The pastor of St Teresa's Church in Annotto Bay, Jamaica, Jesuit Fr Martin J Royackers SJ (41), was reportedly murdered sometime during the evening of June 20-21. Deacon Anton Fernandopool discovered his body, with a bullet wound through the chest, on Thursday morning. Police are investigating, and the church is sealed off. An autopsy is mandated by Jamaican law in such circumstances.
On Sunday June 17, Fr Royackers preached about Jamaica’s nagging crime problem: 453 people have been killed on the Caribbean island since the beginning of the year, among them three priests. "This could also happen to me," he told his congregation, "And if it does, I want to be buried here among my people."
Four days later, on Thursday morning the 21st, the 41-year-old Canadian Jesuit was found lying face down in a pool of blood, a bullet in his chest, on the veranda to his office at the church.. Fr Royackers was killed near St Teresa Catholic church, where he was pastor and which forms part of the larger St Mary’s parish in Annotto Bay, a small town in northeastern Jamaica. "He was very dedicated to the people, as if he did not care about himself. Food was not important for him, nor was his dress. He was always with the people” said Fr Royackers’s assistant, Deacon Fernandopulle, sobbing as he spoke.
Together with Jim Webb SJ, the Jamaica Regional Superior, Fr Royackers was deeply involved in the St Mary Rural Development Project (SMRDP), a project which seeks, among other things, to put unused government land to food production. SMRDP is a joint effort of the local people, the Canadian Jesuits, and CIDA (the official Canadian international development agency). In early June, the SMRDP office received a phonecall threatening the two priests with death. The caller linked the threat with SMRDP’s application to the government to release 60 acres of land for local agriculture. The Jamaican police, once informed, advised the fathers to take the threat seriously.
Fr Royackers was born in 1959, entered the Society of Jesus in 1978, was ordained in 1988, and took his final vows in 1999. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kingston, Rev Edgerton Clarke, lamented the loss of a valuable priest and added: "Life in no area of society is held in any esteem or respect ... no one is safe anymore." [Source: Canadian Jesuits International; Jesuit Curia, Rome ]
Alejandro Toledo, once a poor shoe shine boy, was elected Peru's new president June 3 in a close race. Alejandro Toledo is also a University of San Francisco graduate. The 55-year-old Toledo became the first president of Indian descent in Peru, a country with a large indigenous population. Toledo defeated former president Alan Garcia.
Toledo came to the University of San Francisco in 1967 when he was awarded a scholarship in a program for non-English speaking students. Toledo graduated from USF in 1971 with a degree in economics. He also earned degrees at Harvard and Stanford before becoming an economist with the World Bank.
"This is an example of the positive effect of a USF education," said Gerardo Marín, senior associate dean of the University of San Francisco College of Arts and Sciences. "It's an education that emphasizes educating the whole person and training leaders who will make a difference and promote social justice."
Toledo and his centrist party Peru Posible has pledged to improve social conditions in Peru, particularly in the areas of health, education, and nutrition. "I would venture to guess that his experiences at USF had something to do in promoting or strengthening those concerns," Marín said.
Political analysts agree that Toledo faces an uphill battle. The economy is plunging and democracy there is fragile. He also takes charge amid political scandal. His predecessor, Alberto Fujimori, is accused of violating human rights, selling influence in his government, and rigging the last election. [Source: University of San Francisco]
The Secretariat of the Jesuit Social Apostolate (SJSA), which serves some 30 social apostolate institutes in the Philippine Province, is meeting a big demand: providing formation for staff members.
Based on "Characteristics of the Social Apostolate" (1998), the new program has three major parts: inspiration, mission, and organization. The six-day program was launched in October 2000 with 30 participants from nine Jesuit projects in Mindanao and included talks on the Philippine situation, on the history of the social apostolate, and on Church teaching and spirituality, as well as personal and group exercises in the three major areas.
The seminar materials are collected in a 100-page draft manual that the SJSA hopes to continue improving and testing throughout its network. The manual is available at cost plus postage [approximately $20(US)]. [Source: Esmeraldo Lampauog, SJSA Secretary, [email protected]]
Several months after a report acknowledging sexual abuse of nuns by priests, ripples continue to be felt among church workers in Africa. But some members of the local church and foreign missionaries said the report was not an accurate reflection of the current situation in Africa.
Jesuit Fr Dan Keany, an American working in Kenya since 1994, said the church has made strides in eradicating the problem of sexual abuse. The priest said he has noticed "a lot of growth and development relation-wise among religious and diocesan priests."
Fr Keany cited changes in formation as a reason for the improvement. For example, he said that, in the past, women's religious orders accepted girls who took first vows prior to entering high school, but now, postulants and novices are older.
He said progress also has been made in seminaries, particularly in confronting a problem when it arises.
Seminarians are more willing to discuss their behaviors and struggles because they will not be automatically expelled, as was the case in the past, he said. Changes in culture have encouraged people to discuss their problems openly, Fr Keany said. [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]
Are the Jesuits of France still able to communicate life's joys in places where living is hard? Can they convey the power and immediacy of the Gospels among the poor? The answer is "yes," according to the French Provincial, who wrapped up the sessions "For a Time of Justice" by underlining the current health of the social apostolate in France, when 110 Jesuits, 40 lay colleagues, and several Jesuit European Volunteers met in St. Etienne for three days.
