Pope Francis approves four priorities for the Jesuits’ next decade

Pope Francis greets Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, superior general of the Society of Jesus, before a meeting with editors and staff of the Jesuit-run magazine, La Civilta Cattolica, at the Vatican Feb. 9. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout) 

Arturo Sosa, S.J., the superior general of the Society of Jesus, today made public the four main reference points, known as “universal apostolic preferences,” that are to guide the life and work of the Jesuits over the next 10 years. He said Pope Francis has approved these four preferences and entrusted them to the Jesuits as their “mission.”

Father Sosa presented these four universal apostolic preferences in a letter to Jesuits worldwide, which was released today. They are:

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  1. To show the way to God through discernment and the Spiritual Exercises;
  2. To walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice;
  3. To accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future;
  4. To collaborate in the care of our Common Home.

The Venezuelan-born Father Sosa, 70, who was elected superior general of the Jesuits on Oct. 14, 2016, during the 36th General Congregation, explained the background and significance of the U.A.P.s at a briefing at the Jesuit Curia in Rome on Feb. 16.

He recalled that the 36th G.C. asked him to continue “a process of discernment” and to review the preferences that had been approved in 2003 and “to update their specific content and to develop plans and programs that can be monitored and evaluated.” His Dutch predecessor, Peter Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., had carried out a similar discernment and in 2003, with Pope John Paul II’s approval, prioritized ministries in China, Africa, the intellectual apostolate, the Roman houses and among migrants and refugees.

“We have engaged in a common discernment on what reconciliation means as the common thread for the work of the Society in the coming years.”

Father Sosa reported that since October 2017 “we have engaged in a common discernment on what reconciliation means as the common thread for the work of the Society in the coming years” and “to see how to make this reconciliation concrete in our work we started this common discernment in the Society.” He said “the novelty” in the process was that “it involved all Jesuits worldwide and those working with them in apostolic works, including lay men and women, as well as men and women religious from other congregations who cooperate with us in apostolic works.”

He said he wrote letters to the Society to prepare Jesuits for this common discernment. The first emphasized that “the mission involves our whole life; it’s not just a job.” The second explained the two-year discernment process and emphasized that discernment was first of all “spiritual,” not just a process of “strategic planning”; its aim is to discern certain movements of the Holy Spirit that demand attention and resources. He said this entire process “involved the grassroots structures of the order in the provinces and the regions” as well as the places of formation, thus engaging the younger Jesuits and those linked to the Society’s apostolic works.

Then in early January 2019, he said, the council of the superior general, aided by an external person, Dr. Christina King from Singapore, brought all this together in a document that he presented to Pope Francis on Jan. 17. He said the first Jesuit pope spent some time praying on the text and then handed it back to him on Feb. 9, entrusting it as a mission for the whole Society over the next decade. “In this way,” he said, “the preferences are not just our ideas; they are a mission given by the church through the pope to the Society.”

“The preferences are not just our ideas; they are a mission given by the church through the pope to the Society.”

He said Pope Francis, in an accompanying letter written in Spanish and dated Feb. 6, told him he was consoled that the U.A.P.s were the result of a journey of “dynamic discernment” and not made in “a library or laboratory.” Francis said the preferences “are in harmony with the present priorities of the church [as] expressed through the ordinary magisterium of the pope, of the synods and of the episcopal conferences, above all since ‘Evangelium Gaudium,’” the programmatic document for his pontificate published in November 2013.

The Jesuit pope went on to emphasize that “the first U.A.P. is fundamental because it presupposes as a basic condition the relation of the Jesuit with the Lord, his personal and communitarian life of prayer and discernment.” He told Father Sosa: “I recommend that, in your service as superior general, you insist above all on this. Without this prayerful attitude, the rest will not function.” Francis thanked him for “this work, which I approve and confirm as a mission.”

With the publication of the U.A.P.s, the superior general is asking each of the world’s 15,536 Jesuits, each Jesuit community, province and conference of provincials, as well as their colleagues in mission, to discern how to implement these four preferences in their respective areas of work. He is reminding them to hear in them the voice of the Holy Spirit and to take appropriate action.

