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Process evaluation and the apostolic preferences

Brian Grogan SJ, author and facilitator on communal discernment, spoke with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications about his recent trip to Rome. He went on foot of an invitation from former Irish Jesuit Provincial John Dardis SJ who is part of the central governance in the Society of Jesus, and in charge of apostolic planning and discernment.

Following on from his visit, Brian is writing a report on the decision making process in Rome, that resulted in Fr Arturo Sosa’s four Universal Apostolic Preferences ». The UAPs involve four major priorities (spirituality, the excluded, care of the earth, young people) and Fr Grogan is charged with commenting on the decision making process that took place. It was a process where the focus was on how to bring people along rather than telling them what to do, according to Brian.

Brian paid particular attention to the nine day meeting of the UAPs that took place in Rome in January which was the culmination of a near two year discernment process. This was the first time that the method of communal discernment had been used on such a worldwide scale. “I was amazed when I heard they were going to spend nine days on the ins and outs of all of this,” Brian commented.

In the interview he also referred to Pope Francis, who approved the UAPs, in relation to the first priority, Promoting Discernment and the Spiritual Exercises which includes making good decisions: “Basically he’s saying that we must allow ourselves as a Church and as Jesuits to just be led by the Holy Spirit and not get in the way”. Regarding the second priority, Walking with the Excluded which includes survivors of sexual abuse, Fr Grogan said: “There’s that whole world of victims and of survivors and all that and that we should be there because that’s where God is and God hears the cry of the poor”.

Referring to the third priority, Caring for our Common Home [Creation] which is something Fr Grogan is actively involved in, he said: “That must be a primary inspiration for the kind of work we do”. Regarding the fourth priority, Journeying with Youth, he said: “It’s not just a matter of teaching people but really being with them and allowing them to say, ‘This is how we see the world'”. Brian is sensitive to the language used in promoting the four UAPs. He said there is a danger that they are ‘over spiritualised’, so he sees the need for a universal language for helping to implement the preferences rather than an overly spiritual discourse.

Brian wants Jesuits and their partners in mission to be moved to compassionate action. He gave the example of 85 million young people whose lives are being destroyed at the moment, and asked: “Can we allow ourselves to be touched and moved even to tears?” He also pointed out a pastoral message of Pope Francis in light of the needs of people and the Gospel. Listen to the interview for the full story.