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Father Pau: A Deep Desire to Serve the Poor
April 17, 2017

Father Pau: A Deep Desire to Serve the Poor
Father Pau Vidal SJ with a child in Maban, South Sudan
"With the refugees, I have experienced time and time again that mysterious human capacity to celebrate life in the midst of death," said Father Pau Vidal SJ.

Jesuit Refugee Service works in South Sudan with refugees who comprise more than two-thirds of the local population. Father Pau Vidal SJ serves as Project Director for JRS in Maban, South Sudan. Read why he works with refugees to help them heal, learn and thrive.

I hail from Barcelona, Catalonia. I joined the Society of Jesus in 2000 with a deep desire to serve the poor. This initial impulse has been refined and purified from just serving to something deeper and more reciprocal, which is journeying with those at the margins of history and society. I have been privileged to be able to be with JRS for some years now. First in Liberia, later briefly in Nogales (USA-México border), more recently in Kakuma camp (Kenya) and now in Maban (South Sudan). 

Sharing with refugees I realize that what really drains their energy is the memory of the brutality of what they had to go through, the loss of their beloved ones and most of all the uncertainty of when this too long exile will finally end. The longing of their homeland is an open wound in their hearts. Thus, in a real sense, as a fellow Jesuit once said, being with JRS means touching the failure of humanity in its most radical expression.

 However, in Liberia, Nogales, Kakuma and Maban I have witnessed that the lives of the forcibly displaced are not only cramped by sorrow, wretchedness, violence and suffering but also punctuated by joy, celebration, healing, transformation and beauty. With the refugees, I have experienced time and time again that mysterious human capacity to celebrate life in the midst of death. 

I was recently meditating with this beautiful prayer attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the founder of JRS: 

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, 
than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. 
What you are in love with, 
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. 
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, 
what you do with your evenings, 
how you spend your weekends, 
what you read, whom you know, 
what breaks your heart, 
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. 
Fall in Love, stay in love, 
and it will decide everything.” 

And it dawned on me. Indeed, I have really found God in the forcibly displaced. I am really in love in a quite absolute and final way. My imagination is full of faces - both joyful and sad - of displaced people, I get out of bed because of the displaced.

In the evenings I prepare things so as to be a better companion to them the following day. Over the weekends I celebrate mass with them, I read about them, I know so many of them by their names. It breaks my heart when I witness one more woman and children having to run away from home. I wonder in amazement at the joy and hope they share with me. Yes, I think I am madly in love and I shall stay in love with God, a displaced God.  

It has decided everything in my life. 

Thank you JRS for making it possible, for allowing me to journey with the forcibly displaced and discover God with and in them. 

-Fr Pau Vidal SJ, Project Director JRS Maban, South Sudan  



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