The Jesuits in 2018: A Year in Review

December 31, 2018 — As the years pass (484 of them since the Society’s founding thus far), the Jesuits move forward in their work for reconciliation — with God, with human beings and with the environment — alongside lay collaborators in our parishes, schools, ministries and other apostolates. In the spirit of an Ignatian examen, we look back at major stories of 2018 for the Society below.


The Society of Jesus celebrated the ordination of 27 new priests in the United States, Canada and Haiti in 2018.


Taking a stand in defense of unborn children, more than 800 students from Jesuit high schools, colleges and universities from across the United States gathered in Washington, D.C., in January for the Jesuit Mass for Life and the 45th annual March for Life. “When we march,” Fr. Sam Sawyer, SJ, said during his homily at the Mass, “we must set out both to struggle for justice for the unborn and also to call our brothers and sisters back to the recognition of God’s love for each and every human life — both for the unborn and for themselves.”


Jesuits are well known for their secondary schools, colleges and universities. With the opening of the Loyola Early Learning Center (LELC), an Ignatian-inspired preschool for lower-income families, the Society can add preschools to the list. Founded by Fr. William Watters, SJ, the LELC is now up and running in Baltimore. “I am inspired to be sharing in our collective Jesuit mission to serve young people and their families who come from our city’s impoverished neighbor­hoods,” Fr. Watters said. “We offer them a chal­lenging and quality education that transforms their lives.”

Five years after Pope Francis’ historic election, the Jesuits counted the ways he remains guided by Ignatian spirituality and the Society’s intellectual tradition. “He is the perfect witness to the Jesuit vocation,” said Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. “If you want to know what a Jesuit is, you couldn’t have any better example than Pope Francis.”


From a precious 150-year-old golden ordination chalice and papal zucchettos (skullcaps) to ink-drawn maps, cross-stitch samplers and novitiate diaries, the new Jesuit Archives & Research Center in St. Louis serves as a central repository for the collective historical resources of the Jesuits in the United States. It is a community resource, a place not just for historical research, but also for presentations and exhibits — preserving the past, engaging the present and forming the future.


This May, Superior General Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, made his first official visit to Canada as the leader of the Jesuits. He began his trip doing something he loves: talking with Jesuits in formation. At Regis College in Toronto, he met with 40 Jesuit scholastics, who are preparing for the priesthood. During their conversation, Fr. Sosa stressed that reconciliation is at the core of a Jesuit’s vocation — reconciliation with human beings, with the environment and with the Trinity.


In Canada, Fr. Sosa also met with Indigenous Elders for a sharing circle in Regina, Saskatchewan. The Jesuits have ministered to Canada’s Indigenous people for nearly five centuries. When it was his turn to speak, Fr. Sosa talked about the Jesuits’ history with Indigenous people and the harmful connections between evangelization and colonialism, and he asked Indigenous people to help Jesuits “decolonize” their way of thinking and feeling.

Over the summer, the Society celebrated the priestly ordination of 27 Jesuits in the United States, Canada and Haiti. Each Jesuit goes through a process known as “formation,” lasting around 10 to 12 years, before being ordained. Their learning experiences in formation have thoroughly prepared them for their new assignments in the priesthood, which include working at parishes and retreat centers, promoting vocations to the Society, continuing their studies toward advanced degrees and teaching at Jesuit schools.

In July, Fr. Sosa announced the opening of the process of beatification for Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe, 28th Superior General of the Society. “We are still at the beginning of the process, but Angelo de Donatis, the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, has given the diocese of Rome approval to open the process of beatification,” Fr. Sosa said. Arrupe was “a man of truth rooted in Christ and dedicated to mission, whose greatest miracle is that we are here today.”


A few of Jesuits.org’s most memorable stories this year highlighted the intersections of family with vocations in the Society. Brothers Trevor Rainwater, SJ, and Conan Rainwater, SJ, have a lot in common, from shared childhood bedrooms and family vacations to Creighton University educations. But they also share something more uncommon: a religious vocation. Both are in formation to become Jesuit priests.


Fr. Tim McCabe, SJ, a single dad before entering the Jesuits, ministers with his daughter Mary McEvoy at the Pope Francis Center in Detroit, which serves people experiencing homelessness. McEvoy said she has never doubted for a moment that her father’s first vocation is to be her dad, but she added that his parental role has “become enveloped in a wider vocation.” Both she and Fr. McCabe say they know they won’t be working together forever, but they’ll always share a common calling — “to find God in a broken, wounded world.”


On July 31 — the feast of St. Ignatius, founder of the Society — the Jesuit Province of Canada came into existence. The new Province reunifies the French and English Canada Provinces, which had been separate Provinces for almost a century. Jesuit Father Erik Oland serves as its first Provincial.


The Society celebrated additional milestones in formation in August with 26 Jesuit novices professing their first vows. After two years of growing in faith, living in Jesuit communities, serving the community and participating in local ministries, these men made a public profession of their commitment to the Society of Jesus. Kneeling before the elevated Eucharist during a Vow Day Mass, each novice speaks the words of the vow formula to God, which concludes, “And as you have freely given me the desire to make offering, so also may you give me the abundant grace to fulfill it.”


The Jesuits of Haiti, Canada and the U.S. also welcomed 40 new Jesuit novices this fall at novitiates in California, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Quebec and Haiti. They have taken the initial step on their journey toward Jesuit priesthood or brotherhood. In these first two years as novices, the men will learn what it means to live in community, adopt the rhythm of daily prayer and deepen their understanding of God’s call to the Society.


Above, five Jesuits were ordained deacons on May 19 in Toronto, along with two Jesuits who were ordained to the priesthood.

This year, the Society in Canada and the U.S. celebrated ordinations to the diaconate at a number of Masses in the United States, Canada, Rome, Paris and Cairo. Most of the men are anticipating their ordination to the priesthood next summer. They are now authorized to proclaim the Word of God, to preach and to preside at the sacraments of baptism and marriage and at the rite of Christian burial. Learn more about the steps of formation and explore a potential vocation with the Jesuits at beajesuit.org.


On October 14, Pope Francis canonized Archbishop Oscar Romero and Pope Paul VI, making them official saints in the Catholic Church. Both men lived lives marked by pain and criticism — including from within the church — but dedicated themselves with passionate love to following Jesus and caring for the weak and the poor, Pope Francis said in his homily at the canonization Mass.


Finally, with the passage of the First Step act this December, the Society marked an important stride forward in criminal justice reform, a cause which has long been meaningful to Zach Presutti, SJ, since he was sent to work in a jail as a novice. “I was transformed by the people that I met — their names, their faces and their stories. These were relationships I was building, and that’s why I felt myself coming toward this work, to empower others to thrive,” Presutti said. Inspired by his experiences, Presutti founded the Thrive for Life Prison Project, a nonprofit that brings opportunities for spiritual development and educational resources to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals in New York.

But the Jesuits’ work for justice will certainly continue next year. “It is important to recognize how limited in scope the reforms in this legislation actually are. Rather than propose a bold new vision for criminal justice policy, this legislation enacts reforms that should have happened a long time ago,” said Ted Penton, SJ, from the Jesuit Conference’s Office of Justice and Ecology. With a mindset for progress, the Jesuits forge ahead in their work for reconciliation in 2019.



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