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Catholic Vancouver Jan. 17, 2018

Jesuit scotch event ‘tests the spirits’

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

Father Rob Allore, SJ, (right) sips fine spirits with supporters at the second annual scotch tasting in support of Jesuit efforts Jan. 11. (Photos by Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)

VANCOUVER—Spirits were high as 120 people raised a glass of fine scotch to the local Jesuits.

Vancouver’s second annual scotch tasting, modeled after similar fundraisers in eastern Canada, raised about $9,000 for Jesuit efforts in B.C. Jan. 11. The funds will help launch a series of faith-based public seminars at St. Mark’s College.

“What I want is something that helps engage people to think with the Church and engage with the culture,” said college principal Peter Meehan.

These seminars, which he hopes could one day lead to a full-blown Jesuit Institute at the college, would cover hot topics of the day, such as poverty, the environment, reconciliation with First Nations people, and the fentanyl crisis.

The lecture series would feature high profile Jesuits, and other speakers, and help people “connect the dots” between Church teachings and contemporary issues, starting as early as this summer.

Father Peter Bisson, SJ, provincial of the English Canada province, flew from Toronto to clink glasses with the more than 100 supporters of the Jesuits.

“Someone asked me what was the connection between Jesuits and scotch? I said: spirit.”

The Jesuit community in Canada has faced some big changes and initiatives in recent years, and Father Bisson said they rely heavily on “testing the spirits,” that is, in a spiritual way.

“When we’re faced with choices, opportunities, threats, challenges, we look at the facts, but we turn toward our interiorities, to see if we’re being moved by generosity or by fear; by insight or by ignorance; by a movement outward, or a retreat inward; by attachment to prior expectations or an openness to what the Lord is inviting us to,” he said.

“We seek to choose the greater good,” a lesson learned from the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.

“It’s a set of tools that helps you become aware of your relationship with Jesus, how the spirit of Jesus is working in your life, and how you are cooperating and resisting the work of that spirit.”

In Canada, he said that discerning process has led the Jesuits to reconciliation initiatives with First Nations people, care for the environment, and efforts to unify their English and French branches (a process 15 years in the making).

St. Mark's College principal Peter Meehan (left) with Father Peter Bisson, SJ.

“When one tests the spirits, you discover as the prophet Daniel did, inside every fiery furnace, inside every lion’s den, is the angel of the Lord,” he said. “There, too, we can praise, reverence, and serve God. And let me tell you, it is a terrifically exciting adventure.”

Other Jesuits present included ecologist Father John McCarthy, geneticist and St. Mark’s chaplain Father Rob Allore, provincial assistant for formation Father Michael Rosinski, Vancouver superior Father Richard Soo, and St. Monica’s pastor Father Robert Wong.

They and their guests listened to live music as they sampled the Springbank Distillery’s 15-year-old Campbeltown single malt, an 18-year-old Arran malt, and the Kilchoman’s 7th edition 100 per cent Islay series.

Event organizer Tom Cooper of City in Focus (right) with Peter Meehan and Jesuit Fathers Rob Allore, Michael Rosinski, and Peter Bisson.