Jesuit Superior General Fr Arturo Sosa SJ, the Venezuelan head of the Society of Jesus, has visited St Canice’s parish as part of a whirlwind visit to Australia in late January to oversee a change of Jesuit leadership in the Asia-Pacific region.
Fr General Sosa took the time to meet parishioners, volunteers and patrons at St Canice’s Kitchen on 29 January, one of Sydney’s most dynamic parishes known for its charitable outreach.
Parish priest Fr David Braithwaite SJ said he was working hard to implement the Jesuits’ “Universal Apostolic Preferences,” a kind of global Jesuit mission statement promulgated by Fr General Sosa in 2019.
“I hope that our parish and kitchen align with all of the UAPs, but one that I am particularly focused on is ‘accompanying young people,’” Fr Braithwaite said in an interview with the global Jesuit Communications Office.
“Finding ways to engage young adults is a central strategic priority here, as it should be anywhere of course, but especially in an inner-city parish that tends to be frequented predominantly by the elderly.
“The young are less likely than their parents or grandparents to self-identify as Catholic, and yet have a clear thirst for justice, and a desire for community beyond just the workplace and home.”
Fr General Sosa presided over the Major Superiors Assembly of the Jesuit Conference of the Asia-Pacific, held from 22 January at Peter Canisius House in Pymble.
Fr Tony Moreno SJ stepped down as president, passing the leadership to Fr Primitivo Viray Jr SJ—both Filipinos.
In the wake of the promulgation of the UAPs, Fr General Sosa has asked all Jesuits worldwide to conduct an examen—a prayerful examination of conscience—“to get to a deeper reflection on our situation as a universal body.”
He told the Major Superiors that in regards to the examen, he was particularly interested in making more space for discernment, and addressing inadequate action on care for the environment, calling for “real conversion of our lifestyles and works” and hoping that people will be “more creative and proactive in promoting the good of the environment.”
On 24 January Fr General Sosa spoke to supporters of Jesuit Mission Australia alongside CEO Helen Forde and Major Superiors from Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Timor-Leste, who spoke about the situations in their own countries and the impact of Jesuit Mission’s good works.
“We are providing not only education but holistic formation to youth where their values, culture, and spirituality are grounded,” said Fr Erik John Gerilla SJ, Regional Superior of Timor-Leste, in reference to the Jesuit education institutions there, which are forming thousands of students and trainee teachers to be the next leaders and change-makers of their country.
Fr General Sosa insisted that the “mission does not belong to the Jesuits,” but to all Christians working together.
“The Society of Jesus cannot exist and cannot have as long a history as it has without your generosity, without those who support and have been partners in this mission,” he said.
“So from the grateful heart of the whole Society of Jesus, especially from the Australian, Asian, parts of our universal body, and in your name, I ask the Lord for abundant blessings … May the Lord bless each of you, your families, and your intentions.
“May you be blessed with good health and interior strength so that we can encourage one another in doing God’s work.”
CEO Helen Forde said “it was an evening of great joy and encouragement, a reminder of the positive change we make when we collaborate and uplift our sisters and brothers in need together.”
Fr General Sosa is the 31st Superior General of the Society of Jesus, the largest religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church, and is the third Superior General in the Jesuits’ history to visit Australia.