|Those who miss Stjepan also give thanks for his remarkable life of friendship offered unstintingly to all.|
When I first approached him in 1993 during the wars in the Balkans, Stjepan was the Jesuit provincial. He protested that Croatia was not like Africa and Asia and what worked in poor countries would not work in Europe. "Fine", I said, "but the Society of Jesus must respond to the needs of the people hurt by this conflict; JRS is here to help us do that together". Stjepan thought about this deeply. He agreed. His term as provincial ended on 31 July 1993. On 1 August he became the first director of JRS for the Balkans; he would serve refugees in all the countries of former Yugoslavia for the next 20 years.
JRS was late in responding to the conflict that had raged already for two years. Jan Stuyt SJ, who had served with JRS in Malaysia and Hong Kong, went without delay to Zagreb. He was a companion to Stjepan as they quickly built a network of programs across Bosnia, Croatia and even in Serbia itself. Stjepan's gift for friendship helped them make up for lost time. They had access to everyone, including the extensive network of Franciscan provinces across the Balkans, Serbian Orthodox patriarchs and priests who cherished Stjepan's support, and Muslims who opened their hearts to him. Projects in Macedonia and Kosovo followed. Thousands of people reclaimed a home and a life because of the creative and fruitful efforts of Stjepan and his many coworkers in JRS.
Now Milan feels like an orphan. He is not the only one who misses Stjepan Kušan but those who miss him also give thanks for his remarkable life of friendship offered unstintingly to all.
Mark Raper SJ, former JRS International Director
This article was published in the latest issue of Servir. Click here to read more.