Before the start of our meeting in Rome we called attention to the demographic changes, which are present at this General Congregation, emphasizing in particular the growth of members coming from the provinces of the global south. This growth, that primarily reflects the higher volume of vocations in Asia and Africa in recent years, has another interesting read, mainly the aging of the members of the Society of Jesus in regions such as Europe or the Americas.
The continued increase of the average age of Jesuits in certain regions of the world sparks new questions for the Society of Jesus about the care for elderly Jesuits, as well as for the configuration of provinces and communities with growing numbers of elderly. There are provinces that have established new positions in the governance of the province for the care of older Jesuits. We have talked about the issue with Fr. Cipriano Díaz Marcos, SJ, delegate for the Elderly and Preparation in the province of Spain.
In general, for Fr. Díaz, there is nothing strange about this topic, since we care for our elderly as members of the same family. “As community,” he says, “we feel responsible for each other.” The main challenge, in addition to appropriate care, is to face diminishment from the point of view of our spirituality. “Our own spirituality speaks of the vow of poverty, and perhaps old age is a time for dispossession, to give in willingly, a moment of personal surrender in which we can live splendidly in the manner Fr. Arrupe taught us when he had to resign from the Society of Jesus due to health problems.”
In a moment of thought-provoking reflection, Fr. Cipriano comments that we have here an opportunity to better understand the theology of religious life: “Old age tells us that Religious Life has a lot of passivity, submission, donation […] and this is a time also to recover those keys of theology and spirituality.”