SHOWING THE WAY TO GOD
By Fr Tom Renshaw SJ, Rector, Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview
I was privileged to represent the Australian Province at the 71st Congregation of Procurators held at Loyola in Spain. The primary focus of such a meeting is to provide an opportunity for the Superior General and his Counsellors to consult and listen to the elected representatives from the various provinces and regions across the world. Unlike some other religious orders, the Society of Jesus is not a federation of different provinces but rather we are a single, united body of men who have consecrated our lives to God and the service of the Church, following in the footsteps of Saint Ignatius and his First Companions.
There were 88 Jesuits from every corner of the world who participated in the meeting, including 12 from the Asia- Pacific Region, and 14 Jesuits from the General Curia, the global headquarters, in Rome. Each of us had the opportunity to have an individual meeting with the Superior General to discuss the particular joys, as well as challenges, that are present in the local contexts in which we minister. I enjoyed my meeting with the Superior General, Fr Arturo Sosa SJ, and he told me that he is very much looking forward to visiting Australia in January next year.
When we arrived in Loyola, Fr Sosa SJ shared with us a draft document about the state of the Society of Jesus globally. This document was written after he and his counsellors had read the reports from the 64 provinces and 10 regions from across the world. I submitted my report about the Australian Province in mid-December last year, after consulting each Jesuit community in Australia.
Following Fr General’s address, we then spent the next 8 days in a retreat praying over the themes within the document. Each day we prayed with the draft text, taking input from sacred scripture and our Jesuit sources- the Spiritual Exercises, the Formula of the Institute and the Constitution of the Society of Jesus. Each afternoon we gathered in spiritual conversation groups and engaged in 3 rounds of sharing to discern where the Spirit is calling the Society of Jesus at this time. I was in a group with Jesuits from Poland, USA, Belgium, Mozambique, Tanzania, and India. Even though we all came from different parts of the world and different contexts, many of the same themes emerged in our prayer, not just in my group but across the 12 spiritual conversation groups. As friends in the Lord, we were seeking to follow the example of Saint Ignatius and the first Companions, in discerning communally what it is that the Spirit is calling us to at this time.
Following the retreat, we spent a further six days discussing various themes that had emerged from reports of the Procurators and Fr General’s draft document and had surfaced in our spiritual conversations during the retreat. Again, we spent some time each day engaging in spiritual conversation about these topics. This time we were placed in different groups; my group had Jesuits from India, China, Nigeria, India and Britain. Each afternoon we gathered for a plenary session to consider what had emerged in each group discussion and for people to speak directly about topics to the whole gathering.
Each day finished with the celebration of the Eucharist together in different languages – English, French and Spanish. It was a privilege to experience a number of masses in the Chapel of Conversion – the room in which Saint Ignatius recovered following his injury by the cannonball in the Battle of Pamplona in 1521 and began his spiritual conversion.
Some of the themes we discussed were:
- Discerning how and where is the Spirit calling us in this change of epoch, within the world and the move towards a more synodal Church;
- The question of Jesuit identity – deepening our commitment as companions of the poor and humble Jesus;
- The importance of vocation promotion;
- How we and our institutions can continue to deepen our understanding of the four universal apostolic preferences – showing the way to God, walking with the marginalised, accompanying the youth to a hope-filled future and caring for our common home;
- Governance for the better service of our mission; and
- Building a consistent culture of safeguarding within the Society of Jesus and all of our works globally.
A key task of the Congregation was to provide advice to the Superior General, through a deliberative vote, as to whether a General Congregation – the highest authority within the Society – should be called. The decision of the Congregation was that a General Congregation should not be called at this time.
The fruit of this experience will culminate on the Feast of Saint Ignatius at the end of next month, when Fr General will issue to the whole Society of Jesus, the finalised document about the state of the Society of Jesus globally. As part of this process, there will be an invitation to ongoing conversion and renewal, as we seek to follow more authentically the poor and humble Jesus, at the service of the people of God who are the Church.
Wishing you every blessing.
You may enjoy watching this short video about our experience at the Congregation of Procurators. It contains some wonderful shots of Loyola, including the Basilica and the Chapel of Conversion. You will also see that it rained for much of the time we were together.