The Global Society of Jesus
Recently, after passing through security at O’Hare with record speed, an e-mail flashed across my phone from an ordination classmate, Fr. Martin Connell, who now serves in Tanzania. It had a two-word message, “Call me.” Taking advantage of my extra time, I dialed the number. We immediately marveled at the fact that we were connected across two hemispheres and wondered what it would have been like if St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Francis Xavier had cell phone technology in the 16th century. Without hesitation we both said, “It wouldn’t have helped them all that much!” The first Jesuits obviously never anticipated instant communications; they relied on letters that sailed the seas.When a letter was in transport it allowed for prayer, consultation, and reflection in between each piece of written correspondence.
Today this time-honored method of communication remains a hallmark of Jesuit organizational leadership. Management experts highlight the importance of documentation, reflection, and assessment in advancing an enterprise, and Jesuit missionaries have played a crucial role in developing this system of governance. But with instant communications so readily available, one wonders how it is changing this Jesuit tradition. As our globalized world becomes more connected, does it threaten the quality and depth of our interaction with one another?
In 2010 our Superior General, Father Adolfo Nicolás, focused on globalization in his address to Jesuits in Mexico City. The occasion of his talk was an international gathering of Jesuits in Higher Education. He asked how the globalized world in which we now live could effectively realize the universality which has always been part of St. Ignatius Loyola’s vision for the world. Father Nicolás turned to the Jesuits’ 35th General Congregation where the delegates wrote, “The new context of globalization requires us to act as a universal body with a universal mission, realizing at the same time the radical diversity of our situations. It is as a worldwide community and, simultaneously, as a network of local communities that we seek to serve others across the world.”
Father General’s words offer a helpful perspective in this age of instant connection across continents. While it may seem that the world is a global village, each location is a distinct village with its own history, language, and culture. How I understand and relate this new culture with my own effects the universality that St. Ignatius Loyola desired. Thinking back to my conversation with Fr. Connell, we talked less about how small the world was and more about what our respective missions could learn from one another. As friends who now live in two distinct cultures, we focused on how our worldview could expand and our faith could deepen.
I pray that as you read this issue of Partners, it helps you to further engage the universality of the Society of Jesus. While the familiar names and stories may make the world seem smaller, may they also reveal the ever-growing face of Christ among us.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Timothy P. Kesicki, SJ