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The Society of Jesus is in a new era of communication in service of the mission, and Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ made it clear recently that he is leading the efforts to make this new era an apostolic one.  “We want to be focussed, urgent, passionate and strategic [in our communication] … and with a real sense of mission,” he told the heads of communication for the six conferences and the Roman Curia communication team at the start of their four-day meeting in Rome on April 17.

“My main point this morning is to stress my commitment to communication,” he told them.  Communication is in the Jesuit DNA, it was “almost an obsession” for St Ignatius and it has been a key principle for the Society of Jesus since its foundation.

“A communicated universal apostolic body is an indispensable dimension of our way of proceeding,” Fr Sosa stressed, and he is keen to build a new culture of communications in the Society.

Fr General is determined that the Society take advantage of the many opportunities he sees in modern culture.  “That is what St Ignatius would want from us,” he declared, adding that despite there being a lot of fake news, “we need to discern how to get involved but we should not hang back and be afraid,” he said.

If our mission is to “go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News”, we have to take part in public discourse to bring the Good News to people, regardless of how we feel about some aspects.  “The point is that we cannot be left out of the big dialogues of our age,” Fr Sosa stated.

General Congregation 36 showed that the Society can benefit much from a better communication system.  “There was a sense of energy and passion.  It showed a way forward and I have been trying to walk that way,” he said.

To this end, he shared that he has decided to say “yes” to many requests for interviews and has begun making short video addresses to the Curia staff and Jesuit meetings beyond Rome.

Come September, the Curia communication team will double from two to four persons.  The Curia has also begun building a new website that will reflect what is going on in the Society.  “We want a two-way flow of information,” Fr General said, asking for the conferences to help with this and the plan for a focussed presence on social media.

“We want to ensure a unity of hearts and minds across the Society; communications can do a lot to bring this about.  Communication can be an engine bringing vitality and a renewed sense of mission,” he stated.

In addition to news of his visits, Fr General highlighted several other events he hopes to see widely covered in the websites, social media channels and written communication in the Society.  These include an emphasis on youth especially in relation to the Youth Synod in October and the Magis programme in Panama in early 2019, the Universal Apostolic Preferences when confirmed in January 2019, and the Ignatian Year planned in 2021 and 2022 to commemorate 500 years since the conversion of St Ignatius (2021) and 400 years since the canonisation of Ignatius and Xavier in 2022.

“Our spirituality is now at the heart of this papacy,” he said, and the Ignatian year is a big opportunity to talk about discernment and Ignatian spirituality.

Fr John Dardis SJ, General Counsellor for Discernment and Planning, was with the group for most of their meeting.  He too spoke of the opportunity we have now with communication.

“The Society is at a key turning point, a kairos,” said Fr Dardis, who has a background in communication.  “Globalisation is giving us an unprecedented chance to network, to be a universal body in mission.

“We are called to ongoing and continual conversion – personal, community, institutional, a restructuring of minds and hearts – and communication is a catalyst of change.  Go out and proclaim the Good News is our mission so we must communicate.”

The group also had the opportunity to meet Bishop Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture.  Bishop Tighe spoke of communication as being about building relationships, about helping people to see a broader world.

“The question to ask ourselves is how are we going to be present in the digital world of today,” he told the group.  If the Church is going to have prophetic voice it has to create platforms around which people can engage.

Quoting Pope Benedict XVI, he said, we need to listen, to converse, to encourage … to give the Internet a soul.

Re-published from JCAP Jesuit in Asia Pacific eNews