Pope Francis confirms Jesuits’ mission for next 10 years

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The Jesuits have today announced their “Universal Apostolic Preferences” for the next ten years. These have been decided after a long discernment process and have been confirmed by Pope Francis, as Ricardo da Silva SJ reports.

“Reconciliation today is the most heartrending cry of humanity.” These were the words of Arturo Sosa, the superior general of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), when he wrote to Jesuits the world over in October 2017. He wrote asking them to begin the process of discernment of their Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) for the next ten years.

This call to reconciliation has shaped the Jesuits’ mission, particularly since their last worldwide meeting at their 36th General Congregation.

Today, 19 February 2019, at the worldwide headquarters of the Jesuits in Rome, Sosa communicated the UAPs that will steer the mission of the Society of Jesus for the next ten years.

The worldwide head of the Jesuits has asked his brothers to steer their focus in four directions. Namely, on their tradition of discernment, as given in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius; their concern for those excluded; the care for the environment and to journey with young people.

In his letter to the Jesuits, Sosa described the UAPs in greater detail.

  1. To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment;
  2. To walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice;
  3. To accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future; 
  4. To collaborate in the care of our Common Home.

Read more about the “Universal Apostolic Preferences”

Sosa presented the fruit of the Jesuits’ discernment on the UAPs to Pope Francis, and they have now been confirmed.

Writing to the Society of Jesus, Francis affirmed their discernment, saying that the UAPs “are in agreement with the current priorities of the Church as expressed through the ordinary magisterium of the Pope, the Synods, and the Episcopal Conferences, especially since Evangelii gaudium.”

Arriving at this decision has been a long one, spanning almost two years. Jesuits and those who work alongside them were first asked to undergo a personal period of reflection and prayer. Then to come together and share the fruits of their prayer, taking time to hear what the Holy Spirit was saying to them collectively.  

Having completed this period of prayer, reports were compiled in the various local regions and sent to Rome. This helped the superior general to sense what particular missions Jesuits were being felt called to around the world.

In January 2019, Sosa met with his trusted council of advisors,  made up of Jesuits from all parts of the world. Together, they shared what they saw to be the common apostolic concerns arising from the Society. And, where they were being called to focus their mission as a universal apostolic body.

In order to ensure that they maintained a spirit of openness and didn’t steer the conversation towards their own personal preferences, they asked a trusted Jesuit collaborator, from the Asia-Pacific region, to listen to them as they shared.

Christina Kheng facilitated the group throughout their days of common discernment and prayer. She listened attentively and shared with them her own sense of where the Spirit of God seemed to be working in them and leading them to the greatest common good.

After this intense period of deliberation and prayer, they drafted the Universal Apostolic preferences and presented them to Pope Francis for his confirmation of their discernment.

For the Jesuits, the service of the universal Church is central to their mission. Their founder Saint Ignatius was clear that their mission should always be the Church’s mission. Jesuits don’t exist in isolation or apart from the global Catholic Church. Thus it was essential that the UAPs be presented to the Holy Father for his consideration and approval. The UAPs are then not only the result of a discernment process but also a mission given to them from the Church.

Having announced the UAPs, the superior general of the Jesuits is not naïve. He admits that “the organisation of the Society’s apostolic work cannot depend on a universal apostolic plan” given “the needs of the Church in particular territories with specific conditions”. Nonetheless, the decision to issue UAPs is the “Society’s response to the needs of the Church, consistent with the charism of the Society and the resources available to it”.

Watch a video presenting the new “Universal Apostolic Preferences” of the Jesuits

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* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.

 

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