To open the Society of Jesus’ Ignatian Year, Fr. Provincial Thomas P. Greene has established an Office of Ignatian Spirituality (OIS) for the Jesuits USA Central and Southern (UCS) Province. The new office will promote collaboration among spiritual formation programs, develop formation opportunities for spiritual directors and retreat directors and increase outreach to young adults.
The OIS will be led by Fr. Hung Pham, SJ, who also serves the province as provincial assistant for formation. Formation is the term used for Jesuit training, generally the 14-18 years from the time of entrance to final vows. Father Pham is joined in the OIS by Fr. José Ruiz, SJ, and Patty Feder.
“We are creating a space where people can come to encounter the Lord,” Fr. Pham said. “It will also be a way for us to encounter each other.”
Father Pham’s dual roles acknowledge the province’s commitment to provide spiritual formation not only to Jesuits, but to Jesuit colleagues, religious women and men and lay people who practice Ignatian Spirituality.
The Office of Ignatian Spirituality animates the Society of Jesus’ Universal Apostolic Preference to “show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment.” Its priority is to collaborate with others to share the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and Ignatian Spirituality.
In February 2020, Fr. Ronald A. Mercier, SJ, then-provincial of the UCS Province, released a plan for the province’s apostolic works: Engaging a Changed and Changing Context: Toward an Apostolic Plan. The plan emphasizes spiritual depth as a guiding principle for the province’s – and Jesuits’ – future.
Building on this foundation, Fr. Greene sought input from Jesuits and collaborators to determine what kind of ministry was needed and possible. The OIS is the fruit of that discernment, more than five years in the making. Its mandate is to:
- Network: Organize networking among ministries doing the direct ministry of the Spiritual Exercises as well as those ministries who train Jesuits and others in the ministry.
- Collaborate: Consult with and provide guidance to current ministries and programs that promote the Spiritual Exercises and Ignatian Spirituality.
- Discern: Listen to what God is calling the province to do as related to leading people to God through the Spiritual Exercises.
Concretely, this mission will be lived by offering the Spiritual Exercises in ways the province’s retreat houses and spirituality centers do not, such as virtual retreats, and provide spiritual formation to Jesuits, Jesuit colleagues and others. In addition, it will assist institutions struggling to share and foster the Spiritual Exercises and work with them to develop strategies and means for such ministry.
“We are meant to fill in the gaps and respond to the needs as we find them,” Fr. Pham said. “It’s really very exciting: we are open to whatever the Lord is calling us to.”
The OIS staff has already begun pulling together the many institutions and groups within the province that offer the Spiritual Exercises in some form. It is Fr. Pham’s hope is that this consortium will grow in collaboration so that one’s strength can bolster another’s shortfall.
The Office of Ignatian Spirituality began programming with Advent Retreats in English and Vietnamese and an Epiphany Retreat in Spanish. Learn more about the office and its programming on the OIS webpage.