Revisiting the Jesuit story - May 12, 2010

A conference at the site of the country's first Jesuit parish has provided Jesuits and lay people working in pastoral ministry a chance to revisit the story of the Society of Jesus in Australia. 

A group of 42 Jesuits and lay people from ten Jesuit parishes gathered at Sevenhill in South Australia for the Jesuit Parishes Conference from 4 to 5 May. 

Pastoral Ministries Delegate Fr Des Dwyer said Sevenhill provided the perfect setting for exploring the theme of the meeting, ‘Our Jesuit story and its implications for the future of pastoral ministry'. 

‘It is an extraordinary place', said Fr Dwyer. ‘The early story, and the incredible courage and generosity of those people at Sevenhill, really struck a chord with everyone.' 

The conference began with an introduction to Sevenhill and the story of the first Jesuits to arrive in the country from Austria. It included a visit to the quarry where the stones that built the church and buildings came from. 

‘To think they started out there with nothing', said Fr Dwyer. ‘Just how difficult life must have been and the extraordinary sacrifices they must have made and what they handed on to us.' 

The storytelling continued with Australian Provincial Fr Steve Curtin giving a presentation on the broader mission of the Jesuits within the universal Society of Jesus. The afternoon included presentations exploring the characteristics of Jesuit parishes, with each parish giving presentations on how they are living out a particular characteristic. 

There were opportunities for sharing and networking between parishes, as well as presentations from Br Ian Cribb on becoming a contemplative in action, and Deirdre McInerny about Ignatian Spirituality. 

Fr Dwyer said he was very pleased with the community that has grown up amongst all the various parishes in Australia. 
‘We're no longer isolated parishes working in different cities', he said. ‘The networking has gone on over the years in these conferences, but you really saw the strength of it in this one.' 

He was also struck by the number of lay people leading sessions at the conference. 
‘That wouldn't have been the case some years ago. They're now giving great leadership in all areas of pastoral ministry', he said. 

North Sydney's Parish Priest, Fr Tony Smith SJ, said the meeting was a chance to learn about life in other parishes around Australia. 
‘It was an opportunity for exchange', he said, ‘learning from others what their problems are, but, more especially, what their joys in parish are.'