In today’s letter, Father Sosa elaborates on the significance of each of the four U.A.P.s. Briefing journalists last Saturday, he emphasized that there is “a dual dimension” to each U.A.P.: “We realize that unless we live the Spiritual Exercises—if we are not persons who engage in discernment—we cannot help others or contribute to others in discernment. We have to live them deeply, and we have to have the creativity to offer new ways of doing the Exercises.”

Commenting on the first U.A.P. (“to show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment”), Father Sosa says in his letter, “we sense that secular society today profoundly challenges the church in its task of proclaiming the Gospel,” and “as believers we feel an urgent need to overcome both new secularisms and the nostalgia for cultural expressions of the past.” As Jesuits, he continues, “we resolve to collaborate with the church in experiencing secular society as a sign of the times that affords us the opportunity to renew our presence in the heart of human history.”

“We commit ourselves to help eliminate abuses inside and outside the Church, seeking to ensure that victims are heard and properly helped.”

He describes the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola as “a privileged instrument for making the life and action of the Lord Jesus present in diverse social contexts of today’s world” and says, “therefore, we resolve to gain a deeper experience of the Spiritual Exercises so that they lead us to a personal and communal encounter with Christ that transforms us.” At the same time, he says, “we resolve to offer the Spiritual Exercises in as many ways as possible, providing many people, especially the young, the opportunity to make use of them to begin or to advance in following Christ,” and “we also resolve to promote discernment as a regular habit for those who choose to follow Christ” and “to make regular use of spiritual conversation and discernment in our implementation of the preferences at all levels of the life-mission of the Society.”

Turning to the second U.A.P. (“to walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice”), Father Sosa writes, “the path we seek to follow with the poor is one that promotes social justice and the change of economic, political and social structures that generate injustice; this path is a necessary dimension of the reconciliation of individuals, peoples, and their cultures with one another, with nature, and with God.” Furthermore, he says, “We confirm our commitment to care for migrants, displaced persons, refugees and victims of wars and human trafficking,” and “we resolve to defend the culture and the dignified existence of indigenous peoples.”

Father Sosa’s letter appears on the eve of the Vatican summit on the protection of children in the church, and he adds, “we commit ourselves to help eliminate abuses inside and outside the Church, seeking to ensure that victims are heard and properly helped, that justice is done, and that harm is healed.”

“We resolve...to collaborate with others in the construction of alternative models of life that are based on respect for creation.”

Referring to the third U.A.P. (“to accompany the young in the creation of a hope-filled future”), Father Sosa recalls in his letter that the recent synod said that the situation of young people, most of whom are poor, is “a crucial place from which the Church seeks to perceive and discern the movement of the Holy Spirit through this moment of human history.” He reminds Jesuits that since this is the time when individuals make “the fundamental decisions by which they insert themselves into society, seek to give meaning to their existence, and realize their dreams,” it is “by accompanying the young in this process, teaching them discernment and sharing with them the Good News of Jesus Christ, [that] we can show them the way to God that passes through solidarity with human beings and the construction of a more just world.”

He reminds his fellow Jesuits, however, “to accompany young people demands of us authenticity of life, spiritual depth and openness to sharing the life-mission that gives meaning to who we are and what we do.”

Reflecting on the fourth U.A.P. (“to collaborate in the care of our Common Home”), Father Sosa recalls that Pope Francis, in his encyclical “Laudato Si’,” “reminds us that all human beings share responsibility for care of creation.” He notes that “the damage done to the earth is also damage done to the most vulnerable, such as indigenous peoples, peasants forced to emigrate, and the inhabitants of urban peripheries.” As Jesuits, he says, “we resolve...to collaborate with others in the construction of alternative models of life that are based on respect for creation and on a sustainable development capable of producing goods that, when justly distributed, ensure a decent life for all human beings on our planet.” He reminds them that “the preservation over time of the conditions of life on our planet is a human responsibility of immense ethical and spiritual importance.”

