Jesuits prepare for GC36 in Rome
The Electors from the Conference of Jesuit Provincials from Europe and the Middle East (CEP) have met in Rome as part of the preparations for the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus (GC36) next October.
Among those at the meeting were the British Provincial, Fr Dermot Preston SJ, and Fr Damian Howard SJ, who was elected to represent the Jesuits in Britain at their Province Congregation earlier this year. Brother Stephen Power SJ, Treasurer of the Jesuits in Britain, also attended in his role as elected representative of all Jesuit brothers in Europe.
This is the first time that a General Congregation has started at Conference level. This is to try to ensure better preparation and more in depth analysis of issues and a more effective Congregation when the plenary session takes place in Rome in October 2016. Fifty-five Electors took part in the meeting; three others were unable to participate because of their involvement in the Synod on the Family.
The first day of the meeting saw a discussion of the document drawn up by the Preparatory Commission on “The Calls to the Society of Jesus today from the Eternal King”. This represents a meditative summary of the material received from different Province Congregations in which they responded to Father General’s request to think about the current priorities for the Society of Jesus. The 14 members of the Preparatory Commission included Fr John Dardis SJ of the Irish Province who is the President of the Conference of European Provincials and British Province Jesuit Fr Mike Lewis SJ, who attended in his role as President of the Conference of Africa and Madagascar.
Personal prayer and group reflections
Delegates then went on to discuss where the Society of Jesus is today – the lights, shadows and future perspectives for their life and mission. They considered the Jesuits’ future mission in the context of evangelisation in a secular age; how they could engage in inter-religious dialogue, especially with Islam; and the call to justice through service to the poor, including refugees and migrants. There were further presentations on the intellectual ministry and their own spiritual renewal, both individually and in community. Having considered how the Society might renew its identity and mission and the governance structures needed to implement this, the Electors then heard an update on the situation in Syria and the Middle East from Provincial Fr Dany Younes SJ and Elector Fr Victor Assouad SJ.
The final morning of the meeting was dedicated to a reflection on Part IX of the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and the qualities of the Superior General, with a presentation by Fr Nick Austin SJ from the British Province. The current General, Fr Adolfo Nicolás SJ, has announced his intention to step down at GC36 and, in a time of personal prayer and subsequently in groups, the Electors looked at the profile and qualities needed by the next General of the Society of Jesus who will be elected next October.