The Province of Bohemia (BOH) is 400 years old: Father General is visiting it

It is the smallest Jesuit Province in the world, with 38 Jesuits. It serves a highly secularised country, the Czech Republic, which has a rich and complex history and is comprised mainly of two regions, Moravia and Bohemia. Father General will visit all the communities there in November, traveling to Olomouc, Svatý Hostýn, Velehrad, Brno, Děčin, and finally the capital, Prague, where the Provincial offices are located. The Provincial’s socius, Fr Petr Havliček, sheds some light on the history of his country, which has some 10.5 million inhabitants; he also talks about its social and religious situation and of course the presence and commitments of the Society of Jesus.

Fr Petr points out that for a long time the Czech Republic belonged to the group of countries In Central Europe that were under the former Habsburg monarchy. Then came 40 years of Soviet communist rule, a period that ended with the famous “Velvet Revolution” in 1989. At that time, the Czech Republic and Slovakia formed a single country, but the latter gained its independence peacefully in 1993. In any case, since the end of the First World War, the Jesuits there have had two distinct Provinces, one for the Czech Republic and the other for Slovakia.

A very high proportion, around 80%, of the country’s population considers itself either atheist or without religion. The population is about 9% Catholic, but a recent survey conducted by the Catholic Church indicates that only 3.5% of the overall population are practising Catholics. Two reasons for this situation are generally cited: the influence of 40 years of communism and the Czech nation’s past efforts to emancipate itself from the Habsburg monarchy, which identified its power with the Catholic religion. Czech society is therefore experiencing the same strong trend toward secularisation that characterises large parts of Europe. It should be added, however, that Catholicism is more present in the east, that is, Moravia, than in Bohemia.


Fr Petr points out that this situation does not prevent the Jesuits of the BOH Province from proudly celebrating their 400th anniversary. They do so with some certain humility, of course, considering the small number of Jesuits present in only five localities. Pastoral services are offered in parishes or at shrines in the three towns and two rural areas served by the Jesuits. In the three urban areas, which are university towns, the main focus is on serving young people, particularly students, from the Society’s parishes. This work is carried out in close collaboration with the Catholic University Movement, a lay association of Catholic students.

This primary apostolic commitment of the Jesuits is evident in the time Father General will spend visiting parishes and university chaplaincies. In an effort to be present to young people, Father Sosa will also visit a secondary school in Děčin. It is a “Nativity-type” school, with a programme especially designed to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. With regard to the social apostolate, it is also worth mentioning the warm welcome given to the Ukrainian mothers and their children who had to flee from the Russian aggression in their country.

The formation of Czech Jesuits takes place mainly outside the country, except for their regency (the apostolic stage between two study programmes). In this way the young Jesuits get to know the Society of Jesus in other countries, spending their novitiate in Great Britain and doing their philosophy and theology studies in Poland, France, Italy, Spain or the United States. The Province recently welcomed the ordination of four companions to the priesthood. This strengthens its ability to accompany young people and university students.

Finally, the socius comments that the provincial leadership team is aware of the challenges ahead. Above all, they are looking for effective ways to develop apostolic activity beyond the confines of the Society’s churches or parishes. In the social and religious context of the Czech Republic, the Jesuits want to have other types of presence that would help them spread Ignatian spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises more widely, even if the Province does not have its own spirituality centres.

Over the next few days, you can follow Fr Arturo Sosa on his journey through the Province of Bohemia and learn a lot about the Society’s commitments in this part of Central Europe. Stay tuned!

[Photos by František Ingr - Člověk a víra Association]

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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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