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By Dan Leckman, SJ

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
– John 13:35  

To be authentically engaged with our world, we ought to be open enough to see how God labours in others. This principle, deeply rooted in the teachings of Vatican II, especially Nostra Aetate, mirrors the inclusive spirit of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre. Nestled just outside Guelph, this sacred land has been a confluence of spirituality and community, where the Jesuits and their lay partners in mission have lived and worked for more than a century. 

Here, amidst the beauty of creation, people from all walks of life find peace and purpose. I myself sometimes forget just how incredibly wide and diverse the community that forms here really is. From the retreatants seeking solace at Loyola House to the volunteers nurturing the Community Orchard, Organic Farm and Old-Growth Forest, every individual contributes to a living testament of shared commitment to ecology and spirituality. 

In an “age of anxiety” where interior peace is harder to cultivate, the result is that an increasing number of people from all walks of life find their way to us! The centre’s embrace of diversity and inclusion reflects the broader Ignatian charism that guides its work, drawing many to seek peace, spiritual growth and divine encounter, regardless of their beliefs. This openness is a hallmark of the Ignatian approach, valuing every individual’s quest for authenticity. 

The work at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre, including the remarkable 60-year ministry at Loyola House and initiatives such as the Community Orchard, Organic Farm and Old-Growth Forest, demonstrates a profound connection between spirituality and care for creation. At the 35th General Congregation, Pope Benedict reminded us to “reach new social, cultural, and religious frontiers” as we “faithfully help the Church” in its heart (GC35). This diverse community of laypeople and Jesuits that live and work on these lands continues the work of the visionaries (again, both lay and Jesuit) that came before. Their collective effort not only addresses ecological grief but also fosters a vibrant sense of community, making the centre a source of hope and inspiration. 

However, embracing this diversity comes with its challenges. One challenge is that while it may be easy to love what goes on here, it’s not easy to always be open to understanding the experiences of others. The centre, much like the broader Church, faces the task of celebrating its tradition while striving to learn from the multitude of experiences that make up its community. 

“The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.” – Nostra Aetate 

In embracing this journey, I find inspiration in the teachings of Vatican II, especially Nostra Aetate, which remind us of the beauty in being truly open to God’s presence in all forms of belief, religion and spirituality. This openness isn’t just about broadening our horizons; it deeply enriches our Catholic faith and empowers us to live out the Ignatian charism of forming meaningful relationships with everyone we meet. 

While it’s true that not all may share this perspective, it’s important to remember that our faith calls us to a dialogue of love and understanding, transcending boundaries to find God in every corner of humanity. This isn’t about diluting our beliefs but about enriching our understanding of the divine through the vast tapestry of the Spirit imbued in all of creation. Engaging in this ecumenical mission, we’re not only staying true to our Jesuit tradition but also inviting a deeper communion with the world, guided by the inclusive love that Jesus himself showed to all.

I sincerely believe that the work we do here genuinely does make the world a better place. Isn’t that what Christians and all people of goodwill are called to do?! This belief underscores the essential mission of the Jesuits and our partners: to engage with the world in a way that enriches faith, nurtures community and cares for others. 

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