Introduction to Jesuit Core Values:
Whole Persons of Solidarity for the Real World
By George Traub, SJ and Debra Mooney, Ph.D.
The foundational values of the Society of Jesus were set by St. Ignatius Loyola. These values include “Finding God in All Things” and helping people “For the Greater Glory of God”. The Jesuits set their vision and priorities in periodic gatherings, called General Congregations. These gatherings guide the work of the women and men serving in today’s Jesuit ministries. They are called and led by the Superior General of the Jesuits. The last three Superior Generals are Fathers Pedro Arrupe SJ, Peter Hans-Kolvenbach SJ and Adolfo Nicolas SJ.
Arrupe was elected in 1965 and served for two decades. He has been called the “the founder of the contemporary Society” because he led the renewal of the Jesuits following Vatican Council II. He did this by paying attention both to the spirit of Ignatius and to “the signs of our time.” Arrupe stated that, “Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-and-women-for-others... people who cannot even conceive of a love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors.”
In 1983, Fr. Kolvenbach SJ was elected. He served for 25 years. Following up on what Arrupe had envisioned, he challenged educators to teach students to make no significant decision without first considering its impact on the poor and the marginalized. In laying out his goals for American Jesuit universities, he stated, “The real measure of our Jesuit universities lies in who our students become. Tomorrow's whole person cannot be whole without a well-educated solidarity. We must therefore raise our Jesuit educational standard to educate the whole person of solidarity for the real world.”
The most recent General Congregation met in 2008 and elected Fr Nicolás. The Congregation reaffirmed the Jesuit mission of the “service of faith and the promotion of justice”. This included enculturation, a presentation of the gospel in a form appropriate to the culture being approached, and dialogue that involves listening and responding to people of other religions with mutual respect.
Nicolás emphasizes that the challenges faced in our global world demand global solutions. Decrees call for responses to a number of world challenges, including ecological concerns. They also express the Order’s hope for the Ignatian charism, stating: “The Society of Jesus has carried a flame through nearly 500 years of innumerable cultural and social circumstances that have challenged it intensely to keep that flame alive and burning.”
Things are no different today.
“In a world that overwhelms people with a multiplicity of sensations, ideas and images, the Society seeks to keep the fire of its original inspiration in a way that offers warmth and light to our contemporaries.”