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Jesuits in Southern Africa Urged to “foster deeper analysis” of Region’s Multiple Crises

The logo of the newly-inaugurated Jesuits Southern Africa Province (SAP).

Members of the newly-launched Southern Africa Province (SAP) of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) have been urged to look for ways to address the multiple crises bedeviling the countries in the region. 

In his video recording addressing  the Jesuits in Southern Africa and their partners on the occasion of the inauguration of SAP Thursday, March 25, the Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Arturo Marcelino Sosa Abascal, highlighted the challenges facing the countries in the region. 

“The prevailing despondency in many countries in Southern Africa as well as emerging issues such as the insurgency in Northern Mozambique, environmental degradation in Malawi, increased poverty of the suffering poor in the context of the current pandemic, all need a common audacious response,” Fr. Sosa said in his message. 

Addressing himself to the Jesuits in the nine-country Province, he added, “It will be important for you to open conversations that can help foster a deeper analysis of these situations and help chart the best ways forward.” 

In his three-minute video message, the Rome-based Superior General of the Jesuits further highlighted “new challenges” that the members of SAP will need to address in their apostolate.

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The challenges, he said, include the call of the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus (GC36) to be “Companions in a Mission of Reconciliation and Justice” and the Ignatian Year (20 May 2021-31 July 2022), which is meant to celebrate the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. 

Other challenges he highlighted include the context of a post COVID-19 pandemic world and the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs), a set of four areas approved by Pope Francis in February 2019 that act as a point of reference for Jesuits across the globe.

“The UAPs seek to deepen our personal, communal and institutional conversion.” the Venezuelan-born Jesuit head said.

He explained in reference to UAPs, “They are a guide for improving both the apostolic work of the body of the Society as a whole, and the many different ways in which we carry out our ministries, which are where the UAPs will take flesh.” 

The UAPS will give the approximately 350 Jesuits in the new Province “a fresh spirit and a new passion,” Fr. Sosa added. 

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The bringing together of the Society’s Region of South Africa (SAF) and the Provinces of Zambia-Malawi (ZAM) and Zimbabwe-Mozambique (ZIM) to form SAP “is a dream of an apostolic audacity starting with the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus (GC35),” he said.

The dream, Fr. Sosa who is the first Superior General of the Jesuits from outside Europe explained, involved restructuring, which “inculcated freedom, generosity and collaboration of former regions and Provinces irrespective of linguistic, cultural and historical differences.” 

“Neither Idai, the cyclone, nor the present COVID-19 pandemic nor its lockdowns, which continue to affect millions of people, were deterrents to these trendsetting dreams. On the contrary, they brought out the best of our humanity and called forth action on the forefront,” he said.

In his March 25 video message, Fr. Sosa who has been at the helm of the 481-year-old Society since October 2016 implored, “I plead for Our Blessed Lady’s intercession so that through all these, you may continue to give witness to what it means to be companions of Jesus and sons of St. Ignatius.”

Launched on March 25 in Zambia by the President of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, SAP will bring together members of the Society serving in South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. 

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The launch follows Fr. Sosa’s 8 June 2020 signing of a decree announcing the creation of SAP, and the 7 December 2020 appointment of the Province’s first Provincial Superior, Fr. Leonard Chiti who assumed office after the inauguration. 

In his homily during the inauguration Mass at the Chapel of the Holy Name of Jesus in Zambia’s Archdiocese of Lusaka, Fr. Orobator reminded the members of SAP of the mission that lies ahead. 

“Like Mary of Nazareth, every Jesuit ... and every collaborator and partner in the mission of the Jesuits, woman or man of this new Province, becomes a bearer and a sower of the living seeds of the future,” the Nigerian-born JCAM President said. 

He added, “Each one of us (is) now sent on a mission to grow new trees of faith and spread new roots of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” 

In a March 19 letter inviting Jesuits, collaborators and benefactors for the launch of SAP, which is being headquartered in Zambia, the new Provincial Superior, Fr. Chiti had asked for prayers as he begins his leadership of the new Province.

“May God always guide us, and your prayers always support us, as I pray for each of you in your mission as we journey into this new Province together,” The Zambian-born Jesuit implored. 

Founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius of Loyola and his companions, St. Francis Xavier and St. Peter Faber, the missions of the Jesuits worldwide “is one of justice and reconciliation, working so that women and men can be reconciled with God, with themselves, with each other and with God’s creation.”