by JEFF DILLON
Covid-19 could not daunt the spirits of a group of New Zealand Catholics who gathered at Burns Lodge, part of the Holy Cross Centre in Mosgiel, to participate in their graduation ceremony marking the end of their Ignatian Spirituality journey in October.
The journey began when the group of 12 people from parishes throughout New Zealand, and one from overseas, gathered at the Mary MacKillop Centre in Auckland in April, 2019, to begin their introductory experience of the Ignatian tradition, with a New Zealand emphasis. The name of the course offered by Ignatian Spirituality NZ is Te Wairua Mahi, which translates as “the Spirit who works”. “Mahi” can also refer to “exercise” or “practice” and therefore “the Spirit who exercises” or ” Spiritual Exercises”.
The two-year course consists of five units, with the first three units undertaken in the first year and the remaining two completed in the second year. Each of the units consists of a residential period of five days, where participants are provided with guidance through reading, contemplation, reflection and reviews and development of their experience in following the Ignatian tradition.
Ignatian spirituality focuses on the insights and teachings of St Ignatius Loyola, (1491 – July 31, 1556) the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).
The New Zealand course is officially recognised by the Australian Council of Spiritual Directors as meeting the guidelines for Forming Tomorrows Spiritual Directors – the basis of which is set out in a 16-page booklet revised in 2015 by the council.
There are a number of key local personnel who run the New Zealand courses. The core team includes; Kevin Gallagher and his wife Lyn Gallagher (Christchurch), Sr Mary Kay, RC, Sr Anne Powell, RC (Waikanae, Kapiti Coast.), Fr Brian Cummings, SM (Wellington), and Fr Mark Chamberlain (Dunedin). The work of the team is also prayerfully supported by the community of the Religious of the Sacred Heart at Baradene, Auckland.
While the Covid pandemic in 2020 provided a complication to the normal operation of the course, for one participant it created a hurdle that exercised a need for teamwork. Jacinta Tao Shu Lin started the course in Auckland in 2019, but the arrival of Covid in early 2020 saw her returning to her home in Singapore to complete the course from there. That required logistical support and encouragement from the rest of the group to enable her to join in sessions using Zoom technology, despite the difference in time zones. During the Mass and graduation ceremony she appeared virtually in the chapel by Zoom on a laptop. She was “handed” her certificate by Kevin Gallagher approaching the laptop and acting out handing it (the certificate) to her.
The complications caused by the lockdown in Auckland during August and September led to the decision to move the final unit of the course down to Burns Lodge in Mosgiel, which was able to provide accommodation, meeting and eating facilities on the one site free from any significant Covid restrictions.