Meeting Russel Pollitt

Russell Pollitt is the director of the Jesuit Institute. He was born in Pretoria and grew up in Johannesburg. “I felt a calling to be a priest for years, and today I am a Catholic priest. At the institute, we spend our time engaging and training people about Jesus.” Russell says, “in Harmonie has been a place of rest for me, and a place where I can dig a little deeper within myself. In my recent visit, I found the presentations to be very insightful.” He enjoyed the moments of silence and experienced a positive experience with us.

What are some of the opportunities you had growing up?

“I think it was my parents who gave us the faith. There were three of us at home, and my parents were very committed. They weren’t really involved in the church, but we went to church every Sunday.”

“I remember being really inspired by some of the priests I met. I wanted to be like them.” Over the years, Russell was influenced by a priest who became a good friend. “He affirmed in me, the sense of calling. To do something for God.” Pollitt wanted to become a lawyer, but his gut feeling gave him another look on life and reassured him time and time again that being a priest was his calling in life.

What are some of the challenges we face as a nation?

To move from a place of disharmony to being in harmony with the world means we have to have a fair amount of self-knowledge. Russell says, “you have to know yourself, meaning your shadows, your weaknesses, your strengths and the light in your life.” He firmly believes that it’s important to get to know yourself and get to know others as well. “If I know my own belovedness, I can begin to see other people through the eyes of God.”

In a national context, Pollitt says, “I don’t think there is any silver bullet. There are several things we need to pay attention to. He believes there is a big gap between the rich and the poor. “This is one of the biggest obstacles our country faces, as it has an impact on various other areas. We need to prepare the nation to make a concerted effort to make a change.” Russell wants everyone to row in the same direction. “There needs to be an openness to this type of dialogue to move forward.”

What are your words of encouragement for those in need of hope?

“We must not confuse optimism with hope.” Russell’s organisation is inspiring people to get to know themselves. “We place a lot of emphasis on personal growth, self-knowledge and looking at yourself through the eyes of God.” He encourages individuals to think about the South African narrative differently and to always find a way to respond to various topics in the name of God.