Social and Pastoral BulletinNo. 9015, Jun. 1999

The Making of a New Volunteer Network
Second Workshop on Jesuit Volunteers
Shibata Yukinori (Tokyo Jesuit Social Center)

Was chilly inside the Jesuit Novitiate of Hiroshima, looking at a different world on a summer-like sun shining day. From May 1-3 the second workshop on Jesuit Volunteers took place there. The 32 participants attending were mainly educators from the 4 Jesuit junior high schools ( Eiko, Rokko, Hiroshima, Taisei), 3 other Catholic schools, Salesian Ikuei, Jochi Tandai, Sophia University, members of the Jesuit Social Apostolate committee and social centers plus Jesuit seminarians. Half of the participants who had already attended last years's workshop enjoyed getting together again. The workshop started within a friendly atmosphere.

Content of the Workshop

The workshop, inspired by the principles of Jesuit education and the promotion of justice and aiming at introducing volunteer activities and exposure study programs into school education, stressed the sharing of experiences and information in order to build a new network between schools and places of work. Last year it was difficult to make the network really function, and most of the efforts were spent on trial and error methods.
Following a preliminary consultation through a questionnaire sent to the participants of the last workshop, the theme selected for this year's workshop was: "the Homeless". It consisted of an ambitious program, with a presentation of the situation of homeless people in Hiroshima followed by social structural analysis and spiritual discernment. The situation of homeless people in Hiroshima was presented by Mr. Nakazono Kenichi. For the last 10 years, he has patrolled at night the streets of Hiroshima listening to the pleas of the homeless there. He explained to us that the number of people without any shelter has dramatically increased to one hundred during the last 3 years. Unless the labor market is drastically re-organized, all programs undertaken will just become symptomatic treatments. On the other hand, what is really needed is to use all available means, socio-welfare as well as medical care, to assist the homeless who are about to die in front of our eyes. He spoke in a cool way on such a difficult work.
The basics of structural analysis were presented by Fr. Vicente Bonet, SJ. The participants were divided in 5 groups to discuss the situation of the homeless within the political, economic, social and cultural backgrounds. Since only one hour was allocated for the group discussions, most of the groups could only present a superficial vision. The general trend was that, because Japanese society refuses to accept different views and everything must be oriented towards economic profit, such attitudes work heavily not only against the homeless, but also against all Japanese people.

Fr. Hanafusa Ryuichiro, SJ made the presentation of spiritual discernment. After explaining Ignatian discernment, he pointed out the difficulties of social discernment: "unless one considers the various differences in the life style and social position, as well as in social values, and unless one takes account of personal attitudes of compassion towards others and different motivations and inner feelings, discernment might go into opposite directions. On the opposite, by repeating a social discernment process, one can rightly make a better discernment".
After the presentation he interviewed three persons concerning their feelings in their activities with the homeless, on the image of Jesus they cherished by getting involved with them. Because of lack of time participants felt uneasy, but we all realized that, the more shocking and emotional exposure programs and volunteer activities are, the most important it is to do structural analysis and spiritual discernment.

Future Plans

In fact, the two more important sessions of the workshop were the first two-hour session on personal introduction and the last 2 hours spent on a dialogue for a future network. The more one heard the participants talk in the first session, the more one realized how different the situations of volunteer and exposure programs in each school are. One could strongly feel the need for exchanges of information and of personal contacts.
How, then, can we continue networking and the holding of successive workshops? By regions? Or by topics? For instance, dividing the western part of Japan and the eastern, focusing on East Timor, etc., or making small groupings, including students also?. Some thought about retreats to deepen spiritual discernment. Many ideas were offered, but there was no common consensus. Finally, we dispersed committing ourselves to hold a workshop next year without fixing the location yet.
At present, the Jesuit social apostolate group together with the 4 Jesuit junior high school team (a cross-section organization for Jesuit schools) are continuing to dialogue, groping for formal volunteer education. I heard that a small group has already made concrete plans with regard to East Timor. I would like to pray that this year a step forward was made, and that we can, again next year, make further improvements.
(A report will soon come out. Those interested in it, please, contact our center)