The joy in being brothers

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Brother Jeffrey Pioquinto SJ, JCAP coordinator for the Brothers Circle, shares what transpired at the Brothers Circle Meeting held from June 10 to 15 in Dili, Timor-Leste.

It was 6.40 pm when we came back from our museum tour in Dili and a very fruitful day in Kasait and Hera where we met for our last Mass together. The hall was silent, the corridors dark and the wind paid its respects to the holy presence of our Almighty God. We sat waiting for the Mass to start knowing that a happy and meaningful meeting of Jesuit brothers was coming to an end.

There were 14 of us brothers from the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific who met in Timor-Leste to discuss the relevance, mission and the renewal of our vocation and ministries as Jesuit brothers.  A main topic was the 36th General Congregation (GC 36) of the Society of Jesus where for the first time ever, Jesuit brothers were among the electors.  Australian Br Ian Cribb SJ, who was the JCAP brother elected for GC 36, shared his experience and reflection. 

Brothers Circle Meeting, DiliThere are fewer and fewer Jesuit brothers nowadays, and most of the time, a brother will find himself the only brother in his community.  These few days, however, we found ourselves in good company with our fun, wacky and energetic brothers from all over Asia Pacific. The stories we shared, the experiences we had and the time we spent together are priceless as is the joy we felt in being with one another.  I guess this is the great charism of Jesuit brothers: bringing our inner joy and the joy of the Gospel to others even from our limited and lowly selves.

What made this meeting extra meaningful was the experience of spiritual conversations for it is through spiritual conversations that we are able to go deeper in our relationship with others and with our God.

The most moving part of the meeting was when we visited the tombs of Fr Tarcisius Dewanto SJ and Fr Karl Albrecht SJ who were killed during the struggle for Timor-Leste’s independence.  Br Cribb SJ led us in praying for their souls and for all Jesuits living in war zones.

Towards the end of the Mass, Fr Erik John Gerilla SJ read an excerpt from the book written by Fr Sean Salai SJ entitled “All the Pope’s Saints: The Jesuits Who Shaped Pope Francis”.  One of these is a Jesuit Brother, St Alphonsus Rodriguez, whose 400th death anniversary is on October 31.

Jesuit brothers visit the graves of Fr Dewanto and Fr AlbrechtFr Salai writes, “Amidst his simple routine of opening and closing doors, St Alphonsus Rodriguez developed a deep relationship with God and a gift for spiritual conversation that deeply affected everyone who paused to talk with him. He achieved a serene poverty of spirit incomprehensible to those who have never reconciled their sufferings in God’s love.”

I felt this same serene poverty of spirit with the brothers. Organising the event was tiring and stressful, but the simple, affable nature of the brothers and their support made it bearable and light. They were happy even when things did not go as planned. They were content with the simple things the place and the people offered.  The quality time together and the joy we shared in being with one other was more than enough. It is obvious that deep inside every brother is an authentic poverty of spirit that only those who have reconciled their sufferings in God’s love can comprehend.

As I reflect on the fruits of our meeting, I am consoled by how my brothers’ feelings resonate with mine. The meeting may be over, but the mission of bringing the gift of spiritual conversations and the joy of the Gospel to the people we serve continues.