Fr Arturo Sosa, after having made his annual Spiritual Exercises in Manresa (Spain), where St Ignatius began to write his spiritual guidebook, theSpiritual Exercises, made a visit to another significant place for the origins of the Society of Jesus. He went to Verdú, about two hours’ drive from Barcelona, in the region of Lérida (Lleida in Catalan). We asked the superior and animator of the Jesuit mission in Lleida, Alexis Bueno Guinamard, to tell us about the Society’s presence there... We also asked him if the memory of Pedro Claver is still alive.
Father Alexis, what is the importance, in the history of the Society of Jesus, of Verdù, this little-known village?
Verdú is a small village in the inland countryside of Catalonia (Spain), where St. Peter Claver was born in 1580. The house where he was born has been converted into a shrine and, next to it, there is a small hostel for pilgrims on the Ignatian Way (which goes from Loyola to Manresa). In addition, Verdù has a small but very warm and welcoming community ofAmics de Sant Pere Claver [Friends of Saint Peter Claver] who are responsible for promoting his memory.
Peter Claver is best known for his work with slaves... in Colombia. We are no longer in the era of slavery; how can he inspire us today? And more precisely, how does he inspire you, the Jesuits, in your pastoral work in this area of Catalonia?
Saint Peter Claver is the patron saint of the Jesuits in Catalonia and his figure is enormously inspiring for all our work. His simple, courageous and humble way of making himself “slave of the black slaves” is an impulse for all our evangelising work to always take into account the lowest and, in general, all the chains that remain to be broken.
What are the commitments of the Society of Jesus here in Lleida, and how do you see them as an expression of the Society’sApostolic Preferences?
The mission of the Society in Lleida tries to create a network of friends moved by the impulse of Ignatian spirituality. We work together through different works: the Colegio Claver (the saint of Verdú has given his name to the school) with some 1,300 students; the social organisation Arrels-Sant Ignasi; the parish of Sant Ignasi; the CLC Claver and the community of religious sisters, called thejesuitinas, who work with immigrants in the town of Alcarràs.
Regarding the Apostolic Preferences...
-"Showing the way to God": our most direct work is perhaps that of the parish and the Ignatian spirituality team.
-"Walking with the excluded": the social organisation Arrels-Sant Ignasi teaches us and helps us with its attention to people and families threatened by social exclusion, whether they are native born or immigrants (the hospitality axis).
-"Accompanying young people" is especially reflected in all the educational and pastoral work of the Colegio and the two recreational centres (“Esplais” in Catalonia).
-"Caring for our Common Home" is the subject of more recent and incipient projects, with special mention of the rediscovery of this dimension by the school (it is in the middle of the countryside, among vineyards, 15 kilometres from the city).
Father General is coming to spend some time with you, what would you like to communicate to him on this occasion? What do the Jesuits expect from this visit?
We thought of a very simple meeting. Rather, we wanted to invite him to pray with us. He represents the whole Society and so we will ask the Lord, through the intercession of St. Peter Claver, to renew our sensitivity to the pain of so many brothers and sisters in situations of marginalisation, exclusion, danger and slavery.