One of the enduring ministries of life at JISA Campion in Melbourne has been for many years now, the giving of the Full Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius to 4th or 5th year students for the priesthood. The Society of Jesus has a long history of support for Diocesan Seminarians in this country. Many Ignatian Spiritual Directors have been privileged to accompany these young men over the years.
Usually, the majority are studying at Corpus Christi College Melbourne. These men come from different dioceses in Australia. On at least one occasion recently, two or three Exercitants joined them from New Zealand for the Full Exercises.
The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated postponements and venue changes as well as reduced numbers, due to border closures. However, in mid-November seven Victorian seminarians returned to gather with their four Ignatian spiritual directors for the 30 day retreat, at the Carlton Seminary rather than at Campion as was the custom.
The Seminary Rector and staff were most hospitable, especially Jesuit Fr Cao who organized many of the logistics for us. Any anxieties about the COVID-19 safety of the venue were soon allayed. This enabled the retreat directors to focus on the process of the Exercises and most importantly, the Exercitants.
The preparation days were well received and a prayerful openness to the Spirit was evident.
It was wonderful to have the rector and priests from the seminary staff join the roster for daily Eucharist, with the priest directors. This also provided some variety of approach in the homily.
The Exercitants entered fully into the silence and other disciplines of the retreat.
The four Directors met twice weekly for supervision and usually dined with the Exercitants for lunch on those days.
It seems that many graces were received. Sharing during the review days was generous and open.
A closing celebration on the evening of the final review day after the retreat, being very close to Christmas was a fitting preparation for a celebration of the birth of Emmanuel, God with us in Jesus.
We pray for these men that their deepened relationship with Jesus may continue to bear fruit for the People of God in the future. As St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, we can say:
“Glory be to God whose power at work in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or even imagine.”
Margaret Claver FCJ, Spiritual Director JISA Campion.
de Maistre, R. (1958). ‘The Supper at Emmaus‘ from the Methodist Modern Art Collection © TMCP, used with permission. The Methodist Church in Britain. www.methodist.org.uk/artcollection.