Father Sosa concludes his 10-page letter by telling his fellow Jesuits, “With these universal apostolic preferences, we resolve to concentrate and concretize our vital apostolic energies during the next 10 years, 2019-2029. We accept them as a mission of the Church through Pope Francis, who has approved them by confirming the communal discernment that was undertaken by the apostolic body.” Moreover, he says, “it corresponds to us, as a body obedient to the Holy Spirit, to plan with diligence the implementation of the preferences in every dimension of our life-mission.” Finally, he reminds them that “the preferences seek to unleash a process of apostolic revitalization and creativity that makes us better servants of reconciliation and justice.”

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J Cosgrove
6 months 4 weeks ago

I would think number one is teaching people why they should be Catholic. In a rapidly disappearing church one would think that would be important.

As for the poor why not emphasize the thing that is driving poverty from the world, free market capitalism. Add to that traditional Catholic morality and one has a formula for a prosperous happy world. Instead we get discernment whatever that is.

Will Nier
6 months 3 weeks ago

Why> Jesus never did that.

J Cosgrove
6 months 3 weeks ago

Yes, He did. He established a Church.

"i am"
"I am the way, the truth and the life"
"I am the bread of life"
"Do this in remembrance of me"
"Go forth and teach all nations"

Kevin Murphy
6 months 3 weeks ago

Exactly. No wonder we're losing our youth. Who wants to join a faith that offers such Hallmark sentiment.

Colin Jory
6 months 4 weeks ago

And just to think, prior to the 1970s the Jesuits would have imagined that they should prioritise worshipping God, keeping His commandments, knowing and believing the Church's doctrines, spreading the faith, and showing how true social justice is inextricably entwined with natural law, and has at its root the welfare of the natural family. Isn't it great how secularist soft-Left Enlightenment, personified in Father Sosa, has displaced this antediluvian nonsense?

J Cosgrove
6 months 4 weeks ago

It started with Arupe. Like many in history with good intentions, Arupe failed to understand the issues causing oppression and poverty. The answer for many was to do a 180 degree from the current situation instead of making small but major changes that would eliminate oppression and lead to prosperity. The 180 degree solution inevitably leads to greater oppression and poverty. The irony was the solution leading to prosperity is very visible in the world while the changes Arupe favored were also very visible/extremely detrimental.

Vincent Couling
6 months 4 weeks ago

Jason Berry has his finger on the pulse ... https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/francis-inherits-decades-abuse-cover

J Cosgrove
6 months 4 weeks ago

I am not sure why you referenced the article. It is thorough about the issues facing what to do with those who covered up abusers. But not relevant to the two comments you linked it to. Also I cringe when ever anyone uses the term "right wing." It has zero meaning in religion and is usually used as a pejorative against people the author doesn't like. The term "left wing" also does not have meaning in terms of religion but it does describe political positions taken up by the leaders of the Jesuits.

Vincent Couling
6 months 3 weeks ago

Part 2 of Jason Berry's commentary ... https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/institutional-lying-heart-crisis . It is relevant because it does much to explain the structural flaws in the Constantinian, the Tridentine and the neo-scholastic models of church, which are generally more about the letter of the law than the spirit of the law (or the Spirit). Pope Francis is interested in looking back to our roots, in the pre-Constantinian church, the Jesus Church ... which was what Vatican II desired through its focus on ressourcement. Pope Francis is also attempting to revitalize the Vatican II approach of aggiornamento ... throwing open the doors of the church to enter into a dialogue with the world, thereby serving to bring the church up to date. The four themes which the Jesuits will focus on are in this same vein.

Jason Berry's opening salvo in Part II ... "Everything in this spreading crisis revolves around structural mendacity, institutionalized lying. For years, bishops proclaimed the sanctity of life in the womb while playing musical chairs with child molesters. High-dollar lawyers facilitated church officials' stiff-arm response to survivors scarred by traumatic childhood memories."

And then a little later ... ""Convinced that they know the truth — whether in religion or in politics — enthusiasts may regard lies for the sake of this truth as justifiable," writes Sissela Bok in Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life. "They see nothing wrong with telling untruths for what they regard as a much 'higher' truth.""

