Collaborating with others
Collaboration at the heart of mission
Jesuit all round the world are working closely with lay people, other religious, diocesan priests, people of other Christian denominations and people of other faiths. We speak of this as ‘collaboration’, a shared engagement in the work of the Risen Lord.
Formation for collaborative ministry
If you are thinking about a vocation to the Society, this dimension of collaboration is worth reflecting on. As a Jesuit, you might develop particular skills and expertise, you may come with great enthusiasm and strength of belief and opinion, you might have a strong personality, but if you are to be effective in the work of the Society today you will need also to be the kind of man who enables others to play their role in witnessing to Christ in the world. And because this is so important you will find in your training a particular emphasis on this aspect of collaboration. It will not be an unusual situation for Jesuits in formation, and later on, to be working in places where they will be under the direction of a lay person or another religious.
Our desire to be collaborative in this way is not just a practical matter. It is true that in Britain today, lay people and other religious play crucial roles in Jesuit works, in our educational institutions, retreat centres, parishes, etc. and without them these works could not continue with the energy and effectiveness that they do. But we do not collaborate simply to prop up our own works. We do so because of our belief that Christ has a particular call to each person, and that many are called to be actively involved in the mission of the Church, and that all are called to a life of holiness.
What we bring to the partnership
As Jesuits we bring to this partnership the heritage of St. Ignatius, who himself did so much ministry as a lay man. The Spiritual Exercises, above all, are a gift that we bring to the Church and to the world at large. As Pope Benedict XVI says, ‘the Spiritual Exercises are a particularly precious means and method with which to seek God, within us, around us and in all things, to know his will and to put into practice’.
We also bring to this partnership a spirituality that is always asking, where is God at work and how can we further that work in our world. The answer to that question may lead us to take an initiative in which we as Jesuits take on a leadership role, or it may lead us to work jointly in partnership with others, or it may lead us to support existing works of others or their new initiatives.
But however we respond we do so as Jesuits, men who, though we do similar work to our lay colleagues, are present to that work in a different way. We are present and active as men who are vowed to a life of poverty, chastity and obedience, and men who share a companionship with other Jesuits. These two aspects are integral to who we are.