Jesuits to promote a new dimension of Ignatian formation

Marco Carvalho

Present in Macau since the very beginning of its own history, the local Jesuit community commemorated the liturgical feast of Saint Francis Xavier last Saturday, December 2, with the celebration of a Mass in Saint Joseph’s Seminary Church. The ceremony was presided over by Bishop D. Stephen Lee and concelebrated by Father Stephen Tong.

Immediately after the Eucharistic celebration, the Provincial of the Chinese Province of the Society of Jesus blessed a new area devoted to the formation of laypeople in the Our Lady of Fatima Residence, Father Fernando Azpiroz told O Clarim.

The current superior of the Jesuit mission in Macau hopes that the new facility, befittingly called ‘Xavier Hall’, may help local Catholics to strengthen their faith and to nourish their responsibilities towards the Church and other Catholics: “On December 2, at 10 am we had a Eucharistic Celebration at Saint Joseph’s Seminary Church. The celebration was presided by Bishop Stephen, who was accompanied by our Provincial, Father Stephen Tong Chak-Iong,” the Argentinian priest stated. “After the Mass, we went to the Jesuit Our Lady of Fatima Residence to bless the newly-created ‘Xavier Hall’. We hope that this space will help laypersons in Macau learn how to offer pastoral and spiritual formation and accompaniment – retreats in daily life, teach others how to pray, daily exam, faith formation for youth and adults – to other lay people (teachers, young couples, migrant workers, young students, and professionals), helping them grow in their faith and spiritual lives,” Father Fernando Azpiroz added.

The new space will help the Society of Jesus to bring forward a new dimension of Ignatian formation. The project was conceived with the aim of opening the doors of the Our Lady of Fatima Residence to the local Catholic community. Lay people are assuming leadership roles in a broad range of ministries and institutions all around the world and, in Macau, the local Jesuit mission wants to partner with laypeople, so that they can help prepare other laypersons to lead a life of service. The newly-created hall will provide logistic conditions to facilitate the organizations of retreats and other events, such as workshops and lectures. The “Xavier Hall” was conceived with the purpose of mobilizing teachers, students, migrant workers, couples and professionals from different industries and sectors, so that they can take on the role of agents of Evangelization and teach other Catholics how to pray, how to conduct Saint Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises or simply how to act according to Christian values.

Sower of vocations

The choice of Saint Francis Xavier as the patron saint of the hall, Father Fernando Azpiro argues, is particularly relevant if one takes into account the pioneering role that the “Apostle of the Far East” played in the affirmation of Catholicism both in India and in Japan, and, to a lesser extent, in China. The connection to China, the Superior of the Society of Jesus in Macau acknowledges, is more tenuous and negligible, but Saint Francis Xavier opened the doors to the Middle Kingdom to prominent missionaries such as Alessandro Valignano, Matteo Ricci or Tomás Pereira: “Saint Francis Xavier is a quite popular saint in other parts of the world, albeit not as much in China.  One historical reason for this might be the fact that, during his 10 years in South and East Asia, Francis Xavier invested his time in the foundation of many of the first Christian communities in different parts of Asia where the Portuguese had more permanent settlements, such as India, Malacca, Cochin and Japan. Comparable to what happened to Saint Paul in the New Testament, these communities of faith conserved, for centuries to come, the living memory of the Apostle,” Father Azpiroz said.

“Francis Xavier arrived in China at the end of his journey. He spent only six months in Sanchuan island, where he died on December 3, 1552.  In China, Francis Xavier took the first step early on, opening the door for other Jesuit missionaries to enter the country and continue this dialogue of evangelisation with the Chinese people. This is something that Matteo Ricci did with great success, following those early steps.  It is interesting to notice that Matteo Ricci was born in 1552, the same year when Francis Xavier died in Sanchuan island.  It is the continuation of what Francis Xavier started what makes him be named the ‘Apostle of China’.  Still, I believe that more should be done to make more people in China and Macau know more about this humble, courageous, incredible and very passionate Saint,” the Argentinian missionary ascertains.

The Catholic Church commemorates the liturgical feast of Saint Francis Xavier on December 3. Widely seen as the most outstanding missionary since Saint Paul, the Apostle, Saint Francis Xavier was declared by Pope Pius XI, in 1927, as the Patron Saint of the Missions, together with Saint Thèrése of Lisieux.

The celebration of the liturgical feast of Saint Francis Xavier is not the only event that the Jesuit Mission in Macau commemorates in the twelfth and final month of the year: “December is usually a very intense month, both at the Matteo Ricci and Estrela do Mar schools.  Both the establishments will celebrate their feast day on December 8 with Masses and different kind of activities. On the other hand, Macau Ricci Institute will organise a Forum on Fr. Yves Raguin, SJ and Interreligious Dialogue on December 11 at 6.30 pm.  During the rest of the month, we will be accompanying different communities during the Advent season and Christmas celebration,” Father Azpiroz concludes.