Seal of the Jesuits
Jesuit USA Newsletter

February 7, 2004

In This Issue

Church in Kyrgyzstan Exists in Small Communities, Jesuit Says

Only one Catholic church exists in predominantly Muslim Kyrgyzstan, but Indian Jesuit Fr Paul Chemparathy reported that local Catholics meet in small clusters throughout the Central Asian country.

The priest, a former missionary in Nepal, said the church, located in the capital of Bishkek, is a remodeled house where about 30 Catholics gather for Mass every evening and 200 gather on the weekend; most of the parishioners are women. Outside Bishkek, he said, "there are 25 unofficial mission stations with a maximum of 30 Catholics each." He added that some of the communities are larger because they include people who are not Catholics.

In the communities near Bishkek, priests regularly celebrate Mass and teach catechism in private residences, Fr Chemparathy said.

The Catholic Church structure in Kyrgyzstan is a self-governing mission, created in 1997 and entrusted to the Jesuits.

Most local Catholics are ethnic Germans or Poles whose families survived persecution of religious followers in the 1920s and 1930s under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Fr Chemparathy calls these groups "the main store of Catholic faith," especially the grandmothers, "who kept the Catholic faith alive."

Fr Alexander Kan SJ, mission superior, who was born in neighboring Kazakhstan, visits men and women in prisons, a ministry recently approved by the government.

His younger brother, Fr Ivan Kan SJ visits invalids, elderly people, and mentally challenged youths.

Church activities may be limited, Fr Chemparathy said, but there is "finally a visible presence of the Catholic Church in this country again." [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]


JRS Europe: Detention of Asylum Seekers ­ "Unacceptable and Unjust"

Increasingly, asylum seekers in Europe are being detained, reports Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe. This is either in closed centers where there is no free movement or in open centers that have such restrictive atmospheres that they are almost like prisons.

"Governments are doing this because they want to discourage economic migrants from using the asylum channel and to appear 'tough' to their electorate," says John Dardis SJ, JRS Europe Director. "We believe this is an unjust way to deal with people who claim asylum."

Conditions of detention are also of concern to JRS. After a recent visit to one center, JRS Europe reported concern at the conditions there: "I was shocked to find that 40 or 50 asylum seekers were being held in a very small space and allowed out for sport to an enclosed yard for a very limited period of time during the day," reported Fr Dardis. "We urge governments and politicians to find ways to protect a human and humane asylum system and to keep this as a core value. [Source: JRS Dispatches]

To read JRS Europe's report on detention of asylum seekers, go to:


Fairfield University Names Next President Jeffrey von Arx

Fr Jeffrey von Arx SJ, Dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill of Fordham University and a current member of the Fairfield Board of Trustees, has been selected as Fairfield's eighth president. Fr von Arx succeeds Fr Aloysius Kelley SJ, who announced last October he would retire at the end of the 2003-04 academic year after 25 years of service.

Prior to coming to Fordham as dean in 1998, Fr von Arx began his academic career in 1982 at Georgetown University as a faculty member in the History Department where he served as chair from 1991 to 1997. While at Georgetown he was a founding director of the Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies in the School of Foreign Service. [Source: Fairfield University]


Jesuits and Lay Partners Participate in the World Social Forum in Mumbai

Organized by the Society, a World Social Forum took place in Mumbai, India, in mid-January. The International Delegation from 13 countries was composed of 16 Jesuits and 11 lay people, and there were over 1,300 participants. Seminars and workshops discussed, among other topics, indigenous people, the situation of women's education in India, and the impact of globalization on the poor in Asia. [Source: SJ Electronic Information Service]


Jesuit’s Music and Books Translated into Chinese

Author and liturgical composer Fr Bob Fabing SJ and his work were recently honored at the Ricci Institute for Chinese Western Cultural History at the Center for the Pacific Rim, which is part of the University of San Francisco.

About 300 people attended and were entertained by a 50-voice choir that performed some of Fr Fabing's compositions in Chinese.

Three of his books and two compilation CDs–"Come to Me" and "Shadow of My Wings"–have been translated into Mandarin Chinese.

Fr Fabing first went to China in 1989; he taught liturgical theology and sang liturgical music at the Sechan Seminary in Shanghai, where the seminarians translated some of his music into Chinese.

