The charism of the Society of Jesus, which springs from the very of experience of its founder St Ignatius of Loyola which is verbalized in the Spiritual Exercises, calls us Jesuits first and foremost to be the “men of Spiritual Exercises”. Furthermore this invitation lays before us a trust area of spiritual ministry, involvement in the retreat apostolate and spiritual direction.
On 24th April, Fr. General wrote a letter in which he has stated that “our mission today must always involve three vital dimensions: The service of faith, promotion of justice and collaboration with others in works of Faith and Justice.” Keeping all these in mind, the Retreat Ministry Team brings forth this position paper to be presented in the province assembly.
The Sri Lanka Jesuit Province has been involved in rendering its spiritual ministry to the people of Sri Lanka from the very beginning of the advent of the Jesuits in this island. The two retreat houses, Fatima Retreat House- Lewella and Manresa Retreat House – Batticaloa, have been places of retreats and other spiritual ministries and sought after by hundreds and thousands who came to the Jesuits to get their spiritual needs met. The Fatima Retreat House was considered one of the best retreat houses in the island until recent times.
We live in the postwar period in our country. People are very much affected by the war physically and psychologically. We are called to listen to their stories and help them to relive their life anew, forgetting or deleting the past memories and bad experiences that the war caused. Thus the current mission of the Jesuits in Sri Lanka is to help the people to create an understanding and reconciliation among all the ethnic groups.
- Eradicating ethnic conflict, race and religious conflict.
- Creating a society of one nation and one human race, breaking the barriers of language and religion.
- Working with the contemporary youth and war affected women and children.
- Creating unity among Christians or working with the other denominations.
- Strengthening healthy relationships and creating interreligious dialogues with other religions.
- Difficulty to gauge various thirsts of people with regard to their spiritual life.
- The understanding of people with regard to their spiritual life: Often it is thought that attending the Sunday mass is the only means of satisfying one’s spiritual thirst. Most of them are satisfied with that and do not go beyond the regular religious activities.
So we envisage “Peace and Reconciliation” in our spiritual ministry as an intervention to address these challenges and core issues.
To bring the people closer to God and one another through a holistic, humanizing, healing and reconciling spiritual ministry.
- Fatima Retreat House- Lewella, Kandy
- Manresa Retreat House – Batticaloa
Manresa is a Jesuit work in Progress. Early need argued for the land. Once ours, new needs arising have put it to several types of use. It was a farm and still is. It was developed to serve for retreats to all comers. It was the first Novitiate for a while. It is still a home for Jesuit vocations and it is a place for the youth. All have been dictated by the changing understanding of our Jesuit ministry in Batticaloa.
The large plot of the farm land at Veppadithurai, branching off the main road north out of Batticaloa town and bordering the inside lagoon, was acquired in early days of the French Jesuits. It was intended to serve as a farm for the Jesuits of St. Michael’s College.
New uses of the property developed as the number of Batticaloa Jesuits grew. Jesuits see retreat work as a focal ministry, and so a house for the retreats was high on the early agenda. Fr. John Lange became the mission Superior, and in January 1958 he himself took up the job of having it built at the farm. A one story building of three wings was built. It was then that it took the name “Manresa”, after the cave of St. Ignatius.
In 1978 a Cyclone struck Batticaloa head-on and brought widespread damages all across the district. All Manresa buildings, simple as they were, just collapsed beyond repair under the force of the cyclone. Extensive financial help came from Jesuits sources around the world. Plans worked out to build a larger concrete two story building that could resist a future cyclone. It would also solve the limitations of the old building. With 30,000 square feet, it had room for about 50 living rooms and several meeting rooms, a large dining area and central chapel made possible.
Aside from retreats it was hoped to serve for a variety of training uses in the future. I has been able to serve many other groups planning improvements to the district, in fact doing more for them than our own programs. Aid agencies, NGOs and other organizations have gathered their own groups there for their training and preparation, meeting their own expenses there. It has served them all well, and explicitly helped the district in these other ways.
Prepared by Retreat Ministry Team