“Rowing into the deep, with Ignatius”: the Ignatian family in Marseilles

Would you believe it? Eight thousand members of the “Ignatian family”, associated with the recently formed EOF (French-speaking Western Europe) Province, will come together in Marseille from 29 October to 1 November. The meeting involves Jesuits, of course, but also families, young people from the EYM (Eucharistic Youth Movement), and religious sisters from many congregations inspired by the spirituality of Saint Ignatius. Arranging the meeting has been quite a logistical tour de force, but it will provide an opportunity to row “into the deep”.

We asked the EOF Provincial, Fr François Boëdec, to tell us what was behind this project.

The meeting is being held in the Ignatian Year. It is an opportunity to renew ourselves in the spirit of Ignatius. In 2006, we held a gathering of the Ignatian family of the then French Province in Lourdes. There, the “Ignatian family” was able to consolidate its identity. This has resulted in a deeper partnership between Jesuits and non-Jesuits over the past fifteen years.

We thought that the Jubilee Year offered us another opportunity to explore the bonds. The family has grown and evolved. There are fewer Jesuits, and fewer sisters, but there are more lay people who are inspired by Ignatian spirituality. They are very committed.

You prepared for this big gathering during the pandemic time: was this a sensible idea?

Some people did not think so. I, personally, thought it was important to try, because if we waited for everything to return to “normal” before making plans, we might have to wait a long time. We took the plunge; it wasn’t easy, but in the end we are gathering. It will be an important moment.


What, more specifically, is the purpose of the gathering?

FB: Fifteen years ago we were in Lourdes; this time in Marseilles. It is a very different environment. The issues, too, are very different. Marseilles is an intercultural city, with a courageous, but poor Church at the service of so many people. The issue of migrants comes to mind, of course, and, more broadly, there are the questions of borders and peripheries. What can Ignatian spirituality bring to the way the world is evolving today?

Moreover, the gathering is taking place at a time when we have received the recent report on sexual abuse in the Church in France. This has hit Christians in France like a tsunami: it will colour our reflections. We cannot simply meet happily, without considering the realities that face us. We have to ask ourselves such questions as: what kind of Church do we want, what kind of commitment to society do we want, what kind of conversion is needed? This relates well to the Ignatian Year, which challenges us to “see all things new in Christ”. But we do want joy to be part of the experience. Pope Francis said it well: “Let no one take your joy away!” Despite all the difficulties, we want to mutually feel that Christ is accompanying us on this journey.

Besides the two topics you have just mentioned, what are the challenges that can be addressed during the Assembly?

One challenge for the whole Ignatian family - for both Jesuits and non-Jesuits - is the more precise “image of the future Church we would like to draw?” Then, the Universal Apostolic Preferences are a grid for action: they are crucially relevant for all of us. I also believe that the ecological issue - the 4th UAP - is increasingly becoming a priority in relation to the other three. The situation of the world is drawing us to be more committed and creative in this area. Many young people, including young Jesuits, are emphasising this. These issues motivate us to move forward, and they will feature in the discussions in Marseille.

On another level, has the organisation of such a big event for your Province been, and continue to be a spiritual experience in itself?

We are acutely aware that we are in a very special period in the life of the Church, as well as in the life of the societies and associations in which we move. We live in a changing world, and a rapidly evolving era: that requires us to be well rooted, to be attached to Christ. But, at the same time, we need to be resolutely open to new questions. We have to hold both these perspectives at a time when fears are rampant. For me, personally, this gathering is a sign meant to give us courage. We will gather not only in a warm cocoon, but also be free for mission.

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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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