Speaking from General Congregation 36 in Rome in a video message released today, Frs. Thomas Lawler, SJ, and Brian Paulson, SJ, shared a message of hope and unity as the Society of Jesus celebrated the election of its new Superior General, Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ. Father Paulson, provincial of the Chicago-Detroit Province, and Fr. Lawler, provincial of the Wisconsin Province, were among the delegates who elected Fr. Sosa to lead the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church.
One highlight of the weeks-long meetings was a visit by Pope Francis.
“We. . .had a chance to meet with Pope Francis, which was a very consoling and inspiring encounter and conversation,” said Fr. Lawler. “The theme of GC 36 is Rowing into the Deep, taking that story from the Gospel. As one person said, Pope Francis decided to come and sit in our boat for a while. And rather than tell us where we need to row, he showed us how to do the rowing, showed us how to go into the deep, using discernment and prayer from the Spiritual Exercises.”
“He didn’t give us a mission,” said Fr. Paulson. “He was much more interested in calling us back to our foundational charism, [that] we should be ministers of consolation. And to do that, we have to live in consolation ourselves.
“It’s only from that place can we move into accompanying the suffering of the world. . .at the foot of the cross, and to do this all with a sense of discernment as men of the church.”
“One of the things that Pope Francis said was that in the Society of Jesus we use the gift of discernment to make space for the Holy Spirit to act and work in our lives,” said Fr. Lawler. “That’s one of the key messages that I’m going to take from this congregation — is always to remember we need to make space for the Holy Spirit to speak to us and to move our hearts.”