The 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus will convene in Rome on October 2, 2016 with the theme ‘rowing into the deep’. A general congregation is summoned on the death or resignation of the head of the Society — the Superior General — to choose his successor, or when the General decides action is needed on serious matters that he cannot or does not want to decide on alone. For an in-depth analysis of how a general congregation works you can watch this video interview with Pat Coyle and Jesuit theologian Jim Corkery, who lectures in the Gregorian University in Rome, and was a participant in GC35. And you can visit this GC36 website.
In December 2014, the current Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Father Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, announced his intention to resign. So a new superior general will be elected at the congregation and GC 36 delegates will discuss petitions or requests, known as postulata, received from province congregations around the world.
The logo and theme for GC 36 was inspired by Pope Francis’ message to the Jesuits on the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus. On September 27, 2014, in the Church of the Gesù in Rome, the pope urged Jesuits to discern in difficult times; to be receptive of and obedient to the will of God; and to row with him in the service of the church according to the call of Jesus to his disciples to “put out into the deep.”
On the GC36 logo, the IHS represents the Society’s boat in the church, and the waves represent the sea where Jesuits are invited to enter and row out into, toward frontiers. The cross represents the sail where the Spirit blows, helping the Society row. The flame above the cross represents “a fire that kindles other fires,” a link to Decree 2 from GC 35 on rediscovering the Jesuit charism.
Regarding the postulates or requests, not all are accepted by the general congregation. The number of postulata sent to a general congregation usually comes to no more than several hundred, although approximately 2,000 postulata inundated the 31st General Congregation in 1965-66, as Vatican II unleashed the imagination of the Society. At GC 32 (1974-75), the “service of faith and the promotion of justice,” was established as the specific and overriding characteristic of all Jesuit works.
In the 476 years since its founding, the Society of Jesus has convened only 35 general congregations. The first general congregation took place in 1558. It had been delayed for two years after St. Ignatius’ death because a war between King Philip II of Spain and Pope Paul IV. Father Diego Laynez, SJ, was elected Superior General.
Some congregations last for months — and one, GC 31 in 1965-66, met for several months, broke for more than a year, and resumed for two more months. When it is in session, a general congregation (GC) is the supreme governing body of the Society of Jesus, outranking even the Jesuit’s Superior General.
Below is a prayer you can join for the success of GC36:
God our Father, almighty and merciful,
You sent Your Son Jesus, Your living Word,
to save the human race by His life, death, and resurrection,
and You send Your Holy Spirit to inspire and accompany
Your pilgrim Church on earth.
With confidence, we pray for the Society that bears the name of Jesus:
Grant the 36th General Congregation openness to hear your Spirit
so that we may live for the greater glory of your name,
faithful to our history and the example of the saints
who have gone before us.
Give us the spirit to serve beneath the banner of the Cross on behalf of Your Church,
a profound love for the world You have created and entrusted to Your people,
the grace to see with Your eyes
the beauty and suffering of our sisters and brothers,
hearts that beat in union with Your heart,
loving You and serving You in all things.
We ask all this through Jesus, the Savior who sets us free.
Mary, Mother of the Society of Jesus, intercede for us.
All you Saints of the Society, pray for us.