Fr. General to JCSA 2017

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I. General comments

~ I want to thank you all for the positive energy I have been feeling these days.

  • I am aware of the many difficulties all of you are facing and the variety of contexts in which you are working.
  • Therefore, I appreciate your honest search for better ways of being faithful to the Society’s mission and your full-hearted acceptance of your responsibility as Major Superiors.
  • -I also want to thank you for your patience in helping me understand the context of South Asia.

~ As Major Superiors, we share the responsibility for the Society’s universal mission.

  • -Each one of you is responsible not only for a Province but for the Society as a whole.
  • -A responsibility that is a humble service to our brothers in mission. We are not owners of the mission; neither are we owners of the missionaries in the field. We are their servants exercising cura personalis and cura apostolica
  • -All of you are collaborators in the universal mission of the Society. Each one of you has been missioned to maintain this tension between cura personalis and cura apostolica.

~ Ignatius was conscious of this complexity and tension.

  • -The Constitutions conceive of a universal apostolic body where the Superior General has full authority as head of the body.
  • -At the same time, each part of the body realizes its function through delegated authority, responsibility and frequent and clear lines of communication with the head. The Major Superiors of the Society of Jesus constitute these essential parts of the body.
  • -Each apostolic work and each Jesuit forms part of the body through the mission they are commissioned to and they are accountable to the head through the Major Superior.

~ We are first of all called to move from a province vision to a universal vision. A universal vision means a tension between the local and the global.

  • -The universal vision is impossible without local roots.
  • -The local apostolate makes sense in the context of the universal mission.
  • -Discernment is the key to mediate the relationship between the local and the global.
  • -The JCSA is an excellent forum and opportunity to carry out this common responsibility and for discerning how to concretise this universal mission for South Asia.

~ I am happy to hear about the process of “Re-Orienting for Greater Apostolic Effectiveness (REGAE)” started in 2015, with the hope for a long-term vision and widespread participation of the Jesuits of the South Asian Assistancy.

  • -Going back to our spiritual roots, charism and way of proceeding is a positive path to renewal.
  • -Consequently, what comes to my mind is the question of how to involve those who share our mission. Or perhaps a better way of putting it is, how to involve those with whom we share the mission.
  • -The JCSA has enabled collaboration among Jesuits and Jesuit institutions. Collaboration with non-Jesuits is another challenge we face in this process. An apostolic plan for the JCSA must include this core dimension.
  • -A process has been put in motion, please do not stop it. Processes need to mature. The kind of processes we are promoting come from the timely prompting of the Holy Spirit, and not from ourselves.


II. Life-Mission challenges


~ As you know, for GC 36, Life and Mission are deeply interconnected. For us, as Christians and Jesuits, Life and Mission are two sides of the same coin.

~The first step in the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises is to imbibe the spirit of the Principle and Foundation. That is:

  • -To gain the inner freedom that enables spiritual indifference as a condition for discernment and decision-making.
  • -Indifference is necessary to be available for mission and is the result of a genuine spiritual life.
  • -The invitation to ongoing conversion and renewal of our spiritual life is a perennial reality.
  • -The Spiritual Animation Process (SAP) has taken care of this important dimension of our Life-Mission

~Discernment in common as a way of decision-making is a challenge.

  • -As you well know discernment is not only to search for God’s will in our individual lives but also to find God’s will together.
  • -Discernment was Jesus' way of proceeding during his life.
  • -The complexity and magnitude of the present context demand more and better discernment so as to be effective apostolically.
  • -The practice of discernment is a gift that we can share with others only if we practice it.
  • -The formation of collaborators in our mission begins by sharing with others the practice of discernment.

~The challenge is to create and maintain the conditions for common discernment:

  • -Time and energy for personal prayer and community life.
  • -The need for prayer is in tension with the demand for time and energy for apostolic engagements.

~GC 35 underlined how the Jesuit Life-Mission has plenty of tensions that cannot be avoided without putting at risk our very vocation.

  • -Are we willing to find a new equilibrium between all the dimensions of our Life-Mission?
  • -Are we available to a Life-Mission that necessarily involves a lot of tensions?

