We are the Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic order of priests and brothers founded half a millennium ago by the soldier-turned-mystic Ignatius Loyola. But most people call us “the Jesuits.”
In the vision of our founder, we seek to “find God in all things.” We dedicate ourselves to the “greater glory of God” and the good of all humanity. And we do so gratefully in collaboration with others who share our values, including laypersons. They have become part of the “we,” the extended Jesuit family.
With 16,000-plus priests, brothers, scholastics and novices worldwide, we are the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church. We are pastors, teachers, and chaplains. We are also doctors, lawyers, and astronomers, among many other roles in Church and society. In our varied ministries, we care for the whole person: body, mind, and soul. And especially in our education ministries, we seek to nurture “men and women for others.”
Jesuits draw on the rich tradition of Ignatian spirituality and reflection. In our retreat centers, parishes, campus ministries, and other settings, we offer these resources to all who want to discern God’s presence in their lives. At the same time, we also aim to be “contemplatives in action,” people who bring this spirituality into the wide world. That includes our work on behalf of global justice, peace, and dialogue.
As members of a religious order, Jesuits take three vows — of poverty, chastity and obedience — and a fourth vow of obedience specifically in regard to worldwide mission. In other words, Jesuits must be ready to accept whatever mission the Pope requires, a vow that is reflective of our broader dedication to the universal Church, and to the greater good of all people from all faiths and cultures.
Our collaboration with the laity flows from our personal relationships with Christ. We see ourselves as companions of Jesus, and we invite others to join with us, as friends in the Lord. Together we build up the body of Christ.
With our friends and partners, we also reach out to a broadly diverse world because that’s where God is. From experience and reflection, we know that meaning, value, and divine purpose can be discovered “in all things.”
Jesuit Canada & US Provinces website http://jesuits.org/
It is to know that one is a sinner, yet called to be a companion of Jesus as Ignatius was: Ignatius, who begged the Blessed Virgin to “place him with her Son,” and who then saw the Father himself ask Jesus, carrying his Cross, to take this pilgrim into his company.
What is it to be a companion of Jesus today? It is to engage, under the standard of the Cross, in the crucial struggle of our time: the struggle for faith and that struggle for justice which it includes.
The Society of Jesus, gathered together in its 32nd General Congregation, considering the end for which it was founded, namely, the greater glory of God and the service of men, acknowledging with repentance its own failures in keeping faith and upholding justice, and asking itself before Christ crucified what it has done for him, what it is doing for him, and what it is going to do for him, chooses participation in this struggle as the focus that identifies in our time what Jesuits are and do.
32nd General Congregation March 1975 http://www.jesuitportal.bc.edu/research/general-congregations/general-congregation-32
Reconciliation with God roots us in gratitude and opens us to joy, if we allow it. Pope Francis writes, “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. …With Christ, joy is constantly born anew.”26 Announcing and sharing the Gospel continues to be the reason for the Society’s existence and mission: that Jesus Christ be known, that he be loved in return, and that Christ’s love be a source of life for all. He always remains the source of the joy and hope we offer to others. Thus, the Society must respond more decisively to the Church’s call for a new evangelization, giving special emphasis to ministry to and with the young and with families.
A special gift Jesuits and the Ignatian family have to offer to the Church and her mission of evangelization is Ignatian spirituality, which facilitates the experience of God and can therefore greatly help the process of personal and communal conversion. Pope Francis constantly affirms that discernment should play a special role, in the family, among youth, in vocation promotion, and in the formation of clergy. 27 Christian life is more and more personalized through discernment. Proclaiming the Gospel takes place in many different contexts: a) Secularization is a major challenge for many cultures, calling for creativity particularly in attracting and initiating younger generations into the Christian faith. b) In an increasingly pluralistic world, interreligious dialogue in all its forms remains a necessity, one that is not always easy and that risks misunderstanding. c) In many parts of the world, the Society is called to respond to the challenge of believers abandoning the Church in the search for personal meaning and spirituality. d) Jesuits must continue to give importance to theological and scriptural studies by which we help people deepen their understanding of the Gospel in their diverse cultural contexts, with their hopes and their challenges. These studies should involve accompanying people from the depth of their spiritual traditions.
Throughout our preparation for this Congregation as a universal body with a universal mission, we heard accounts of the shocking forms of suffering and injustice that millions of our brothers and sisters endure. Reflecting on these, we hear Christ summon us anew to a ministry of justice and peace, serving the poor and the excluded and helping build peace. Among these various forms of suffering, three have appeared with consistency from many of our Provinces and Regions:
The displacement of peoples (refugees, migrants, and internally displaced peoples): In the face of attitudes hostile to these displaced persons, our faith invites the Society to promote everywhere a more generous culture of hospitality. The Congregation recognizes the necessity of promoting the international articulation of our service to migrants and refugees, finding ways of collaboration with JRS.
