Renewal and hope

During a recent Apostolic Planning meeting in Rome,
there was a real sense of being guided by the Spirit.

 FINDING GOD IN ALL THINGS 

By David White
Acting Executive Officer and Provincial Assistant: Jesuit Social Ministries Australia.
Provincial Assistant for Apostolic Planning 

What do you get when 100 participants from 70 different countries gather at the Jesuit Curia in Rome to consider Apostolic Planning? 

Apart from an amazing array of ideas, insights and opinions, one could feel the Spirit moving, guiding and influencing all that we did. With a room full of people of faith and with a tradition and charism shared among all, the sense of community and commitment to the purpose were palpable. 

For me, three main themes emerged from our collective experience over the four-day “conference”: 

Apostolic Planning: 

  • Is a Spiritual process 
  • Involves communal discernment 
  • Requires great communication 

But there was so much more as we prayed together, broke into discussion groups, listened to keynote speakers, reflected, heard from highly experienced Jesuits and mission partners and had lunch and dinner together. 

The dome of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, under a wintry December sky, as seen from the Curia roof. Photo: David White.

We firstly considered: “What did St Ignatius say about planning?” As it turns out, he had a lot to say and experienced his own movement of the Spirit guiding those early Jesuits as they discovered their contribution to Church and Society. 

We learnt to discover the unexpected, to be prepared for different viewpoints, how to start the Plan and how to finish it and every stage in between. We heard about looking after each other and those involved directly in the process, always staying in touch with the Spirit, remaining focused on a hope-filled path of renewal and transformation. 

Fr General’s address was particularly relevant and insightful: “To see planning as an opportunity for renewal, overcoming the temptation to conceive it as an administrative requirement imposed from above … to carry it out with energy and put it into practice with the passion that allows it to become an instrument of change and renewal of our life-mission.” 

Needless to say, the event itself was extremely well planned with great attention to all aspects of Apostolic Planning. The “look and feel” approach was positive, hope-filled, practical and applicable for all concerned. I went to Rome apprehensive about what lay ahead for our Province planning process and somewhat daunted by the magnitude of the task. I came away inspired by the privilege of being part of this experience for the Province and felt empowered to begin the process, knowing what is required along the way. 

To say it is a Spiritual experience is central. It is about being in touch with and constantly discerning what God is asking of us. As such, communal discernment is key. Again, Fr General summed it up with great insight: “Real, deep and lasting change depends more on the process than on the “product” itself … For us, the key to a proper process is that it is effectively grounded in a deep and living relationship with the Holy Spirit.”  

In the words of Fr General: “I ask that the Apostolic Plan that comes out of the processes that you lead and accompany offers vision, agility and passion … I also ask that it be realistic.” Photo: Jesuit Media.

“…. I ask that the Apostolic Plan that comes out of the processes that you lead and accompany offers vision, agility and passion … I also ask that it be realistic because it must take into account the concrete people, the places where you work and the times in which you live.” 

And so, on behalf of our apostolic working party, I ask all of you involved with our life-mission with the Society of Jesus to “watch this space” and when the time comes to embrace the process, that you do so with an openness to the Spirit and in the hope that we, the Society of Jesus, can walk together as the People of God pointing the way to reconciliation of all things in Christ.

And so, on behalf of our apostolic working party, I ask all who are involved with the life-mission of the Australian Province of the Society of Jesus to “watch this space” and when the time comes to embrace the process, that you do so with an openness to the Spirit and in the hope that we can walk together as the People of God pointing the way to the reconciliation of all things in Christ. 

The author, David White (left) in conversation with fellow delegate Fr Maria Joseph Savariappan SJ from India’s Kolkata Province. Photo: Jesuit Media.