Father Timothy Kesicki, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, a former president of St. Ignatius High School and a 1984 graduate of John Carroll University, was the keynote speaker at the June 29 opening session of the World Union of Jesuit Alumni Global Congress at John Carroll. “Uniting Our Jesuit Frontiers: To Know God, To Love God, To Serve God” is the gathering’s theme.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Jesuit Conference promotes common goals and oversees international projects for the Society of Jesus. As conference president, Father Kesicki works with the Jesuit provincials of the U.S. and Canada in implementing programs, represents the conference internationally and serves as the religious superior of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California. He also serves on the boards of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and America Magazine.
Prior to leading the Jesuit Conference, he served from 2008 through 2014 as provincial of the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus. He also is a frequent contributor to CNN and MSNBC.
Hundreds of alumni and friends of Jesuit institutions worldwide are participating in the congress, which runs through July 2. Attendees represent about 50 countries. WUJA, founded in 1956, hosts the congress every four years. This is the first time it is taking place in North America.
Father Kesicki spoke about the global perspective of the Jesuits and the alumni network, focusing on the theme “The World is our Home.”
His presentation examined the roots of the Jesuits, founded a millennium ago by St. Ignatius Loyola, and how Jesuits prepare to do the Lord’s work or “serve that part of the vineyard with the greatest need.” He said Jesuits can be found around the world serving where needed. St. Ignatius loved the great cities, Father Kesicki said, and he knew the impact they would have on the world. He wove the Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit Constitutions into the presentation, showing how important it is to serve the least in society.
Father Kesicki drew on his own experience working as a missionary in Uganda during his first assignment after being ordained a priest. He said the Jesuits’ mission was education and they worked with the United Nations.
“We built and staffed a secondary school for refugees,” he said, noting the mission was to prepare the refugees for repatriation. But when the refugees asked for higher education, the Jesuits were stymied about how to respond. He said eventually, peace returned to Sudan and the mission closed.
“Unfortunately, the mission is back again,” he said, because tension and violence returned to that area of Africa.
Last fall, Father Arturo Sousa, SJ was elected general of the Jesuits. He called society’s leaders to meet with him to help determine the order’s future direction. Father Kesicki, who attended, said it was a global, diverse group who looked at the Jesuits’ mission through various lenses and from different perspectives around the world. Spirituality, philosophy, history and economy were among the views offered by Jesuits leading communities in Africa, Europe, Asia, America and Canada.
“How can the world be our home when people look at only one person?” Father asked. He talked about how connected people are and how the alumni of Jesuit institutions can play a role in helping to build that connectivity, explaining that the number of Jesuits is declining around the world, but there is a vibrant and growing network of Jesuit alumni.
“Think about what we can do with help from thousands of Jesuit schools and millions of alumni,” he said, noting that based on the teaching of St. Ignatius, it is best to “choose that which serves the universal good,” or the highest, greatest good. “The more universal the good is, the more divine it is,” Father Kesicki said.
Other keynote speakers include Father Gregory J. Boyle, S.J., founder and executive director of the social enterprise Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles; Chris Lowney, best-selling author and board chair of Catholic Health Initiatives; Katherine Marshall, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs; and Father Peter Balleis, SJ, director of Jesuit Worldwide Learning–Higher Education at the Margins.
Father Sosa was scheduled to participate via live video feed from Rome, where the Jesuits are headquartered.
As the congress continues, attendees will choose programs in five tracks: legal, business, education and arts, spiritual frontiers and the evolving universe. A variety of speakers with varied backgrounds and experience will tackle topics in the tracks. The legal track will offer session on social justice, immigration, Jesuit law firms the death penalty and criminal justice reform, while the business track will examine social entrepreneurship, supporting businesses for a flourishing and sustaining world and global networking techniques and ethics.
The education and arts track will include breakout sessions on best practices, sports and spirituality, the future of Jesuit education and the spirituality and frontiers track will offer programs on growing alumni networks in the frontiers, saints and scholars, exploring the path of modern martyrs, life as a refugee and looking at where the Jesuits will be in 2050. The evolving universe track will include sessions on meditation, a cosmic walk, screening of the Emmy Award-winning film “Journey of the Universe,” and a two-part panel discussion on Jesuit education in an evolving universe.
At the end of a congress, WUJA’s General Assembly votes some resolutions about the theme of the congress and the main guidelines of the world movement and elects the members of its world bodies (Executive Committee and Council).
For more information on the congress visit wujacongress2017.org