The “last Jesuit” who lived in Ethiopia for over six decades passed away

Father Roland Turenne, a Canadian Jesuit, teacher and humanitarian who lived in Ethiopia for about 65 years died. He was 93. His death was announced by Samson Moges, acting director of Aba Turenne Charity Fund.
Father Roland was the subject of the documentary, The Last Jesuit, a film realized by the Canadian film production, showing him as the last of a generation of men who left family and country to go work in remote parts of the world ‘for the greater glory of God.’
During his first twenty years Roland taught geography at Tefari Mokonnen Secondary School (TMS) in Addis Ababa, as a part of a large group of Canadian Jesuits working at the TMS and at the University College founded by the Jesuits in 1950.
After the 1974 revolution, the Jesuit community left Tefari Makonnen and the University College and Abba Turenne together with Abba Gagne were sent to Debre Zeit to revive education at Harrar Meda School. Their plans were soon upset by the chaos following the revolution and the Red Terror and Abba Turenne started another career in integral human development with the French charity, Terre des Hommes, which put him in contact with the Commission of the Ethiopian government’s emergency response.
He later came to lead Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) during the 1984 famine, after the counsel of Jesuit Superior General Pedro Arrupe, who had founded JRS in 1980 to help the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Vietnam by boat. With a team that included veteran Belgian Jesuit missionaries and a Spanish doctor with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, he established a base for their operations in Awasa, south of Ethiopia. When a drought hit the region of Tigray, the new team drove up in their mobile medical unit. The work at JRS work brought him all over Ethiopia, building schools, clinics, water wells, dams, etc.
In 1990 Abba Turenne decided to build a centre of spiritual exercises on the cliff overlooking Lake Babogaya Crater Lake, in the suburbs of Bishoftu. It was named Galilee Retreat Center and he had been leading it except for his five years as chaplain at St Luke Hospital and College of Nursing in Walisso.
Roland was close friend of Claude Sumner, also a Canadian Jesuit who worked for many years in Ethiopia, teaching at the University of Addis Ababa and publishing books on the Ethiopian philosophy.
(Photo courtesy of Odile Vidal.)

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