MUMBAI, India — We need urgently to reconcile ourselves with God, fellow human beings and with nature, according to the head of the Jesuit order, who is currently on a pastoral visit to India.
Father Arturo Sosa, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, was speaking during an Ash Wednesday service at Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth seminary in Pune.
The Jesuit leader has visited several parts of the country, including historic Catholic heartlands in Goa and Mumbai, formerly Bombay.
Sosa was promoting the four new Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) of the Society of Jesus for the next ten years, which were announced in February after a two-year discernment.
An “Apostolic Preference” is a “priority for discernment” made when reading the signs of the times.
The preferences are: 1) Promoting discernment and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola; 2) Walking with the excluded, including the poor, the vulnerable, and those whom society considers worthless; 3) Caring for our common home, and the protection of God’s creation; and 4) Journeying with youth, and offering them a hope-filled future.
“May these four preferences motivate us to work sincerely to promote the human person, created by God. There is common ground in actively creating a better future. We need to work together – you and we – towards creating a better humanity and a better tomorrow for all,” Sosa said while visiting Goa on Feb. 28.
He suggested that the Universal Apostolic Preferences can be seen as areas of collaboration between Jesuits and people of good will of all religious faiths.
“We want to show people the way to God through prayer and discernment; we want to help all people to find union with God,” Sosa said. “I want the Goa Jesuits and their partners in mission to work together in a common undertaking, that is, to walk with the poor.”
The Jesuit leader said we must live coherent lives, which are “deeply spiritual and open so that our lives can inspire the youth,” adding that we “need to modify our lifestyles so that we can save this land, this planet, for those who come after us.”
Goa, a Portuguese colony until 1961, is one of the most Christian states in India, with over 25 percent of the population. The national average is 2.3 percent.
Although Sosa has visited India previously, this was his first visit to Goa.
“Our Father General’s visit is being looked on as a time of grace for us. Our hopes are that he will continue to inspire us and challenge us to do our very best for the people whom we are called to serve,” Jesuit Father Roland Coelho of the Jesuit Goa Province told The Navhind Times.
“Perhaps, he will shake us out of a tendency towards complacency and mediocrity,” Coelho added.
When visiting the Diocese of Vasai – in the greater Mumbai metropolitan region – on March 3-4, Sosa met with Archbishop Felix Machado.
“I began with these four points and the general was happily surprised that I was well updated with their program,” the archbishop told Crux.
“The first point about discernment seems very important. I gave the example of our Holy Father who, a Jesuit, does not give talks on Ignatian spirituality but concretely suggests the depth of Ignatian spirituality and persuades us to deepen our faith,” Machado said, adding that faith must “translate into action.”
Turning to the other Universal Apostolic Preferences, Machado said they are common to all Christians, and flow through baptism.
“Father General was happy to know my desire. I wanted the Jesuits in Vasai to teach – not by lectures, by concrete examples – how the faith of the Church can be deepened by help of discernment as taught by St Ignatius,” the archbishop continued.
“I have been asking the religious men and women in the diocese to firmly hold on to their identity as religious and collaborate, teach, challenge, persuade the diocesan clergy, consequently the lay people, the joy of the Gospel. For example, the vows of obedience, chastity and poverty – which are also identities of the diocesan priests and laity – could be concretely enriched by the life and interaction of the Religious. We have many Jesuits here and they can give lead,” Machado said.
The Jesuit Conference of South Asia has over 4,000 Jesuits, nearly a quarter of the worldwide total.