Chennai Provincial


Chennai Provincial

The Sermon given by FrJebamalaiIrudayaraj SJ on the Second day of Province Assembly (29th Dec 2019). This is his first homily after assuming the responsibility as the First Provincial of the newly established Jesuit Chennai Province.

The theme of today’s liturgical celebration is Expectation.

A historical promiseis fulfilled. A promise has become a reality today, as it happened in the faith-journey of the Israelites, reaching the Promised Land after forty years of Expectation. All through, the Israelites experienced continuous protection, fortification and guidance of the Yahweh.
Our hearts brim with joyand all of us are doubly overwhelmed by gratitude as we stand near the new born Jesus and as we realiseour long cherished dream, the expected Promised Land- the Jesuit Chennai Province.In this delighted Eucharistic Celebration, let us thank the Lord for all he has done for thecreation of the New Jesuit Chennai Province, the expectation of a new child in our Jesuit family has become a reality. We sing glory to God with the Psalmist as he sang in psalm 118, ‘This is from the LORD, and it is marvelous in our eyes’. We firmly believe that it is only from the Lord.AndavaralIthuNihazhthullathu, Nam KangaliukkuithuViyappe!Aandavaraalmattumaeithunihazhnthullathu!
Immediately after GC 36, Fr. General responded positively to our Postulate regarding the formation of a new Chennai Region and asked for a discernment process to get started. He is extremely happy with the entire process in which the entire Province took active part and now he is happy to establish the new Jesuit Chennai Province and I am really grateful to Fr. General for the confidence and trust he has in appointing me as its first Provincial.
With our Mother Mary, I join saying: “My heart praises the Lord; my soul is glad because of God my Saviour, for He has remembered me, His lowly servant” (Lk 1:46-49), for giving me this responsibility of leading the Jesuit Chennai Province in His own way. I am confident that the Lord, who created this Province and who chose me to lead it, will accompany us all the days to come. Great is His name and greater will be His work for the needy.
I strongly feel that I receive the spiritual strength and direction of the Lord through the words of Zechariah“for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace” (LK 1:76-79).
Today we celebrate the Feast of Holy Family. The primary purpose of this feast is to present the Holy Family as a model for Christian families.
A holy family accepts the frailty and behaviour of its members which the worldly family might not conceive of as an ideal or even normal.
A holy family loves everyone equally. The love and faithfulness of the Holy Family, experienced from God, enabled us to love and trust one another accepting all equally though the future is uncertain. This love is reflected in our relationship with God the Father.
It is in the holy family that we learn how to communicate and to express our love for God and for one another. In the holy family, we learn right and wrong, and the importance of forgiveness and prayer. May this Christmas season and New Year, be a time of conforming ourselves and our Jesuit family life to embody the qualities of acceptance, obedience, loyalty and love, which are other-centered.
The Great Jesuit Madurai family has given birth to the long expected, new baby, namely, the Jesuit Chennai Province.
Yes, it is a great event in the history of Jesuit Madurai Province as it has given birth to yet another baby, after 29-years of prolonged labour pain.
Though it is a prolonged one, once the child, the Chennai Province is born, the labour pain turns into a greatest joy and gives immense happiness to the Jesuit family of Madurai Province. All those times, were we not comforted by John 16:22, ‘Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice and your joy no one will take from you’ The Lord has come to see us again so that both Madurai and Chennai would rejoice now and we are certain that no one can steal this joy from us! The Lord has visited us and He has come to us to dwell with us – He will be our dynamic spirit to work for His people, propelling us to work out our salvation in the salvation of the people we work for and work with.
With these joyful sentiments, the Jesuit family is gathered here, around this alter, on this historic occasion to celebrate the birth of Jesuit Chennai Province with a deep sense of gratitude, to thank the Lord for His marvelous deeds. Our Fr. Victor SJ used to say convincingly, ‘Have faith in the Lord. If Chennai Province is God’s work, one day it will come true’. His words have come true today. I am sure, in heaven he would continue to praise God for this event.
