Social and Pastoral Bulletin_No. 84 Jun. 15, 1998
| During the last three days of Golden Week (May 3-5) the first seminar
on Jesuit Volunteers took place in Shimonoseki`s Labor Exchange Center.
The seminar was a new trial designed by the Social and Pastoral Committee
of the Japanese province with the cooperation of Jesuit educational institutions.
As a participating member in the planning I would like to offer an overall
view of the whole event.
The Labor Exchange Center is located on a high hill and looks out down to the dark blue Kanmon Straights. It is only a 15-minute walk from the Shimonoseki railroad station, but one has to climb a very steep stone stairs going up to the top. The view of the bay and the mountains from the Center was splendid, and I fully enjoyed the delicious meals and the exchanges with the participants gathered together there. About half were male juniors (?) who slept together in a group, as if they were on a school excursion, and I myself looked back with nostalgic gratitude to my old school days.
| In all thirty people actively participated in the live discussions. They
|| Jesuit volunteer organizations follow the guidelines expressed in the
Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice of Jesuit General
Congregation 32, and Immersion in the World . The Seminar,
co-sponsored by both the Social and Pastoral Committee and the Educational
Institutions, was a common endeavor inspired in the Jesuit General Congregation
34 and the `96 Province Forum. Members of the Social and Pastoral Committee
and Tokyo`s social center divided themselves and visited Jesuit schools
and some parishes to learn about present volunteer activities there. The
results were published in a form of a report in early 1997. There was a
common feeling that a volunteer network was strongly desired, as well as
a hand book for volunteer work. Thus the seminar was planned, first for
Jesuits and co-workers in educational institutions, as a step forward to
try to start a network, by coming together to elaborate a common hand book
for volunteer services.
The following gives an idea of the main program of the Shimonoseki seminar. The first afternoon was dedicated to presenting the main volunteer services and experiences of the institutions represented.
|Then, Fr. Sumita, delegate to the Provincial, opened the seminar, and the
three social centers (Kamagasaki, Shimonoseki and Tokyo) presented themselves.
There was finally a short explanation of the Jesuit Volunteer Cooperation
(JVC). In spite of lack of time to express fully the realities behind volunteer
services and exposure programs run by the schools, we could share the well
designed live experiences with all the problematic involved.
The morning session of the following day was inspired by a short input on the meaning of volunteer. The 4 groups established discussed some key principles for volunteer services to be treated in the hand book and these were presented to the whole assembly at the end of the morning session.
The afternoon session started with a short presentation on Development Education, followed by a Trade game done by all the participants. This was a simulation of international trade practices where the rich of industrial countries asked themselves, since we have the time shall we do some volunteer work? (What an irony!). At the same time, the poor countries were lamenting with grief, there are no jobs for us; we are not even willing to do anything! Each one, experiencing his/her own unjust circumstances, was completely caught into the rules of the game.
| After a brief break, we went back into 4 different groups to design a hand book simulating
its main outlines: preparations, practice of volunteer service and the
post-reflection period. In a common consensus process it was decided to
deal in separate groups with 4 case studies: Exposure tours in an Asian
country, and in Kamagasaki (Osaka), volunteer services to expatriate people
living in Japan, student`s visits to welfare institutions. All are cases
either of activities going on or of planned new ones. They are concrete
and deeply interesting. After a common sharing in the general assembly
we offered mass together.
In the evening we had a pleasant buffet-dinner together with 11 members of citizens` groups of Shimonoseki. The Superior of the Yamaguchi-Shimane Jesuit district was also present. We spent our time in an atmosphere of cheerfulness and were much encouraged by listening to the dedication of the citizens of Shimonoseki involved in activities regarding the local environment, antinuclear movement, the 10-feet movement, Japanese war responsibility, East Timor independence, Yamaguchi`s NGO network, and other activities with regard to education, the disabled, translation into braille, the movement to ban all landmines, etc.
| In the early morning of the third day we offered thanksgiving prayers and the mass within a warm atmosphere
of an altar with East Timor themes wonderfully designed by the participants.
The last morning session dealt with follow up matters: the continuation
of producing a common hand book, the start of a volunteer network among
the participants of the schools, the promotion of exchanges of information
by using e-mail and articles, written by the participants, in the Social
and Pastoral Bulletin published by Tokyo social center. Finally, the seminar
closed after deciding on holding a similar one next year during the same
golden week period. For two days, far into the night, we really shared
and discussed things together. Next year, we will hold the seminar in Nagatsuka
(Hiroshima) to try to finalize the hand book. Following a process of doing
it together, we can gradually work with the content of the hand book and
strengthen the network just started. At the same time, each school, supposed
to be the main actor in this process, will accept more clearly its full
involvement and widen the volunteer circle to students, teachers, parents,
graduates and local citizens. I am looking forward to seeing this wide
The time when the seminar was held, Golden Week, was quite inconvenient for some, because of the Otome Toge festival held those days and personal plans or already arranged family gatherings, but in spite of it, the fact that so many teachers and co-workers of Jesuit and other educational works came together in Shimonoseki had a very significant meaning. The volunteer network finally got off the ground, supported by a rich volunteer spirit of all participants.
Finally, my gratitude goes, of course, to the staff of the Labor Exchange Center who supported us from behind the scenes, to the Shimonoseki citizens so cooperative during the seminar, and to all participants. Let`s continue our cooperation, and the mutual exchange of information and opinions. We are busy now preparing a detailed report to be soon sent to everybody.