Vincent Couling
6 months 3 weeks ago

Part 3 of Jason Berry's commentary, "Francis must fix cover-up culture that John Paul II enabled" ... https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/francis-must-fix-cover-culture-john-paul-ii-enabled

"The church's cover-up debacle owes greatly to John Paul II. ... In November of 1989, with John Paul triumphant on the world stage, the U.S. bishops responded to a rising tide of abuse lawsuits by sending a team of canon lawyers to Rome, seeking the authority for bishops to defrock child predators. American bishops were already sending scores of offenders to church-run treatment facilities; they wanted power to the oust the worst of them. John Paul refused. For years, I wondered why. ... "

Bill Pelke
6 months 3 weeks ago

I am not Catholic, I am a protestant but most importantly a Christian. When I read this I felt that it exactly how Jesus would want his church to respond to the needs of His children and His Creation. I think Jesus would be very pleased with the four priorities of the Jesuits program for the next ten years. This is what He teaches. It is all about love and compassion for all of humanity!

Barry Sullivan
6 months 3 weeks ago

Hello Bill,
I agree with your assessment!
Thanks

Kathleen Schatzberg
6 months 3 weeks ago

Me too.

Bill Pelke
6 months 3 weeks ago

Thank you Kathleen

Bill Pelke
6 months 3 weeks ago

Thank you Barry

Colin Jory
6 months 3 weeks ago

Not me.

Bill Pelke
6 months 3 weeks ago

I am sorry. What exactly what part of it do you disagree?

Mike Macrie
6 months 3 weeks ago

I agree Bill that these 4 priorities are the way forward now that God has cleanse his Temple “ And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Bill Pelke
6 months 3 weeks ago

Thank you Mike. Pretty heavy scripture there!

Douglas Fang
6 months 3 weeks ago

Bill,

Thanks for speaking up. I agree very much with your comment.

Bill Pelke
6 months 3 weeks ago

Thank you Douglas!

Peter Schwimer
6 months 3 weeks ago

I would just like to remind responders that this article describes a religious society's response to the world as we know it. It is not a political tract and cannot be interpreted in political terminology. I would also suggest that responders acquaint themselves with the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius if they are unfamiliar with the terminology used.

J Cosgrove
6 months 3 weeks ago

The Jesuits have been teachers since the get go and defenders of the faith. I see nothing of this in the four priorities. Maybe you can explain what discernment is. I never heard it mentioned in 16 years of Catholic education which included the Jesuits nor several thousand homilies at Mass.

Will Nier
6 months 3 weeks ago

Thank God for the Society of Jesus. Always faithful to the Gospel and worthy to steer the bark of Christ the Church.

Dr.Cajetan Coelho
6 months 3 weeks ago

Reconciliation is a powerful weapon in the armory of humans.

Mister Mckee
6 months 3 weeks ago

Link to Sosa's letter here:
https://www.jesuitseast.org/news-detail?TN=NEWS-20190216114143MARPROVNYKNENPROV

Vince Killoran
6 months 3 weeks ago

These are exciting challenges, especially #3. There is so much disaffection with the Church just now.

Crystal Watson
6 months 3 weeks ago

They've given up on their earlier promise to listen to women and stand in solidarity with them. No official stance for women being priests or even deacons, a pro-life stance instead of pro-choice. I would take their latest priorities with a grain of salt.

Douglas Fang
6 months 3 weeks ago

Some commenter here still has the illusion that free market capitalism is the THING that is driving poverty from the world!

Yes, free market capitalism is one of the great enablers for improving the wealth of the nation and supposedly its people. However, it just works well up to a point. Nobody can understand this mechanism better than Sir Angus Stewart Deaton who received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare. His most popular book, The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality, provides an in-depth look at how the world is a better place than it used to be. Free market capitalism makes a lot of people wealthier but at the same time, leaves a lot of people behind.

We can see this first hand in this country, the champion of free market capitalism, the detrimental effect of inequality. Professor Sir Angus Deaton published a groundbreaking research which found that after a century of progress, life expectancy in America is falling, largely driven by “deaths of despair,” deaths of WHITE non-Hispanics in midlife from alcoholic liver disease, suicides, and drug overdoses.

https://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078

Vincent Couling
6 months 3 weeks ago

Well observed, Douglas! Those who push the "a rising tide lifts all boats" economic worldview ... i.e. that focussing on getting macroeconomic policies sorted (e.g. tax cuts for the wealthy) will spur growth of wealth which will inevitably trickle down to benefit the entire population, including the poorest of the poor, seem to be in denial about the growing economic inequalities observed even in some affluent western deomcracies. As Gene Sperling observed, "the rising tide will lift some boats, but others will run aground."

