Leadership, Discernment in Common and Apostolic Planning are being reaffirmed as crucial means for finding the better ways to serve the mission of the Society of Jesus. Forming people, Jesuits and lay collaborators alike, in the competent use of these tools has become a key challenge at all levels.

The Jesuit Conference of European Provincials promoted two pioneer formations on these topics:

The Ignatian Leadership Programme (ILP) took place between December 2015 and June 2017, in four one-week modules focused on each one of the following topics: Self-Awareness and Discernment; Forming a Body for Mission; Organisational Development; and Leadership for Frontier Mission. (The Programme has since been run again by the North-West Provinces and by JECSE.)

The Promoting Discernment in Common and Apostolic Planning (DICAP) workshop was offered in Rome in September 2019 as a practical experience of being guided into experiencing processes of personal and communal discernment and apostolic planning to be able to form others in the future.

The participants in both formations, around 40 in each, were chosen and sent by the Major Superiors, representing the different provinces of the Conference.

To give continuity to these initiatives the JCEP has continued to promote online meetings of a Learning Community of Practitioners that gathers formators in Leadership and DICAP. An Executive Group has been established to plan future initiatives in response to the needs of the Conference in these areas of Ignatian formation.

Learning by Doing Discernment in Common and Apostolic Planning. From the origins of the Society of Jesus, decisions were made through discernment in common. A group of fifty Jesuits and co-workers met at the end of September in Monte Cucco near Rome to experience Promoting Discernment in Common and Apostolic Planning (DiCAP) in the European Conference“Releasing the Power of the Spiritual Exercises”. This process aims to rediscover the experience of the first Jesuits who gained clarity and unity about their mission through spiritual conversation. During this week the group learnt through different practical and theoretical inputs. The target was to foster in our European Conference communal discernment and apostolic planning. The group was assisted by the president of the European Conference of Provincials and an international team of facilitators. Father General has distinguished the Religious Body of the Society of Jesus (composed of the vowed Jesuits) and the Apostolic Body (composed of the vowed Jesuits and all those who work with them). By discerning together, the participants perceived the deeper principles and relationships which hold the Apostolic Body together. Just as muscles and bones unite in a human body, our shared identity, values and practices are what hold us together as one. The exercise of discernment the process which coordinates and strengthens the Apostolic body in the service of the Gospel, aligning it with the body of Christ. Through individual prayer, spiritual conversation, planning tools and plenary discussion, the participants were able to develop the strategic goals and objectives that will help to implement the DiCAP process in communities, works and provinces. One of the participants said, “I like that DiCAP takes seriously that God is already at work in the world and we are called to listen to what God is doing and to cooperate with that.” Many participants were surprised by the profound level of spiritual conversation attained within the groups over just a short period of time. Another participant articulated this experience by saying that “A spiritual conversation is a sharing of what is most essential to me, a sharing of my life with another and listening, and in that way deepening our shared life.” These conversations gave new life and new energy to the group and can give the same to the whole Apostolic Body of the Society of Jesus as it moves toward a stronger and more collaborative future.
On June 26-27, 2018, the European Task force on Discernment in Common and Apostolic Planning (DICAP) led by Franck Janin, president of the JCEP held a meeting in Brussels. The meeting was a follow up to the February workshop organized in Rome by Fr. John Dardis (see link - https://jesuits.eu/news/602-the-art-of-discernment-a-precious-tool). Six members from the European conference gathered for two days to push the reflection forward on how to promote and implement common discernment and apostolic planning as requested by the General Congregation and Father General. The meeting was an opportunity to elaborate a concrete plan for the coming period. Among the exciting projects planned for 2018-2020: initiating reflections with superiors, elaborating supporting resources, offering formations for jesuits and lay collaborators, facilitating processes across the conference,... The meeting left participants energized and consoled. As one participant shared, the gathering was a chance to strengthen the group’s cohesiveness and practice an attitude of discernment and integrate it in the task force’s planning. From Right to left: Patxi Álvarez de los Mozos, Sandra Chaoul, Franck Janin, Milan Bizant, Michel Bacq, and Bart van Emmerik