Father General visits a “young” Province: Madagascar

On the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the Major Superiors of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar, Father Arturo Sosa is spending ten days with the Malagasy. He has just completed two days in the south of the country visiting various works. During and after the statutory meeting with the Provincials, he will continue his tour in the region of the capital, Antananarivo.

The Provincial of Madagascar, Fr. Fulgence Ratsimbazafy, suggested that we talk to the rector of the St. Paul’s Scholasticate in order to get a portrait of this Province situated in the Indian Ocean. Here is what Fr. Roger Randrianarimalala told us.

Father Roger, how would you describe your Jesuit Province, its strengths and weaknesses, its dynamisms and challenges?

The Jesuit Province of Madagascar is a young Province in two senses of the word “young”. It is young in age, as it has just marked its fiftieth year of existence last year, in 2021. It is also young in demographic terms. The average age of its members is about 55. In 2022, we have 278 members.

The Jesuit mission in Madagascar has been well-rooted in the country since the arrival of the first missionaries in 1855. The growing number of vocations to Jesuit religious life allows us to continue this mission of evangelisation. We are currently working in 12 of the country’s 22 dioceses; this reflects the good collaboration within the Church in Madagascar. Jesuits work in different sectors: spiritual accompaniment, basic education, higher education, parish apostolate, social apostolate, and especially the formation of young Jesuits.

The number of Jesuits in formation (more than 53% of its registered members) remains a great challenge for the Province. The succession for the mission seems to be assured but it will take time and patience considering the length of the formation.


Madagascar - Jesuit Scholastics: sports and fraternity.

You are rector of the scholasticate and therefore live with Jesuits in formation. Tell us about the young Malagasy Jesuits, their roots in the country, their culture, what animates them spiritually.

Hopes and doubts are part of the landscape when I look at our young Jesuits. We have hope for the future. Young Jesuits are enthusiastic and generous in their commitment. Yet they are easily discouraged by the harsh reality of life and the demands of the universal Society.

In general, young Jesuits, like so many other young people in the country, have suffered the effects of an educational system that did not allow them to flourish. They feel trapped by the system. It is difficult for them to find a direction and have clear perspectives. Thus, they discover only late in their formation the sense of universality of the Society of Jesus. They enter the Jesuit Order “for the Province of Madagascar”. They may feel deprived of means - especially intellectual means - when they compare themselves to other young Jesuits in the world.

But, paradoxically, these young Malagasy are able to follow the trends and fashions of young people everywhere. They are up to date in the use of new information and communication technologies (NICTs). Because of this, they consider themselves open to the world but can in fact get lost in the labyrinth of the virtual world.

The socio-political context of the country allows young Malagasy Jesuits to practice proximity with the poor. Almost all of them come from poor backgrounds or families. They are sensitive to the poverty of the people. They even feel a tension between the structural poverty in the country and their current lifestyle which, given the context of formation in the Society is fairly comfortable.


Madagascar - Jesuit Scholastics and the prayer life.

As for spirituality, Malagasy society is a deeply “religious” society, and it was so even before the arrival of Christianity towards the end of the 18th century. The transition from the spirituality of traditional religion to Christian spirituality did not pose any great obstacles. The same is true for the young Malagasy Jesuits. For example, they easily appropriate Ignatian spirituality, thanks to the religious practices with which they are familiar from a young age. There remains, however, as elsewhere in the world, the challenge of inculturation within the Church, a tension between Malagasy identity and the way of proceeding in the Society of Jesus as a whole.

Looking at the panorama of the works and commitments of the Society of Jesus here, do you see that they respond to the global project of the Universal Apostolic Preferences that Father General has been promoting for over three years?

The Province of Madagascar established its Apostolic Project with a strategic plan for ten years in 2015. This project defines the mission of the Society of Jesus for the country. The Province pursues this mission through what it calls the “seven apostolic areas”: formation of our companions, formation of agents for the Church, the apostolate of the Spiritual Exercises, basic and secondary education, higher education, the parochial apostolate and the social apostolate. Providentially, the four Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) confirm this Apostolic Project and give the Province new inspiration to implement it. The UAPs thus become the guiding thread of each apostolic field and they weave the links between them.

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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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