“We want very much to walk together with you toward wholeness and healing.”

We want very much to walk together with you toward wholeness and healing.

Father General Arturo Sosa to leaders of the Lakota Nation, Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Father General spent much of the month of August in the United States, first at the Assembly of the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU). He then took time to visit his fellow Jesuits and their communities in the eastern United States. But another important moment of his stay in North America was his visit to Pine Ridge, South Dakota, where since the late 19th century Jesuits have accompanied the Lakota Nation.


He met with teachers and students at the Red Cloud Indian High School, experienced Lakota culture at the Heritage Center, and met with community leaders. Considering the current tense climate between Native Nations in North America and church leaders who have been involved in government residential school programs where young “Indians” were removed from their roots, from their families even, Father Sosa felt it necessary to confront these difficult issues.

He did so in a speech in which, after introducing himself simply as ‘Arturo,’ the first child of a Venezuelan family, he told the story of how he had chosen to become a Jesuit. He said: “I will tell you who I am. I am not the Pope. I am not a politician. I am not a person with riches or power. I am a simple Jesuit who wants to walk with Jesus, poor and humble, and with others like you who seek the reign of Wakhan Tanka, whether in Christian or in traditional Lakota ways.” Here are some excerpts from that speech.


As Jesuits walk with others the pathway to God, as we walk with those whom others have pushed aside, as we accompany the young, as we collaborate in care for our common home, we again and again are invited into an intercultural encounter. We Jesuits do not want ... we have never wanted ... to live in a world that has a single, homogenous, global culture. Nor do we want simply to live side-by-side with people of different cultures. (...)

We Jesuits have learned and continue to learn much from you about courage and compassion, about respect and resilience, about strength and generosity, about demanding that civil governments defend the poor and the vulnerable instead of oppressing them. You show us what it means to walk “the good red road.”

As we look back over the road that we have already traveled together, we find many reasons to be grateful. I have heard about Father Buechel, who studied your language with great care and produced a Lakota grammar and dictionary. He taught us Jesuits how to hear God speaking to us in the Lakota language. Even more remarkable is the example of Black Elk, a holy man of the Lakota who is now honored by Catholics everywhere as a teacher and model of holiness. I have also been inspired by the changes in the educational and pastoral ministries at Red Cloud and St Francis over the past several decades, changes that flow from a renewed appreciation of the richness of the Lakota culture.

Fr. General Arturo Sosa

But when we look back over the road that we have traveled we see that Jesuits also took some very wrong turns, especially by accepting the American government’s oppressive educational regulations that took children from their families, from their language, and from their culture. (...)

On behalf of the Society of Jesus, I apologize for the ways in which St Francis and Holy Rosary Missions and boarding schools were for decades complicit in the U.S. government’s reprehensible assimilation policies, trying to eradicate your culture. I ask for your forgiveness for that and for any other abuses that any of you or your ancestors suffered.

I also want to express the support of the Jesuits for the Truth and Healing process that is now underway. Earlier today I met with some of the Lakota participants in that process. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. We want very much to walk together with you toward wholeness and healing.

Fr. General Arturo Sosa
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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 media relations.

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