Father General spends more than a week in meetings with his advisors, both those of his regular council and those who join to form an enlarged Council. The discernment on the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus for the coming years is the only topic on the agenda. In the photos that have been published (see Flickr), someone draws attention: there is a woman among the participants!

This is Christina Kheng who, drawing on her knowledge and experience in theology and public administration, participates in the facilitation of the Extended Council session. We asked her to clarify her skills and role. Here is what she replied:

“My work involves accompanying Church organizations in leadership and management. Currently a major part of my engagement is with Jesuit-related organizations, especially the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP). I also teach at the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila, which is an on-going formation institute of JCAP. I am also doing research and writing in this inter-disciplinary topic. I am a Singaporean but most of my work is with organizations in other countries, especially Asia Pacific.

This Extended Council meeting is a process of spiritual discernment in common. My role as an external facilitator is to be with the group and help observe, from an external perspective, how the Spirit might be leading the group, how the group, at the same time, might be moved by the spirits. I may also make suggestions where and when needed, on adapting the process each day so that the group can be better disposed to listen and follow God’s lead. I do not participate in the process but I work with the steering committee.

I was first involved in the process for discerning the Universal Apostolic Preferences with the Conference of Asia Pacific. As a planning consultant in JCAP, I was part of a team to help organize and facilitate the experience. It has been a much-graced journey of becoming a discerning community at all levels – with the communities, with the Provinces, and now at the universal level. This journey has helped us rediscover and practice our treasures of discernment in common, spiritual conversation, dialogue and prayer. I can see that it has spiritually renewed us and brought us closer to God and to one another.”