This time next week, we will be concluding an extended consult at Peter Canisius House in Sydney. Present will be more than 70 people from around our Province: consultors, superiors, delegates, chairs and heads of ministry. There will be more lay people than Jesuits.
‘What is an extended consult?’ you might ask. It is a form of consultation that goes beyond our usual structures of consultation — such as my Jesuit consultors and the members of the Ministries Commission.
This gathering allows a much wider group of Jesuits and lay leaders to meet, listen and offer their insights about our present and future Province mission.
This extended consult builds on the Assembly of Jesuits held in July. That gathering built on community and regional conversations as preparation. Next week will build on regional meetings and will have one clear purpose: to listen to our call to share Christ’s mission in this time of our Province’s history.
There are good reasons for calling such a gathering. The Jesuits in our Province are declining in number and ageing. We continue to sustain some 30 ministries and we offer men for mission overseas.
As Jesuits, we belong to the universal Society of Jesus and there are many demands being made on it. Just last week, there were requests to our Jesuit Refugee Service to assist the refugees in Myanmar. At this moment in our Province, we do not have much flexibility to undertake new missions. Yet these are central to our Ignatian DNA.
Another reason for this ‘extended consult’ is that the Australian Church is undergoing change, some the result of the Royal Commission, some the reflection of a changing, secular Australian society.
Pope Francis has encouraged the Church to become more synodal (meaning walking with), whereby the church, once imagined as a pyramid, is now inverted. A synodal Church, he says, is a Church that listens, more than simply hearing.
Our Province is seeking to find new ways of listening to the Spirit of God speaking in our own hearts, in the hearts of others and those of the poor. We need to pray and listen before we make important decisions.
Our extended consult next week is one such effort. Please hold it in your prayers.
Fr Brian F. McCoy SJ, Provincial