This joy is a gift from the Lord and all who walked, toiled and slogged for this new birth: the Jesuits, past and present, our collaborators and Co-workers, people belonging to the movements of the marginalized and other friends and well-wishers. Thonduseithamunnavaraitholkoduthathondarkalai, nandriyoduindrupaduvom! We are certain that all Jesuits in heaven would be in heavenly peace as they smilingly watch us from above, celebrating this Eucharist.
There are so many people belonging to this Holy Family of Jesuits who soiled their hands to make this day blossom forth and pack it with pleasant aroma of love and fidelity. They are unknown to all of us. May be,some one in a corner of Chengelpet or Kuppayanallur or Kilpannathur or a person in a hut in Makkampalayam or Tindivanam or any other place, but each one has shared the success of this history.
I gratefully remember the former Chennai Mission Coordinators, Chennai Mission Animators, Mission Treasurers, Mission Superiors and Jesuits who worked in Chennai Mission area in building up the Mission from the beginning till now. I also remember our lay collaborators, coworkers, benefactors, the Jesuit Volunteers from Europe and their coordinators Mary and Turkey who are present here, and thank them from the bottom of my heart for their constant support, labour and collaboration in building the Chennai Province.
I sincerely remember all the former Provincials who did put their heart and soul in developing the Chennai Mission to the present status. Fr. DanisPonnaiah our present Provincial is the man behind such a wonderful process of bifurcation, the discernment that happened through Spiritual Conversation, involving the entire Province. Yes, he had to undergo the process of final labour pain. He went through the tedious process of JCM Phase-1 and Phase-II with the team of experts in the Chennai Mission Committee headed by Fr. Joe Arun, and all the members of sub-committees and all the Jesuits who took active part in the discernment processes. I express my sincere thanks to all of you for fulfilling our long cherished expectation, the new Jesuit Chennai Province.
As the Holy family symbolizes: let us be together, in praising God for all that He has done, acceptits members with their differences; loving and forgiving everyone equally and strengthening our commitment to mission.
It is our duty to accompany the newborn child, in its growth, to reinforce its strengths, to counsel and support the child to come out of its weaknesses and be at its side whenever it would face the challenges in its life and mission.
The ‘Venice Model’ of our Founder St. Ignatius and his First Companions is another expectation of me, to be practiced in our belonging and building and to be united in our life and mission of our New Province.For the first Companions, life and mission, rooted in a discerning community, were profoundly inter-related. They shared their lives together as friends in the Lord, lived very close to the lives of the poor, and preached the Gospel with Joy,tending the sick and helping the poor(GC 36, D. 1, Nos. 4 & 5) - in other words: caring for the souls!
These signs impel us to respond with Ignatian generosity to the mission of reconciliation withGod, with one another and with creation. “The task of reconciliation is always a work ofjustice, a justice discerned and enacted in local communities and contexts” (GC 36, D. 1, N.21).
It is our duty to assure that our Jesuit identity must take precedence over other identities and personal interests. While individual Jesuits soar like shooting star, why don’t the Jesuits collectively display their united strength? Why there is a lack of professionalism in our works? These are questions asked by our friends and collaborators which reflect indirectly about our belongingness!
We all belong to the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit family. Her doctrines, policies and option are ours. Our Vows affirm our fidelity to God the Father. We need to do the Will of God and firstly, we need to become loyal to the Society of Jesus.
In this critical historical juncture of our Country, of our State, we are here to imitate Jesus in order to be part of liberating the Dalits, Tribals, Migrants, Refugees, Women, Youth and other marginalized people through commitment in our various apostolic activities.We need to belong to one another; and we need to build up our mission for the people at the periphery of the society.
Our personal Life and our Community Life need to be premised on the Ignatian Discernment through Spiritual Conversation; promoting and realising the importance of on-going spiritual formation and fostering faith-sharing among its members.
