Iain Radvan SJ and Ann-Maree O’Beirne RSM reflect on the recent 2023 Gathering of Companions in Adelaide during September.
Companions is a professional association in Australasia of Givers of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. Deeper than the formal structure, Companions is first and foremost a community, bound together through a commitment to ministry and to the support of each other.
Companions of Ignatius – Then and Now Revealing our History… Weaving our Future:
A Community of Consolation
Immersing myself in a community of consolation—the Companions in the Ministry of Ignatian Spiritual Exercises—was a delightful, encouraging, and consoling experience. The spirit of the gathering was seeped in Ignatian process, openness, and group discernment, which was emulated in the generosity of all who gathered. It was an opportunity to connect and reconnect with Companions from all over Australia, and refreshing to do so in person as well as have others join us via Zoom – so capably enabled by the local Adelaide Companions team.
We were privileged to engage with Dr. Rosemary DeJulio and her presentation about the Women Ignatius encountered on his spiritual journey. Two highlights for me: first, the mutual relationships that Ignatius engaged in among the women in his life, those who ministered to him in his most vulnerable times, and those who supported his ministry at the height of the emerging Society of Jesus. Second, Ignatius’ courage to guide those disempowered in his era in the Exercises and the freedom they provided women is evident in their responses. We also reflected on the fact that today, so many women are givers of the Exercises.
Rachel McLoughlin IBVM gave an inspiring account of Mary Ward’s experience of the Exercises. Rachael’s presentation again highlighted the inspiration and empowerment women experienced through the Ignatian Exercises. Despite the threat of life, the actuality of excommunication from the church, and the hardships all this meant for Mary Ward, her courage and conviction left a legacy. It was also inspiring to hear Rachael’s observation of evidence of Mary’s experience of the Exercises in the little material available.
Saturday’s reflection on the journey of Companions and “where to next” was a process that reflected solid Ignatian discernment and the search for consolation in all that has occurred. Consolation was identified and, in turn, inspired the way forward.
I extend my gratitude to the Adelaide Companions for their thoughtful, tireless efforts to present an opportunity for Companions to gather in person and online. I look forward to being connected and contributing more fully, in the future.
Ann–Maree O’Beirne RSM
It was a real treat for me to be a participant in this Gathering of friends in Ignatius, and to be guided by others. I felt pampered by the green garden environment, the warm sunny weather, the good food and the company of old friends. The key talks were most engaging and gave us time to reconnect before we confronted the harder task of renewing Companions’ vision and mission. I did feel lost in the process from time to time, but in the end we all arrived at a common understanding. What I noticed with others was how the zoom participants seemed to be in among us rather than far away as they were, though we did miss them at mealtimes. I think the most memorable consolation I still carry from those days is the prayer exercise that Michael Smith gave us, on spiritual consolations: I could count four in the last week! Thank you to Wayne and team, for all your work!
Iain Radvan SJ
Iain Radvan SJ is a Jesuit and an Ignatian Spiritual Director, and a Giver of the Spiritual Exercises based in Sevenhill in South Australia. He is also a member of JISA’s ‘Being with God in Nature’ team who facilitate contemplative retreat walks and pilgrimages.
Anne-Maree O’Beirne RSM is a member of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea. She is an Ignatian Spiritual Director, and a Giver of the Spiritual Exercises based in Bathurst New South Wales. Her ministries have included parish pastoral work, adult education, spiritual direction and retreats. She was a founding member of Rahamim Ecology Centre in Bathurst, which became significant in her own ecological conversion. Anne-Maree has just completed her PhD at Australia Catholic University.