TABAN PATRICK CONSANTINO, SJ
Taban Patrick Consantino, SJ first encountered JRS as a young refugee in Uganda, where his family had fled from war-torn Sudan. Now in Rome, pursuing his MA in Social Sciences and his vocation to become a Jesuit priest, Taban talks about the transformative impact JRS has had on his life.
Describe your life when you first became involved with JRS.
I was a refugee in Adjumani, Uganda, where I was brought as a baby by my parents. In the camps where we lived for 19 years, Jesuits working for JRS would often visit to lead Mass and offer pastoral support. Their ministry and example sparked my early desire to become a priest. Later, while completing my advanced studies at Alere Secondary School, I worked at the JRS office. It was through this experience that I saw how refugees were suffering, and how JRS was supporting them to become self-reliant – and my only thought was that if I wanted to have an impact on people, I should become a Jesuit.
Where are you in your life today?
I am a Jesuit deacon in the process of becoming ordained as a Jesuit priest. As a Jesuit, you go through different stages of formation, which have led me to Tanzania, India, Ethiopia, Kenya, and now Rome, to complete my Licentiate as a Social Studies student. My current research focuses on the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. My lived experience as a refugee, a volunteer with JRS, and now a Jesuit have inspired a desire to work for social justice and support those who are marginalised.
What difference did JRS make in your life?
I credit JRS with everything I have accomplished so far in life. The support I received in pursuing my advanced studies was a great turning point in my life. So many children who were not supported, not privileged like me, lacked the opportunity to learn and were left in a cycle of poverty.
When you offer someone education, when you offer them skills. you are making an impact that’s long-term. That is exactly what JRS has done in my life. Yet, JRS has provided more than just education. It has led me to priesthood. The pastoral and counseling services JRS offers to vulnerable people truly inspired my own vocation as a Jesuit.
JRS talks about walking with the people we serve and accompanying them on their journeys. What does accompaniment mean to you?
If you support someone, you don’t do so from a distance. You can’t say “I know you’re suffering,” without getting closer to the suffering yourself. You must be with them. I saw that in my experience as a refugee boy in Uganda and in my pastoral fieldwork with JRS as a young Jesuit in Yambio, South Sudan – how JRS goes deep into the camps and shares life with refugees, to suffer with them and try to help them change their lives where they are. Not from afar. This is exactly what accompaniment means for me, and what JRS does.
Taban’s interview is the first in a series we’ll be sharing during our 40th anniversary year. You can find the whole series of interviews throughout the year on our international website. Click here to learn more.