April 15, 2010

Jesuits Presence to Remain in Afghanistan

School in AfghanistanAs the Indian government reportedly scales down its presence in Afghanistan amid growing security concerns, Jesuits from India say they will continue their work in the troubled nation.

"We cannot suspend our work here. We have made a commitment and we need to go ahead," says Fr. James Kalapura, one of the Jesuits working in Afghanistan.

The Jesuit decision comes amid reports that recent attacks on the Indian government's missions and staff have compelled them to close its operations in several places in Afghanistan.

However, Jesuits and their collaborators, the major Catholic group present in Afghanistan, have no plan to leave, says Fr. Edward Mudavassery, SJ, provincial of the Jesuits in South Asia.

The priest, who heads more than 4,000 Jesuits in the region, says he is in "constant contact" with his people in Afghanistan. All his men and their collaborators not only want to continue there but also plan to expand their outreach programs to new areas, he added.

Fr. Mudavassery says his people "are well aware of the security situation there. I have made sure no one stays there under compulsion."

Fr. Kalapura, who works in Herat province, "a comparatively safer place," says the Jesuit team there goes about its work. "We are moving around freely as usual. We have not faced any threat yet," he said and added, "but then anything can happen at any time in Afghanistan. This is a fact we have to live with."

The Jesuit priest said the security of Indians in Afghanistan became "a major concern" after an attack on Indians in Kabul past February. [UCA News]

Photo courtesy of Stan Fernandes, SJ.

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Loyola Productions Profiled in the New York Times

Fr. Eddie Siebert, SJLoyola Productions, a nonprofit film and television production company run by the Jesuits, has been profiled in the New York Times.

Fr. Eddie Siebert, SJ, the company's founder and president, says in the article, "I came to the Jesuits because you could run a film production company and still be a Jesuit priest. One thing about the Jesuits is they say: 'O.K., if you have a certain skill, run with it. Let's see where it goes. Become an expert. Or do what you can.' And they've always been supportive like that."

The article also mentions upcoming projects from Loyola Productions, including the "The Borgia Popes," which Fr. Siebert compared to the Showtime series "The Tudors," and "Hidden Treasures of the Jesuits," a series about art or artifacts connected to the Jesuits, including the gun that was used to kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand and a Caravaggio discovered in a Dublin rectory.

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Jesuit Wins New Play Award

Fr. Bill CainJesuit Fr. Bill Cain's "Equivocation" is the winner of the $25,000 2010 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award. The largest such prize in the country, it recognizes the best American scripts that premiered professionally in the award year (2009) outside New York City.

Fr. Cain's "Equivocation" is a fantasy that mixes comedy and drama. King James' ruthless prime minister commissions Shakespeare's company to write and perform the official (and highly suspect) government account of Guy Fawkes' Gunpowder Plot. Shakespeare becomes increasingly skeptical, forced to weigh the relationship of art to government and artists' personal responsibility to truth.

"Equivocation" premiered April 18, 2009, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, later played at Seattle Repertory Theatre, and recently completed a 2010 New York run at the Manhattan Theater Club. [American Theatre Critics Association]

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The Society in Numbers

The latest statistics of the Society of Jesus worldwide, as of January 1, 2010, list the total number of Jesuits as 18,226. There are 12,887 priests; 1,589 brothers; 2,818 scholastics; and 972 novices. There was a decrease of 237 members since January 1, 2009, and the average age of all Jesuits is 57.29. [Electronic News Service SJ]

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Vatican astronmers Fr. George Coyne and Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJJesuit Astronomers Featured on NPR

Fr. George Coyne, SJ, director emeritus of the Vatican Observatory, and Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ, curator of meteorites at the Vatican Observatory, were guests on NPR's "Speaking of Faith with Kristin Tippett" on April 1.

Their conversation, Asteroids, Stars and the Love of God, is available online as a podcast.

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Hopeworks Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Hopeworks in Camden, N.J.Hopeworks, a nonprofit founded by Fr. Jeff Putthoff, SJ, that teaches web technologies to youth in Camden, N.J., marked its tenth anniversary in March.

