The Australian Jesuits last week announced the Apostolic Priorities that will guide the religious order’s activities in Australia over the next five years.
In February, the international Jesuits announced the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs), the result of a 16-month discernment process for the Jesuits and their partners in mission across the globe.
In Australia, the Jesuits and partners in mission have been taking part in this discernment process, including a review of the needs of the Society of Jesus and the broader Church in Australia.
Australian Provincial Fr Brian McCoy SJ announced the results of this discernment process at the Province Gathering at Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview on 24 April.
‘A key question in this last stage of our own planning, since the announcement of the UAPs in February, has been how to incorporate our own foundations and priorities with the UAPs and those that will emerge in the future in our Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP)’, said Fr McCoy.
He noted that the Australian Province review has taken place at a time when the Church in Australia is coming to grips with the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
‘We are acutely aware that our own Province has not been immune to serious failures in this regard’, he said. ‘This Province Apostolic Plan includes our commitment to ensuring that the highest professional standards prevail in all our ministries, making the safety, protection and flourishing of the young and vulnerable our paramount concern.’
The five apostolic priorities are: Nourish our ministries through Ignatian spirituality; Heal humanity and our world; Form the young in a faith seeking justice; Strengthen Jesuit and lay partnership in mission; Serve Christ through the Church within our Jesuit and Ignatian tradition (more details on each below).
Fr McCoy announced a number of initiatives aimed at supporting the various priorities. A new body called Jesuit and Ignatian Spirituality Australia will be established to have oversight of the ministries of the Spiritual Exercises and of Ignatian Formation.
‘The members of this body will be tasked to have oversight of these two foundations and to be creative, imaginative and bold in the outreach and expressions of this priority’, said Fr McCoy.
Another new body, called Jesuit Social Ministries Australia, will have oversight of the Province’s social ministries.
‘They will be mandated not only to support our social ministries but also to explore ways in which all ministries can further dialogue, network and collaborate in relation to this priority.’
Fr McCoy said that with regard to strengthening Jesuit and Lay partnership in mission, a priority was to ensure that women’s voices are welcomed and encouraged in the Province, particularly on boards and councils.
‘We seek to build on recent consultations so that the voices and wisdom of women are experienced within our Province leadership, governance, formation and service’, he said.
‘As Jesuits, and as part of the Church, we also need to learn how to better listen, respect and work more closely with women.’
First Priority: Nourish our ministries through Ignatian spirituality
We seek to express our life and mission in Christ through deepening our Ignatian spirituality. We seek to be open to the constant renewal to which this spirituality calls us. We seek to ensure that it permeates all aspects of our life and ministry, including our conversations and listening, the way in which we support each other as companions, and our discernment in decision making.
Second Priority: Heal humanity and our world
We seek to be close to Christ who is revealed in the suffering and vulnerable of our world. We commit ourselves to reconciliation with God, with one another and with creation. With Christ we are called to a personal experience of closeness and companionship with all of humanity, especially those most in need.
Third Priority: Form the young in a faith seeking justice
We encourage outreach to and with the young. We seek to listen to them, inviting them to be creative, just and generous, encouraging them to be open to the journey of Christian faith. For our Church and nation, we wish to form a new generation, grounded in faith and justice as modelled by Christ.
Fourth Priority: Strengthen Jesuit and lay partnership in mission
We seek to strengthen our Jesuit mission by deepening our collaboration and networking amongst all with whom we work, especially within each ministry and between our ministries. We seek to grow in appreciation of the reality that Jesuit and Lay vocations are distinct yet complementary. We seek to deepen companionship amongst all who share the mission of Christ.
Fifth priority: Serve Christ through the Church within our Jesuit and Ignatian tradition
We serve Christ and the Church, of which we are but one part among many. We offer the spiritual and intellectual depth the Church seeks from us, ready to engage at those frontiers others may have difficulty reaching. We are available to contribute to the needs of the people of God not just locally but also within the Asia-Pacific region and globally.