The congress for the Jesuits in English Canada are celebrating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jesuits to Canada on May 22, 1611.

Jesuit congress marks four centuries in Canada

  • August 10, 2011

About 200 Jesuits and their lay collaborators gathered at Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ont., from July 27 to 31 to “remember and renew without counting the cost.”

The congress for the Jesuits in English Canada celebrated the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jesuits to Canada on May 22, 1611.

“We decided that we would use this celebration not only to remember this foundational event but also to gather all the Jesuits from English Canada plus those who work with us in significant roles in our ministries across the country,” said Fr. Erik Oland, a member of the organizing committee which began meeting about two years ago to plan the congress.

In addition, a substantial delegation of French Canadian Jesuits and one member of the Hungarian Jesuits in Canada were in attendance.

The purpose of the congress was captured in the motto of the weekend, said Oland: “Jesuit Relations 1611-2011, Remember, Renew, Without Counting the Cost.”

One of the key parts of both remembering, renewing and bringing things up to date took place during the guided tour of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons.

“We went around to seven different sites and touched upon everything from the spirituality to the education to social justice to working with non-Jesuits,” said Oland.

“And we went through an entire day working in small groups, having spiritual conversation and really allowing the spirit of God to speak to us as a group.”

Some of the weekend’s many events included a keynote address from Superior General Adolfo Nicolás, a 15-km pilgrimage from Martyrs’ Shrine to St. Ignace, the site of the martyrdom of Jean de Brebeuf and Jérôme Lalemant, and culminated with an outdoor Mass at the Polish altar at Martyrs’ Shrine on the feast of St. Ignatius.

In the Superior General’s keynote address, he talked about his contemporary vision of the Society of Jesus and inculturation, said Oland.

“This basically means bringing the faith into a culture but also learning from the people so you can adapt certain practices to fit into their culture,” he said. “So, if for example, we’re going to India or Africa, we’re not necessarily going to teach them the same music that we sing at churches in Canada.”

Oland said there were two key outcomes of the congress: A renewed commitment to keep growing in how the Jesuits work with people who collaborate with them and a calling to deepen their comfort level and depth in spiritual conversations and sermons.

“If we imagine that as Christians we have a personal prayer life and we discern decisions in terms of where we’re going with our life, then what we’re talking about here is not to do that on an individual basis… but to do that discernment from the beginning at the group level.”

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