Since March 2000, over 1,000 youth have participated in its training curriculum and over 250 youth jobs have been created in its web design and geographic information system businesses.

Under the direction of Hopeworks's web site project director, trainees have developed web sites for over 180 paying clients, mainly small businesses and non-profit organizations.

In addition, trainees have gone on to get jobs, attend college, and earn GEDs. [Hopeworks]

Related story: "Hopeworks: New Jersey youth achieve their dreams with the help of a Jesuit" from the Winter 2009-10 issue of Company.

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Around Campus

SLU Health Care Students Head Up 2nd Annual Health Screening Tour

 Willie Lerett has his blood pressure checked by Jacqueline Modock, a senior nursing student at SLU.Saint Louis University students partnered with the 100 Black Men of Metropolitan St. Louis and offered free blood pressure screenings and prostate cancer education to African-American men at 12 local barber shops this spring.

Last year SLU School of Nursing students visited barber shops to screen about 400 men for high blood pressure. They found that more than 80 percent had high blood pressure readings, which can lead to stroke and cardiovascular diseases.

The weekly barbershop tour, which took place Wednesdays and Saturdays, continued a simple yet innovative health initiative: target high-risk populations by taking the information and screenings directly to them. When a blood pressure reading is above normal, students refer participants to a health care provider. In addition to the screenings, students counseled participants on diet modifications, such as lowering sodium intake, and the importance of exercise. [Saint Louis University; photo courtesy Saint Louis University]

Georgetown University Holds Haiti Day

Haiti Day logoThe Georgetown University community devoted 12 hours of action on April 12 in recognition of Haiti Day--set to remember victims of the recent earthquake and raise awareness about the island nation's recovery.

Book-ended by prayer services at noon and 11 p.m., the event included cultural, development, and spiritual explorations of Haiti and ways for the community to raise money and get involved in long-term recovery efforts.

Events included two Georgetown University Hospital doctors who discussed their health-related relief network while another session focused on microfinancing in Haiti. Music performances, an art show, and a film screening featured Haitian culture.

All proceeds raised on Haiti Day go toward Georgetown's Haiti Relief and Recovery Fund, which now has about $45,000. [Georgetown University]

Creighton Hosts Third Annual Homeless Connect Omaha

More than 600 homeless citizens living on the streets or in homeless shelters in the greater Omaha area received help, hope, and services during Omaha's third annual Project Homeless Connect, held on March 26 at the Kiewit Fitness Center on Creighton University's campus.

The event, supported by more than a thousand volunteers, provided "one-stop shopping" to connect the homeless with important services and benefits. Participants, escorted by volunteers, navigated multiple outreach programs, including health care services and informational booths on employment, housing, education, legal resources, food stamps, and more.

Nonprofit agencies, local businesses, volunteer groups, health care providers, human resources professionals, and other service providers offered immediate assistance, including haircuts and referrals for other services.

"Project Homeless Connect Omaha is a demonstration of our ongoing commitment to those in need locally. Hosting this community-wide event fits with Creighton's commitment to the city of Omaha and our Jesuit mission of service to others. Our students, alumni, faculty, and staff are actively engaged in the community and are dedicated to its betterment," said Fr. John Schlegel, SJ, president of Creighton. [Creighton University]

Jesuit College Prep Dallas Soccer Wins StateJesuit College Prep Dallas Wins Soccer Championship

Jesuit College Prep Dallas became state champs in soccer for the first time by shutting out another Jesuit school, Strake Jesuit College Prep in Houston, for two halves, two overtime periods, and four rounds of a shootout on April 10, winning the Class 5A boys soccer title.

The victory capped a perfect season for the team, during which they were ranked number one on ESPN's high school web site, ESPN Rise.

McQuaid Jesuit President Moving to JSEA

Bill Hobbs, the president of McQuaid Jesuit High Rochester, N.Y., is leaving at the end of the school year to take a new post in Washington, D.C.

He has accepted a new position as vice president of the Jesuit Secondary Education Association, which oversees the 59 schools run by the Society of Jesus in the United States and Canada.

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