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January 19, 2023

This fall, as part of the Jesuits West Province’s apostolic planning process, 1,129 people affiliated with the province engaged in a series of spiritual conversations to discern where God is calling the province. Conversations were held up and down the province’s 10-state region — from meetings in Jesuit communities to gatherings, some regionally, at Jesuit schools, parishes, retreat and spirituality centers, and ministries that serve people at the margins of society. Participants included Jesuits as well as lay staff, faculty, board members, parishioners and students representing a diverse cross section of the 38 participating ministries and 21 Jesuit communities.

In his letter last summer announcing the process, Jesuits West Provincial, Fr. Sean Carroll, SJ, said that apostolic planning would be “a time of listening to the Lord together. It will be grounded in Ignatian discernment, the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs), our charism and our context. Apostolic planning invites us, and I am inviting you, to let go of long-held assumptions and practices, to look anew for the Lord, to respond generously to his invitation, and to allow our hearts to be transformed.”

The UAPs referred to by Fr. Carroll are the four apostolic preferences that will animate the work of the Society of Jesus in the years to come. Promulgated by Jesuit Superior General Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, on behalf of the global Society of Jesus, they are: Showing the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment; Walking with the excluded (the poor, the outcasts of the world whose dignity has been violated); Journeying with youth (accompanying young people in the creation of a hope-filled future); and Caring for our common home (collaborating with Gospel depth for the protection and renewal of God’s creation).

As part of the spiritual conversations, Fr. Carroll asked Jesuit communities and province ministries to reflect on how the Spirit is present and moving in their work and how they hear the Spirit calling the province to future opportunities. Each group was asked to provide a report of the notable themes, areas of strong convergence and differences in perspectives that came up in conversation.

Last week at the province curia (headquarters) in Portland, Jesuits West’s apostolic planning took another step forward as the 11 members of the province’s Apostolic Planning Steering Committee met to review and process reports and engage in their own spiritual conversation. They were asked to look for themes and convergences across the board in order to craft the key apostolic questions for deliberation.

While the fall semester was a time of conversation and consultation, the coming months will be characterized by deliberations and discernment as Jesuits and ministries will be invited to reflect on the key apostolic questions that arose as part of the Steering Committee’s review of the data. In addition, task forces will be formed and charged with reviewing the data and making recommendations regarding specific apostolic questions.

The members of the Steering Committee are: Jack Bentz, SJ, pastor, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Hollywood; Erick Berrelleza, SJ, founding dean, Messina College at Boston College; Erin Brigham, Ph.D., executive director of The Joan and Ralph Lane Center for Catholic Social Thought and the Ignatian Tradition at the University of San Francisco; Bill Muller, SJ, vice president for mission and identity at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix; Bryan Pham, SJ, assistant professor of law at Gonzaga University’s School of Law and supervising attorney for the General Public Practice & Indian Law Clinic, Spokane, Washington; Tracey Primrose, provincial assistant for communications, Jesuits West Province; Cindy Reopelle, principal, Gonzaga Preparatory School, Spokane, Washington; David Romero, SJ, Christus Ministries, Los Angeles; Will Rutt, executive director of the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, Seattle; and Bob Ryan, principal, Brophy College Preparatory, Phoenix.

Fr. Ed Fassett, SJ, is the province’s delegate for apostolic planning, and Charlie Kelley, who helped the Jesuits of the U.S. with a similar process in 2005, is serving as a consultant on this project.