Seal of the Jesuits
Jesuit USA Newsletter

June 23, 2004

Provincials of the Americas Meet in Historic Dialogue

The first-ever meeting of all 33 Jesuit provincials of North, Central, and South America was held in Miami in May. Also present were Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach and members of the staffs of the US and South American Jesuit Conferences.

An agenda aimed toward better understanding of the realities of the two Americas began with Father General identifying some common issues--globalization, migration, lay collaboration, and diminishing resources. He noted that the two Americas have more than 50 percent of all the Catholics in the world, yet have nearly 80,000 fewer priests than all of Europe, which numbers only 25 percent of the world's Catholics.

The provincials spent their first day in prayer and reflection as Frs Brad Schaeffer, president of the US Jesuit Conference, and Francisco Ivern, president of the Conference of Provincials of Latin America, offered insights into their roles as moderators.

The provincials also discussed an internal working paper on migration and ways in which the two conferences could cooperate in providing pastoral assistance to migrants.

Another presentation concerned interprovincial cooperation and the experience of twinning relationships, especially regarding the new importance of lay collaborators.

The meeting served as a vehicle for Jesuits of both hemispheres to better appreciate their different missions and to look for greater understanding, cooperation, and solidarity. [Source: Tom Widner SJ from]


Founder of Nyumbani AIDS Orphanage Denies Allegations of Unapproved Research

Fr Angelo D'Agostino SJ, the founder of a home in Kenya for AIDS orphans, says allegations that improper studies were done on children there is nothing more than a "smear campaign."

Oxford researchers have been accused of not having proper authorization to conduct their studies.

Fr D'Agostino, who opened the Nyumbani home in Nairobi in 1992. said, "The person that is responsible for [these allegations] was at one time associated with us. And in gratitude, I was able to facilitate for him a fellowship to the United States with all expenses paid for three months for him and his wife in order to gather information to improve the state of our laboratory. But when he came back instead what he did was set up his own private laboratory and has attempted to smear us and denigrate us for his own profit."

The home has records showing all the proper documents authorizing the research, said Fr D'Agostino. He also said the reputation of the Nyumbani home is intact and won't be damaged by the allegations. [Source: Joe De Capua, Voice of America,]

To hear an interview with Fr D'Agostino, go to


University of Scranton Students Donate Rather than Discard

Each year at move out, University of Scranton students are encouraged to donate--rather than discard--items like canned goods, Ramen noodles, ironing boards, parlor games, and clothes.

University of Scranton freshmen Adam Rosinski and Christine O'Brien led a team of fourteen other freshman who collected, sorted, and distributed the donated items to local charities for seasonal farm workers. The drive gathers enough food to feed nearly all of the seasonal workers who migrate to the Scranton area during the summer months. [Source: University of Scranton]


Vatican Hesitant on US Communion Debate

Vatican officials do not have easy answers to the questions raised by the US debate on communion for politicians, says Vatican reporter John Thavis of Catholic News Service (CNS).

Thavis writes: "Despite the divergent policies adopted by several US bishops, the Vatican has been slow to intervene, and it may choose not to do so publicly. One reason is that the Vatican does not want to be seen as telling the US bishops what to do. Another is that Vatican officials do not have easy answers to the questions raised by the debate.

"Many at the Vatican would agree that a Catholic politician who supports legal abortion could be denied Communion under church law. But on the question of whether this should be done, Vatican opinion is far from uniform."

The article by Thavis is significant because CNS (an agency of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops) is picked up by many diocesan publications around the world and Thavis is providing well-sourced commentary on the differing Vatican perspectives in this debate that has broken out between the liberal and conservative lay and ecclesial factions in the American church.


Catholic Church Must Retain, Protect its Public Voice, Jesuit Says

Catholicism is a "resolutely public tradition," and the bishops are right to resist efforts to privatize it, Jesuit Fr Mark Massa told an interreligious forum on religion in politics in New York on June 7.

Fr Massa, director of Fordham University's Center for American Catholic Studies, said disputes over involvement of religious groups in public issues should be handled not by excluding religious voices but by developing a "protocol for public discourse."

Such a protocol should leave religious groups free to express their differences publicly, but in a way that shows respect for other views, he said.

The priest said that the church-state position set forth by presidential candidate John F Kennedy to the Houston ministers in 1960 was something "no Catholic can say."

Kennedy told the ministers, who were evangelical Protestants, that he believed in an America "where no Catholic prelate would tell the president [should he be Catholic] how to act . . . [and] where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source."

Catholics cannot deny the right of the bishops to speak to them about what is Catholic teaching, Fr Massa said.

Fr Massa said that American history has shown a continuity in the relation of religion and public life, but that new groups have become a part of the picture in the past half-century.

These groups, he said, include ethnic Catholics, fundamentalists, Jews, and Muslims and have "forms of engagement" different from those of the mainstream Protestants dominant in the past.

Fr Massa said that as the American religious scene became more complex, efforts were made to privatize religion in a way that went against the Catholic tradition.

He said the tradition includes an emphasis on natural law as an expression of norms that anyone could recognize through the use of reason. However, the application of natural law to questions of public life also requires prudence, he said.

Fr Massa said prudence was at issue in the current dispute over refusing Communion to Catholic politicians who take a position contrary to the church on abortion.

He did not exclude the possibility of refusing Communion in some cases, but said it should be considered the "last thing" to use rather than the "first thing." [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]


Jesuit in Philippines Says People There Are Drawn to the New Age Movement

Fr Romeo Intengan, a Jesuit priest from the Philippines, said people in his country are drawn to the New Age movement because it offers a sense of community, which is sometimes lacking in Manila's overcrowded congregations.

The New Age movement gets people to "come together and compare notes and compare one's experiences," providing a sense of warmth and community, Fr Intengan said.

"Sometimes people are reacting to a situation in the Catholic community where things are very impersonal because they go to Mass on Sunday and there are 2,000 people there. You are hardly able to make a connection to your vital interests, your existential concerns," so a smaller, more intimate New Age group tends to fill that void, he said.

Fr Intengan said the church must do more in promoting itself as being the place to find direct contact with the spiritual.

"Sometimes people mistakenly think that in the Catholic Church God doesn't speak to you directly, that you have to go through Scripture and the clergy who interprets the Scripture. It's not true," he said.

He pointed to the church's mystical traditions as being ways to have intimate contact with the divine.

"If people see the church responds to their interest in the spiritual and talking to God directly then they will say, 'there is something in the church answering to this; I'll remain a Catholic,'" Fr Intengan said. [Source: CNS. Do not repost electronically]


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From the Editors

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