The Society of Jesus is distinctive among religious orders in that each generation of Jesuits is called to interpret the Jesuit Constitutions, or bylaws, and recreate the Society through ongoing reflection and action.
In 2004, Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, then head of the world’s Jesuits as Superior General of the Society of Jesus, was asked to explain the focus of a nationwide process of strategic discernment, which had just begun.
True to Jesuit form, he answered the question with a question.
“What are the needs of the people of God in our time, and how can we best respond to them?” Fr. Kolvenbach asked.
In the 10 years since those questions were posed, the Society of Jesus in the United States, in collaboration with its lay partners, has taken action. Hundreds of people serving in various commissions, meetings and feedback sessions – along with over 500 Jesuits and partners – participated in planning that led to the publication of key strategic documents that provided answers to Fr. Kolvenbach’s questions.
Responding to the Call of Christ (2008) provided concrete directions for this mission, highlighting strategic agreements and decisions in areas of ministry, partnership, Jesuit life and governance, including the decision to reconfigure the 10 provinces into 4.
In his approval of this document, Father Adolfo Nicolas, the 30th Superior General of the Society of Jesus, said the document provided “an invaluable tool for the years to come as the Jesuit Conference Board responds continually to the Spirit who makes all things new.”
In the 10 years since the strategic discernment process began, much has been accomplished, and through consultation and prayerful reflection, the Spirit has moved this process ahead.
In our region, the New England and New York Provinces united on Dec. 3, 2014, to form the USA Northeast Province. Led by Fr. John J. Cecero, SJ, provincial, this new province builds on the relationships and structures that were forged over the last few years by former provincials Fr. Myles Sheehan, SJ, and Fr. David Ciancimino, SJ. In 2020, the USA East Province will be established when the Maryland and Northeast Provinces unite, creating one province from Maine all the way down to Georgia.
The goal was and continues to be vibrant ministries, partners rooted deeply in the Ignatian tradition and Jesuit communities that serve and inspire us toward a future rich in the service of Christ’s mission.
The sharing of resources among provinces during this process of discovery, creativity and learning will enable the Society to better meet the needs of God’s people in a changing world. National vocation promotion on the Internet and in new media became a reality with the launch of a new vocations webpage. Jesuit life also looks different. Moreover, there is greater cooperation in cura personalis, the care for the whole person, across province boundaries.