When we leave this place, we go home with greater sense of belonging to each other to joyfully build up our people. Mahizhvom, PaniyilOlirvom is the second Expectation we need to put into practice, following the spirit of our First companions, as members belonging to this great Jesuit family.
The new Child, Jesuit Chennai Province is now born in the context of the disturbed, distorted and divided world.The first challenge to us is to look at this distorted world from the eyes, hearts, minds and the perspectives of the people of the periphery.
In his Apostolic Letter (Nov, 2014) to all Consecrated People, Pope Francis emphatically says that a prophet is someone who listens to the words of God, who reads the signs of times, and who knows how to move forward towards the future.
In the meditation on the Incarnation, St Ignatius invites us in the Spiritual Exercises (Sp. Exs. 106), to gaze at the reality of the world. Vat II calls us to read the signs of times and do a thorough study before we enter into action.
Our Mission Statement (Dec, 2018) explicitly reflects our context and challenges. “rampant casteism and corruption, unfettered crony capitalism, fast spreading fascist fundamentalism, alienating technological culture, pervasive criminalization of politics, alarming erosion of moral and spiritual values and gross degradation of the environment in our country stare at us defiantly. Untouchability, discrimination, oppression and violence of varied forms have become almost the order of the day. The commercialization and corporatization of healthcare and education and other basic services and the denial of human rights appall us”.
What we need, to face these challenges is the creative fidelityin our apostolic commitment, for the growth of Chennai Province. It is our owning and serving the unserved and the underserved.
In this context, with your collaboration and cooperation, particularly the members of Chennai Province, I would like to give top priority to the following orientations in Chennai Province.

1. Sharing the struggles of our people: In all our ministries,our commitment to accompany and to be part of the struggles of the worst affected and marginalised,Dalits, especially Dalit Christians, Tribals, Migrants, Refugees, Women, Youth and other vulnerable sections of society, who are pushed to the periphery, be given top priority. In giving proper and quality education, trainings in overall development,moving beyond charity and developmental works, we need to look at the social movements as a tool to transform the social order.For all thesefaith with commitment to Justice is essential.
2. Strengthening the existing ministries: Our educational and Technical Institutions, parishes and social, spiritual and dialogue centres in further reaching out the people of the peripheryand building up the needed resources and personnel.While we feel the need of extending our mission to new areas, we will also learn to deepen our existing ministries with certain focus. Our Apostolic Planning would do that part.
3. Building up the structures:We need to mobilize the local, and other financial resourcesinensuring the sustainability of our apostolic activities. Structures are for us, we are not for structures. However fluid some of the structures may be, all that we need is to aim at the ultimate goal: greater glory of our creator in the service of His people. I believe that resources are everywhere. We only need a heart and a team to tap them!
4. Nurturing fraternal communion among us: Strengthening the belongingness among us as the members of the Chennai Province going beyond any sort of divisiveness, knit together with bonds of caring and loving and rooted in the spirit of the first Companions and to work together in union of hearts and minds.
5. Focusing on Vocation Promotion and forming quality men for our ministries who combine spiritual and intellectual depth with competence and commitment. People wonder that we are bifurcated, while many provinces are merging. We accept wholeheartedly that we have good and quality men in our provinces. We also need to explore new areas for new vocations so that our mission would not suffer a lack of human power.
6. Seeking and creating systems to network and collaborate with our collaborators, Coworkers, Human rights defenders, all like-minded women and men of different churches, religions, ideologies who are committed for a just world. This is very much needed in today’s world. The political and bureaucratic impunity, the endless struggles of the victims, the callousness of middle class people, the helplessness of the impoverished masses and tortures meted out on the human right defenders and activists are rampant everywhere. We need to build grand alliances among ourselves. We shall stand in frontiers towards this purpose.
7. Implementation of PAPs and UAPs: We collectively underwent a long process of preparing our Province Apostolic Preferences. We also did the exercise of preparing the Chennai Apostolic Action plans. It is time for us first, to own the action plans of our communities of Chennai Province and the overall action plans of Chennai Province and second, we need to commit ourselves generously in implementing these action plans of PAPs and UAPs in the coming days.
