Let us be realistic; as in many contemporary societies, Austria suffers from fragmentation. People often live in “bubbles” or “echo chambers”, hearing only the opinions of people who think as they. As Jesuits, we try to build relationships with people from different milieus: from prisoners and the bedridden sick, to politicians and business owners. In the context of the Church, we have strong relationships with many religious orders and have trained a number of leaders of religious congregations.
More specifically, a new project requires our attention. We call it “days of attentiveness” or perhaps “days of listening”. Up to ten Jesuits from one of the cities in which we are located travel to smaller centres in order to organize spiritual events, give lectures on social issues, as well as visit hospitals and prisons. In doing so, they are attentive. They listen, perceiving the reality of a parish, of a diocese and thus take up the mantle of popular missions. Attention and listening are experienced on both sides.
Father General’s visit is also an opportunity to focus on building bridges between the four Provinces that are preparing a common future in the Central European Province. In April 2021, the Provinces of Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Lithuania-Latvia will become one. Some have spoken of a German-speaking Province, but the linguistic reality will be much more complex. We bring together Jesuits who speak German, French, English, Lithuanian and Latvian. In this construct, the Austrian Jesuits bring their own unique resources: the presence of respected and recognized communities and works, or an atmosphere of humour and goodwill. And, as I said, we offer bridges already built or under construction with various sectors of society, an asset for “navigating” in today’s complex world.