~ From my point of view, the Society of Jesus after the Second Vatican Council:

  • -Has systematically deepened the scope and capacity for inculturation. The Society has been well rooted all over the world, in many different contexts and a huge variety of cultures. As Jesuits we have learnt a lot in this process.
  • -The Society of Jesus has become a multicultural body. GC 36 was an example of this. Another such example are our communities in the International Houses in Rome. It has been a source of joy that we have learnt to live together.
  • -We are called to another step: to grow as an intercultural body that helps to challenge and enrich our own local cultures. Each one of us can contribute with his own culture and experience, and in turn can receive from others.
  • -The result is a universal sensitivity that transforms us into the image and likeness of God, a God who thrives on plurality and variety, in contrast with a globalization process that tries to create a uniform and standardized culture.

~ Another characteristic of our way of proceeding is what we call the Intellectual Apostolate.

  • -All apostolic commitments of the Society and of the individual Jesuit come from a process of discernment and must be well thought out.
  • -The big investment we have made in intellectual formation is because we want Jesuits to be able to think for themselves in any situation they are missioned to.
  • -We need to be true intellectuals within the field of Higher Education, Social Analysis or any other apostolic work. Just because one is working in Higher Education or a research center does not make one an “’intellectual”. Becoming a thinker is an on-going process.
  • -To be an intellectual is to also have the ability to proclaim the Good News in a manner that is appealing and transformative. To be an intellectual is to be an effective instrument for the apostolate.
  • -I was happy to hear that during your discussions, you were thinking of establishing a permanent secretariat for higher education. This secretariat would help networking amongst your various institutions of higher learning (university colleges, social and research institutions and faculties of philosophy and theology). You were also considering the possibility of having a common thrust like that of migration or fundamentalism, to be the focus of your collaborative or networking efforts.

~One of the characteristics of our apostolate, a matter that was specifically entrusted to Fr. General by GC 36 is the protection and safety of minors.

  • -As you know, the Catholic Church, in different parts of the world, is suffering as a result of the lapses in this regard.
  • -All over the world there is a growing consciousness about the need to provide a safe environment for minors.
  • -Some of you may have noticed that when you have sent in proposals for new buildings, I have mentioned the need to put in place policies and protocols for the protection of minors.


III. Governance

A. General principles

~The government of the Society of Jesus is oriented towards the mission.

  • -It is personal, spiritual and apostolic[1].
  • -This is a golden principle that is not always followed.

~Governance structures of the Society of Jesus were created at specific moments of history to respond to concrete mission situations.

  • -Since GC 34 the Society has been searching for a more effective structure of governance.
  • -There is a shared perception that our present structure is not effective for the mission. GC 35 asked for an evaluation of the governance structures and reorganization of the Society’s government.
  • -GC 36 confirmed this mandate and proposed collaboration and networking as the way of proceeding after a process of discernment.
  • -Each level of our governance structure has the necessary delegated authority for achieving its goals. Do not be afraid to delegate if that is beneficial for the effectiveness of the mission.

~Discernment necessarily involves a tension between, on the one hand, seeking and finding the will of God and, on the other hand, apostolic planning.

  • -To seek and to find the will of God is the objective of discernment that seeks to put us at the service of the mission of Christ.
  • -Discernment is a way of making decisions that enables us to pay attention to the spiritual movements in relation to the issue that is being discerned.
  • -To pay attention to spiritual movements is to go beyond rational arguments which is a normal temptation for most of us.


~In collaboration

  • -The willingness to listen to the Spirit in discernment must, of course, include those with whom we work. They often teach us openness to the Spirit and their voices and experiences enrich our discernment.
  • -We realize that collaboration with others is the only way the Society of Jesus can fulfil its mission[2].
  • -The magnitude and interconnectedness of the problems that affect humanity and challenge the mission of the Church and the Society are such, that only by working together can we contribute effectively to their solution.
  • -Along the way of collaboration, we encounter people and organizations dedicated to the service of others. Some of these share the Christian faith, others faith in God, and yet others are men and women of goodwill, - all committed to the task of reconciling humanity.


~Collaboration leads spontaneously to cooperation through networks.

