Universal Apostolic Preferences announced
Earlier today, Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ announced four new Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) of the Society of Jesus for the next ten years. An “Apostolic Preference” is a “priority for discernment”, in which we recognise the calls made to us by the Holy Spirit as we read the signs of the times.
The four UAPs are as follows:
1. PROMOTING DISCERNMENT AND THE SPIRITUAL EXERCISES
Helping people find Jesus Christ and follow Him.
We want to:
Help people find Jesus Christ and to live His Way
Accompany people as they discern complex choices
Promote in depth study of the Spiritual Exercises
Offer a deeper alternative to secularism
2. WALKING WITH THE EXCLUDED
Walk alongside the poor, the vulnerable, the excluded and those whom society considers worthless, in a mission of reconciliation and justice.
We desire, first and foremost, a conversion in our own hearts, that makes us alive and sensitive to the suffering Christ in our midst.
Our communities desire to be more hospitable and open, learning how to live more deeply in the Spirit of Jesus, a Spirit that welcomes.
3. CARING FOR OUR COMMON HOME
Work, with Gospel depth, for the protection and renewal of God’s Creation.
Our centres of higher learning want to make a difference and contribute to a change of mind and heart.
Our social centres will study root causes in collaboration with Higher Education.
Schools will ensure new generations are made aware and able to integrate this issue with their faith.
Spiritual and pastoral centres can collaborate to highlight God’s call to care for His Creation.
4. JOURNEYING WITH YOUTH
Accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future.
We want our ministries to be spaces open to youthful creativity.
We commit to providing a heathy and safe environment for children and young people.
We will help young people to know Jesus Christ and to feel themselves loved, saved and forgiven.
We will adapt the Spiritual Exercises so that young people can deepen their knowledge of Jesus.
Fr General is asking all Jesuits worldwide, and our partners in mission, to focus on how our current and future ministries can integrate these four UAPs and address the real-world issues that they contain.
British Provincial Fr Damian Howard SJ said, “These four themes provide us with a focus which will help us to take decisions about the mission of the Jesuits in Britain. They reflect this moment of history in all its urgency. They also bear the hallmark of Pope Francis, whose desire to accompany people as they grow into a mature discerning faith is expressed in all his teaching. The Jesuits in Britain have already launched a number of initiatives to engage with young people and to help the Church to deepen its commitment to integral ecology. But there is always more we can do and these preferences call us to prayer and action.”
The process of implementation now starts across the global Jesuit world. Each Jesuit, each community, each Province and Conference of Provincials will discern how to implement these preferences in concrete and practical terms.
Watch Fr General's announcement:
A two-year discernment process
This announcement marks the culmination of a process which has lasted almost two years. It was conceived as far back as 2016 when the 36th General Congregation (GC36) asked Fr Sosa to review the 2003 preferences of Fr General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach SJ (China, Africa, the intellectual apostolate, the Roman Houses, and migrants and refugees).
GC36 invited Fr General “to continue to discern the preferences for the Society, to review the above preferences, to update their specific content, and to develop plans and programmes that can be monitored and evaluated."
Fr General sent a letter outlining his proposed five-step discernment process to all Jesuits in October 2017 in which he acknowledged the mandate from GC36: “God .. hears the cries of human beings and returns them to us as a summons to collaborate with him in his desire to save the world. General Congregation 36 took note of this divine invitation in reaffirming that we are called to be companions in a mission of reconciliation and justice, which includes preserving the integrity of the environment.”
He went on to explain the purpose and context for the apostolic preferences: “The organization of the Society’s apostolic work cannot depend on a universal apostolic plan… the Society of Jesus does its apostolic planning in Provinces or Regions, in order to respond to the needs of the Church in particular territories with specific conditions…The universal apostolic preferences become a horizon for the discernment in common which helps to guide and orient the apostolic planning of the Society’s resources at all levels
“Using socio-political analysis, theological-pastoral reflection, and discernment in common, the Society at its diverse levels stays constantly attentive to the changes that take place in human society and to the Church’s responses and efforts to make the Good News of the Gospel present in the new social situations.”
The first step in the discernment process took place in the Winter of 2017-8 and involved meetings of the six Jesuit Conferences worldwide to prepare their constituent Provinces and regions for the consultation process. The second step, during Spring and Summer 2018, saw consultation taking place in each Province and Region and within the international works (e.g. the Jesuit Refugee Service) and Roman Houses (e.g. the Gregorian University) of the Society of Jesus, as well as apostolic networks and formation networks.
In the British Province each Jesuit community held a meeting to discuss the preferences and the fruits of these discussions were presented to the European Conference of Provincials. Each Conference then met again to discern its own proposals for the preferences. In January 2019 the extended General Council reflected on the results received from all Conferences and international ministries before formulating its own ideas. Finally, Fr General presented his own discernment to Pope Francis who then gave the Jesuits the four preferences we now have.
In his confirmation letter of 6 February 2019, Pope Francis observed that “the process that the Society followed to arrive at universal apostolic preferences was (…) a real discernment.” He affirmed that the proposed preferences “are in agreement with the current priorities of the Church as expressed through the ordinary magisterium of the Pope, the Synods, and the Episcopal Conferences, especially since Evangelii Gaudium.” The pope observed, "The first preference is crucial because it presupposes as a basic condition the Jesuit's relationship with the Lord, in a personal and communal life of prayer and discernment. I recommend that you, in your service as Superior General, insist on this. Without this prayerful attitude, the other preferences will not bear fruit.. He concluded his letter by thanking Fr General and confirming the preferences as a new mission for the Society.
For more comment and insight see the website of the Jesuit Curia in Rome.