Like the United States, which is comprised of geographic territories called “states,” the Society of Jesus is made up of territories called “provinces.”
There are more than 70 Jesuit provinces around the world (although their number and boundaries have never been static). Each province has a superior who is simply called “the Provincial,” and who, in turn, reports directly to the central Jesuit government or “curia” in Rome, headed by the Superior General. On Oct. 14, 2016, Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, a native of Venezuela, was named the 31st Superior General of the Society of Jesus.
In the United States, there are currently five provinces. Within those provinces, Jesuits live in communities headed by a local superior.
Fr. Joseph M. O’Keefe, SJ, became provincial of the USA East Province when the Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces united on July 31, 2020.
In addition, there are what the Jesuits call “assistancies” representing provinces within a nation or region. The American provinces, for example, form a single “assistancy.” Its administrative arm is the Jesuit Conference of the United States. The Conference helps coordinate the relationships among all the various Jesuit entities, including service organizations and the provinces, as well as between them and the international headquarters in Rome.
Jesuit leaders from all countries meet from time to time for what are called General Congregations, often to elect a new Superior General and address important issues facing the order, the Church, and the world. There have been 36 General Congregations throughout the history of the Jesuits, and they are the highest governing authority of the Society of Jesus.
The 36th General Congregation began in October 2016.