The International Jungmann Society for Jesuits and Liturgy held its biannual congress at the Jesuit Mwangaza Spiritual Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, from 25 to 30 June 2018. The congress addressed the link between liturgy and popular devotions. While the liturgy of the Latin Catholic Church is particularly expressed in the celebration of the sacraments, especially the sacrament of the Eucharist, popular devotions are numerous, complex and marked by cultural and geographical diversity. Historical and religious reasons may explain their birth. How can they enrich the liturgy of the Church? What are the opportunities and risks? From Sacrosanctum Concilium (Vatican II) to Evangelii Gaudium (Pope Francis), theologians have approached this issue from different perspectives. For some, devotions speak to the heart of the person, while the liturgy speaks more to the intellect. For others, we should seek to harmonize popular practices with the liturgy of the Church, without forgetting what is stipulated in the last order of Canon Law, namely the salvation of souls, as the supreme law to be observed in any attempt to regulate the life of the Church (Can. 1752).
The Jungmann Society for Jesuits and Liturgy meets every two years, changing venue regularly. Thirty Jesuits from all continents, as well as 6 non-Jesuits attended the congress in Nairobi. This is the first time the association has held its congress in Africa, after having been in Rome (2002), Bangkok (2004), Fortaleza (2006), Montserrat (2008), Tampa (2010), Nitra (2012), Mexico (2014) and Dublin (2016). Apart from the theme chosen for this congress, a morning was dedicated to the theme of liturgical formation in the Society of Jesus, with the aim of introducing young Jesuits to the ars celebrandi from the first years of formation to priestly and religious life.
Historically, the Jungmann Society was born in the early 2000s (see Jesuit Yearbook 2004), in order to revive liturgical life within the Society of Jesus which has the reputation of being poor in liturgy. The fruits of the Jungmann Society are already beginning to be visible within the Society where some provinces have sent young Jesuits to undertake liturgical studies in Rome and elsewhere. The Association is always happy to invite scholastics to its meetings. The members of the Association give liturgy courses in various Church institutions throughout the world. They also help their respective communities and provinces to improve the quality of liturgical life. The venue and theme of the 2020 Congress are not yet known. It will be decided at the Committee meeting next January, after evaluating the suggestions sent by members.
Some members of the Jungmann Society participated in the Eucharistic celebration for the ordination of five Jesuits in Nairobi, before the congress. Some others have prolonged their stay in Kenya for a few more days, to deepen their experience of the African liturgy and realities. And during the Congress, two separate Kenyan Choirs were invited to sing at two different Eucharistic celebrations. The Jungmann Society’s members appreciated the vibrant and active participation of so many people at the Eucharistic celebrations in Kenya.