  • -Networks facilitate collaboration between the apostolic works of the Society and with the works of others, opening new horizons that go beyond those of a province or region in addition to mobilizing resources in support of the mission.
  • -Paragraph 8 of Decree 2 of GC 36 recalls some conditions for networking that involve sharing the vision of the mission.
  • -These include a "culture of generosity" as the basis of openness in collaborating with others and being effective leaders who are capable of maintaining a balance between local initiative and their own authority.
  • -GC 36 also recalls the challenge represented by the governance[3] of Jesuit apostolic networks that go, on the one hand, beyond the works and boundaries of provinces and, on the other, those networks that are established in conjunction with other (non-Jesuit) institutions.


B. Apostolic Planning

~What are we talking about? Apostolic planning is an instrument for putting into action the fruits of discernment.

  • -It supposes a long-term strategy (for example 10 years as you have proposed for REGAE), mid-term (5 years) and short-term (2-3 years) periods to evaluate and reorient. A good plan is always flexible.
  • -If this tension between discernment and apostolic planning disappears, apostolic planning degenerates from being an instrument of the mission to becoming an end in itself.
  • -If this happens, it obliterates the meaning of what we are and called to do.

~Planning is a way of improving the effectiveness of the mission.

  • -It is not only planning that is needed.
  • -What we are called to do is “apostolic” planning because it includes the tension between evangelization and the Ignatian magis.
  • -The aim of apostolic planning is to make present the Good News to every human being and every culture.
  • -Magis means that it is always possible to improve. We can do more and do it better if we make the best use of our resources, especially of the human capacities of those who share the same mission, Jesuits and non-Jesuits.

~We are aware of the complex relationship between the different levels of apostolic planning in the Society:

  • -The Society of Jesus has a very unique organizational set-up that combines a strong central government with a decentralized process for decision-making.
  • -Apostolic planning must take into account this organizational set-up.
  • -Apostolic preferences are universal, for the whole Society of Jesus. But they do not constitute a plan. They are mission requirements to be considered at all levels of apostolic planning. International apostolates need to be planned as a responsibility of the universal body. Some of them are part of the apostolic preferences (e.g. migrants-refugees, Interprovincial Houses and Works in Rome). Others are entrusted to the Society (e.g. Apostleship of Prayer – the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, Eucharistic Youth Movement) and yet others are in collaboration with an international lay movement like the CLC. The Conference Apostolic plans are not intermediary plans between a non-existent universal plan and province plans. Conferences are supposed to plan interprovincial apostolates and common projects under their responsibility. Therefore, a Province plan is not an attempt to accommodate a global or Conference/Zonal plan to a local situation. Provinces plan their mission and works in a concrete territory according to the mandate received from the Superior General/the Society and the Church.

~ In the current organizational set-up of the Society of Jesus, a province is a unit that administers human, economic and organizational resources for the local, regional and universal mission.

  • -Province resources are not exclusively for a Province but for the mission of the whole Society.
  • -It is important to recall that the Society of Jesus is not a federation of independent provinces but a universal apostolic body organized into provinces as a way of administering its resources.
  • -The Society of Jesus has been a successful administrative organization for hundreds of years because there exists an efficient system of communication and sharing of resources.
  • -The South Asian and Latin-American Jesuits cannot forget how the Society was born in these parts. Where and how was the Society of Jesus in South Asia before the emergence of the present 18 provinces and 2 regions? Who sowed the seed and how did it grow?
  • -We exist as Jesuits in these areas because other Jesuits, earlier on, shared their resources…
  • -Provinces are a provisional structure, existing side by side with other civil and church structures.

~ If we take seriously the mandates of GC 35 and 36, we need to evaluate all the structures of our Society and, in creative fidelity, align our structures with the intuition of our Founders.

