The biannual meeting of the major superiors of Jesuit Conference of South Asia held on 22 to 27 October ‘23 was hosted by the Pune province, and accommodation was provided by De Nobili College, Pune. The Regional Assistants, Fr Vernon D’Cunha and Fr M. K. George were active participants and mentors along with Fr John Dardis, General Counsellor, who contributed to the assembly with his expertise on discernment processes.
The main theme of the meeting, ‘Reimagining and Restructuring the Society of Jesus in South Asia’ on which the major superiors devoted three days of discernment, was animated by Fr John Dardis, Fr Prakash Louis from Patna Province and Fr Dionysius Vaz, the provincial of Karnataka. The major superiors intensely studied and reflected on external and internal context of our life, shared their dreams and narrated their challenges, and charted a roadmap for going forward in the mission. The methodology adopted for discernment was reflection on inputs, personal prayer, spiritual conversation in groups, gallery walks reading and highlighting points of group reports written on charts, and concluding with a plenary.
The process enabled a profound spiritual ambience and provoked depth level conversations. At the end of the discernment, there was a deep-felt feeling that this process adopted by the major superiors be extended to all the provinces/regions and to the common houses of formation and apostolic works.
Notable decisions taken were: establishment of a Conference-level resource team to facilitate similar processes in provinces/regions and province/region level taskforces, and revitalizing of the existing Conference-level Thinktank, and formation of province/region level taskforces in order to deal with burning issues of South Asia.
These preferences were listed: to increase spiritual and intellectual depth among us; to form mission-driven communities; to rebalance the apostolic efforts or to clarify what ministries to retain and reform, close, or transfer; to intensify collaboration with the laity, the religious inside and outside province/region; to foster interprovincial collaboration in formation and other areas; to focus on project-based collaboration with other provinces and regions especially on burning issues; to create new provinces from the several existing provinces/regions.
In addition to the discernment process for reimagining and restructuring, the major superiors listened to the restructuring processes envisaged in West and Central Zones presented by Fr Agnelo, the provincial of Pune and Fr Jerry, the provincial of Jamshedpur. Fr Arjen, provincial of Calcutta, Fr Sujeewa, the provincial of Sri Lanka and Fr Amrit, the regional superior of Nepal explained the status of our apostolates in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal respectively. Fr Melvil, the regional superior of Kohima gave a brief appraisal of the situation in Manipur. Fr Arjen presented the guidelines for early formation before its approval by the house.
One whole session was dedicated to questions and clarifications on our commitment to safeguarding of minors and vulnerable adults in our institutions and works. This session was facilitated by Fr Hans Zollner, the director of Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care (IADC) and Fr Konrad Noronha, the director of the Center for Safeguarding and Human Formation, De Nobili College, Pune.
The JCSA is grateful to Fr Agnelo, the provincial of Pune and his team for hosting the meeting, and Fr Franics Pudhicherry, Rector, De Nobili and Fr Arun, the director of CISR.
– Shajumon C.K., SJ (DAR)