Transitions and beginnings, consolation and joy, changes and challenges in Asia Pacific

Transitions and beginnings, consolation and joy, changes and challenges in Asia Pacific

Appointed as President of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP) starting 1 February 2024, Father Primitivo “Jun” Viray Jr SJ shares his thoughts on transitions and beginnings, consolation and joy, amid the changes and challenges, especially in the Asia Pacific region. “Forced migration and the prevalent issues of violence, war, climate change, poverty, and growing inequality” that occur in the region are signs of epochal change that Father General highlights in the De Statu Societatis (DSS), “the fruit of the reflections of the worldwide Society” and “the context in which the Spirit is calling the Society to be agents of reconciliation.”

“All beginnings are hard,” says Chaim Potok in his book, “In the Beginning”. New leadership requires adjustments and new learnings to adequately respond to an ever-changing environment.

In 2023, the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP) had its share of important changes at its level and that of the global Society of Jesus. At the level of the conference, there were leadership transitions in the Philippine Province, the Region of Timor-Leste, and the presidency of JCAP.

In the Myanmar region, the fluid and volatile situation of violence and war continues to pose significant challenges in our response to the Jesuit mission there. These include responding to the situations of those caught in the armed conflict between the military government and rebel groups, internally displaced people, and forced migration.

With Father General entrusting the Pakistan mission to JCAP, the present task of accompanying the mission requires even greater support and collaboration, not only among the different units of JCAP but also in inter-conference engagements.

At the level of the global Society of Jesus, two significant moments can be pointed out.

First, the 71st Congregation of Procurators was a privileged time among Jesuits for greater listening, discussion, and discernment in common on key matters raised by Father General. The delegates were able to share experiences of visiting the communities of their respective provinces or regions as part of the discerning process towards a better understanding of the state of the Society of Jesus today.

Second, Father General issued the De Statu Societatis 2023 (DSS), the fruit of the preparation and discernment process of the 71st Congregation of Procurators and the fruit of the reflections of the worldwide Society. With this announcement, he exhorted all Jesuits and mission partners to engage in a yearlong examen using the DSS as a means for a profound spiritual renewal in its life-mission.

In the DSS, Father General highlights the change of epoch as the context in which the Spirit is calling the Society to be agents of reconciliation. He points out that forced migration is one of the strongest signs of this epochal change, noting as well the prevalent issues of violence, war, climate change, poverty, and growing inequality.

Despite these challenges, Fr Sosa also sees opportunities, such as the way the digital culture has facilitated conversations in many ways and forms, creating an enormous possibility of intercultural relationships between generations of people.

Amid all these changes and challenges that the Society of Jesus and the Church face, we are invited to further deepen our faith and hope.

In his opening address to the Jesuits at the 36th General Congregation, Pope Francis invited us to ask persistently for consolation. It is a consolation specific to the joy of the Resurrected Christ that we beg for through prayer, discernment in common, and concrete action.

It is a joy that the world cannot give or take away. This joy allows us not to be discouraged when faced with a great measure of evil in the world or challenges to all those who desire to do good.

This article is reprinted from JCAP News and first published in The Jesuits Asia Pacific 2024 magazine.

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