In seeking to stem the effects of continuing decline, the Jesuit order is redistributing its resources and members to meet global needs and stressing the involvement of laity, writes Raymond Scroth in the National Catholic Reporter (Feb. 23).
With a membership peaking in 1960 of 8,338 members, there are now only 2,991 Jesuits with an average age of 65. Scroth cites an observer as noting that the young men and women who would join an order such as the Jesuits 50 years ago now join lay communities, such as Sant’Egidio, an international group based on prayer, dialogue and service to the poor.
The most flourishing Jesuit ministries today, such as the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and the Nativity school system in the inner-cities, are largely lay-led. More Jesuit-lay partnerships are likely to increase in the future, though Scroth asks whether lay colleagues, especially those leading Jesuit schools, “will really want the demanding retreats, readings and workshops required to commit oneself seriously to the Jesuit heritage.”
Jesuits are currently redrawing their order’s national map to better distribute members and their work throughout the U.S. The move would decrease the number of Jesuit provinces from 10 down to five or six; for example, the New York Province would merge into the Blue Ridge Mountain Province stretching from New York to South Carolina.
Meanwhile, globalization is likely to hasten the internationalization of Jesuit university campuses. American Jesuit schools are already linked to Jesuit institutions in 100 countries. “While today’s students take their junior year in Paris, London, and Australia, tomorrow’s will go to Africa, Latin America, and the Far East,” Scroth concludes.
(National Catholic Reporter, P.O. Box 419281, Kansas City, MO 64141)