The Jesuit life is a life lived together in Community. Life at Arrupe completely reflects, achieves and promotes this dimension of Jesuit life. What is distinctive about life at Arrupe? A typical Wednesday Mass at Arrupe could be a trope, reflecting the distinctive character of life at Arrupe. Every Wednesday, except during the reading week, the whole community meets for the Community Mass in the university chapel. Once the clock starts ticking towards 5 pm, one would see cars driving in through the gate; and people coming out from different directions, trooping towards the chapel at the northern end from the gate.
The chapel would usually be packed with members of the Jesuit Community, and other friends of the college.
Why do they come here?
Patience! You’ll find out.
Soon the mass begins. Halfway through the mass, one notices that one has heard songs from Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mozambique, Angola, Congo, Portugal, France, all over Africa; even Arabic, when the choir is inspired! If a deaf man suddenly sees one of our lecturers from the U.S., Fr. Tom Sherman, get up and begin to dance, the deaf man could tell for sure that the song is “Ndiza kutama nzani.” “This is my favourite song,” Fr. Tom would say, “even though I can only sing the chorus”. And of course, Manirakiza, our scholastic from Burundi would be at a corner in the chapel, his hands up in the air, wriggling his body slowly: left, then right, in that typical Burundian fashion. If the celebration includes an offertory procession, Tersoo from Nigeria would sure be on the ground, moving his waist in such a way that, women would want to protest that a man is taking over their legitimate appendage and heritage. What of Anjit, our new scholastic from Sri Lanka? Hmm, you need to look out for him. Most surely, you wouldn’t miss looking out for our rector, Fr. Simon Makuru: his face down, surely praying to the God of our ancestors, to help in discharging his duties as the Superior of this diverse, rich and complex Community.
After the mass, everyone proceeds to the Loyola Multipurpose Hall for supper. A member from the animating sub-Community usually says the prayer before meals; and most times, in a native language. “If you don’t understand what he is saying, just go and wait for him at ‘Amen’”, one scholastic would tell some of our bewildered guests, around: “….. Amen!!!” One cannot miss the multicultural richness and diversity of life at Arrupe Jesuit University. It’s just phenomenal.
There are also a host of other activities that brings the Community together exclusively. Once or twice a semester, the Rector convokes a Community meeting where issues concerning the Community are discussed. “First, I want to thank you all for what you have been doing,” he would begin. After the meeting, “now the floor is open: do you have any questions or contributions?”, he would ask.
A hand is up.
“Father, you have been thanking us. We also want to thank you!” Laughter follows! Jesuits can be very funny. Besides these Community meetings, once in two months, the Spiritual Father organizes a day of recollection for the whole Community. Usually, these recollections are facilitated by invited speakers from outside the Arrupe Community who help and challenge us to “refocus”. Special feasts like Christmas, Easter, New Year’s, and so on, also create opportunities for the whole community to come together.
Besides the larger Community of Arrupe, most of the experience of Community life takes place within the smaller sub-communities. There are 9 such small communities located all around the college. Each Community has a Delegate for the Rector, who acts in the person of the Rector within the particular small Community. Most of these Communities are within walking distances from the university. At the inception of the university, most of the Communities were really dispersed in town. However, over the years, efforts have been made towards bringing more and more of the Communities within walking or cycling distances from the university.
Within the university compound itself is Kavuma Community. “Hospital” most scholastics would call her; for others, it is “Curia” or “Mother-House”, because it is the rector’s Community. Kavuma surely pays dearly for this status. Almost every scholastic who misses breakfast would quickly rush to Kavuma to fix himself a good cup of tea.
On walking through the small gate from Kavuma, one gets into Saltburn close. And just at the beginning of that close, and beside Kavuma, is Mtima Community. “Monastery “, most people would call her. Mtima houses one of the brains behind Arrupe university, Fr. John Stacer, and who has been here since its inception. “Papa” scholastics would call him, and he would respond with his ever amiable smile. No doubt, Papa’s smile and amiability animates and epitomizes the spirit of Mtima Community. Besides Kavuma which is inside the college, Mtima is one of the most visited communities by scholastics from other Communities in the College.
