Last September, Fr. Alberto Brito, a Jesuit working in the Executive Secretary of CLC (Christian Life Communities) in Rome as Assistant, visited Japan for the first time to participate in the National CLC Congress --16-18 September 2006-- of Japan (Cfr. next article). Shibata Yukinori, Jesuit Social Center staff interviewed him on Sep. 22, during his short stay in Tokyo. This is the English translation of the interview done in Japanese and Spanish.

We would like you to explain to us the relationship between Ignatian spirituality and the social apostolate. Going back to one of the main speeches of Fr. Arrupe to the Jesuit Alumni, there is a need to become "men (persons) for others" and the training in Ignatian spirituality should lead to that. My question is: How does CLC promote social awareness?

There is nothing more spiritual than to go from desires to concrete action. If we stop just in desires we may be "spiritualistic" persons, but that's not enough. The move of the Spirit is towards action. You can see that in the Bible: Mary in the Annunciation, the Apostles and the activities of the Church.
Concretely speaking, I've seen that often during my 2-year term at the headquarters of CLC. I, usually, spend 50% of my time visiting CLC communities all over the world. I could mention, for instance, the CLC in Kenya (Africa). They live a life of personal relationship with God, but at the same time they try to look around the city of Nairobi where they live to observe the needs of people. CLC in Kenya is more than 20 years old. Seven years ago, the community started a work focused on orphan children of HIV patients. They have founded a real Secondary School of more than 850 children up to now. These are outreaching communities that through prayer and reflection are open to the world. You see, is like Moses in the Sinai. God moves and cries to Moses: "Go out to save my people. I cannot bear anymore the cries of my people." There is a need to open doors and windows. If not, we could remain a "spiritualistic" group, but not a "spiritual group."
In fact, outsiders, like the Kenya government, realize the impact such persons have, because they gather and pray together, they plan and move into action. There is coherence in their lives and they are credible in front of people.
There are many more cases, but I'll just mention Quito (Ecuador), a city with an altitude of 2,600 meters above the sea. It can become very cold at times. A small CLC community there acted in the same manner, praying and reflecting, trying to discern urgent and more universal needs. Already 12 years ago they made a decision about caring for the homeless by building houses for them. Now they have already built over 200 houses involving in the process homeless and volunteers. They established a Center with 4 full-time staff.
In Europe, for instance, the immigration issue is very hot and CLC communities are also deeply involved at various levels, like legal issues, health care, etc. Besides such activities with homeless, HIV street children and immigrants at the local level, there is an important and more universal different level also. CLC is a registered international NGO at the UN. In fact, there are 2 groups, one located in Geneva and the other at the Headquarters of the UN. It really makes an impact because at the local levels CLC is active also with issues of fresh water, health, women and a series of social issues.
I heard from Fr. Hanafusa, the CLC-Japan Ecclesial Assistant, about the relationships of CLC with the schools of "Fe y Alegria" in Latin America. How about it?

Yes, this is very interesting. Chile, for instance, was the only Latin American country without Fe y Alegria. In Santiago there are more than 900 small CLC communities (8 to 12 people), with three levels: high school, university, adults. There is there a small CLC community where most members are teachers. They focused their activities on the street children of Santiago City. They gathered information and visited Fe y Alegria in other countries of Latin America to do research on their activities and contact their leaders. Then, before starting any project contacted the Jesuit provincial to discuss the matter with him. Two married couples and a former Minister of Economy of a former Chilean government, also a CLC member, met with the Jesuit provincial to present him a very well-designed educational program, according to Chilean legislation and with the possibility of obtaining public funds. The provincial, recognizing the wonderful educational work done by Fe y Alegria, told them candidly that he could not have any Jesuit available for the work. The CLC members told him: "It doesn't matter. We are ready to do it." Seemingly the provincial remained without words. This is how Fe y Alegria started to function in Chile. At present, there are 9 educational centers active around Santiago de Chile caring for the education of more than 3,000 children.

Going back to the former point of the relationship between CLC spirituality and social apostolate, there are no special common endeavors in Japan. Three months ago Fr. Jean-Yves Calvez was the key speaker at the celebration of the 25th anniversary of our Tokyo social center. In that occasion he mentioned the common cooperation that has started at the Jesuit Curia between the Social Justice Secretariat and the Center for Ignatian Spirituality. How do such efforts affect the CLC movement?

Yes, we are also trying to find joint ventures. The Executive Secretary of CLC is also involved in that common dialogue looking for clear and concrete programs. I am his assistant and sometimes take part in the discussions. JRS is also part of that network.
This reminds me of common activities in Europe with refugees, especially migrant workers. One of the best examples that I know better is Portugal where JRS is very well known. In December 2005, Portugal selected the 10 more influential persons in the country and JRS national director was one of them. She is a wife with three children. In fact, JRS is the best institution working with immigrants there. CLC is not doing its own program in that field, but since JRS is already deeply involved we ride on the train of JRS and provide volunteers to its programs.
This is, certainly a key question: JRS, social apostolate, Ignatian spirituality and CLC. We all have the same interests; we all work in the same field. It is important to show mutual interest in each other's work, the sense of being one-body. Inter-cooperation will surely be a key issue in the coming 35th General Congregation, together with the relationships between lay and Jesuits.

The following is my last question. Psychological or "heart" problems, as we say in Japan, are important issues here. What about Europe? What does CLC do about it?

I do not have data, but this is a common problem everywhere. My conclusion is that the more a person or a community is open to the outside world the less psychological problems exist. Trust and openness affect positively the human and social environment. This is, of course, also true of Jesuits and all communities. The more one gives himself to people and to the work, in other words, the quality of human relationships is very important. On the other hand, we need a sense of the real situations not to get distanced from reality by building up a world we make with our imagination.
Talking from my personal experience, I always thank God that I had lived 20 years in Coimbra near the public university, one of the oldest in Europe. It was in 1975 during a very difficult political and social situation. The relations with the students were very tense, because they were radically unhappy with the whole system in search of new ways. I was much impressed and challenged by them and the relationships built provoked in me a deep change of attitudes. I often reflected on their thinking, their ways to fight, the ideals they had… All this created inside me new attitudes to confront real situations. Since then there is nothing I could fear. Thank you.
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