The injustices and inequalities experienced by marginalized peoples: Along with an enormous growth of wealth and power in the world comes an enormous and continuing growth of inequality. The present dominant models of development leave millions of people, especially the young and the vulnerable, without opportunities for integration into society. Indigenous peoples and communities, like the Dalits and tribals in South Asia, represent a paradigmatic case of these groups. In many parts of the world, women especially experience such injustice. We are called to support these communities in their struggles, recognizing that we have much to learn from their values and their courage. The defense and promotion of human rights and integral ecology is an ethical horizon that we share with many other people of good will, who are also seeking to respond to this call.
Fundamentalism, intolerance, and ethnic-religious-political conflicts as a source of violence: In many societies, there is an increased level of conflict and polarization, which often gives rise to violence that is all the more appalling because it is motivated and justified by distorted religious convictions. In such situations, Jesuits, along with all who seek the common good, are called to contribute from their religious-spiritual traditions towards the building of peace, on local and global levels.
3rd Call – Reconciliation with creation Pope Francis has emphasized the fundamental connection between the environmental crisis and the social crisis in which we live today. 29 Poverty, social exclusion, and marginalization are linked with environmental degradation. These are not separate crises but one crisis that is a symptom of something much deeper: the flawed way societies and economies are organized. The current economic system with its predatory orientation discards natural resources as well as people.30 For this reason, Pope Francis insists that the only adequate solution must be a radical one. The direction of development must be altered if it is to be sustainable. We Jesuits are called to help heal a broken world,31 promoting a new way of producing and consuming, which puts God’s creation at the center.
The multifaceted challenge of caring for our common home calls for a multifaceted response from the Society. We begin by changing our personal and community lifestyles, adopting behavior coherent with our desire for reconciliation with creation. We must accompany and remain close to the most vulnerable. Our theologians, philosophers, and other intellectuals and experts should contribute to the rigorous analysis of the roots of and solutions to the crisis. Jesuit commitment in regions like the Amazon and the Congo Basin, environmental reserves that are essential for the future of humanity, should be supported. We should manage our financial investments responsibly. And we cannot forget to celebrate creation, to give thanks for “so much good we have received.”32
Toward the Renewal of Our Apostolic Life All our ministries should seek to build bridges, to foster peace.33 To do this, we must enter into a deeper understanding of the mystery of evil in the world and the transforming power of the merciful gaze of God who labors to create of humanity one reconciled, peaceful family. With Christ, we are called to closeness with all of crucified humanity. With the poor, we can contribute to creating one human family through the struggle for justice. Those who have all the necessities of life and live far from poverty also need the message of hope and reconciliation, which frees them from fear of migrants and refugees, the excluded and those who are different, and that opens them to hospitality and to making peace with enemies.
The Congregation calls the entire Society to a renewal of our apostolic life founded on hope. We need more than ever to bring a message of hope, born of consolation from ours. We do not want to propose a simplistic or superficial hope. Rather, our contribution, as Father Adolfo Nicolás always insisted, should be characterized by depth: a depth of interiority and “a depth of reflection that allows us to understand reality more deeply and thus to serve more effectively.”34 To this end, Jesuits in formation should receive solid intellectual preparation and be helped to grow in personal integration.
Our educational apostolates at all levels, and our centers for communication and social research, should help form men and women committed to reconciliation and able to confront obstacles to reconciliation and propose solutions. The intellectual apostolate should be strengthened to help in the transformation of our cultures and societies.
Because of the magnitude and interconnectedness of the challenges we face, it is important to support and encourage the growing collaboration among Jesuits and Jesuit apostolates through networks. International and intersectoral networks are an opportunity to strengthen our identity, as we share our capacities and local engagements in order together to serve a universal mission.
Collaboration with others is the only way the Society of Jesus can fulfil the mission entrusted to her. This partnership in mission includes those with whom we share Christian faith, those who belong to different religions, and women and men of good will, who, like us, desire to collaborate with Christ’s reconciling work. In the words of Father General Arturo Sosa, Jesuits are “called to the mission of Jesus Christ, that does not belong to us exclusively, but that we share with so many men and women consecrated to the service of others.”35
In all we do, we want to heed Pope Francis, who has urged us to promote dynamics of personal and social transformation. “What we need is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society.”36 Prayerful discernment ought to be our habitual way of drawing closer to reality when we want to transform it.
General Congregation 36 https://jesuits.eu/images/docs/GC_36_Documents.pdf
Rome, November 2016