Within a few steps from Mtima Community, at the edge of the junction into Pendennis road, is Tansi Community, named after blessed Fr. Micheal Iwene Tansi, who was beatified a few years ago in Nigeria.
From the university gate, if one turns left, and keeps to the right-hand side of Link road; just before the junction, one finds a house with very high walls and a tall gigantic black gate. As one wanders closer to the gate, wondering what could be inside, one suddenly stops one’s hand from knocking when he notices the picture of the head of a huge German Shepherd, posted right on the gate. Right beside this picture are the words, in German: “Vorsicht er Konte schlechte laune haben,” translated loosely, ‘Caution, he could be in a bad mood’. Wow! Would you dare enter? But if you did, you would be amazed at what you see. Right inside these walls is the beautiful Mukasa Community. Mukasa Community was named after Joseph Mukasa, one of the Uganda martyrs.
Now, let’s go back to the university gate. From there, if one turns left, then right into Groombridge road as if going to the University of Zimbabwe, then left again, one would be within sight of three of our other sub-communities: Dzama (former Wycombe 9), Sabonete, and Rodriguez. Each of these Communities is within shouting distances of each other. Sabonete and Rodriguez are so close that they even share one generator set. One could walk from Sabonete right into Rodriguez, yet the addresses of both houses show that they are on different streets. While Sabonete is named after a Mozambican scholastic who died of cancer many years ago, Rodriguez is named after one of the Jesuit saints – Alphonsus Rodriguez. Wycombe 9, the newest Community on campus, gets its name from the road itself. Wycombe 9, which was formerly housed at Bryden 8 around Pendennis area, moved to this new location in the first semester of the 2010-2011 academic year. “Novitiate” most people would call her. “No, it’s ‘Tertianship’” others would respond.
The other two communities, Hannan and Lungu are further away from the College. While Hannan was named after an English Jesuit who worked in Zimbabwe and helped in the compilation of the Shona Dictionary, Lungu was named after Bishop Paul Lungu SJ, from Zambia. Hannan, on Crackley Lane, is around a walking distance of 25 minutes from the College, Lungu on Bryden 6, around Pendennis road, is within a walking distance of around 45 minutes. Thus, one would better go to them cycling rather than walking. Interestingly, these two communities are the only ones fitted with functioning swimming pools, making them a popular destination on hot sunny afternoons. It’s usual to see Fr. Eddy Murphy, our Chief Librarian, along the roads to these communities; he loves a good swim. Just like Sabonete and Rodriguez, Lungu shares boundaries with Bryden 8, from where Wycombe 9 had moved.
For most Jesuits at Arrupe, the bulk of the time is spent in these sub-communities. Each day, apart from Wednesdays when there is a larger Community Mass at College, the sub-Community meets for mass in the mornings at 07:00hrs. Members also gather for evening prayers three times a week. Except for Wednesdays, supper is always within the sub-communities. Each of the members takes turns to prepare the food and perform other Community functions. The members of the communities also help in fulfilling other functions, such as the Community sub-minister, the coordinator, the bursar, the daily buyer, and so on. The larger Community also has a Minister and a Bursar. Mealtimes are usually times for chatting, jokes and mutual bonding. When Arsenal has a fixture with Manchester United or Zambia with Cameroon, be careful how you rejoice in the Community TV room.
It is just comical to see people teasing each other. The diversity is amazing. The Delegates in each Community make sure that the Community is growing in friendship, and that the Jesuit spirit is preserved. Every Saturday, at 6:30pm, the members of the small Community meet to share food and drinks, laughter and life, to share their stories. Of course, there will always be some philosophical debates.
I would have gone on ad infinitum, but the editor says I should shut up here. At least, I hope you see what I am saying. Community life represents a huge source of strength at Arrupe. It is our home, where we come to be.