Their purpose was to explore how to generate a greater awareness of poverty, social marginalization, and injustice. Four areas of activity got priority: the deteriorating social bonds in urban neighborhoods; the upbringing and education of underprivileged youth; employment and social involvement in the face of economic insecurity; and the reception and treatment of immigrants and foreigners. [Source:Bertrand Cassaigne SJ, coordinator, [email protected]]
From their arrival in Chile in 1593 until their expulsion in 1767, the Jesuits ministered among the indigenous Mapuche people and defended them from abuses by the Spanish colonizers. There are now nearly a million Mapuches in Chile, some still living a traditional agricultural way of life, but many migrating to large urban areas. For the first time since the restoration of the Society, the Chilean Jesuits have returned to work among the Mapuches. In the south near Concepción, a new Jesuit team has taken charge of the parish of Cañete with its 17 Catholic communities to work on literacy training, improving the water supply, and training pastoral personnel. [Source: Headlines, Pablo Castro SJ]
At the time of its independence in 1960, Madagascar was quite developed in comparison with the rest of Africa. However, it is now numbered among the world's 15 poorest nations. With the expulsion of Fr De Puybaudet SJ, the newly independent Republic lost the founder of a Christian trade union and an important mentor to lay people with influence in the nation's political and economic life.
At the same time, the social apostolate found itself dispersed in various charities, and in the 1980s a "Faith and Justice" center was founded. Now, to regroup many scattered efforts in the social apostolate, a new multi-disciplinary center is in the planning, to be built in 2002 within the Jesuit parish of the capital Antananarivo and named after former Father General Pedro Arrupe.
The director-designate is the anthropologist Pierre André Ranaivoarson SJ, who will work with a team of young Jesuits currently in training. A place for meetings, research, and publications, the Arrupe Center's mandate will be to raise a voice for the island's poor and against injustice and to make that voice heard among political and economic decision-makers. [Source: Headlines]
There can be no productive dialogue between science and religion if either side is dominated by ignorance, said Fr George V Coyne SJ, the director of the Vatican Observatory. That revelation came to him while studying the Galileo affair as part of a Vatican-appointed commission in 1988.
"I think the church should learn, from the Galileo case and from other circumstances, that listening is as important as speaking. That is, hearing what scientists are really doing is as important as the church speaking out on many issues," he said.
Fr Coyne said the church's initial response to Galileo demonstrated that it was largely ignorant of Scripture and science. Galileo "anticipated by 400 years the church's statements on the interpretation of sacred Scripture -- that Scripture is not a science textbook," he said.
In October 1992 Pope John Paul II formally acknowledged that the church erred when it condemned Galileo for defending as fact the Copernican theory that the earth revolved around the sun. The astronomer was condemned for heresy in 1633 because it was thought that his views contradicted Scripture.
Fr Coyne said that it was essential for the church to have qualified experts advising it on scientific matters "so that ethical conclusions are based upon good science." [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]
Fr Francis A Sullivan SJ has suggested that the Catholic Church convene a new ecumenical council every 50 years; he has also suggested that national bishops' conferences consider reviving plenary councils as a "structure of participation" for the church in their region.
Speaking at Fordham University in May, he said the church's magisterium, or teaching authority, could be enhanced by making church structures of participation more effective. He called for more "active participation of the bishops" in universal church teaching and governance.
Taking the cue for his lecture from Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte" ("At the Beginning of the New Millennium"), Fr Sullivan quoted the pope's call in that document for "valuing and developing the forums and structures which ... serve to ensure and safeguard communion."
Referring especially to the papacy, episcopal collegiality, the Roman Curia, the organization of bishops' conferences, and the synods of bishops, the pope said there is "much more to be done in order to realize all the potential of these instruments of communion." He also called for further development of other "structures of participation," including priests' councils and pastoral councils.
Fr Sullivan said "participation" is "the English word that comes closest to the original meaning of the Greek word `koinonia,'" -- a term also often translated as "communion."
He said the pope's affirmation that his exercise of teaching authority must always be done in communion with his brother bishops "encourages me to offer my suggestions" on how this can be done. "The most effective way that a pope can do this is to summon the whole college of bishops to a council," he said. [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]
Recently, Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, was been elected Vice President of the Union of General Superiors (USG) by the Assembly of the Union. The Assembly is preparing its contribution on Consecrated Life for the next Bishops' Synod to be held in Rome next October and dedicated to the role of the local bishop. [Source: www.jesuits-europe.org]
The unlawful arrest and torture of suspected Tamil rebels is a problem that challenges the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, said Jesuit Fr Veerasan Yogeswaran, a human rights lawyer.
Fr Yogeswaran denounced what he called the 'indiscriminate' arrest and torture of Tamils suspected of being part of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He said these arrests and the trauma experienced by families of the victims occur daily throughout Sri Lanka, especially in the north and east where the LTTE has been fighting the Sinhalese-led government since 1983.
When teenage suspects were arrested, Fr Yogeswaran said, the Sri Lankan government lowered their age even further to claim they were 'child soldiers' of the LTTE. According to the government and various international rights groups, the LTTE recruits children as young as 10. He pleaded for Tamil Catholics to speak for the prisoners, especially the innocent who languish in jails. [Source: The Tablet]
For more on the situation in Sri Lanka, visit the Jesuit Refugee Service website at http://www.jesref.org/inf/lka-spcl/index.htm
The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) recently launched a new website, http://www.ajcunet.edu The new site consists of items from the former site, but it has incorporated new features, such as a "What's New" category that lists recent AJCU news and events and a synopsis of justice program reports from Jesuit institutions.
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