When I reflect on different places I have worked in my life, the greatest memories I have are when I have worked alongside people who inspire me, whether it was my boss or colleagues. It is great to be involved in something that you believe in, and that you go into work every day with people who share that same passion, especially if they are more intelligent than you or more creative, and you learn so much of them. Sadly the opposite is also true, how sad it is to hear so many people who go into a job where cynicism, selfishness, power or greed become the dominant values. It drags you down. Even worse if your boss is a bully, or you are lead by someone who is less talented than you, knows this and it makes them insecure and vindictive. Luckily in my life I have experienced more of the former that the latter, or at least I remember more of the former energy rather than the latter. I have fond memories of St Igs in Enfield. As I come to my final couple of weeks here in India, I am beginning to reflect on what it has meant to me living and working alongside the Jesuits here.
There is something about the mission here in Manvi that epitomises for me something very important to Saint Ignatius, it is what we call the ‘Magis’. Magis means simply ‘the more’ . doing more for others because you believe what you are doing is what Christ has asked you to do. Magis is about choosing wisely, discerning, what we do, how we use our energy. As Jesuits it is taken for granted we all (at least most of us) want to do good, the magis is choosing between different ‘goods’ to doing what is the best.
Walking to work in the fields – lunch carried on the head!
I will share one example of where I see the Magis at work in this mission. After 9 or 10 years work here in Manvi the school is established, it is thriving, all the locals rich and poor want to send their children, we have Hindus, Muslims and Christians in the school. But are resources are limited, so we have to turn away someone, who? The wealthy, the higher castes… their wealth and influence means they can choose to go to other local schools. So the poorest, the Dalits, the Devadasi, and girls always get priority here. Now with the establishment of the School, the PUC and the soon the University, you could forgive the Jesuits for relaxing, consolidating the institutions, and staying here in Manvi. It is a very poor area, the locals themselves admit it is ‘backward’, but a town of 40,000 affords certain luxuries, there is a cinema, we get electricity here maybe for 14 hours a day, water is available, there are shops, doctors etc. But no, what has inspired me recently is how, the students, social workers, our Slovak Doctor and Fr Eric, keep going out into the villages. The temperature is reaching the mid 40’s here regularly at the moment, the villages are hot and dusty, when you come back you are covered in sweat, grit, sand. People are often late, don’t show up for meetings or appointments. But they still go, to monitor and extend the malnutrition programme, and to convince those in more remote villages to bring their children to our schools.
Now school can come to them – courtesy of Jessica from Switzerland
In the villages there are now a network of 12 kindergartens and a few primary schools that have been built or in planning. A few weeks ago a very generous donor from Switzerland bought the mission two new school buses. This means that Eric and some hand-picked students go regularly to the remoter villages and invite families to send their children to school. The villagers are very impressed by the students but they still need some persuasion. How much will it cost – as much as you can pay is the answer, which is usually rupees a year (just over a pound!). But how will they get there? Now we have two buses we can come and pick them up every day – for free! The school comes to them. This dedication and commitment of Eric and the students is inspiring for me…. refusing to rest on their laurels, they are reaching out for more and more marginalized children. However this intensity of work also needs to be balanced with good rest, and a good community and prayer life. Because I have been inspired – I would like to share that inspiration with you too! Thanks for reading, don’t forget to leave a comment if you have a few minutes – the Jesuits and children here are delighted when I pass on your comments.