Society of Jesus Province of Indonesia Past and Present

Society of Jesus Province of Indonesia Past and Present

Gtpministries.org – “From here, we can learn about the formation of a dynamic identity, open to always being challenged, and what must be remembered is that this identity is built on a mission and mission to reach many people …”

It has been FIFTY years since the Indonesian Province of the Society of Jesus was founded. The presence of the Jesuits in Indonesia has provided many treasures for the development and formation of the Catholic Church. The Jesuit apostolic spirit, which carries Ignatian spirituality developed by Saint Ignatius Loyola, also helps to show every person one way to God.

Province was founded

In the writings of Father F. Suryanto Hadi, SJ and Father Bambang Alfred Sipayung, SJ regarding the history of the Society of Jesus Province of Indonesia (SJ Provindo), it is written that on a special day of the Church, namely the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 8 September 1971, the General Leader of SJ who came from Rome, Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ in a simple event at Wisma Syantikara, Yogyakarta, inaugurated the establishment of SJ Provindo. Father Arrupe continued the efforts of his predecessor, Father Johannes Baptista Janssens, SJ, who 15 years earlier, on February 4 1956, separated Missio Javensis from its “mother” Nederland Province into an independent vice-province , this time with the name “Indonesia” instead of the name “Java” and prepared to become an independent province.

It is recorded that since 1967 the leadership of SJ has been held by an Indonesian himself, Father Antonius Soenarja, SJ. He was also appointed the first provincial. In a letter after attending a meeting of SJ provincial leaders in Taiwan in 1970, Father Soenarja wrote this, “We sincerely admit that our province is a province that is poor in wealth, but our hope is in the amazing results of work and in the number of our vocations, which simply guarantees the future.”

Hopefully that’s the case. One of the forces that convinced Father Arrupe to establish this province was the number of members. In 1956, the Indonesian Vice Province had 244 Jesuit members, consisting of 139 priests, 78 scholastics and 27 brothers. Of that number, less than 40% are Indonesian Jesuits, namely 97 Jesuits. In 1971, the newly inaugurated province had 333 members with a composition of 176 Indonesian Jesuits and 157 Missionary Jesuits. Therefore, in the decree establishing the province, Father Arrupe wrote that unlike in many other places where the number of members began to decline, in Indonesia it actually experienced an increase “and of that number, the majority were born in this country.”

The presence of the Society of Jesus in the archipelago can be traced into two parts. First, the arrival of Father Francis Xavier in Maluku in 1546 which was followed by a wave of Jesuit presence from Portugal and Spain until 1677. During those 130 years, there were 81 members of the Society of Jesus who worked in the Maluku Mission. Second, the arrival of Dutch missionaries in 1859 through people such as Father Martinus van den Elzen and Father Joannes Baptista Palinkxs. It was the arrival of Dutch missionaries that later produced the Indonesian Jesuits, and ultimately the Indonesian Province of the Society of Jesus.

Searching for Meaning

After being established for 50 years as a province, the Indonesian Province of Jesus Society felt the need to explore the memory, meaning and significance of important events or periods in Provindo’s history which helped shape Provindo’s “character”. Chairman of the Commemoration Committee for the Ignatian Year and 50 Years of Provindo, Father A. Bagus Laksana, SJ said, to support this need, a study and research team was formed involving nine lecturers and 17 Jesuit brothers from STF Driyarkara, Sanata Dharma University, Faculty of Wedabhakti Theology, including brothers from Myanmar and Thailand. “Provindo’s history is a rich reality, where the Spirit of God works not in an empty space but in and through various historical events, social movements, institutional decisions, and the construction of individual and collective consciousness. “This research is almost complete and there are many interesting things from our findings,” said Father Bagus.

Father Bagus explained this interesting finding, for example, as follows. Provindo was once anxious about Indonesian identity, until aspirations for “Indonesianization” emerged which gave rise to tensions between missionary Jesuits from the Netherlands and native Jesuits in the 1960s. This tension did end in reconciliation and change, in which native Jesuits increasingly played an important role. However, this solution also turned out to be temporary. In the next stage, it appears that what is meant by “Indonesianization” is more “Javanization.” Provindo has not yet truly realized its fuller “Indonesianness”.

Furthermore, in Provindo’s mission in East Timor, the identity of “Indonesia” itself became problematic and contested, and the Indonesian Jesuits there had to understand Indonesianness in new and difficult ways. This identity is also enriched by the involvement of Indonesian Jesuits in several regions of Asia, such as Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Japan. “From here, we can learn about the formation of a dynamic identity, open to always being challenged, and what must be remembered is that this identity is built on a mission and mission to reach many people, not like today’s identity politics,” said the priest who was once sent to Timor Timur when he was still a brother.

