deformed vision of the human person. This is in sharp contrast to educational institutions which often unwittinqly sidestep the central concerns for the human person because of fragmented approaches to specializations. As alumni and alumnae of Jesuit institutions you should consider the centrality of the human person in your professional, familiar, civic lives. Continually developing capacities to control human choices present you with moral questions of the highest order. And these questions cannot be answered from a limited perspective, for they embrace human, not simply technical, scientific, or economic values.
The key problems that face men and women today on the brink of the twenty-first century are not simple. What single profession can legitimately pretend to offer comprehensive solutions to real problems like those concerning genetic research, corporate takeovers, definitions concerning human life -- its start and its end -- homelessness and city planning, poverty, illiteracy. developments in medical and military technology, human rights. the environment, and artificial intelligence? Solving the problems which these disciplines raise requires empirical data and technological know-how. But the areas also cry out for consideration in terms of their impact on men and women from a holistic point of view. So they demand spiritual perspective as well, if the solutions proposed are not to remain sterile.
In our decisions, Ignatius urges us to go beyond superficial impressions to understand the drama in the human situation. He reminds us that we can easily be influenced by networks of false assumptions, warped values. and class or cultural mythologies which distort our perception of reality. Ignatius would have us illuminate the contradictions and ambiguities within these networks, and thus free ourselves from distorted perceptions of reality engendered by many of these values. Subtleties abound, real life choices are clear cut, but where do they lead? What really motivates me under the surface? 'A man cannot serve two masters.' The struggle is real, the drama decisive. We should not be surprised if we find ourselves in a position that goes against prevailing values when we oppose all that is inhuman in the trends of our day. This might well not be a popular position.
For Ignatius, in the struggle to discern, the use of human means is necessary and important as long as we do not put in them the trust that we owe to God alone. Ignatius looks for persons who are well-versed in secular learning and in a variety of expressions of human culture as well as in doctrinal and spiritual matters. Between the two he sees no conflict, but rather harmony, because 'all of created reality has God as its creator and end.' The great and urgent challenges facing the world and people of faith today require persons in whom these means are 'thoroughly integrated. otherwise there is danger of imprecase thought and ineffective action, as well as the risk of being at the mercy of ideologies.
And in this effort we should recall that mediocrity has no place in Ignatius's worldview. He demands leaders in service to others in building the Kingdom of God and in the market place of business and ideas, of service, of law and justice, of economics, theology, and all areas of human life. He urges us to work for the greater glory of God because the world desperately needs men and women of competence and conscience who generously give of themselves for others.
For Ignatius the test of effective love is to be found in deeds, not words. Real love involves self-sacrifice. Thus what we do becomes the litmus test of our verbal assertions of love. Ignatius frames questions of love concretely: 'What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ?, What should I do for Christ?
JESUIT ALUMNI RESPONSE
At the conclusion of the 4th Congress of the World Union of Jesuit Alumni at Loyola-Bilbao in 1991, the summary resolution passed called for concrete action in response to this Ignatian challenge. It reads:
Ongoing formation involving Ignatian discernment of the signs of the times and concrete service of others are essential to our lives and our work together. In order to move ahead in this area:
The resolution is very Ignatian. Jesuit alumni have thus resolved to love effectively.
- Each Association should request that a qualified Jesuit Counsellor be assigned to help the alumni both in ongoing formation and in identifying priority needs of the poor and/or refugees consistent with the Province plans.
- Each Alumni Association should adopt an apostolic project in which help for the poor and/or refugees is a necessary element. Thus. we recommend that each local Alumni Association set up an action committee to plan and put into operation a concrete plan for service to the poor and refugees. We recommend that this service be undertaken in union with the Jesuit Province plan for pastoral/social action.