J Cosgrove
6 months 3 weeks ago

Everyone should watch the rising boats http://bit.ly/1S9BM3G A little over 200 years ago 95% of the world population lived in extreme poverty including nearly all of Europe. Now with 7x the population extreme poverty is less than 10%. I wonder what lifted the boats of those 6 billion people? What are the motivations of those who deny this? And why would they want the world to live under dysfunctional economic systems?

J Cosgrove
6 months 3 weeks ago

Inequality is the driver of prosperity.
What prevented prosperity from arising in the world was a lack of freedom. Then freedom arose in Holland but especially England and the natural urge to better oneself broke out and spread around the world. So thank God for inequality as it is the driver of progress when the elixir of freedom is added. The third ingredient to a really prosperous life is Christian morality. So let’s hear it for inequality and the magic of freedom.

Douglas Fang
6 months 3 weeks ago

“Magic of freedom” – magic or illusion? A very interesting article on Bloomberg yesterday about the end of the Anglosphere.
https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-02-21/do-trump-and-brexit-herald-the-end-of-the-anglosphere

…In the past, America was accused of either being hypocritical — hiding national interest behind words like “freedom” — or naive. Now America has a president who seldom mentions freedom or human rights, and whose slogan is simply “America First.” It is a stunning change…

The reference to the song “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan is quite acute and relevant.

J Cosgrove
6 months 3 weeks ago

The modern world is a result of religious wars creating multiple non Catholic religions in the same area. First the Dutch reacted to Charles V telling them they could not participate in world trade by becoming Protestant and rejecting Spain. Then Henry V III could not beget an heir so he rejected Rome and this led to more power by parliament/multiple religions and eventually more freedom for the common English man. This freedom led to the industrial revolution a couple hundred years later and the modern world.

J Cosgrove
6 months 3 weeks ago

A good example of this is William Penn who was a rabble rouser and experimented with different religions. His father was owed a large debt by Charles II and he paid off the son with land in the new world. This became Pennsylvania and was also called the poor man’s country as Penn insisted on strict egalitarianism. By 1750 Philadelphia was the most vibrant city in the New World and the colony had absorbed 80 thousand poor Germain immigrants who became prosperous. Freedom is the magic potion and still is.

Vincent Couling
6 months 3 weeks ago

I thought that Penn tolerated slavery ... how is allowing slaves to be used as workers "insisting on strict egalitarianism"? I thought that egalitarianism is the principle that **all** people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. Surely the slaves constituted shipwrecked lives! These shipwrecked lives enabling others to live the magic potion freedom dream you hold so dear. Is modern day wage slavery really that different?

J Cosgrove
6 months 3 weeks ago

Wage slaves? Interesting comment. Very revealing. Denouncing freedom.always leads to miserable lives. Nice to know what you want. Before the magic of freedom nearly everyone was a slave or serf. Then socialism where implemented turned them back into slaves.

There were a relatively few slaves in Pennsylvania. Most were owned by the Dutch and Swedes already there. They were not an essential part of the economy. Some had them mainly as household workers. Within a hundred years the practice was almost gone.

Surendra Kumar
6 months 3 weeks ago

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Phillip Stone
6 months 3 weeks ago

Before these noble sentiments, I would place another, Renew your baptismal vows.
From the Roman ritual, "Dost thou renounce Satan? and all his works? and all his pomps?"
To each of these interrogation the person: "I do renounce".

Some baptisms I have witnessed in the parish church I attended while my children were small omitted the rite of exorcism - big mistake.

Now, what about the mind of Christ when it concerns the Jesuits. In the New Testament he tells his disciples "It is harder for a rich man to get to heaven than to get a camel through the eye of a needle".

Does that not mean the rich should have a preferential option, being in such jeopardy?

To the shocked, please point me to the scriptural basis for the preferential option for the poor.

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6 months 2 weeks ago

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