In Myanmar? No, in Rome!

Pascal Calu, born in 1985 in Belgium, joined the Society of Jesus five years ago. After his novitiate and studies in philosophy, he was preparing for the next step, the one he is now living and which is called the "regency", these two years of internship or apostolic activity. He ended up as a member of the communications team of the General Curia, assigned to the project of the Ignatian Year. This was not part of his planning. Let him tell us about his vocation and his work.

“For me, the choice of religious life is a choice for freedom. Living the vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty is fundamentally about living a free life. It means being free from my own superficial will and whims; being free from any possessive relationship and able to be flexible for the mission; being free from material possessions so as not to be tied down by them. In that sense, living the vows is a very countercultural action. We live in a culture that values absolute autonomy, sex, money and success to a great extent. Looking back on my life before joining the Society of Jesus, I can see how much these aspirations made me unfree and how much the vows have been liberating.

It is maybe paradoxical to be freed by something that most people view as limiting. But for me, it touches the deepest truths about human life: we only have autonomy within a preceding heteronomy. We do not belong to ourselves, and we become most ourselves when we dedicate ourselves to others. It is the other/Other who invests me with my identity and this decentralisation really gives me my proper place in life. I am no longer the centre, and that is unbelievably freeing.”

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“I entered the Society of Jesus on 27 September 2016, exactly 476 years after the foundation of the Society, in the novitiate in Birmingham (UK). The novitiate was really a defining period of confirmation of my vocation. Being able to do the entire Spiritual Exercises was an important grace. It remains the most difficult, profound, tiring, intimate, and beautiful experience in my life. Spending 30 days in silence with the Lord is something which transforms you radically.

In the novitiate, we were asked to do a begging pilgrimage from Loyola to Manresa, from the West to the East of Northern Spain. That was both physically and spiritually a challenging experience. Walking without any money and without a phone, while worrying about what (and if) you were going to eat and where you were going to sleep was a scary prospect. It was an invitation to trust in God’s providence. Meeting so much generosity and so many good people helped to freely entrust myself to Him.

The years of philosophy studies in Paris further rooted me in the Society and helped me to reflect more profoundly on some big issues and questions. It enabled me to put words to convictions and beliefs I held. The intellectual side of the Jesuit vocation is important and those years of philosophy studies were a welcome period where I could in some way reconnect with my academic past. But at the same time, it also whetted my appetite for what I still consider my main vocation: living in a poor context, accompanying the rejected and marginalised while being accompanied by them.”

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“In line with what I feel to be my deepest vocation, I had asked to be sent to a poor context where I could live a simple life with the local people. I had suggested Latin America because I fell in love with that continent while living there one year before entering the Society. My Provincial sent me to the other side of the world, to Myanmar. That is a country I knew absolutely nothing about and so my reaction was initially one of shock. But the context seemed right and in line with my deepest desires, so I was happy to accept the mission.

But then the pandemic hit and I was not able to travel to Myanmar. I was then sent to the General Curia in Rome. Instead of going to a country with only 3% of Catholics, I went to the centre of the Church and instead of living and working among the poor, I went to work in the headquarters of the Society in an office job.

St. Ignatius and the first companions wanted to travel to Jerusalem, to the East; but when they were in Venice, no ships travelled to the Holy land and they decided to go to Rome and offer themselves to the Pope. I thought about this situation when I came here. Like the first companions, my first desire lies elsewhere, but adapting to the situation, we offer our lives to Christ wherever we are. The availability for mission is often challenging and sometimes entails setting aside one's own will, but it is a core aspect of the Jesuit vocation and I am grateful to be able to live through this difficult situation because it (hopefully) will make me a better Jesuit.”

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“About my work right now at the Curia, I would say this. The Ignatian Year celebrates the 500th anniversary of the conversion of St. Ignatius. Generally, jubilee years like this tend to be very much focused on the past. What I like about this year’s celebration is that it does not want to be stuck in the past. Ignatius’ experience 500 years ago serves only as inspiration. The goal of this year is that we can all live an experience of conversion and renewal, growing closer to Christ. The centrality of Christ in this anniversary (rather than Ignatius) is also crucial for me. Ignatius is only a way of learning how to follow Christ more closely. He is never the end point. This anniversary is a way of looking at today and the future, inspired by the past. This offers a lot of possibilities for spirituality and this enthuses me.

Also the fact that this celebration is meant to be a celebration of the entire Ignatian family is very significant to me. This is not an internal Jesuit affair, but an opportunity for everyone who is inspired by Ignatian spirituality to be renewed, to look at the world even more with Christ’s eyes, and to grow ever closer to one another; and an occasion for many others to discover the richness of Ignatian spirituality.

My regency consists of this mission and regency is an important part in Jesuit formation. It is a time of growing deeper into the Society and to get to know the apostolic life better. On that level, working at the General Curia is a unique way of learning about the universal Society. Jesuits from all over the world are here together and information from all regions come in every day. My view on the universal Society has expanded a lot since arriving here.”

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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