This week we have beens reviewing our Jesuit governance, before moving to elect Fr General’s four Assistants ad providentiam which would then lead to his appointment of the members of the General Council.
GC35 emphasised that our Jesuit form of governance was at the service of universal mission: ‘As governance in the Society is always measured in an appropriate balance of union and diversity, the office of General must be exercised in a manner which respects diversity while placing it at the service of our universal mission and identity’. (Decree 5: Governance at the Service of Universal Mission, 7)
This is no easy task. We are clearly a very diverse group seeking to be at the service of universal mission. But, I am encouraged by three things.
More than fifty languages are spoken by those attending GC36! While the majority speak English, more than sixty speak both English and Spanish. More than thirty speak Hindi and/or Tamil. Our meetings are translated into English, Spanish and French. Some twenty delegates come with the knowledge of five languages or more. Apart from those other main languages of Europe (Italian, German, Portugese etc.) those fifty include languages spoken in Africa, Asia and South America. They also include Indigenous languages spoken in India, Timor Leste and Mexico. We are a linguistic and culturally diverse group.
What is also evident is how well educated we are. Nearly one half hold doctorates and on topics as diverse as planetary sciences, acarology, criminology, electrical engineering and mangrove ecology, apart from a significant number in philosophy and theology. We have been educated in a variety of institutions as in the Middle East, USA, UK, Asia/Pacific and Europe. We are academically a very privileged and diverse group.
What was also revealed in our first week of sharing was a significant number who have spent time working for JRS, perhaps one third of all delegates. Some were appointed to JRS, others came as scholastics on regency, priests recently ordained or on Tertianship. Clearly, this time out of their own culture, and accompanying others who were most vulnerable, had left a deep impression on them. Others had ministered out of their home Provinces or worked in Indigenous communities. Their experience of ‘interculturality’, being able to think and move in another culture was considered very important in influencing their Jesuit life.
So, while we might continue to feel some anxiety as we probe into the best form of Jesuit governance at this time of our history, one that provides the most effective support for our newly elected Fr General and our universal mission, we know there lies much cultural experience, learning and wisdom amongst us. I hope we can draw on the richness of this diversity with Ignatian discernment over the coming days.
Brian F. McCoy SJ
*the figures I have used were based on the data provided by delegates for the GC. They are likely to be underestimates.