  • -Imagine, for example, a group of catholic young people trained in the top Universities in different parts of the world. They come to know each other on-line and form a virtual community for sharing their life, their faith, their doubts, their struggles and future projects. They decide to begin the Society of Jesus in this moment of human history. How would they organize themselves for the universal service of the Church and the world?
  • -There is no doubt about the important role of provinces in the Society’s governance. The question is: are other structures possible?
  • -Maybe we are arriving at a moment when we need to take seriously what we have learnt in the novitiate: we enter the Society of Jesus and not the Venezuelan Province or the Delhi, Japan or West Africa Province…
  • -For example, the former 10 provinces in the USA founded 28 Colleges and Universities after the restoration of the Society of Jesus. They were administered by the provinces until 20 years ago when they realized that the Higher Education Ministry needed to be a nationwide ministry and could be better administered nationally, through an interprovincial structure…
  • -Can we imagine other ways of organizing the apostolates in South Asia with a better use of the resources we have, as you are doing with Jesuit formation?


C. General Counsellor for Apostolic Planning (CDAP)

~ The principal reason for appointing a CDAP is to help Fr. General and his Council to focus on discerning the Society’s mission.

~Therefore, the main task of the CDAP is to keep the General’s and the Council’s reflection in this level. How?

  • -Through the preparation of the agenda and materials for the ordinary sessions of the Council and, specially, the three tempi forti of the year.
  • -The council dynamics consists in two weekly ordinary sessions and three tempi forti a year. Each tempo forte is a five full day meeting. In order to enrich the discernment and coordinate the different levels of planning, the Secretaries and Presidents of Conferences of Major Superiors participate in these meetings.

~ With the help of the Secretary of the Society and the Secretary for Collaboration, the CDAP is responsible for the Apostolic Planning in the General Curia.

~The General Curia Apostolic Plan includes:

  • -The discernment about the universal apostolic preferences of the Society and the planning for their implementation.
  • -The evaluation of the General Curia structure: secretariats (how many and which), communication office…
  • -The road map to fulfill the mandates of GC 36 to Fr. General: Renewal of the organization of the Interprovincial Houses and Works in Rome, Promote a consistent culture for the protection and safety of minors and Revision of the Formulae of a GC and PC.
  • -In collaboration, that means, with the participation of all General Curia members (Jesuits and lay) and the International Apostolates linked to the Curia.

~The CDAP also promotes the Common Discernment and Apostolic Planning all over the Society of Jesus as an important component of our way of proceeding.

  • -In contact with Conferences and Provinces
  • -Looking for the creation of a network for discernment and planning.


IV. Some comments about Formation

~ Formation is for mission.

  • This is the reason for considering it a priority for the Society.

~ The Society of Jesus has a long experience in formation.

  • -Maybe, we are convinced that we know how to form young Jesuits.
  • -We cannot form them as we were formed.
  • -There is a new breed of youth entering the Society today – thanks be to God! We need to understand and appreciate their culture.
  • -We need not be afraid of this new culture. We need to face the temptations of distraction, superficiality…

~ The process of selection of candidates and preparation to enter the novitiate:

  • -Be concerned about the quality, and not about numbers.
  • -We want good people, whether they are few or many.

~ It is important to know the candidates, their culture, families and their personal histories well.

  • -There needs to be a discernment of their vocation before they are admitted to the novitiate. The main concern should be their qualities and their capacity to be a Jesuit.
  • -Knowing the persons who enter well, it becomes possible to know what to offer them during the formation process to fill in deficiencies (for example in previous studies).

~ Are we proud of our young fellow Jesuits?

  • -Why?

~ There is a tension between the amount of freedom given, personal responsibility and the role of formators.

~Jesuits need to be formed in collaboration and for collaboration.

~Formation of collaborators (partners).

  • -The importance of a thorough formation program for non-Jesuits.

~ Women sharing our mission:

  • -Their presence and sharing in our ministries is a necessity
  • -A sensitivity to the cultural ways in which we relate to women

~ Formation needs specific planning for the whole Assistancy and would need to take into account both the local and the universal mission.

~ Some times when I hear discussions about formation, the question that comes to my mind is: Are we proposing a never-ending formation plan?

  • -There are, surely, many aspects, dimensions and contents that must be included in the formation program…

~The formation in the Interprovincial Houses and Works in Rome facilitate:

  • -An experience of universality within the Roman context of the Church
  • -Academic quality, especially for the Licentiate and PhD
  • -Good formation programmes in the Gesù and the Bellarmino.


AS / February 23, 2017


[1] D2, 1

[2] D1, 35-38

[3] D2, 16