8. Media Intervention:Another major concern is the Media, the media intervention of ours in today’s context. As social media plays a vital role in determining the future of youth, we Jesuits mostly working among the youth, both urban and rural, and organised and unorganized, we need to concentrate our commitment to Media education and media Intervention. Since Chennai Jesuits own institutions in the Capital city, we have the duty also to intervene positively at the level of policy making, advocacy and lobbying at all levels.

At this critical and historical juncture, we need to focus our energies and resources towards building up the newly born Chennai Province with utmost fidelity and prophetic audacity.Our Mission Statement reiterates that our commitment to this mission flows from our steadfast faith and hope in God and passionate concern and love for the marginalized people we have chosen to journey with. Their liberation becomes our goal, their hopes our inspiration and their struggles our challenges.
I would like to profusely thank each and every one of you for your overwhelming presence and your active participation in the proceedings of Province Assembly, particularly in this ceremonial way of establishing the new Chennai Province and I assuming the responsibility as its first Provincial.
The PrepCo headed by Fr. Francis P Xavier, SJ, meticulously planned and executed the Assembly with utmost precision and perfection. Together with the members of the PrepCo there is an army of men. Already three months back, Jesuits and others, took responsibility and started their works. On behalf of all of you, I would like to express my wholehearted thanks to the organising committee, all the members of the other sub-committees and the members of the Loyola Community the Rector and Fr. Justin, our Minister and the heads and Directors of various Institutions, for their tireless hard work to excellently accomplish the Province Assembly. Special thanks to all our Scholastics who had silently contributed much to the success of this Assembly as well.The contribution of the collaborators and Co-workers from our Institutions, Centres and Parishes of Chennai Province is also much appreciated. I would like to express my sincere thanks to all of them for their forthright and genuine sharing in the Assembly.
All of you made the Assembly meaningful and joyful and let us together as one Holy Family, collectively own up the new born baby, march forward with collective hope that springs fromwith Collective Magis, following the footsteps of our founding Fathers,in contributing our mite in our commitment to build up the new born Jesuit Chennai Province. Let us continue to pray to Jesus our Master, to our dear Mother Mary, St Ignatius our Leader and all the Saints of the Society of Jesus, to give the spiritual power and strength to all of us to lead the new Province in His own way.
Let us surrender ourselves to the Holy Family which adorns the humankind. The Holy family symbolizes ‘togetherness’, ‘acceptance’ and ‘forgiveness’. Togetherness is what we have in the Ignatian legacy: Union of minds and hearts (unioanimorum). All of us share in this union because all of us have positively responded to the call of the Eternal King. It is in union with Christ we orient ourselves in companionship with others. GC 32 (203 & 212) exactly brings out this orientation: ‘…we treat of our union with God in Christ, from which flows our brotherly communion with one another…’ The life in communion demands accepting other as they are, not as we want and forgive ourselves and others whenever we fall. We have voluntarily chosen this life in communion, not just for narcissistic love but for others in our mission. So, this life in communion has an apostolic dimension, as well. We live together so that we will love our mission together. Holy Family reminds us of greater values for our vocation to Jesuit companionship.
I earnestly seek your blessings and prayers to walk together with you all steadfastly especially the members of Chennai Province, to feel free to interact with me and counsel me, in ourcommitment to the liberation of the people of the periphery and to rededicate and radiate ourselves joyfully and to develop the Jesuit Chennai Province under the banner of the Cross.
Let us walk together as a family, in the footsteps of our Master Jesus Christ.May the Lord of History, who called us to the least Society, may lead us in imitating Jesus to be partners in accomplishingHis redemptive work of liberating the downtrodden, empowering the broken hearted, and elevating the lowly in the Society. It is He who created this Province and He will make miracles in and through us. He is the God of History and He is a God of surprises.Infant Jesus, Bless us all.