Although most people encounter Jesuits locally in schools and other ministries, the Society of Jesus is in fact a missionary order — the largest such order in the Catholic Church. Fr. Arturo Sosa, S.J., Superior General of the Jesuits, has said that, “You can find Jesuits, true Jesuits, in every region, in every color, in every activity. I think that is a sign of the Church for the world. What unites us all in our diversity is our connection with Jesus and the Gospel, and that is the source of the creativity of the Society and of the people with whom we share the mission.”
International Jesuit ministries are seeking to nurture hope in places that would seem to offer little of it. Case in point: refugee camps, where the Jesuit Refugee Service sponsors schools for children who often spend years in those troubled surroundings, along with many other services. Hope is found in the myriad works of justice, peace, and care for creation — the Jesuit social ministries described at greater length here.
There are also primarily spiritual ministries carried out by the worldwide Society of Jesus.
These include the Apostleship of Prayer, which is essentially a global prayer group with daily online offerings. The apostleship has been called “the pope’s own prayer group,” because it also circulates his personal intentions — on behalf of priestly vocations, for example, or mutual respect among world religions. Another spiritual ministry is the Christian Life Communities, a Jesuit-sponsored lay association that has nurtured small, faith-sharing groups in some 60 countries.
A less typical ministry is the Vatican Observatory, one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world. It is run by Jesuit astronomers who peer through their telescopes in Tucson, Arizona, and at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence.
Educating Church Leaders
In addition, the Society of Jesus has crucial responsibilities in Rome on behalf of the Universal Church. Particularly significant among these is the education and training of future Church leaders.The Jesuits carry out this task at a number of institutions including the Pontifical Gregorian University, the Pontifical Biblical Institute, and the Pontifical Oriental Institutes. Those three now serve more than 3,500 students from 120 countries on six continents. The students are preparing for service as priests, sisters, religious brothers, and lay leaders. They have a strong impact on the Church: graduates of the three institutions include one fourth of the world’s current bishops and half of the cardinals who voted in the most recent papal conclave.