Jesuits West, the newest province of the Society of Jesus in the United States, came into existence July 1, standing ready to serve as a force for good to God’s people in 10 Western states and beyond.
Under the stewardship of Provincial Father Scott Santarosa, SJ, and a cadre of Jesuit and lay leadership and volunteer partners, Jesuits West is a broad network of approximately 100 ministries and works which offers education through universities, high schools, and elementary and Nativity schools; Ignatian spirituality through parishes and retreat and spirituality centers; help and guidance to the poor and marginalized through social ministries; education and training for the next generations of Jesuit priests and brothers; and care of senior and infirm Jesuits who have dedicated their lives to the service of others.
The new province, which reunites the former California and Oregon provinces since their split up in 1932, will continue the Jesuit tradition of going to the margins of society to provide education, spirituality, and justice wherever it is needed.
“One of my hopes it that we can be more responsive to the Lord,” said Fr. Santarosa, provincial of the former Oregon Province since 2014 and pastor at Dolores Mission Parish in Los Angeles prior to that. “We hope to be responsive to the needs presented to us by the world and by the people who are in need or suffering. My hope is that we can be nimble and ready at a moment’s notice to serve.”
With a service area of 10 states, from the far reaches of Alaska to the small town of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico where the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) assists deported migrants, and from Hawaii to as far east as Montana, Jesuits West will have ample opportunities to serve.
Ideally, a province is a discerning body, answering the question, ‘Where is God calling us collectively as religious men in this particular geographic area?'” Fr. Santarosa said. “The reason we have our current apostolic works: high schools, universities, parishes, is because we’ve discerned that that’s where God is calling us to be.
“That’s how we build God’s Kingdom, but God’s not finished with us yet. He might be calling us to do some other things. New needs might arise.”
The Kino Border Initiative is an example of a need that arose within our province because of the immigration issue. We felt that we needed to respond to that. Feasibility studies were done and partnerships were formed between the Society of Jesus and other religious communities. The Province then gave three years of start-up funding.”
KBI provides assistance to deported migrants, some of whom are trying to get back to their homes in Mexico but also other North and Central American countries. Some of these migrants have been separated from their children who were born and raised in the U.S.
KBI provides food, temporary shelter, modest medical treatment, and other services. It is visited frequently by Jesuit and other high schools and universities for both service and educational experiences.
KBI represents but one example of a work originated at the province level. The former California Province was one of six religious orders and organizations which partnered to bring about KBI’s existence. It is led by Executive Director Fr. Sean Carroll, SJ. Like all ministries, parishes, and educational institutions within the Province boundaries, it would not exist without the Province.
In a similar way, the Jesuits of the region would not be available to serve. It is the Province which pays for their education and training. It is the Province which pays for the care of senior and infirm Jesuits who have lived their lives in service to others through the Province’s schools, parishes, and social ministries.
But why bring the former California and Oregon provinces together? Why is the Society of Jesus in the midst of a world-wide province reorganization plan, that, when completed in the U.S. in 2020, will see just four provinces in the U.S. where there was previously 10?
“I think it gets to something that former Superior General Fr. (Adolfo) Nicolás wrote to me,” Fr. Santarosa said. “He wrote, ‘The purpose of the restructuring is broadening our apostolic horizons, forming new initiatives. It’s starting new works. It’s looking at new ways of being in our existing works. It’s finding new ways to creatively reach out to young people. It’s forming new networks.'” That letter from Fr. Nicolás may have served as the inspiration for the calling together of more than 200 Jesuits and lay partners this August at Loyola Marymount University for a two-day Jesuits West workshop on leading and collaborating.
“We have a new Vision, Mission, and Values Statement and we want to make sure that the leadership of the Province, which is Jesuit and lay, is well versed in those things, is exposed to those values, and can imagine how they, in their various works, would implement them.” Fr. Santarosa said.
“Also, and this goes back to the letter from Fr. Nicolás about forming networks,” Fr. Santarosa continued, “it’s clear to me that individual works are very often operating in isolation from one another. They’re doing incredibly good work, but are also missing some great opportunities because they’re not aware of what’s happening just down the street or across town in the same sector.”
“We hope to be responsive to the needs presented to us by the world and by the people who are in need or suffering. My hope is that we can be nimble and ready at a moment’s notice to serve.”
– Scott Santarosa, SJ
One example of that is what happened when Fr. Santarosa was pastor at Dolores Mission in Los Angeles. The parish is made up largely of immigrants, many of whom need legal services. The parish reached out to Loyola Law School. Eventually, the school formed an immigration law clinic, which today still serves not only Dolores Mission, but also Homeboy Industries, another Jesuit ministry in Los Angeles which serves both immigrants and former gang members who are attempting to turn their lives around. The Loyola Law Clinic is today recognized as one of the premier law clinics in the country and the partnership has benefitted not only the school but the people of Dolores Mission and Homeboy.
“I think one of the goals of the leadership workshop for us is to get to know each other so we can more deeply collaborate with one another and not miss the opportunities that are right under our noses,” Fr. Santarosa said.
That’s all part of the effort to consolidate provinces. “Ultimately, we’re trying to force ourselves to creatively respond to new needs that the world is presenting us and new ways of serving the Lord,” Fr. Santarosa said. “It raises all kinds of questions. Why are we doing what we’re currently doing? Are there better ways to do it? Should we still be at these works or should there be some other works that we could be doing? Ultimately, it’s a question of trying to make us more responsive to the Kingdom of God.”