What is understood by the terms 'Jesuit Collaborators', or 'lay collaborators' or 'lay partners in Mission'? And how can you too join us in our mission?
Fr Alfred Micallef S.J. writes...
A Jesuit is a man on a mission, that is, a man who has been sent to proclaim the good news of the Gospel. Jesuits are aware that they are not alone on this mission; their mission belongs to the mission of the Church whose mission, in turn, is the mission of Jesus Christ who was himself "sent" to the world by the Father.
Jesuits are also convinced that this mission has been entrusted to the whole Church: priests, religious, and laypersons and this in virtue of the Baptism that each Church member has received. For this reason, they seek to involve others in their apostolic activities.
The Jesuits in Malta have already found many collaborators in their work. These strive to learn about Jesuit spirituality, to appreciate it, to love it and to live it. The Jesuits consider it a foremost duty to help their collaborators in this endeavour because being a collaborator is not simply helping Jesuits do their job but doing a job together with the Jesuits.
Since nobody can do everything, the Maltese Province of the Society of Jesus has prioritized some apostolic activities which the Jesuits consider to be more in line with our Jesuit vocation: Ignatian Spirituality, the Intellectual and University Apostolate, the Social Apostolate, Education, Work with Youth.
All these are works of Jesuits but they are also works that the Jesuits cannot do on their own. They need help, the help of collaborators. Maybe you can offer such help! For this reason a contact person for each apostolate is being included.
This is the legacy of St. Ignatius to the world. We imbibe it best by going through the Spiritual Exercises or a long retreat which brings us on to an intimate encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ who shows us his great love and his way of perceiving God and the world and who invites us to be united to him in his perception and mission. In Jesus Christ we appreciate his love and his generosity and his total dedication to the Father and to the Father's will.
In Malta the Jesuits work in this field mainly through the Centre of Ignatian Spirituality which has its main office at Mount St. Joseph Retreat House, Mosta. Fr. Pierre Grech Marguerat, SJ is the present director of the Centre.
The Intellectual and University Apostolate
It has always been the tradition of the Jesuits to reflect deeply on the mysteries of our faith so as to come to a better understanding of it. This is necessary in order to be of service to all seekers of the truth. Jesuits express their understanding of the faith in various ways: through their homilies, through their writings, through their conversations. They are also aware that the more people are involved in this exercise of understanding the deeper their knowledge will become and the greater will their service be.
The University is the school where young adults learn the skills of the professions with which they would like to serve the world but also the place where they begin a serious reflection on life, on the world, on man's nature and on man's calling. The Jesuits accompany these young people in their reflection through the University Chaplaincy which consists of the Chaplain who, at present, is Fr. Michael Bugeja, SJ and a team consisting of Jesuits, lecturers, students and others.
The Social Apostolate
It has been the long tradition of Jesuits to fight for the dignity of human persons. Today, even more than ever, the Jesuits are more convinced that injustice is the greatest hurdle to faith and that faith in Christ demands a commitment toward justice because, ultimately, justice has its roots in Christian faith. For this reason, in Malta, the Jesuits have made commitment towards justice as one of their top priorities. This apostolate is organized in three departments:
- The Faith and Justice Centre seeks to promote justice in Malta by proclaiming the demands of human dignity and denouncing those situations which are not respectful of these demands. In doing this they enter in dialogue with those of goodwill who share the same values. Fr. Edgar Busuttil, SJ is the present director of the Faith and Justice Centre.
- Being aware of the problem of illiteracy and the disadvantages that illiterate persons have to face, the Maltese Jesuits have also taken up a project through which, together with the help of many collaborators, they are doing something about the problem. Their work consists not only in teaching people how to read and write but also in producing special training material and in working on the roots of illiteracy which, oftentimes, would have social roots. The actual director of the project is Fr. Vincent Magri, SJ and the centre of the project is Paulo Freire Institute in Zejtun.
- The Jesuit Refugee Service was an "invention" of the late Fr. General Pedro Arrupe, SJ who, touched by the plight of the boat people of the far east, decided that the Society should come to the help of all refugees. At that time we did not have any refugees coming to Malta but even then, a number of Maltese Jesuits worked in Thailand and other places for these refugees. Now we have refugees coming to Malta so, the Maltese Jesuits felt the need to commit themselves to help them, to fight for the respect of their dignity. This they do mainly through the Jesuit Refugee Service which is housed at the College Gym in Birkirkara and whose present director is Fr. Joseph Cassar, SJ.
Education is another long tradition of the Society of Jesus and a witness to this is the great number of Jesuit universities and all type of schools in the whole world. Add to this the number of Jesuits whose mission is to work in education and it will be quite clear what importance the Society gives to this sector.
In Malta the Jesuits run St. Aloysius' College which, in its present form, comprises three schools: a primary school for boys (Stella Maris School), a secondary school also for boys and VI Form which is co-ed. The Jesuits insist that our teachers won't be just teachers but also persons who understand our mission, who understand what drives us and who make our mission their own. In other words, they are not just employees, they are our collaborators. The present-day rector of the College, which is situated at Birkirkara, is Fr. Patrick Magro, SJ.
Work with Youth
Youth is one of the most difficult stages in life and it is becoming even more so nowadays. Today youth is exposed to the whole world, not only through internet but also through travelling and through easy access to all that goes on in the world. Young persons are not always prepared to be critical of what they witness and hear and sometimes they may fall into the trap of believing without having examined. This is one reason why Jesuits feel that commitment to work with youth is a must for them.
Moreover, youth are looking to the future; they are deciding what they would like to make of themselves as adults and which roads to take. In this exercise very often they need help and Jesuits want to be available to them so that they may help them to choose in true freedom. Jesuits are also aware that they cannot do this work alone - they need collaborators. At present, work with youth is done at College and at University and also through inYgo, which is an Ignatian network for youth. Fr. Jimmy Bartolo, SJ is the Jesuit responsible for work with youth.