Fr. Matarazzo: On July 1st a new Province is born
On March 22 Father Gianfranco Matarazzo was named provincial of the new Euro-Mediterranean Province (Italy, Albania and Malta). Through this interview with him we acquire a better understanding of the size and long-term goals of this new reality, born in response to an invitation to re-evaluate the mission and presence of the Society of Jesus.
How many Jesuits, houses and works will the new Province include?
“First of all, the new Province is the expression of a renewed mission, enriched by the preparatory journey on which we embarked in recent years, in a spiritually vibrant collaboration that unites Jesuits and lay people that fills us with gratitude for the many wonderful gifts we received from the two provinces of Malta and Italy.
There are about 520 Jesuits in the new Province, with 62 houses and approximately 70 works. These include so many lay people who share our mission, several networks in which we are intrinsically involved, and the works that the Society runs on a European level…”
What are the priorities of this new apostolic plan?
“This new plan first of all acknowledges the great apostolic work already carried out by the two Provinces of Malta and Italy and attempts to give them a new lease of life, on the one hand by focusing on four orientational goals and on the other hand, by supporting them with various resources and controls.
The orientational goals are: the proclamation of the Gospel; the focus on and openness to discernment; the dimension of social justice; our presence in the transformation of cultures.
This plan was handed to me by the working groups that were designed for purpose (Comitato di coordinamento, Gruppo revisore, Gruppo estensore) after an intense ‘listening’ process which we initiated in the provinces. These orientations will be followed by the evaluation of present established apostolic projects considered to be of interest to the Province, the development of new projects, and the evaluation of new proposals.”
Concretely, how it will work: Will there be one Consult? Will there be one Curia with a representation in Malta? How will an equal and fair participation by the Maltese be ensured?
“The new Province is not the sum of the previous two provinces, it is not limited to a percentage shares and is not the sum of three territories, Albania, Malta and Italy with an effort to find a compromise. It is a new reality and is an answer to a call that we Jesuits received, to revisit our mission and our presence. Therefore, being a new Province, it will have only one Consult and one Curia, with the passionate participation of so many Jesuits and lay persons sharing a mission. We rely on this collaboration and style, and assignments will be given to the men and women best suited for the job, irrespective of their geographical origin.”
Will there be just one Novitiate?
“Yes, there will be one Novitiate, validating all the good fruit that has come of it for so many years. In fact, some time now, Maltese and Italian young men have received formation there together, and the team behind it is made up of both Italian and Maltese Jesuits.”.
Wont there be a problem with language? Italian, Maltese, Albanian, English…?
“Of course there will be: three rich lingual forms will come face to face – Albanian, Maltese and Italian. At the same time there is already a generally good understanding of English and Italian in the Provinces, also thanks to the formative years which young Italian and Maltese Jesuits spend together. And we can do even better.”
The name of the new Province is certainly evocative but is not very didactic or dynamic. Will it change in the future?
“The name is first and foremost an attempt to listen to the Spirit, and an apostolic plan related to a geopolitical area that historically is among the most decisive. In the wake of our history, we would like to promote the common good as we follow the guidelines set in the apostolic plan. The choice of name is the result of a consultative discernment process that took into consideration many possibilities. Even at this early stage I have received both enthusiastic and critical feedback. The name of the Province is also a precious gift to be received graciously. The restructuring process, which involved the Provinces of Malta and Italy, is part of a wider process which involves the Society of Jesus at a universal level, and we have seen many new names come out of it. As for the question regarding being open to change, that openness is part of our charism, and we will also be open to the decisions which will eventually be taken by Father General, as was the case with the creation of the new Province.”
Who are the Patrons of the Euro-Mediterranean Province?
“We opted for continuity, keeping Our Lady of the Wayside who was patron for both Provinces, and we wanted to enrich this with modern witnesses to our charism, choosing three Jesuit martyrs recently beatified in Albania. The supreme witness to life does not belong to the past. The Jesuit martyrs gave their lives in communion with the Church. They were an international group, as is the DNA of our charism, and they represent the different vocations within the Society of Jesus including the beautiful vocation of the Jesuit Brothers.”
What will the first steps taken?
“We started to collaborate on the creation of the new Province quite a long time ago with the confirmation of the new apostolic plan, which describes what we would like to achieve together. All the initiatives that we are proposing are aimed at helping us to come to know each other better, share, and appreciate our faith and charism as the Good News that it is. We wish to focus on the fact that we are one body, regain our stamina and smooth out any conflicts, give new spiritual fervour to our community life and re-emphasise the fact that our mission is the fruit of communion with the Church and of collaboration with others. With this spirit we will enhance the meetings that already exist: the annual Superiors’ meeting; the meeting for directors of works; the retreats for those in governance; the week for Scholastics, as well as the week for young priests and brothers; the meetings for administrators and treasurers; the meetings for Ignatian spirituality groups… we will place special emphasis on the involvement of Maltese, Italian and Albanian Jesuits and lay persons in the organisation and working groups of the Province.”
How will the whole Province be informed about all the different components?
“We prepared for this occasion with a long and well-executed process by the governments that preceded us, including that of Fr. Carlo Casalone and P. Paul Pace. The great interaction I have had with Fr Patrick Magro, Malta’s last provincial, over the least three years was very important for me. The communications offices of the two provinces played a precious strategic role. Over the last three years we rolled out an intense programme of meetings, retreats, regional encounters, meetings for so many dedicated groups, which helped us to get to know each other better as Jesuits and lay persons who all work together on the same mission. We already have a full calendar ahead of us: we will try to Abbiamo già un intenso calendario davanti a noi: we will try to make the best of the opportunities that it offers and will certainly add whatever inspiration the Lord will offer by way of magis”.
What is your hope for the future?
“Above all I thank the Lord for the new Province, particularly because through it He has made us more aware of the richness of our charism and has given us the opportunity to feel it in a very concrete way. In this spirit of gratitude, I invite everyone to read once again the Formula of the Institute, feel its prophetic message and contemplate the beauty of our vocation as one of the charisms given to the Church.”