Recently, Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, the Superior General of the Jesuits visited Homs, Syria to spend time with the Jesuits and the people there, and to acknowledge the witness of Fr. Frans Van der Lugt, SJ who died in 2014 in the war in Syria. As Fr. General Sosa travels throughout the world visiting Jesuits and various ministries, he speaks on the new Universal Apostolic Preferences. In Syria, he spoke frequently of the Preference "Walking with the Excluded". Below are some of his remarks at the Mass, which was celebrated in honor of Fr. Van der Lugt.
Fr. Frans went around doing good for nearly 50 years in Syria. "So many people, perhaps thousands, have benefited from his guidance, his gifts as a psychoanalyst, his care to the little ones, the handicapped and the marginalized. We recall his ability to relieve those who were weak or tired, and his power to transmit hope.
"...for the last two years of his life, while he was under siege in this neighborhood [in Homs], Frans' first concern was to ensure that bread would be shared to feed the few who stayed behind. He literally brought them the 'bread of life'. He has often done that at the expense of his own livelihood. He could have fled from this hell on earth so many times. However, he freely and voluntarily chose to show solidarity with each of these little ones, whom he considered to be his brothers and sisters, not wanting to abandon any of them.
"...the Eucharist is...a celebration. Frans lived this dimension of celebration to the very end, even during the worst moments of the war. He also invited Muslim families, who were living in this house with him, to celebrate their faith and hope. He recognized in the small gestures of solidarity of daily life, the possibility of overcoming despair and the promise they held for renewal. He lived the last two years of his life in an Easter context, a passing from division to reconciliation, from adversity to fraternity, from death to life..."
Fr. Frans embodied this Universal Apostolic Preference of the Jesuits: walking with the excluded, the marginalized, the outcasts of the world--those whose dignity has been violated--in a mission of reconciliation and justice. During this Easter season--with the witness of Fr. Frans to guide us--let us also walk with the excluded and continue our work for peace and justice.