Two experiences had a profound impact on me during my time at the Scholastics and Brothers Circle in Taiwan last December. The first was the time spent with an indigenous community in small groups. The individuals and groups within the community which we met strike me with their hospitality and their humility. Total strangers, we were welcomed into people’s homes, people willing to share food and broken conversation with us. Sign language and facial expressions enabled us to communicate that the food was fantastic or that the panoramic views were amazing.
The indigenous peoples of Taiwan face similar challenges to those indigenous peoples in the countries across the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific. Through the translation of those who had a command of Madeiran, we were able to get a sense of the struggles and joys of the people. It takes a profound humility for one to be able to share with a stranger the struggles ones face with honesty and still smile. This prompted me to reflect on the virtue of hope, its meaning and purpose in our everyday lives.
The second experience was that of being with the other Jesuit scholastics and brothers from across JCAP. From the team building exercises to the input about the context of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, reflecting on our own experiences, seeing the cultural and tourist sites of Taipei, new friendships emerged and old ones strengthened. There was much laughter and conversation. It was a precious time of being together as Jesuits in formation. With the impending essays, pastoral works, community jobs and the many day-to-day activities, it can be easy to forget the importance to ourselves, and identity as members of a religious order, of just spending time together in prayer, meals and conversation.
Why these two experiences in particular? I think because they are foundational to the Jesuit way of proceeding – with and for others, in the presence of Christ. In his meetings with Jesuits, Pope Francis continues to emphasise the importance of accompaniment. We do this by being present, by being there – at the foot of the cross, with the smell of the sheep, sharing the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of our brothers and sisters and brother Jesuits. I thank the Chinese province for their gracious hospitality and SBC committee for their time and hard work in organising the programme.
Scholastic Isaac Demase SJ made his First Vows as a Jesuit in February 2018. He trained as a schoolteacher and worked at the FCJ College in Benalla, Victoria before joining the Jesuits. He is currently in his first year of philosophy studies in Australia. This was his first time to participate in a Scholastics and Brothers Circle activity.