Apart from great learning, Father Bagus continued, studies and research also found many interesting stories of the Jesuits’ struggle. There are lonely Jesuit missionaries who see no future in Tanjung Sakti, South Sumatra; there was a Jesuit who had to be a truck driver in East Timor; there was a Jesuit who had to move with students on the streets, there were testimonies of Jesuit “martyrs” in East Timor, and so on. In various crisis events in this nation, such as the opinion polls in Timor Leste, the 1998 Reformation, as well as natural disasters in Aceh and the Ambon conflict, the apostolic spirit of the Indonesian Jesuits did not fade. Provindo is always ready to respond to a crisis. Crisis is a field of engagement and learning. “The Society of Jesus’ response may never be perfect, but it is clear that there is always a readiness to respond and then learn,” stressed Father Bagus.

Meanwhile, during research and studies, it was discovered that Provindo has a distinctive attitude called “discretive realism”. This is the attitude behind Provindo’s involvement in difficult events and periods of crisis. With the spirit of discreet realism, the Jesuits look at and grapple with any reality (reality), not being afraid or paralyzed by the complexity and complexity of that reality, but continuing to look for the most realistic way to respond to real situations, while continuing to be open to looking for better, understanding the current situation. constantly changing, and trusting that Allah is working and guiding.

Getting More Involved

History also proves that the involvement of the Society of Jesus, although not dramatic, is very real. Father Bagus explained this as follows. First , dialogue with religion and culture has always bothered Jesuits, starting from missionaries who were influenced by the orientalist approach and carried out textual studies such as Father Petrus Josephus Zoetmulder, SJ and now with a more dialogical, pedagogical and institutional approach and paradigm carried out by many Jesuits and Provindo’s work. Before there were issues of fundamentalism and religious-based identity politics, Provindo already had a commitment in this area.

Petrus Josephus Zoetmulder, SJ

Second , the work of education and formation of young people, development of philosophy-theology, formation of prospective priests and religious, spiritual and pastoral services of the Church, and social services, community and humanitarian empowerment. In all these fields, Provindo is involved with all the creativity that continues to be pursued amidst changing times.

Through services in all these fields, explained Father Bagus, Provindo is more deeply rooted in the journey of Indonesian society than in 1971 when Provindo was inaugurated. However, we also realize that there are many new challenges. Several Jesuit institutions no longer exist, for example the Jakarta Social Institute which was once very well known to the public. Of course Provindo needs to think about new initiatives. Jesuit colleges and schools developed with various initiatives within the framework of Ignatian pedagogy; Likewise, Sanata Dharma University developed as a university with various new faculties and study programs. New challenges to provide more inclusive and transformative education continue to exist. However, this is also accompanied by gratitude for the existence of new initiatives and creativity in other fields, for example forms of service and propagation of spirituality to the laity, pastoral and educational work in Papua and Kalimantan, as well as mission in various regions of Asia. “Furthermore, we will discuss the results of our study in the monthly Webinar series (October 2021-July 2022),” he added.

As a conclusion from the research carried out, Father Bagus explained that there were three important areas to learn from Provindo’s history to move forward, namely identity, mission and reconciliation. Provindo’s identity must become more inclusive and expansive, embracing many new things and elements. Missions must be increasingly collaborative and sensitive to others (those who are different). Ultimately, this identity and mission are directed at reconciliation efforts, namely being involved in building a complete life in a torn and unjust society, and being a bearer of hope for those who seek the meaning of life and who are alienated from the universe as a common home.

***

Father A. Bagus Laksana, SJ
Chairman of the Commemoration Committee of the Ignatian Year and 50 Years of Provindo
Involving Other People

“I was especially moved by the collaboration and togetherness in responding to God’s call. The mission of the Society of Jesus, which was started by Ignatius and his friends, turned out to be a mission involved by many people, from time to time. The idea of ​​a “shared mission” is very real. The Society of Jesus was once disbanded (1773), but when it was rebuilt the Society grew with a new spirit and way, trying to be more spiritually deep, humble and involve other people, including sending missionaries to the archipelago. Throughout history, the United States, including the Province of Indonesia (Provindo) which was founded in 1971, has shared a vision of God who invites every human being to have friendship with Him, as well as a vision of this life, of the future, and inviting people to consider what they want. we can do something together to respond to the times.

The celebration of the Ignatian Year occurred during the pandemic, where I had more time to reflect and reflect on my personal vocational journey so far. God calls in ways that are often less understandable at the time, but have very real consequences over time. This call places me in the worldwide network of the Society of Jesus. I was invited to combine my limited experiences and involvement in various regions of Indonesia, Timor Leste, the United States and Asia in a life journey that was exciting, expansive and full of grace. I am grateful for the development of the Indonesian Province of Jesus Christ Society which is always looking for creative ways to respond to various challenges in the archipelago, Asia and beyond. I had not imagined all this when I entered the Society of Jesus in 1992.”

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