Gathered at a retreat house just outside of Rome is a group of Jesuits and lay colleagues who are discerning a possible future of leadership in the Society of Jesus. Hand-picked from apostolates around the world, the group represents a diverse mix of ministries: from parishes to retreat centers, high schools to universities, outreach centers to refugee services to province offices. Together they’ve been tasked with determining how Jesuit leadership might change to better integrate the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) in the worldwide ministry of the Society of Jesus.
The conference opened with Fr. General Arturo Sosa’s impassioned plea to consider the UAPs not as a strategic plan or ministry checklist, but a call to conversion. He also voiced the importance of the term ‘preferences’ vs. ‘priorities’. “When we began this process, we asked, ‘why preferences and not priorities’? We confirmed that preferences is really what we need and what we want to have. Not priorities, in the sense that priorities exclude: When you prioritize something you exclude something else. This is not a ‘choosing’ between schools, universities or parishes. Preferences are vital orientations for focusing ALL of our apostolates in the next ten years.”
After Fr. General’s talk, Fr. John Dardis, General Counsellor for Discernment and Apostolic Planning, set the tone for the meeting with a simple question: “How do we promote spiritual conversion?” He then asked the participants to be open to a ‘prayer for leadership’ which, if done correctly, leads us away from our areas of comfort, into areas of vulnerability that are essential for the type of conversion being asked for by Fr. General.
Over the course of the next 5 days - filled with workshops, keynotes on different style of leaderships and the challenges faced by the contemporary Church, and spiritual conversations between participants who can voice their hopes and fears for the future of the Society of Jesus - the Discernment and Leadership meeting will be tackling some of the most controversial issues confronting the modern Church. Fr Dardis insists that the meeting will be grounded in prayer and pushed forward by honest conversations between the participants.
“Prayer is the foundation of spiritual conversation because spiritual conversation is where I share the fruits of prayer.”