European Jesuits explore their future priorities

Jesuits of four provinces in North West Europe – including Britain – are leaving their current ministries from tomorrow to take part in alternative works – known in Jesuit jargon as ‘experiments’. The men – from Ireland, Flanders and the Netherlands, as well as Britain – will be undertaking this major collaborative initiative in order to reflect on their apostolic priorities for the Society of Jesus over the coming decades.  

This collaboration will help the men of the four provinces to develop shared goals and to deepen their life and work through prayer and ministry. There are 20 experiments taking place in the four countries, each involving between four and six men under 65 years of age. A special focus for these experiments will be exploring different ways of helping others to experience Ignatian spirituality.

Experiments are taking place in Britain in parishes as far apart as Falmouth and South Uist.  Six of them involve parish mission weeks where teams will work with local clergy and lay people to build evangelising communities through the experience of Ignatian spirituality.  These will be taking place in Boscombe (Dorset), Brixton (London), Falmouth (Cornwall), Preston (Lancashire), Edinburgh and South Uist (Hebrides). 

Prayer, outreach and spirituality

The National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer (AoP), Fr David Stewart SJ, will be presenting the AoP in Preston on Sunday (26 July). He and fellow Jesuits will talk about the renewed Pope’s Prayer Network at every Mass, offering the new AoP prayer-cards and other items connected with the AoP and the new Prayer Pathway. This Sunday presentation is planned to launch the week of afternoon and evening talks, with an Ignatian theme running through all the weekday Masses too, culminating in this international Jesuit team joining parishioners for the trip to Liverpool to celebrate St Ignatius Day. In London, the Brixton parish mission will include work in Brixton prison, while the parish missions in Manchester, Preston and Edinburgh will focus on young people.  The parish mission in Boscombe reaches out to the young, to families, to single people and to isolated older people.

There are also four experiments with a social justice focus :  the sanctuary homeless shelter in Birmingham, the Hurtado Centre in Wapping, the food bank at the Manchester University chaplaincy; and social outreach in Rhyl, North Wales. 

The experiments will also take British Jesuits into other provinces which make up the North West Assistancy or administrative region. Their assignments will include work with ex-offenders in Bruges, an outreach centre in Amsterdam, and a pilgrimage from Knock to Croagh Patrick in Ireland.

Fr Simon Bishop SJ, the co-ordinator for the Jesuits in Britain, says these two weeks will provide an exciting opportunity to reflect on what they are doing now and how they can best plan for the future. “For the past couple of years a number of communities who have not been able to come to our retreat centres have been asking us to come to them with spirituality programmes,” he says.  “So this year we will be offering retreat days in ten locations around the country from Cornwall to the Hebrides, in parishes and in prisons and homeless shelters.  We ask all our friends for prayers in this special time of ministry.”

The experiments will culminate on 31 July, when the Jesuits involved in the experiments will join with Fr General Adolfo Nicolás SJ, at Clongowes College in Dublin to celebrate the Feast of St Ignatius and to reflect on and learn from the experiments.