INTERVIEW WITH POSA, Rev. Fr. George Pattery SJ

1. Dear POSA, let’s begin with an easy question. What is your impression of GC 36?

GC 36 will be remembered  for three key phrases: audacity for the improbable (from the homily of the inaugural mass, presided over by Dominican Master General, Fr. Cordure, O.P.); seek consolation and joy in daily examen (Pope Francis to GC delegates) and  we collaborate with others, and not so much others collaborate with us (Fr. Arturo Sosa, sj in his homily at thanksgiving liturgy).

2. What the major areas are of thrust emerged during the GC 36 for the Society?

  1. Apostolic Discernment, based on the Venice phase of the deliberations of the First Fathers;  b) integral dimensions  of identity, mission and community; c) care for migrants; d) care for our common home - ecology and sustainable development,  e) reconciliation as cutting edge of justice.

3. How will you summarise the tenure of Fr. Adolfo Nicolas SJ, our former Superior General? What major contribution stands out during his Generalship?

      Adolfo had great and comprehensive vision that was profoundly theological and inter-cultural.  He was wisdom figure combining the best of the West and the East. He insisted on ‘depth’ in all our engagements.  Probably he could not fully translate his vision into reality as much as he would have loved to.

4. Since we got a new Fr. General Fr. Sosa, it is apt that we get an idea of, what priorities for the Society he set forth in your meetings with him. Could you explain?

      Arturo will bring in social sciences’  perspective into governance, with greater emphasis on apostolic planning at the universal level. His expertise at the university administration and familiarity with Roman faculties might bring in more focused ‘intellectual thrust’ in Jesuit ways. He would emphasize on ‘collaboration with others’ in our mission which is not ours, but ‘missio Dei’ – Mission of God.

5. In the light of the GC, how can we, the South Asian Jesuits, make our mission more vibrant and meaningful?

South Asia hopes to bring in a dialogue between Restructuring Process (Restructuring for greater apostolic effectiveness - REGAE) and apostolic discernment of GC 36; we need to envisage ‘Assistancy planning’ especially for ecology, non-formal education, entitlements,  migration, and reconciliation/intolerance).  We need to put in place strategies to take up these issues according to the exigencies of each of the zones. We need to reach out to all the countries of the assistancy with these ‘priorities’, with ‘spiritual depth and academic rigour’.

6. We understand that the GC focused on three areas to be focused; Discernment, Collaboration, and  Networking.  Could you shed more lights on these for us in our Context?

Apostolic discernment (as imaged for us in Venice phase of the First Fathers) is a must. We have been weak on this.  Apostolic planning means entering upon a ‘process’ with open-ended circles, without immediately looking for institutionalization. Such a ‘process’ will enable us to search for collaborators, to collaborate with others who are on similar path and search. This will necessarily lead us to net-work with others, especially with Jesuits across the Society. We live and move in an inter-related and inter-dependent world.

7.  We understand that after GC 36 there is a secretariat for Apostolic planning.  How is it going to help the Society, especially South Asia?

Apostolic planning is the key phrase of GC 36. We recognized that such planning is also required at the universal level of the Society. Hence Fr. General pro-actively proposed to have one General Assistant fully devoted to this task; it is Not so much a secretariat but an assistant for planning. It has to evolve gradually.

8. What are your plans to reach out to our neighbouring countries like Bhutan, and Bangladesh? Is there anything that the Educational Secretariat can do in this direction?

None of the other countries of South Asia except India and partly Nepal, has any substantial involvement in education, much less in higher education. JEA could pro-actively look for support in education (formal and informal) in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is our specific and urgent challenge.

9. Again, in the light of GC 36 what  message will you give for our men in education? What they can, or they  should differently do from what they are engaged with at present?

Education should prepare men and women with discerning heart and mind. Rather than enabling them to be ‘employable’ we need to capacitate them to ‘listen to the movements of the Spirit with and without, in the interiority of our hearts and in the exterior world of socio-political and cultural movements’. That is the critical and creative Ignatian pedagogy; we need to devise an Integral pedagogy for the inter-related and inter-dependent world/creation of ours.

 10. In the light of the growing hostility  and suspicion against Christians in South Asia, what proactive steps we must take to enhance our mission more relevant?

In an increasingly intolerant world around us (in South Asia and across the world), we need to explore our mission of reconciliation. Hostility and divisiveness feed on fear. We need spiritual depth and academic rigour to articulate the implications of reconciliation in our world. That is the call of the decree on Life and Mission of GC 36. South Asia has spiritual and religious resources in ‘peace and reconciliation’ with excellent historical models to fall back on.

11. What is your New-Year message for the men in Education in South Asia?

In an increasingly polarising world, our education should instil hope based on inclusiveness; we need to devise strategies for reconciliation with justice and impart a positive vision of an inter-dependent and inter-related world.   

12. What is your message for South Asian Jesuits?

Let us develop an integral pedagogy for an inter-dependent and inter-related world, in the increasingly polarising politics of the day. We need spiritual depth and academic rigour in this mission. The dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises is our ‘tool’ and let us sharpen this tool for our mission to enter upon apostolic discernment in and for South Asia.

Interviwed by

Fr. Sunny Jacob SJ

JEA Secretary