By Ignatius Plato
Socius is Latin for “companion.” It is the root word of “society,” meaning that our place in the world is bound tightly to our relationships with others. The Society of Jesus, then, says everything in its name; being companions with Jesus and with others is tied inseparably to its mission.
Father Francis “Billy” Huete, SJ, the socius of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern (UCS) Province, lives the Society’s call to companionship wholeheartedly. Father Huete’s ministry is all about being a companion to the provincial and to his Jesuit brothers, ensuring that Jesuits and colleagues have the support they need to carry out the Society’s mission.
“Much of my accompaniment is behind the scenes, and that has given me a new perspective on being there for others,” Fr. Huete said. “Even if you are helping indirectly, you are still helping, living as a companion for others in the world.”
This Jesuit spirit of companionship can be as found in as simple an act as doing paperwork.
“My main responsibility is to be a companion to Fr. [Provincial Thomas] Greene,” said Fr. Huete. “Through him, I assist the Society. He comes to me with things he needs help with: proofing letters, preparing an email, assisting Jesuits in ministerial transitions, sending reports to the Curia in Rome. That’s the practical part of my ministry: recordkeeping.”
But his ministry as socius regularly goes beyond practical. The spirituality tied to the Society’s mission has taught Fr. Huete how to stand with others as a mentor and friend. “My ministry as socius and the mission of the Society have one big characteristic in common: helping people, specifically helping people in ways they might not realize.”
As socius – companion – to the provincial, Fr. Huete’s job requires knowledge of all aspects of Jesuit life in the province. “It’s a ministry where you never know what each day will bring,” Fr. Huete said. “Some days I’ll deal with paperwork-related issues. The day after that, I’m discussing spiritual discernment with a Jesuit. It’s never just about practical things or just about spiritual things.”
Father Huete served in high schools throughout the UCS Province for many years, serving students, faculty and staff as a teacher, principal, priest and friend. Through his work, he says, he gained a better understanding of cura personalis (i.e., “the care of the whole person”) and how he could help his students and fellow faculty to connect their daily lives with their spiritual lives.
Understanding how Jesuit schools work on a logistical level brought a new understanding of companionship. Soon, he was offering guidance to brother Jesuits as a spiritual director and extending friendship for young men as they discerned their vocations. He served as master of novices for the former New Orleans Province for more than a dozen years.
“Both of these ministries prepared me for my current one,” Fr. Huete said. “High school work was more the practical side: you learn how education and accompaniment work together. Formation work is similar but focuses more on spiritual companionship. It gives you more time to focus on how you can accompany others and help them grow in their spiritual lives.”
After more than 50 years as a companion in the Society of Jesus, Fr. Huete sums up his perspective on Jesuit accompaniment: “No matter where you are in life, there’s a good chance there is someone willing to help you in some way, even in ways you don’t realize. That’s what makes the Society of Jesus a true society with and for others. That’s the life I lead daily – being a companion.”
Do you think you may be called to life as a Jesuit priest or brother? Visit www.BeAJesuit.org to learn more about the Jesuit vocation.