On July 31, 2020 (the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola), the Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces of the Society of Jesus canonically came together to form a new, single province—the USA East Province of the Society of Jesus. It is the largest province in the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, comprising more than 600 Jesuits, 11 colleges and universities, 26 middle and high schools, 17 parishes, 6 retreat centers and 2 international schools.
Even to those familiar with the Jesuits and their mission of serving the marginalized and educating men and women for others, most do not understand the significance of what a Jesuit province is, or that there actually are provinces, for that matter. But to Jesuits, a province is the native territory where they enter the Society of Jesus, study and complete their formation, get ordained, and from where they are missioned to serve locally, nationally and abroad. It is where they return when they retire—where they live their final years praying for the Church and for their order. It is where most of them are buried.
A Jesuit province is, to Jesuits … home. And that is no small thing.
The provinces that Jesuits have called home on the East Coast have included as many as four—Maryland (the oldest), New York, New England and Buffalo. Nearly 150 years ago, in 1879, the New York-Canada Jesuit mission separated, joining New York to the Maryland Province, where they remained unified until New England formed its own province in 1926. As the number of Jesuits continued to grow, New York separated into its own province in 1943.
St. Ignatius, who founded the Society of Jesus in 1540, never considered himself a leader of his new order, but simply a companion in Christ, referring to those first Jesuits as his true companions. The Jesuits of the Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces now call their newly formed East Coast Province home—a home where they will continue to serve the Church and the People of God—together as brother Jesuits, united in Christ… True companions.
While it would take too much space to highlight every step that has brought us to the creation of Jesuits USA East, here are a few significant milestones:
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The Jesuits of the East Coast
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 is where we find God. From experience and reflection, we know that meaning, value, and divine purpose can be discovered “in all things.”
Throughout the west, Jesuits serve as teachers, campus ministers, and administrators at universities, high schools, and Nativity middle schools. We also serve as parish ministers, chaplains, and spiritual directors. In all our ministries and work, we strive to keep alive the tradition and prayerful discernment established by St. Ignatius and do all things for the greater glory of God.
- Pastoral ministries. Jesuit priests lead 15 parishes and provide service to many more.
- Spirituality and retreat centers. Jesuits and laypersons at the Ignatian Spirituality Center in Seattle, Loyola Institute for Spirituality in Orange, Calif., and The Jesuit Retreat Center of Los Altos seek to foster spiritual growth by offering retreats as well as training for spiritual directors.
- Educational ministries. Jesuits and their many lay partners are involved in primary, secondary, and higher education. Model school programs such as Cristo Rey and Nativity as well as other creative partnerships allow us to sponsor, co-sponsor, or endorse new Catholic schools in underserved areas.
- Social ministries. Our Jesuits provide guidance to various ministries – Homeboy Industries, Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest, PICO National Network, Proyecto Pastoral – are just a sampling of our ministries engaged in empowering people, pursuing social justice, and improving communities. Jesuit priests lead 12 parishes and provide service to many more.
We Encourage Collaboration
In pastoral, educational, and other ministries, our priests and brothers collaborate with laymen and women, civic organizations, local dioceses, and other religious orders. As catalysts for change, we invest personnel and funding in those “turning points” in society where we believe the greatest good can be achieved. Our ministries express the power of faith doing justice, by combining belief in fundamental human dignity with advocacy for the poor and marginalized.
We Strive to Achieve Our Goals
We have adopted four main apostolic goals which continue to guide us:
- Fostering partnership in our Ignatian mission
- Strengthening solidarity with the poor
- Responding to the diversity of our Province
- Evangelizing contemporary culture.