Throughout the years I’ve worked as a photojournalist, I have been privileged to encounter many people working in a range of ways to improve the lives of the world’s disadvantaged, misunderstood and marginalized. One such group of people is the Jesuits, an order of Catholic priests.
At the most unexpected times and in far-flung places, I have come across Jesuits. They are to be found quietly working away in the slums, deserts and jungles of the world. Not only this, but their work is as varied as their locations. I felt inspired to record something of them and their activities.
I have known Jesuits for much of my life and count some of them among my friends. In fact, it is because of a Jesuit that I became a photojournalist and subsequently pursued the career that I have. In typical Jesuit style, the project I was initially invited to work on involved a much-maligned and persecuted group of people, the Islamic Moros of the southern Philippines.
I have always been struck by the dedication and passion of the Jesuits. Their involvement with various cultural groups, and often very creative responses to their range of needs, formed the basis of my documentary project.
For four years I lived with the Jesuits in their communities seeking to understand what holds such a diverse group of people together and what motivates them — both collectively and individually. I shared many late night coffees, conversations, jokes and anecdotes trying to discover the meaning of the life these men were leading.
I experienced the heartbreak and the pain as they worked among the poor and dispossessed, and saw first-hand their contribution to social justice. I saw the joy on a young girl’s face as she became mobile after being given her first wheelchair. I witnessed AIDS patients receiving comfort in a hospice, and watched land mine victims playing volleyball after being fitted with artificial limbs.
In Central Africa, I looked on with feelings of hope and despair as members of the Jesuit Refugee Service helped distribute aid and bring comfort to the hundreds of thousands of fleeing refugees. I sat in classrooms that were just the shade of a tree in the desert while Jesuits taught. On other occasions, I wandered through the grounds of some of the world’s leading universities run by Jesuits, places where great minds have been shaped. I stayed with Jesuits who are considered to be among the world’s most influential educators, philosophers and scientists.
The project took on a life of its own and grew into a book, Second Spring: The Regeneration of the Jesuits. It is my attempt to capture photographically the human struggle to affirm life, to live it to the full.