It wasn't until 10 years later, though, that one of his books, "The Eucharist of Jesus: A Spirituality for Eucharistic Celebration," was printed at an old Jesuit compound in Shanghai and distributed.

"They published 5,000 copies and gave a copy to every seminarian on mainland China as a text to study Eucharistic theology," Fr Fabing said. "Isn't that fabulous? And it was all a fluke. This is all grace.” [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]


University of Scranton Pre-med Students Visit Haiti

This past January, three University of Scranton pre-med students joined three alumni physicians for a week-long service trip to staff a clinic in the remote mountain region of Bonne Fin, Haiti.

The students assisted the doctors with medical procedures ranging from tooth extraction to leg amputations and appendectomies. They even performed emergency surgery on a five-year-old boy, removing his mega ureter and non-functional kidney and saving his life.

This is the third year for the service trip to Haiti, which is sponsored by the university's Medical Alumni Council. [Source: University of Scranton]


Nyumbani House Fights for Children to Attend School

The Nyumbani orphanage for HIV-positive children in Kenya, founded by Fr Angelo D'Agostino, sought a court order to force the Ministry of Education and the Attorney General's office to provide free primary school education for the children at the home.

Fr D'Agostino said five Nairobi primary schools refused to admit children from the orphanage because they are HIV-positive, despite the enactment of a law that provides for free primary education for all Kenyan children. [Source: Maryland Province News]


Jesuit Criticizes Drug Companies for High Cost of AIDS Drugs

Fr Angelo D'Agostino SJ, a psychiatrist who founded Nyumbani orphanage for HIV-positive children in Kenya, said AIDS was killing 400 people a day in Kenya while in Europe and North America it was no longer considered a fatal disease.

He said this difference in mortality rates was due to "the genocidal action of the drug cartels who refuse to make the drugs affordable in Africa even after they reported a $517 billion profit in 2002."

"This is a moral issue that shows the lack of social conscience by these capitalistic enterprises," he said. "How will we Christians explain this silence on our part some 50 years from now?" Fr D'Agostino asked.

Fr D'Agostino said that "despite all the publicity and media hype out there about drug companies reducing prices . . . they haven't reduced prices enough so that the people in Africa can afford [HIV/AIDS drugs].

"It would cost just $7 billion to save the lives of the 25 million sub-Saharan Africans who are HIV-positive and otherwise doomed," he said.

He made his remarks January 29 at a Vatican press conference that presented Pope John Paul II's Lenten message as well as launched a special Vatican fund-raiser in support of a new project to help AIDS orphans. Fr D'Agostino leads the project, called Nyumbani Village, a cluster of homes that will care for 1,000 people, including AIDS orphans and 250 people "from another needy and forgotten group, the elderly." [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]


Le Moyne College/Zogby International Release Latest Contemporary Catholic Trends Poll

As part of its ongoing polling project to track American Catholics' views on important issues, the Le Moyne College/Zogby International Contemporary Catholic Trends (CCT) has released its latest findings.

A majority of American Catholics continue to believe their bishops are doing a good job, and support for the bishops has leveled off at about 60 percent since spring 2003. Even though decline in support appears to have slowed, the bishops have not regained support since the sex abuse scandal became widely known.

A majority of American Catholics, 57.7 percent, continue to think the Church should become more democratic in its decision making.

"While the majority of Catholics continue to support the bishops' leadership during this difficult time, there is still some uncertainly about how best to handle this issue and whether the steps that have been taken are working," said Le Moyne College President Charles Beirne SJ. "The bishops have taken clear and positive action, but the latest findings clearly illustrate that much work remains to be done."

When respondents were asked if they were aware of their dioceses' initiating programs in response to the clerical sexual scandal (as mandated by the American bishops in their policy, "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People"), 40 percent were aware of such programs while 56 percent were unaware (4 percent unsure). Older respondents and those who attended weekly mass were more aware of the programs, while a majority of Catholics (76 percent) between the ages of 18 and 29 were unaware.

The latest Contemporary Catholic Trends was conducted in mid December 2003; there were 1,504 respondents. [Source: Le Moyne College]


Remembrance of Things Past


From the Editors

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