Getting to know one another at GC36
The Jesuit delegates in Rome have work to do before they elect the 31st Superior General of the Society of Jesus. Their work is divided into two phases. Firstly, there is a discussion about the current state of the Society in the world, and after this the delegates enter into the ‘murmurationes’, a time of consultation in preparation for the election.
The electors have begun discussing the current state of the Society in small groups, consisting of ten delegates each. They have been focusing on topics such as the overall situation of the world today, the situation of the Church in that world, and fidelity to the Society’s charism. They will also discuss Vocation Promotion and Formation, Universal Mission in a Global Society, Jesuit Community Life, and Servant Leadership. Other topics will include Cooperation and Networking between, and among, Levels, as well as Solidarity and Communion. These discussions will culminate with a consideration of challenges facing the Society in the next ten years.
According to John Guiney SJ, an Irish delegate at the Congregation: “The great gift of these groups is not only a lively exchange of reflections on different matters relating to the identity and mission of the Society of Jesus but also encountering one another from different corners of the world. Such a variety of backgrounds, difference of cultures, riches of work experience makes these meetings so fruitful and life giving. The increasing demographic changes with the majority of delegates coming from the Southern Hemisphere brings new cultural perspectives in being a Jesuit today. Amidst the difference there is a unity and solidarity in companionship and mission”.
John adds that there is another function in this group work, as it is also part of the preparatory work to help the delegates to get to know one another before the election of a new General. “It is an experience of the universality of the Society of Jesus and the depth and variety of service it renders to the people of God where it is present. It is indeed a privileged moment to witness this.”
According to John, delegates have struck by the growing presence of active members from provinces of the global south. “This is a real demographic shift,” he notes. “At GC35 this region already represented the majority (54%) of Jesuits. Now, however, their percentage has increased to represent 59% of the Congregation. Among other aspects, this reflects the growing number of vocations in Asia and Africa in these past years.”
He says that Asia and Oceania have grown from 28% to 33% and one-third of the Congregation comes from the East, mainly from the provinces of India. East Africa, also, has grown from 8% to 10%, and 21 members of the Congregation will come from provinces in the continent of Africa.
By contrast Latin America’s presence has diminished. “In GC35 their representation was 18%, and in GC36 it will be only 16%, just slightly above the participation from North America (15%), which has maintained stable. This drop is due largely to the restructuring of provinces, which has been reduced from 16 provinces and two regions to only 12 provinces.”
The most diminished region, however, is Europe. According to John: “This region has dropped from 31% at GC35 to 26% at GC36. As a result, Europe is no longer the largest delegation percentage-wise, but it still has the most members represented by right of office. So 56 Jesuits from European provinces will participate in the Congregation, of which 35 are elected members, 14 are provincials, and 7 are members by right of office,” he concludes.