Eric Velandria SJ is the Senior Education Specialist in the Programmes and Innovation division of JRS’s International Office in Rome.
Ignatius’s life story inspires me to be hopeful. Its key lesson for me: tragedy, by God’s grace, turns into triumph.
Ignatius’s leg was broken by a cannonball, but not his will to live fully. His infirmity led him to abandon his shattered, selfish dreams and he learned, instead, to live the gift of renewed life wholly for God. And that meant finding, serving, and loving God in the face of others, particularly those who suffer.
I pray that the tragedy of those cast into a life of forced displacement be transformed into human triumph. I hope to continue to faithfully accompany those on the margins, those forced to leave their homes because of war and conflict, poverty, natural disasters and climate change, etc. I want to be a witness to their own testimony of hope.
JRS gives me the opportunity to follow the example of Ignatius. The cannonball experience left him walking wobbly for the rest of his life. Yet, he likely drew much inspiration from St Paul’s confession, “When I am weak, God is strong through me” (2 Cor 12:10).
The life witness of both Ignatius and Paul inspires me. So do the forcibly displaced people with whom I have the honour to accompany.
The refugee reality is daunting. Their needs are plenty. Their lives are fragile. I am aware of my own limitations and lack of abilities. I too walk wobbly. But my weakness will not keep God from allowing me to bring comfort and opportunity to those who suffer; to recognise that despite their hardships, they are full of grace and strength. They often move through uncertainty with a steady gait.
Gratefully, I have many companions at JRS: laity (some from different faith groups), fellow Jesuits, and other religious. Like Ignatius, I have dedicated companions on this mission.
On the feast of the founder of the Jesuit order, I pray that by God’s grace, our work brings about needed change in these complex times. That our refugee sisters and brothers are able to achieve integration, self-reliance, and dignity. That they are able to find hope.
Then, tragedy, by God’s grace, will transform into triumph.