Sunday, February 05, 2006


You've certainly heard a lot about Super Bowl XL in the last few days, but unless you move in Jesuit circles you probably haven't heard about GC35. In a letter to the whole Society released last Thursday, Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach announced the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, which will be held in Rome in early 2008. Though the convocation of GC35 has been long anticipated in Jesuit circles, the exact timetable for the Congregation wasn't clear until last week's official announcement. A news story about the event is available here. For more background on what a General Congregation is, Wikipedia has a brief but informative article providing the bare essentials.

A General Congregation is a deliberative body composed of representatives of the whole Society and is called into being only in exceptional circumstances. One of those circumstances is the election of a new General, a piece of business that Father Kolvenbach hopes GC35 will take up when the Congregation meets in January 2008. Though life tenure for the Superior General is one of the most distinctive elements of the Society's governance, experience has also shown the desirability and necessity of procedures permitting the General to resign under particular circumstances. In 2008 Father Kolvenbach will mark his 80th year of life and his 25th year as leader of the Society, and he believes the time may be ripe for a new General.

Other than to elect a new Superior General, General Congregations may be called to address "matters of great moment" that demand urgent action on the part of the Society of Jesus. In the past, such matters have included the need to reform the Society's governance and laws in response to changes in the wider Church (as in the case of GC31, which took place during and immediately after Vatican II) or to respond more generally to 'the signs of the times' (as at GC32, from which the Society's modern mission of "the service of faith and the promotion of justice" emerged). GC35 is expected to address various "matters of great moment," including issues related to ministerial collaboration among Jesuit provinces and with non-Jesuits and questions about the meaning and shape of community life.

For my own part, I look forward to GC35 with great anticipation. This is the first General Congregation called since I entered the Society, and I felt a special feeling on receiving a copy of the General's letter to the entire Society announcing the Congregation. Given the special nature of the General Congregation, I'm also curious and excited to see what emerges from the meeting two years hence. There will be a lot of discussion and speculation about GC35 in Jesuit circles over the next two years, and I'm looking forward to that as well. After spending a great deal of time in the shadow of the past four General Congregations, we in the Society of Jesus now live in expectation of GC35. In a very real sense, what we shall become has not yet been revealed. At this point, I can't even begin to imagine - nor would I be so bold as to predict - what pronouncements will emerge from GC35. At this point, I have no choice but to look ahead with hope. AMDG.


At February 06, 2006 5:46 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

I heard the news over the weekend. I found it interesting to learn (after all these years) that the Jesuits do not hold congregational or provincial chapters on a set schedule. This is quite interesting and I am looking forward to learning more about how matters traditionally addressed in such periodic chapters are considered within the Jesuits governance structure.

I can only imagine what an event of significant importance GC35 is, and I pray that this time of preparation will be Spirit-filled!


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