The International Commission for the Apostolate of Jesuit Education (ICAJE) and the International Secretary for Jesuit Secondary and Pre-Secondary Education share their first reactions to the publication by Fr. General of the Universal Apostolic Preferences for the Society of Jesus for the next 10 years.
This February, Fr. General Arturo Sosa SJ shared a text presenting the 4 Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) for the next 10 years with the entire apostolic network of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits and collaborators in mission.
These 4 Preferences are the fruit of a process of discernment which lasted almost 2 years and in which Jesuits and lay people from all sectors and all corners of the world participated. After being presented to Pope Francis, he has confirmed them with words of support and encouragement.
The Preferences offer a horizon, a point of reference for the entire Society of Jesus. They seek to capture the imagination and awaken desires. It is a way to join the mission. The new Preferences point to four vital areas in the current context of our world.
The 4 Preferences are:
- To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment.
- To walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice.
- To accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future.
- To Collaborate in the care of our Common Home.
If you would like more information, we recommend visiting the Curia website with all the information or watching this video.
How do these Preferences impact the Educational Apostolate?
The definition of the apostolic preferences, far from marking the closure of a process, mark the beginning of a new and challenging stage for all of us who share this mission, especially in the educational apostolate.
In order to help us answer this question, we have called on the members of the ICAJE: Fr. Saúl Cuautle SJ from Mexico, FLACSI President; Fr. Johnny Go SJ from the Phillipines, Secretariat for Education JCAP; Fr. William Muller SJ from the United Sates, JSN President; Ms. Ilse Dekker from Holland, JECSE Director; Fr. Joe Arimoso SJ from Zimbabwe, JASBEAM Director; Fr. Sunny Jacob SJ from India, Secretariat for Education JEASA, together with the International Secretary of Secondary and Pre-Secondary Education, Fr. José Alberto Mesa SJ to comment on their first impressions and with this to animate the beginning of a conversation throughout our global network.
Here we share the questions and the answers:
Question 1. Where did you feel consolation when you first read through the four Preferences?
Fr. José: I felt consoled because they clearly address some of the main concerns and challenges of our time. In addition, they are presented in a way that invites our apostolic creativity; the UAPs are relevant and important for our schools.
Fr. Saúl: Faced with such an unequal society and with different difficulties, when reading the four Preferences, I am filled with HOPE knowing that we are invited to ensure our life and work reinforce encounter with God through the Spiritual Exercises, discernment, reconciliation, closeness with young people and the care of our common home, to make our world a more humane world for all.
Fr. Johnny: The consolation I felt came not so much from any one of the UAPs. Rather, I was consoled by the recognition that some kind of consensus emerged from the Society-wide process of consultation and discernment. All four preferences came up in our own prayer and discussion, and I had a sense that the Holy Spirit truly guided the individuals, communities, and institutions that responded to Fr. General’s call for this global process of discernment in common. I was also very much consoled by the fact that the UAPs came as a mission to the Society from Pope Francis. Finally, I was very much consoled by the reception of the UAPs. The Jesuits and lay partners I spoke with were all enthusiastic about the announcement.
Fr. William: My consolation is that the preferences apply to all Jesuits and all lay women and men working together in every Work of the Society of Jesus – we are all in this together!
Ms. Ilse: I felt consolation mostly in the feeling that Ignatian spirituality is so much a ‘living faith’, guided indeed by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit; and in the importance given to this attitude of accompaniment, of walking with people.
Fr. Joe: I felt consoled to see that the Preferences speak to our times. They also show continuity in the thinking of the Society of Jesus.
Fr. Sunny: I felt consolation because we have got a clear direction to follow for the next 10 years. Most of the preferences are already find place in our thrust areas in South Asia.
Question 2. What do you think will be the most challenging part for the education apostolate as they begin to incorporate these Preferences into their work?
Fr. José: The four preferences are perfectly intune with the Rio action planns. Ecology, Youth and Ignatian Legacy through Discernment is our preferences. We have made Training for the Young Jesuits, staff and students on Ignatian spirituality. We have also made Eco-policy for all our schools. Our concentration will be consolidated on the four UAPs in the coming days.
Fr. Saúl: The big challenge is closeness to young people since they live in a culture and reality that are often very far removed from our experiences as Jesuits. Being able to be close to young people will mean that we will see the world from through their own ways and styles, despite generational gaps.
Fr. Johnny: The most challenging part of the UAPs is changing the way we are doing things. I can imagine that the schools are already doing a little bit of each one of the UAPs. The temptation is to say, “Been there, done that” whereas the call is to re-prioritize, re-focus, and even to start new efforts in response to these UAPs.
Fr. William: We’ll have to be clear what it means to “accompany” young people and come to a better understanding that it is their future we are helping them create.
Ms. Ilse: Fr. Joe: Care for our Common Home will remain a big challenge, especially to change the mindset and the lifestyle of people.
Fr. Sunny:I think the most challenging part would be to prepare suitable modules and training programme for all in SA. Walking with the Excluded will be a challenge especially in the City/ Urban schools.
Question 3. In your opinion, how are the Preferences related to the 13 JESEDU-Rio2017 actions?
Fr. José: It is amazing to see how the UAPs and the final agreements of JESEDU-Rio are aligned. The Final Agreements have put us on the path to understanding and accepting the UAPs as opportunities to continue our living educational tradition in creative fidelity. They really show that the same Spirit has been working!
Fr. Saúl: When I see each one of the 13 Rio actions and the four themes in which the actions are summarized (Our Experience of God, Tradition and Innovation, Caring for our Common Home, Sent in a Global Network) it seems to me that they are very much in line with the Preferences, which speaks of the harmony that exists within the Society of Jesus and the different apostolic works that the Jesuits find themselves in.
Fr. Johnny: The UAPs on the Spiritual Exercises/Discernment and Caring for Our Common Home are explicitly included in the Rio Action Statements and serve as a clear confirmation of the latter. While the UAPs on the youth and the excluded are not explicit, perhaps we should consider framing Global Citizenship within an authentic concern for these two sectors.
Fr. William: A deeper interiority and Ignatian discernment, education for the those on the margins, care for our common home, and forming our schools as laboratories of innovation are four pillars from JESEDU-Rio2017 that fit remarkably well with the preferences.
Ms. Ilse: In my opinion they are very closely related, clearly first of all building on a spiritual attitude to discover and strengthen a life of human dignity and integrity, and from there reaching out to the people and the world surrounding us.
Fr. Joe: In many ways actually. Areas like caring for our common home, deepening the experience of God, paying attention to the marginalized and so forth. The Preferences seem to confirm our action plan in Rio.
Fr. Sunny: The four preferences are perfectly intune with the Rio action planns. Ecology, Youth and Ignatian Legacy through Discernment is our preferences. We have made Training for the Young Jesuits, staff and students on Ignatian spirituality. We have also made Eco-policy for all our schools. Our concentration will be consolidated on the four UAPs in the coming days.