Province congregation follow up

Groups discussions at St Beuno's
Groups discussions at St Beuno's Credit Brendan Callaghan SJ

Earlier this month St Beuno’s Jesuit Spirituality Centre in North Wales hosted a meeting of 43 Jesuits convened to review the state of the Province six months after the Province Congregation in April, and to help prepare for the 36th General Congregation (GC36) next year in Rome. [The General Congregation is the highest authority of the International Society of Jesus and meets next year for the 36th time since the foundation of the Order, to elect a new General and to discern the future direction of the Society].   Delegates were joined for the meeting by Fr Antoine Kerhuel, Fr General’s Assistant for Western Europe.

A number of periods of prayer punctuated the weekend, with the liturgical celebrations of both St Stanislaus Kostka and St Joseph Pignatelli. At the Mass for the latter, Antoine Kerhuel preached movingly of the grace of carrying on in difficult times.

The lead-up to GC36

Damian Howard, chosen by the Province Congregation to be the elector to accompany the Provincial to GC36, described the recent meeting of the European delegates, and the work being done to prepare for the GC, including the make-up of the preparatory commissions. Of these, one will deal with Jesuit Life and Mission today, these being considered in relation to each other. A second major area for the Congregation’s consideration is likely to be the kind of governance structures that will best carry the work of the Society forward.

Recent developments in spirituality

Simon Bishop, Director of Spirituality, outlined how he had developed a strategy for spirituality. He had spent time listening to the various groups and individuals who we work with or for. Helped by a Spirituality Implementation Group, he had selected four priority groups for particular attention: (1) the apostolic core of Province works, (2) Catholic priests, deacons and seminarians, (3) those in greatest social need, and (4) co-workers who would be best able to work with us to deliver Ignatian spirituality. Simon described a number of recent initiatives in these areas, with the help of Gerry Mitchell, who reported on a week-long parish mission in Southall that had drawn on various Province resources including the Mount Street Jesuit Centre; and Tim Byron, who showed a film in which a student of the Manchester chaplaincy spoke of her work as a prayer guide.

Heythrop and the intellectual Apostolate Review

Frank Turner, the Provincial’s Assistant for the Intellectual Apostolate, reported on the work of “The Forum” which is the group established to consider the future of this area of the Province’s work in the light of the announcement of Heythrop’s possible withdrawal from London University in summer 2018. Currently very much a “work-in-progress”, the Forum intends to report to the Provincial early in the New Year.

School education

Adrian Porter described the state-of-play in each of the eleven schools in Britain for which the Society currently has some responsibility. Although there is only one Jesuit (John Twist in Stonyhurst) currently working full-time in a school, the schools are still supported in many other ways for example by Jesuits serving on governing bodies, by finances, by going in to provide sacramental services, and most especially by the programme of the Jesuit Institute.

We have an apostolic horizon that is attractive to a wider number of Catholic schools striving to understand their own mission more deeply. The consultation recognised the fact that this is an area of the Province’s apostolate which amply fulfils the call of GC34 for Jesuits to be at the service of the mission of the laity, and debated how, if we chose to do so, we might best be able to continue to offer the level of support that we have been able to in recent years.


David Smolira briefly outlined the scope and procedure of the Goddard Inquiry into child abuse, which was established in mid-2015. It is the biggest public inquiry ever attempted in England and Wales and is expected to offer a detailed critique of institutions (including the Church); how complaints of child abuse have been dealt with; and how affected institutions have learnt from their experience. As the largest religious order, we may well be looked to as an example. David offered examples of good practice being put in place at Stamford Hill parish and the move from CRB to DBS checks.

The discernments begun at the Province Congregation in April and continuing at this meeting are by no means complete. At the end of the meeting the Provincial invited those present to send him further thoughts and reflections.