In the years since the last World Union Congress, I have learned, in personal visits and by letters, of splendid action taken by Jesuit alumni to assist the poor by direct personal involvement with poor people. the aged, the sick. disabled, drug addicts. and a host of others who wait by the side of the road in total vulnerability for a Good Samaritan to bind their wounds lest they perish. Others have made the effort to initiate friendships with refugees and other people who lack human recognition and love. This too is healing -- healing of wounds often deeper than physical weaknesses. And still others among alumni and alumnae have seriously committed their professional skills to address, and at time to confront, legal, political, and social institutions and systems which work well only for the privileged. Medical experts among our alumni and alumnae have struggled to heal, to nourish the infirm, the hungry, the poor. Some of your national federations have twinned with less fortunate nations to bring effective hope through your service. All of these alumni and alumnae have in their own way responded to the call which Ignatius insists we must hear. They have taken their stand to build a world of understanding and healing love in service to those men, women. and children who so need our service: 'If you did it to one of my least brethren. you did it to me.' But some have yet to begin. There is an abundance of documentation listing the ideals and possibilities of Alumni Associations. Ideals and ideas remain sterile until they are put into practice. We have learned that only when men and women actually begin to do something does real renewal begin to take place. Ignatian men and women do not exercise their commitment in talk, but in action. When I speak of action, I am not thinking only of action performed by individuals. Your Associations will have new life to the extent they become active. Sharing memories is valid. and ongoing formation is essential. But all of this must Iead to action. Your renewal depends on it; and the world needs what you have to offer.
SPECIFIC AREAS OF CONCERN
In practicalterms, the Jesuit vision calls for a commitment to work for peace where vested interests are fomenting unrest in order to sell armaments. The Jesuit vision calls for a commitment to honesty in situations where corruption flourishes, to preservation of the environment where opposing forces stand for ever greater consumerism, to respect for peoples of different beliefs where radical forces are for suppressing minority opinions and rights. The Jesuit vision calls for a commitment to the preservation of indigenous peoples against cultural forces that consider themselves superior, to equal treatment for both sexes in a world where women are often given second-class treatment and are even destroyed before birth. The Jesuit vision calls for a commitment to an equal standard of education for all in situations where the majority are given poor education or no education at all, to the family in an atmosphere where more and more families are breaking up, to a just economic policy that benefits all sections of society and not only certain better off sectors, to mass media that portray values of honesty, compassion, and understanding rather than values of consumerism. hedonism, and prejudice.
These commitments, these thrusts flowing from a world vision of the meaning of the human person, are commitments that are new. They are new because the context, the challenges are new. And the Society of Jesus is trying, in a small way, to fulfill these commitments.
But the task of working for a more just world obviously calls also for the commitment of every man and woman of good will. Naturally, we Jesuits are looking to our alumni and alumnae. already introduced to the Ignatian vision at school or college, to join in this commitment to help create a more just world. We expect that our own alumni and alumnae, as individuals and responsable citizens of their nations, will take the lead in this challenging and difficult task of bringing justice and true freedom to every citizen.
Of course, the task is immense. But a former student of a Jesuit college or school is not alone. At present about two million students are studying in Jesuit educacional institutions in sixty-six countries around the world. Alone, a dedicated individual can do much, and we are grateful that we have numerous examples where person's actions have influenced thousands of others. The expectation surely is that in your work, in your family, in your neighbourhood, you will take the lead. But while I hope that this Congress will give you new enthusiasm as individuals, I also feel confident that the Congress will be a means of giving added life to Alumni Associations to work concertedly; possibly as independent organizations, but also as part of national federations for the cause of a more just society.
An allied consideration suggests itself, which urges us to go beyond individual commitment. We live in an era where global thinking and action are the immediate future. International business conglomerates multiply rapidly, adapting to the world community. Airlines are fast becoming world 'carriers.' The media are beaming programs around the globe. We who are missioned to build the Kingdom of God cannot remain limited to parochial or individual enthusiasm. Will we really be men and women for others in the world community on the twenty-first century if we do not adapt to the changing internacional culture? Por today it is rare that decisions taken in one part of the world do not impact far and wide. This is a corporate responsibility with all of us participating in some way according to resources and interests, and with a genuine desire to help others. Among the strategies you will consider at this Congress, in light of new technologies for instant communication and increasing awareness of our relationships within the human family, would it be worthwhile to take up the possibility of twinning your associations or federations as a policy of the World Union? Further, is it worthwhile now to make your voice heard as the World Union of Jesuit alumni in the halls of internacional policy-making groups as well as internacional service agencies by becoming organized as a "non-governmental organization' of the United Nations?
