On Wednesday 6th November, JRS UK welcomed the Jesuit Provincial, Fr Damian Howard SJ, on his annual visitation to the Hurtado Jesuit Centre in Wapping. Fr. Damian met with members across the JRS community and celebrated Mass in the space where our weekly Day Centre is held. During his visit, Fr. Damian spent time talking and listening to refugees, volunteers and staff who form part of the JRS community.
Beatrice Grasso, JRS’s Detention Outreach Manager, facilitated Fr. Damian’s meeting with volunteers and said: “The session was full of interesting conversations, and our detention centre volunteers really appreciated the opportunity to meet with Fr. Damian and tell him more about their work. He was interested in their experiences of visiting and supporting detainees and expressed how grateful he was for their commitment and service.” Describing why they volunteered, and what made them come back repeatedly to JRS, volunteers expressed their desire to give back to the community and live out their faith.
Fr. Damian also met with a small group of destitute refugee friends, who attend the day centre each week, alongside refugee volunteers; and joined our communal lunch, which we share together each day. He commented on the spirit of unity and joy which was present.
Reflecting on his visit afterwards, Fr. Provincial said: “I was immensely encouraged by my all-day visit to JRS-UK. Meeting so many enthusiastic and happy people was a remarkable experience and one which will stay with me. The work that is being done at JRS-UK is precious. Accompanying, serving and advocating on behalf of those in detention and those who are destitute is a top priority for the Society of Jesus in this country. JRS UK are doing this demanding work with skill, professionalism and great dedication. I want to thank the team, one and all for their generosity and hard work.”
Fr. Damian closed his visit by celebrating Mass, which was attended by all the JRS community: those of Catholic faith, other faiths and none. The Mass included a poignant reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans, urging us to: ‘love your neighbour as yourself. Love is one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.’ Prayers of intercession were read by staff, volunteers and refugees.
The Director of JRS UK, Sarah Teather, said: “I am grateful to Fr. Provincial for being able to spend so much time with us during visitation and for the generous and attentive way he listened to staff, volunteers and refugees. We know that we are privileged to do this work accompanying refugees. We wanted to allow him to experience something of that, and hear more about the gift and challenge of that we do. JRS’ distinctive person-centred mission arises from its Jesuit identity. We understand that the freedom we are given to accompany refugees is part of the wider Jesuit mission.”
JRS UK would like to thank Fr. Damian for his time and thoughtful engagement with the whole JRS community: staff, volunteers and refugees, and all our volunteers and refugee friends who helped welcome him.