Pedro Walpole SJ
After 16 months of discernment in common, and with the approval and confirmation of Pope Francis, Father General Arturo Sosa of the Society of Jesus announced the four Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) on 19 February 2019 to guide and inspire the mission for the next 10 years (2019-2029). These UAPs are:
- Promoting Discernment and the Spiritual Exercises– helping people find Jesus Christ and follow Him
- Walking with the Excluded – walk alongside the poor, the vulnerable, the excluded, and those whom society considers worthless
- Caring for our Common Home – work, with Gospel depth, for the protection and renewal of God’s Creation
- Journeying with Youth – accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future
The accompanying video shares a tough world reality and embraces the volition and the hope of the youth today. Hearts are resonating, eyes are shining with expectations and the challenge to engage. This is not a glamorous pursuit of a populist consumerism. Each preference is as enriching as the depth to which we enter in and live with passion and compassion.
It takes deep reflection, and, as shared in our group listening to Father Sosa, if we want to care for creation, we tread “with Gospel depth in Ecology.” Looking at and quoting from the preference to collaborate in the care of our Common Home, it is logical to conclude that what Christians need is an “ecological conversion” where the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them.
Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue.”(Laudato Si’ 217). For some of us reading the document, this sends a shiver down the spine as the document and video are full of pathos and ethos, and as someone said, not just refined logos.
“The preferences are not for specific works but for all to engage,” Father Sosa said in discussing the UAPs during the meeting of the International Association of Jesuit Universities in Rome on 19 February. He said that “higher education has a major responsibility” and universities are an experience of the Church in a different way – another way of being together.
The UAPs are the mission we share in, and, coming from Pope Francis, are both the source of consolation and the direction of life-mission. There are 16,000 Jesuits and 100,000 partners, can we not coalesce around these preferences? What a calling for Jesuits to go out and collaborate! Most of all, these preferences are the expressions of a mission and life in collaboration with the youth.
“They are a message of collaboration, a new way of understanding our presence – we want to do things with others; not looking for collaborators but being collaborators,” said Father Sosa. The call is to more broadly network, otherwise each institution will take a different and uncertain path. The message is hopeful and encouraging, it asks where the Spirit is active today, and it is in the young and the poor, Father Sosa shared.
One very beautiful and positive statement of engagement is that of participating in a mature and secular world:
“We resolve to collaborate with the Church in experiencing secular society as a sign of the times that affords us the opportunity to renew our presence in the heart of human history. A mature secularized society opens up spaces for the complex dimensions of human freedom, especially religious freedom. In a mature secular society, the conditions exist for the emergence of circumstances conducive to personal religious processes, independent of social or ethnic pressure, that allow people to ask profound questions and to choose freely to follow Jesus, to belong to an ecclesial community, and to adopt a Christian lifestyle in social, economic, cultural, and political spheres.”
“Do not be afraid,” let go and the grace of God overtakes.