The author presents Fr. Nicolas with a gift at the MAGIS 2013 gathering in Sao Salvador, prior to WYD 2013.
city of Sao Salvador da Bahia in North East Brazil, the first capital
of Brazil was the landing point for the first Jesuits in 1549, led by
Fr. Manuel da Nobrega.
July 2013, twelve days before the start of the World Youth Day week
in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Salvador da Bahia welcomed over two thousand
young people from fifty countries. The youth participated in the
Ignatian pre-WYD program, MAGIS
Brasil, which was prepared by the Brazilian Jesuits in
collaboration with other congregations of Ignatian charism and lay
the late 1990s, Jesuits and other Ignatian religious have been
developing innovative programs which ran in parallel with the Papal
World Youth Days in various major cities, offering young people
spaces for prayer, service and companionship. Prior initiatives have
included Loyola XXI in Paris in 1997, Horizon 2000 in Rome in the
Jubilee Year, ANIA in 2002 at Toronto; and then MAGIS
in Köln in 2005, Sydney in 2008 and Madrid in 2011; all
participating alongside the official World Youth Day programs.
was blessed to be one of the over two thousand pilgrims, gathered at
the Jesuit high school, Colegio Antonio Vieira, first being a
three-day opening gathering in Sao Salvador, where all pilgrims were
received, welcomed and introduced to the program. The second part was
a one-week missionary experience divided into five categories:
Pilgrimage, Ecology, Spirituality, Art, Socio-Cultural Insertion and
Social initiatives. Each category had someone, Brazilians or
non-Brazilians as an inspiration, people who have testified their
life stories to life and evangelical service. For example, the
American missionary Sister Dorothy Stang was the inspiration for the
ecology experiences and is remembered for accompanying the life and
struggle of the field workers and indigenous communities in Brazil,
with determination and solidarity, especially in the Trans-Amazon
region. There were about 70 experiences all over Brazil, with twenty
to thirty young people from at least three nationalities, and a team
of people accompanying them.
third part of the program was the gathering in Rio de Janeiro, in
preparation for the start of the official World Youth Day week. The
gathering provided a wonderful opportunity for pilgrims to share
their experiences from the missionary week, and to get ready for the
main WYD events that included the official opening Mass and the
welcome ceremony for Pope Francis.
MAGIS 2013 opening gathering in Sao Salvador, was blessed
with the presence of Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, Superior General of the
Society of Jesus. Besides presiding over the opening Mass, Fr.
Nicolas also had the opportunity to meet with young representatives
of the fifty delegations.
in Spanish, Fr. Nicolas made some opening remarks, observing that the
world is in the middle of an economic, political and cultural crisis.
“What worries me is that there seems to be no alternative system,
despite all the information and intelligence available in the world”.
He went on to draw from the experience of St. Ignatius, suggesting
that in order for young people to make a difference in transforming
the world “you have to transform people first”. However, the
challenge of transforming the world, according to Fr. Nicolas, is
best met by allowing God to transform our hearts, after which we can
be able to change what is outside. He encouraged the young people to
use gatherings such as the World Youth Days, to widen their horizon
to see more and open their hearts, while recognizing that Christ
works in the heart of every person, irrespective of social class.
Ignatian people, we have to be open. We can work and live together,
to discover what God wants for humanity; in our parishes, schools,
homes and so on”, he added, pointing out that God wants and calls
young people to be part of the mission of the Church, which is also
Nicolas’ opening remarks were followed by an interactive question
and answer session fielded from the audience. The concerns raised by
the participants painted was like a collage of the diversity of the
pilgrims, Evelyn from Zambia and Pedro from the Amazonian region of
Peru, posed to Fr. General that even though they have a deep desire
to serve the poor in their communities, they found it difficult
because they have limited possibilities themselves. In his response,
while appreciating the challenges raised by Evelyn and Pedro, Fr.
Nicolas advised that “the best way to help the poor is to be
interested in them. The first thing is to listen to them…accompany
them with your heart…then we can start helping them”.
from Venezuela and Francisco from Ecuador were concerned about the
problems associated with international aid, observing that in some
instances, communities were further impoverished by those purporting
to offer support. Fr. Nicolas urged caution and discernment in
determining when to receive international aid, especially when they
have strings attached to them.
from Australia asked Fr. General how the traditions of the Church
could be maintained, in the face of decreasing Church membership. Fr.
Nicolas pointed to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, pointing
out that there is great potential and possibilities in them than what
has been explored so far. He went on to add that Pope Francis, a
Jesuit formed in the Ignatian tradition, is already helping us (the
Church) to go deep into the Gospel, using simple language.
final question came from Katarzyna, a pilgrim from Poland, about the
role of the Church in transforming political systems. In his
response, Fr. General observed that a great contribution could be
made in the formation of young people at universities, as a way of
transforming society. “The university should not only be an
academic giant, but should also focus on solving people’s problems,
by connecting professional studies with pastoral work”, said
Fr.Nicolas, bringing to a close the question and answer session,
after about 90 minutes.
there was still time for the participants to shake hands with Fr.
Nicolas, with some presenting him with souvenirs from their countries
and to take some photos.
was clear from the meeting that the Society of Jesus is committed to
the wonderful ministry of accompanying young adults, helping them to
take life decisions and empowering them to discover how to be tools
for good in God’s hands. I am sure St. Ignatius must be pleased,
considering all of his first companions in Paris: Francis Xavier,
Peter Faber, Simon Rodriguez, Alfonso Salmeron, Nicolas Bobadilla and
Diego Lainez; were all young adults, with Ignatius as the guide,
accompanying them in spiritual conversations, but also building on
their personality, talents and history, something that the Magis
program continues to do, all for the greater glory of God.