By the book

The Australian Province created the first book version of the
De Statu Societatis, released by Fr General Arturo Sosa in mid-2023.


The first copies of the De Statu Societatis in book form. Photo: David McMahon

By David McMahon, Communications Manager, Society of Jesus in Australia 

In Rome on the Feast of St Ignatius, Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ releases a highly anticipated document to the Society of Jesus and its entire apostolic body. It is a 140-page PDF document known by its Latin title, De Statu Societatis (DSS), which translates in English to The State of the Society. As noted on the global Jesuit website, “It provides a global portrait of the condition of the Society, its commitments, and the challenges it faces. It is also a document to orientate us in the years to come.”  

The quarterly Ministries Commission meeting of the Australian Province is held in Melbourne. The DSS is one of the points of discussion. It is suggested that while some prefer to view the document in its original PDF form on an electronic device, others might choose to read it off-screen. The decision is taken to run off a few copies on an office printer to see how it looks. 

A few of the pages are printed in black and white, rather than colour, purely as a preliminary test. The results are not encouraging, to say the least. Alignment is a major problem and all attempts to staple or clip the pages together are unsatisfactory. The idea is temporarily shelved. 

Denise Campbell, the Melbourne-based Manager of Operations and Projects at Jesuit Communications Australia, is brought into the discussion. She immediately pinpoints one of the major technical problems. It is not just the alignment, she says, but the fact that the PDF document has mismatched margins. While this does not affect the document in PDF form, it simultaneously means it is not conducive to printing and binding.  

With Denise’s feedback in mind, I contact Fr John Dardis SJ, General Counsellor for Discernment and Apostolic Planning at the Curia in Rome. I ask three key questions. First, is there a PDF version with margins that are suitable for binding? Second, which electronic design platform was used to create the PDF? Third, would it be possible to get a copy of the PDF – rather than the original – in its native state so that we could then redesign it to create evenly spaced margins but adapt the original document to book form while remaining faithful to its overall premise?  

It is decided to proceed with plans to accelerate the project and produce a printable version. The next step is to get approval for the cost of the project, to be paid for by the Australian Province. The intention is to print copies for our own Province and to then send the modified files to the General Curia in Rome for them to print their own versions, and for the Curia to send the modified files to other provinces who might want to print their own copies. 

A rapid exchange of succinct emails with crucial information ensues. Fr John Dardis brings another key figure into the exchange of knowledge: Stefano Maero, the Webmaster and Web Content Coordinator at the Communications Office of the Curia in Rome. He confirms Fr John’s view that the DSS was solely conceived and designed as a digital-only PDF, but is happy to send us a copy in its original form, created in Adobe InDesign. He is delighted to hear that the Australian Province is willing to overhaul the document. He writes: “If you have the ability to work on it and produce a printable version that can then be shared with other Provinces around the world, that would be great!” 

The procedures, timeline and costs of the project are now locked in and submitted for Province approval. Denise is ready to set the ball rolling before the designer and printer head into the Christmas shutdown. The Curia has not imposed a a timeline on this but will be involved in every step of the approval process on design and printing issues. The intention is to try and have the printed books ready when Fr General visits the Province Office in Melbourne on Monday 29 January. 

It’s time to fly to Adelaide for the 175th anniversary Mass commemorating the arrival of the first Jesuit, Fr Aloysius Kranewitter SJ, in South Australia’s Clare Valley. I drive the 135km from Adelaide to Sevenhill and am standing beside the historic St Aloysius’ Church when my phone buzzes. It is an email from Denise. The Christmas shutdown is only a couple of days away but she gives me the very welcome news that she is about to send me a couple of sample pages that have been redesigned. As soon as they arrive, I download them, give her a virtual thumbs up and forward them to Stefano in Rome.  

The redesign is now complete. But the entire document needs to be thoroughly proof-read and checked for any literal or visual anomalies. This is a long and painstaking process but I complete it a few days after Christmas and then forward the updated document to Rome, where Stefano gives me the green light. 

Doran Printing, the Melbourne-based digital printers, have delivered the books two days earlier, on the afternoon of Thursday 18 January. My flight lands in Sydney early on Friday 19 January. Late in the evening of Saturday 20 January, when Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ arrives in Australia for the first time, we are able to present him and his travelling companions, Fr Jose Magadia SJ, Fr George Mutholil SJ and Fr Pierre Belanger SJ, with their own copies of the book, which has arrived – despite the Christmas shutdown – ten days early.  

Banner image of printing press by IndustryView, Canva.