The Archive team has been quite busy in mid-February. Just after the meeting of a group of archivists from the six Jesuit Conferences, Fr. Brian Mac Cuarta, academic director of the ARSI, met with several directors of Jesuit Historical institutes. The main reason for bringing these people together was to respond to the mandate, given by General Congregation 36, to seek greater collaboration within our works and ministries. Within the long history of the Society of Jesus, ARSI has played significant role in fostering that kind of broad collaboration. The meeting, held on February 16th and 17th, sought to identify projects in common between existing centres, as well as projects that can benefit research into, and writing about Jesuit history.
The makeup of the meeting was diverse, from Jesuits who have spent decades researching and cataloging the history of the Society, to two young Jesuits who lead historical research centres. Jean Luc Enyegue heads the Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa, in Nairobi, Kenya and Rinald D’Souza oversees the work of the Xavier Centre of Historical Research, in Goa, India. We asked them about their motivations to the History of the Society of Jesus.
Jean Luc Enyegue, SJ
“I try to apply historical methods in my attempt to answer, critically, the fundamental question of identity and mission for me and for others: who are we as Jesuits? What can young African Jesuits, specifically, learn from the historical heritage of the Society, its greatness but also its shortcomings, in order to deepen their sense of belonging to the Society (created in modern Europe and brought to them in the context of colonialism)? And how, on the other hand, does the belonging of Africans to the Society of Jesus ultimately challenge the Society to broaden her own horizons by continuously creating new spaces (like the Historical Institute) and an environment where all can feel at home? Each response to this last question would help the Society to be truly ‘incarnated’ in Africa. Moreover, this aggiornamento of the Society ad intra would help a continuous ‘reinvention’ of herself, strengthen the unity among its members, and shine ad extra as a model and effective global organization in a global world with its endless challenges.”
“Jesuit histories are spaces of encounter. As a Jesuit historian, I am led not only to encounter texts, but also peoples whose experiences have come to shape our histories. In that spirit, the Jesuit archive not only enables us to recover voices that are hidden from history, but also to strengthen a faith that inspires human history.
Jesuit history can also be seen as an embodiment of ‘connected histories’ where we discover that our shared heritage is inextricably made of connections among us through time. The histories of Asia, Africa, Europe or the Americas could not possibly be written in isolation without understanding our interconnectedness. Moreover, the transdisciplinary nature of Jesuit history provides further perspectives in studying human societies.
The Xavier Centre of Historical Research, in Goa, remains committed to Jesuit history through the preservation of Jesuit archives and the promotion of Jesuit research and scholarship. Through this commitment, it enables us to further reflect on our identities as Jesuits and human citizens in a global world.”