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Monday, 07 September 2015 14:51

Grace, possibility and light in the future of the Australian Province

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QldOutbackNite150The Society of Jesus is at an interesting moment in Australia and also the United States, with one generation of giants in their 80s and another astonishingly talented group entering their 70s. What does the future hold? During my latest trip to the Australian Province I've once again found myself unexpectedly reassured, writes visiting American Jesuit Fr Jim McDermott.

I've had the great fortune to come back to Australia a number of times since I did my tertianship here in 2008. And I'm often asked by members of my community in Los Angeles what it is that keeps drawing me back.

Queensland outback night skyIn part, it is the land. Between the wild for-neverness of the outback, the endless blue horizon of the ocean and the sprawling star-scattered sky, Australia has been for me a place that puts things in perspective, that reminds me that I am small and fragile in the big scheme of things, but that that is a reason for relief, an invitation to stop trying to make it all work on my own and put my life back into the hands of God.

It's also the community of this province. In the States we will throw around the buzzword of 'collaboration', but sometimes it doesn't ring true, like a reality forced upon us rather than an opportunity.

Whereas here in Australia, whether I am visiting Jesuit Communications or Jesuit Social Services or one of our schools or parishes, I always have the sense of a broad community of people working together for the greater glory of God — colleagues who are friends in the Lord and in one another.

The Jesuit astronomer George Coyne once noted that in the later part of their lives stars begin to discharge the very elements that will enable new life, new stars to develop. Doing my tertianship at Pymble, I had the great fortune to sit at the feet of many Jesuits, older and young, who shared this quality.

Every time I return I find myself stumbling into similar blessing, conversations with men like Phil Crotty, Bob Bruce, John Prendiville or Paul Horan, their wisdom and humanity a quiet outpouring of inspiration and life.

The Society of Jesus is at an interesting moment in Australia and also the United States, with one generation of giants in their 80s and another astonishingly talented group entering their 70s. 'What does the future hold?', I think many of us ask. Anxiety would be a normal reaction.

But I don't know — when I have had the chance to sit before the wild, wide-openness of Australia, or at a simple kitchen table with members of this province community, I've found myself unexpectedly reassured. The future is mystery. But here there is grace, possibility and light.

American Jesuit Fr Jim McDermott visited Australia during August to advise the Province on its use of social media.

This article was first published on the 25 August 2015 issue of Province Express, the fornightly e-newsletter of the Australian Jesuits.