Birth of the second largest Jesuit Province: United States East (UEA)

“For nearly four centuries there have been Jesuits on the east coast of the United States and in many missions across the globe. Provincial residences, boundaries and names have proven flexible over the centuries. The mission they serve has not: working in the Church for the greater glory of God and the help of souls. Today, 650 Jesuits, in partnership with our lay colleagues, sponsor varied ministries extending from Maine to Georgia and Micronesia: six retreat centers, seventeen parishes, eleven institutions of higher education and twenty-eight middle and high schools.”

This is how Fr. Joseph O’Keefe, the first Provincial Superior of the most recently created Jesuit Province, summarizes the presence of Jesuits and of Jesuit ministries in the past and today. This Province, in the United States, brings together what were known as the Maryland and the Northeast Provinces. The latter was formed in 2014 by the union of the former New York and New England Provinces. The process of restructuring for the Jesuit administrative units in United States and Canada has been going on for more than ten years. Fr. Douglas Marcouiller, Assistant to Father General for Canada and the USA, points out that the USA-East Province, with 650 Jesuit members, will have three times the number of Jesuits of the smallest of the new Provinces of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. In that context, neither the previous Superior General, Fr. Nicolás, nor the present General, Fr. Sosa, wanted to rush this process. Instead, they left time for all those involved to be active participants in the creation of the new Province.

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We asked Fr. O’Keefe, who is taking office on 31 July, the feast of St. Ignatius, how he envisions the role of the UEA Province in the present worldwide and American contexts.

“UEA is beginning in a tumultuous year. We have witnessed a global pandemic that has challenged our sense of security, that has reminded us of the fragility of human nature, that has revealed stark inequalities in our society. In addition to the pandemic, the recent killings of African-Americans have put a spotlight on a deep and persistent racism in our society. In the midst of these crises, we have also seen a nation that is deeply divided and polarized, desperately in need of reconciliation and justice.

Though the challenges are great indeed for this huge and complex new Province, so the potential for renewal is great; I truly believe that we are at a kairos moment. In the next few years, members of our Province, along with the women and men who labor with us, many of whom lead our ministries and sponsored works, together will embark on an Ignatian Year, deepening the charism that is at the heart of all of our efforts. With the gift of the Spiritual Exercises,we will help people encounter the living God; and, in all humility, we will share with them the most fundamental discovery of our own lives, which is Jesus Christ. Compelled by the love of Christ, we will walk with the excluded and marginalized, those whose dignity has been violated. Their needs will shape our priorities. Since the mid-sixteenth century, Jesuits have accompanied young people in the ministry of education. In our schools and in new venues afforded by technology, we will walk with younger generations, helping them find God in the dizzying reality of our digital age. And, cognizant that our earth is threatened by environmental degradation, we will collaborate with people of good will to protect and renew God’s creation.”

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Fr. Arturo Sosa, Superior General, has explained how he sees the creation of new Provinces. He said, “We are learning that Province reconfiguration helps us to recover our deepest identity as Jesuits, companions of Jesus united in a universal apostolic body at the service of the Lord and the Church. Reconfiguration widens apostolic horizons and should encourage apostolic planning, facilitating a more effective distribution of workers in the vineyard of the Lord. The formation of a new Province also opens space for creativity.”

Father O’Keefe concluded his comments about the UEA Province in a spirit of prayer. “On this Ignatius Day 2020, I ask our brothers in the universal Society to join us in prayer that, with open hearts and minds, Jesuits and colleagues in UEA may receive the gifts of wisdom and understanding to know the context in which we labor, and that we will have the courage and fortitude to do what is right.”

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles public relations.

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