PARTHERSHIP: SOCIETY OF JESUS - ALUMNI/AE
At the recent General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, a commitment was made to effective cooperation with our lay colleagues. The decree on this subject reads in part:
The Society of Jesus acknowledges as a grace of our day and a hope for the future that laity 'take an active. conscientious, and responsible part in this great moment of history.' We seek to respond to this grace by offering ourselves in service to the full realization of this mission of the laity, and we commit ourselves to that end by cooperating with them in their mission... Jesuits are both 'men for others' and "men with others.' This basic characteristic of our way of proceeding calls for an attitude and readiness to cooperate, to listen and to learn from others, to share our spiritual and apostolic inheritance. To be 'men with others' is a central aspect of our charism and deepens our identity.
-- Jesuit Past Student Associations enable those who once attended our schools better to carry out their responsibility to 'make fruitful in their lives and in the world the formation they have received.' Jesuits should be assigned to help them in ongoing spiritual, ethical, and social formation, as well as in identifying apostolic needs.
In this landmark decree of the Society of Jesus, there is an explicit commitment simultaneously to respect the roles of lay people in directing this organization and a commitment and responsibility of Jesuits to accompany you in a supportive role.
I realize that there have been cases in the past where Jesuits have been reluctant to become involved in alumni affairs. Too often, this has been due to an impression (perhaps erroneous) that some alumni associations are mainly interested in nostalgia, social evehts and the like. But in light of your demonstrated commitment to work effectively for others in recent years. and in light of the General Congregation's call for cooperation with laity. I believe we now have a fresh opportunity to move ahead together in creative and effective ways.
Specifically, we have seen impressive examples of growth and cooperation in some parts of the world since the last Congress of the World Union, where alumni and alumnae together with Jesuit Provincials and/or their delegates have worked to set up plans for ongoing formation of alumni and alumnae and needed service to the poor and refugees. If invited, the Society of Jesus can help in a variety of ways --identifying and facilitating contacts with lay people and Jesuits who are expert in evolving matters of interest to alumni and alumnae in order that they may be informed of developments in significan fields of rapid change in today's world. But, in addition to ongoing educacional opportunities, the Society may be of assistance to you in helping to identify specific areas of need, both locally and internationally, which may become a focus of twinning or proiect cooperation in service to our neediest sisters and brothers.
These are but a few examples of how we can work together more effectively. The possibilities are limited only by our imagination and courage. Be assured that we Jesuits are committed to accompany you in your ongoing growth and your service to others. We have networks in place such as the Secretariats at our General Curia and parallel structures in each Province. These Secretariats are for Education, Social Ministries, Media, Ignatian Spirituality, and Interreligious Dialogue. There is also the Jesuit Refugee Service. All of these have access to internacional networks of lay people and Jesuits who have experience. Would it be of help to work with some of these groups so that you do not have to start from scratch? Collaboration among existing entities can strengthen all who participate. This, too. may be part of your strategic considerations.
My colleagues, my friends. we have one God and a whole world of neighbours. Let us be imaginative and courageous in going about our Father's business toqether, striving, even with much sacrifice, to promote justice of every kind, especially on behalf of the unnumbered poor around you and across this beautiful, tragic world. Let us strive to promote that justice in love which is, at one and the same time, the dream of God for us and our own clear responsibility.
Thank you for working so devotedly with my brothers, with my fellow Jesuits, for that purpose which we all have in common: the greater glory of God. May God bless you abundantly.