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We need to talk

‘Caring for the mission’ was the theme of the Fr Arturo Sosa’s  latest webinars with Jesuits and colleagues from all over the world, hosted on Wednesday 29 and Thursday 30 April 2020. The Father General also said that the practice of spiritual conversation was essential to this work.

Fr Sosa SJ is the leader of the Jesuit’s all over the world and his address was inspired by the letter he had sent to the whole Society a month earlier, entitled: ‘Care (cura) in the governance of the life-mission of the Society in this change of the eras.’

The first webinar for Jesuits, co-workers and friends was broadcast from the Jesuit Curia in Rome on 2 April 2020.

Fr Sosa has outlined his four areas of priority that he wants Jesuits and colleagues to focus on over the next decade. These areas are known as his Universal Apostolic Preferences or UAP’s for short.

The preferences include showing the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius and the spiritual practice of discernment; walking with the excluded; journeying with young people; and caring for the earth, our common home.

During his first webinar, Fr Sosa spoke for about 15 minutes on the implementation of the  Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) to date and the challenges of the road ahead before going on to reflect on the particular challenges posed by the outbreak of Covid-19.

After the initial talk, listeners got a chance to write questions to which Fr Sosa replied. Among the issues discussed was the sense of anxiety experienced by many in this Coivd-19 crisis. Fr Sosa drew from the Letter to the Hebrews as he encouraged participants to pray for liberation from the fear that the Covid-19 pandemic has engendered.

He said it was an opportune time for people to get to know each other better through the Ignatian practice of spiritual conversation which is an intimate sharing of minds and hearts that includes an attentiveness to the Holy Spirit. He also presented the figure of Abraham as someone who was able to let go of his safety and security and fully trust in God.

In the second webinar entitled ‘Caring for the mission of the Society of Jesus post-COVID-19’  Fr Sosa explored further the themes of his letter on Cura personalis and Cura apostolica which was sent to the whole of the Society in March 2020.

He told participants that it was necessary to integrate cura personalis (‘care of the person’) and cura apostolica (‘care of the apostolate’) in order to renew the Jesuit mission. He gave special orientations for superiors, directors of work, delegates, formators, and for all involved in the mission.

Fr Sosa said: “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of care in many dimensions of our lives. It has brought to light so much neglect accumulated over decades in the way human beings have related to each other, to nature and to God. We can learn from it how caring for oneself and caring for others is intimately related”.

Fr Sosa also spoke about the importance of maintaining a creative tension between care of the apostolate and care of the person and went on to discuss the four universal apostolic preferences in this light. He noted that:

  1. Taking care of our spiritual life allows us not to get lost on the path to God that we are called to show to all human beings.
  2. Caring for the lives of the discarded takes on a profound meaning at this time. Their number has multiplied exponentially as a consequence of the unjust structures of our world. Our global structures seem incapable of putting human beings and the Common Good at the center of local, national or global political decisions.
  3. Accompanying young people is a continuous exercise in learning about what it means to take care of the present and the future of humanity. Here is where the meaning of our ‘life-mission’ is constantly renewed.
  4. The neglect of nature has been laid bare during the pandemic of Covid-19. To continue to neglect it is the greatest of the irresponsibilities of a humanity that has come up against its fragility. We have received a big wake-up call about the need and also the possibility to respond as one single humanity without distinction of culture, age, or religion.

Fr Sosa also outlined some immediate steps that we can take during the Easter season. These include asking ourselves: “What can help me to grow in that transparency and honesty that arise from interior freedom and Ignatian indifference?”;.

He suggested adopting spiritual conversation as the way of discussing matters that are central to the life of the community or apostolic work. And he called on Jesuit community leaders to grow in their capacity for in-depth dialogue with Jesuits and co-workers (companions in mission) in their province or region.

Fr Sosa concluded his initial talk by suggesting that we make the most of the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic to be able, in the next stage, to overcome any lacks that exist either the care of persons or our care of the apostolate. “We want to put care (‘cura’) at the very centre, the very heart, of the way we relate to each other in the life and mission to which we are called,” he concluded.

For links to the second webinar, click here for the text of Fr Sosa’s initial talk and click here for the video recording which includes the initial talk and questions and answers.