After nine and a half years, Fr Mark Raper SJ stepped down as President of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP) on November 22, handing over the leadership to Fr Antonio Moreno SJ in a simple ceremony consisting of Mass and dinner in Manila.
Many came to pay farewell to Fr Raper and welcome Fr Moreno, including JCAP Consultors and Secretaries who were in Manila for the JCAP Extended Consult. The presence of former Superior General Adolfo Nicolás SJ, who was Fr Raper’s predecessor as JCAP President, made the occasion more memorable, having three JCAP Presidents in the same room at the same time.
Fr Raper celebrated his final Mass as President in the Chapel of Arrupe International Residence with Fr Moreno as concelebrant. In his homily, Fr Raper reflected on mission and love in relation to the Gospel of the day on the Parable of the Ten Pounds (Luke 19: 11 to 28).
“For Tony who takes on a new mission today, or for me ending one, or for any of you in your mission, the principal gift God gives us is to love us. Our Examen, first and foremost, is about how we respond to and take care of the love entrusted in us,” said Fr Raper.
He reminded all gathered that loving is not about duty, but about engaging with God in a shared undertaking that is based on love, initiative and imagination. He recalled how St Ignatius led a group of men who were learned yet poor but filled with passion and desire. “We Jesuits and companions of Jesus flourish in proportion to our willingness to be creative, to dare, to be brave in our discernment, in our apostolates and in our care for one another, in our love for God’s people, most especially his preferred ones, the poor.”
Fr Moreno expressed his gratitude to Fr Raper for nearly a decade of “fruitful, inspiring and engaging leadership”, recognising how his predecessor at one point had three jobs. “It was difficult for him to be President of this Conference and at the same time Superior of the missions in East Timor and Myanmar,” he said. “I don’t think the East Timor and Myanmar missions would be what they are now if not for the leadership of Mark.”
The new JCAP President acknowledged that he is treading on new terrain but said that he takes comfort in the assurance that this is all about mission. “I never imagined myself to be here standing before you,” Fr Moreno said at the end of the Mass. “I look at my own journey since I was a child. I was quite happy to be in my nook and corner. Even in class, I hardly ever recited,” he shared. “This is really about mission and thank you for your support. I ask for prayers for me and Mark as we undertake the mission that our Lord wants us to accomplish.”