Fr Deignan's speech at The International Conference


There is always a great joy when we meet together as alumni of Wah Yan College - meeting old friends, recalling old memories of schools events and sharing life's experiences.

For us Jesuits it is an even happier experience after years of teaching knowing so many graduates recognizing familiar faces - but unfortunately not always remembering the names.

Graduates of Wah Yan share a common bond because of your education and formation in the school - You share a common spirit. One of the joys for us Jesuits and teachers is the sense of appreciation and gratitude of the alumni for the education they have received. What is it they appreciate most? I think it is the atmosphere of personal care; the freedom to grow, the values they have been taught, and for some the religious experience which was never forced or compelled. This prepared them for life and their career.

The 5th Congress of the World Union of Jesuit Alumni took place in Sydney Australia 9th - 13th July 1997. I found the atmosphere very friendly and warm, with so many different people from difference countries - their common bond was having been educated in a Jesuit school or University. There are 656 Jesuits Educational Institutes - 177 Universities and 347 secondary schools in 65 countries run by the Jesuits worldwide. We are part of that worldwide network. There are 3 million former Alumni.

At the Congress, Fr General gave a memorable speech and I would like to share some of his ideas with you today.

He mentioned that St Ignatius (the Founder of the Jesuits) was a man of action who had said "Love is shown in deeds rather than words". To say something good is one thing but to do something good requires strength of character and courage.

One might ask what is the goal of the Alumni of Wah Yan as we move into the next millennium? As graduates of Wah Yan you may join the Alumni Association for a variety of reasons i.e.

1.some to recall experiences of their days at school and renew friendships
2.some to share professional development
3.some to assist the school and its present students with financial aid

But Fr General said that you are called to a goal beyond this.

The central goal of Jesuit education is to pursue the students' intellectual development to the full also his physical, moral, religious and social development. But for what? Our dream is that you are not entirely for oneself alone but the service of others.

The world desperately needs men and women of competence and conscience who generously give of themselves for others. We need to help to humanize the world, to bring peace and harmony among peoples; to help those who are poor or suffering; to fight against sex slavery and sex abuse, to abolish child labour and to bring some justice into the world. People long for peace, honesty, justice, respect, responsibility, forgiveness and love.

As alumni how are we called to help because this is some programme! You are called by God and by us Jesuits to give witness to your good values; to help change society for the better; to become more compassionate towards people especially those who are neglected. Human life is very valuable and precious.

The problems that face us today, on the brink of the 21st Century are not simple. No single person or profession can legitimately pretend to offer a comprehensive solution to the problems of violence, poverty, genetic engineering, abortion, euthanasia, homelessness, sexual abuse, illiteracy, violation of human rights, environment, and artificial intelligence - all of which have a tremendous impact on us humans.

The world desperately needs good leaders and men and women of competence and conscience who generously give themselves for others. You have heard it said "It is better to light a candle than to curse the dark". Each one is a light. Put those lights together and you have a lot of life.

In the 4th Congress of the Jesuit Alumni 1991 there was a resolution passed saying we should identify the needs of the people in our area - needs of the poor or refugees or sick. We could set up an action Committee to plan a concrete service to them. It is not so much giving some financial help, it is giving oneself. It is getting personally involved with the poor, the aged, the sick, addicts, hospice care etc. Jesus said "Whatever you do to these you do to Me". Besides this service of others, we called by our Jesuit vision to change society - to identify injustices