The Secretary for the service of Faith is a new appointment by the General made in September 2019. The appointment could seem strange, after all isn’t the whole point of the Society of Jesus to serve faith? Certainly, that is how one of the foundational documents of the Society, The Formula of the Institute, articulates our purpose. It is in the service of Faith that the Society has been one of the most dynamic missionary and educational orders in the Church. As the love of God cannot be separated from the love of neighbour, the Society has also been committed to the service of justice, the poor, the marginalised and displaced. Recently, in the Universal Apostolic Preferences, not only have these dimensions of Jesuit mission been reaffirmed, ‘care for our common home’ – integral ecology - has also been identified as critical for the future of our world and human flourishing. Faith in Jesus Christ and his Church is the central inspiration of Jesuit life and mission. Not only is it the principle reason for the Society’s existence, it informs all of its works, providing a distinctive perspective which is often radical and innovative. The Secretary for the service of Faith is able to assist the General and the Society in deepening and appropriating our own spirituality personally and apostolically, not only for Jesuits but for all our collaborators.
Faith, itself is a gift. At its heart lies a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and the great community of Faith, his church. In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the Society has a wonderful opportunity of helping people, whatever their situation, to enter into this personal relationship and helping them to discover in what way Jesus is calling them to discipleship. One of the main areas of the Secretary’s work is in the area of spirituality, theological reflection and formation, so that the extraordinary work which the Society is already doing through the Exercises can be developed. In addition, there are other areas which the Secretary is concerned with, especially evangelisation, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue.
Of course, while there is only one Faith in the one Christ, each culture will express that in its own way. Although universal, the Church lives in very different political and social situations in each of its communities. This is not new to the Church’s experience. Is something they have been doing since the first Pentecost and it is certainly reflected in the many different forms of the Society’s ministries. It is part of the creativity of a living faith that it seeks ways of adapting to these environments so that the great gift of reconciliation, life and hope that Jesus Christ offers may be available to all. From this rapid overview it is obvious that the horizon of the Secretary’s work is expansive. It is still ‘a work in progress’ and perhaps it always will be