Of Many Things

Globalization has in the last few years become a political and socio-economic buzzword loaded with both positive and negative connotations. Jobs going south; world solidarity; economic interdependence; cooperation; exploitation. Perhaps at no time in the history of America magazine has the consciousness of the editors been more global. Whether by an accident of history or the work of the Holy Spirit, at the present time eight members of our Jesuit community at America House, including four editors, have spent lengthy periods working in what were once called the foreign missions. Their experiences and memories enliven and broaden our conversations and cause us to be especially aware of the needs of the third world in which they worked.

Four men went to the Philippines when they were at the age of 21. They were inserted into an Asian culture, but it was an Asian Catholic culture that was heavily influenced by both Spain and the United States. They worked alongside men who had been imprisoned by the Japanese in internment camps during World War II. They saw the growing influence of nationalism among their indigenous Jesuit brothers. They were aware of the Moro rebellion, which still festers today, in the south of the country.

One editor went to East Africa when he was only somewhat older than the island missionaries had been. Working in Kenya to assimilate refugees from neighboring countries who had been displaced by wars and tribal violence, he saw first-hand the devastating effects of the Rwandan genocide. The Muslim influence is also significant in all the countries of East Africa, and it is dominant in Sudan. The perspective of someone who has seen both religious rivalry and cooperation, not to say tribal reconciliation despite longstanding antipathies, is invaluable to us.

Two other editors worked in West Africa: Nigeria and Ghana. One man helped in the foundation of a retreat center and directed retreats there. On his way out to Africa he stopped off in Rome and worked to re-catalogue a very large library there. He likes to keep busy!

The other editor who was based in Nigeria was a professor of theology and then an administrator charged with overseeing the expansion of Jesuit apostolates and the formation of young Jesuits. He was president of a secondary school when 60 of his students perished in a plane crash as they were going home for Christmas. The ability to cope with disaster is a special gift of missionaries, a gift that is tested all too often in places where the infrastructure is weak or nonexistent. Missionaries are mobile, too, so after this man’s term of office ended, he moved to Kenya, once again to teach theology to young Jesuits.

All of these men have been shaped by their experiences. Their profound understanding of the human condition in all manner of different worlds has influenced their writing, and it has influenced the stay-at-home members as well. Not that there are really any true stay-at-home members: 10 of us studied abroad and our two scholastics have worked in Jamaica, Guyana, Mexico and China as part of their Jesuit formation.

We are all “back home” now, but we try never to lose sight of what has been heard and seen, and to share those things with our readers in this ever-shrinking world.

Editor’s Note: Ave atque Vale

Attentive readers will notice that a new member has joined the America family. With our 11/24 issue, Barbara E. Reid, O.P., is the new author of the Word column, succeeding Daniel Harrington, S.J., who has completed the usual three-year cycle of commentary on the Sunday readings.

We are pleased to have a daughter of St. Dominic join our company. Sister Reid is known for the excellence of her scholarship, the clarity of her insight and the lightness of her prose. A recent reader survey indicated that 70 percent of our readers look to the column for personal inspiration. While we hope it will continue to help homilists, Sister Reid will strive to meet that need for spiritual insight.

The editors are grateful to Father Harrington for the quality of his commentaries the last three years. His fans will be pleased to know that he will continue to present Books on the Bible surveys in these pages, and that he is collecting his Word columns for a book to appear soon.

Drew Christansen, S.J.

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