Brothers at GC36: an amazing experience

Br Stephen Power SJ (centre) with the other brothers at GC36
Br Stephen Power SJ (centre) with the other brothers at GC36

The Treasurer of the Jesuits in Britain is one of six Jesuit Brothers who are taking part as electors in a General Congregation for the first time ever. Brother Stephen Power SJ, who is based at the Curia in central London and is a member of the Community at the Hurtado Jesuit Centre in Wapping, was elected by the Jesuit Conference of Europe. Having entered the Society of Jesus in 1980, Br Power has devoted much of his time as a Jesuit to the social apostolate, especially the Jesuit Refugee Service, with which he worked in Sudan and Kenya, as well as Rome.

While Jesuit brothers have participated in past General Congregations, the current one (the 36th) is the first in which they are involved as electors.  They have joined more than 200 Jesuit priests from around the world for GC36 in Rome at which one of their first and most significant duties over the past week has been the election of a new Superior General. Fr Arturo Sosa SJ from Venezuela was elected last Friday (14 October). Now that task has been accomplished, the Congregation is discussing the future direction and priorities for the international Society. Following consultation at province and conference level, two discussion themes were identified:

• The Call to a Renewal of Jesuit Life and Mission

• The Call for Renewed Governance for a Renewed Mission

It is hoped that GC36 can give an integrated vision of Jesuit life and mission and can propose governance structures to support and develop it.

The vocation of all Jesuits

“From the time of Fr Pedro Arrupe, Superior Generals of the Society have consistently held in high regard the importance of the Jesuit Brother’s vocation, as it illustrates something fundamental in the vocation of all Jesuits,” Brother Power said before the start of GC36. “The inclusion of a representation of brothers from all the Conferences to be electors at GC36 is true to what GC35 called for and thereby leads to a greater integrity at the highest level of governance.”Pope Francis greets Br Power at the Mass of Thanksgiving for the Restoration of the Society of Jesus, Rome, Sept 2014

There are at present 11 Jesuit brothers in the British Province and more than 1,200 worldwide. The youngest Brother-elector at GC36 is 39-year-old James Edema from Uganda, who is a counsellor and was elected by the Jesuit Conference of Africa. The Conference of Asia Pacific is represented by the oldest elector in the group: 66-year-old Australian Ian Cribb, whose theological area of specialisation is spirituality. Europe’s Brother Power is the same age (64) as the Brother-elector from the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States: Guy Consolmagno. An astronomer with a PhD in Planetary Science, Guy is the current director of the Vatican Observatory.  He has written numerous books and is interested in the intellectual apostolate, especially the relationship between faith and science.

The dangers of clericalism

A total of six Jesuit Brothers are taking part in the 36th General Congregation. The group is completed by Thomas Vaz from India, who is the Coordinator of the Education Sector of his home province, Mumbai; and Eudson Ramos, currently assistant (or Socius) to the Provincial of Brazil, who was elected by the Conference of Latin America.  He has worked as an administrator and vocations promoter.

Brother Power describes the brothers’ involvement in GC36 as “an amazing experience – to meet and talk with particular Jesuits from all over the world”. He adds that Fr Sosa (the new Superior General) is a man who likes to see the Society as one of Jesuits, not one divided up into types of Jesuits.  “He is aware that the dangers of clericalism are still quite prevalent,” he says.  “Things like this and more we discuss at our brothers’ pizza nights which we have made a regular feature for Sunday evenings!”

GC36 is not Brother Power’s first experience of a major gathering of Jesuit Brothers in Rome: he was one of four brothers of the British Province who attended the Liturgy of Thanksgiving for the Universal Restoration of the Society at which Pope Francis officiated in Rome in September 2014. In addition to Brother Stephen Power, the Jesuits in Britain are represented at GC36 by the Provincial, Fr Dermot Preston SJ, and Fr Damian Howard SJ, the Superior of the Wapping Jesuit community who teaches theology at Heythrop College.