Although most people encounter Jesuits locally in schools and other ministries, the Society of Jesus is in fact a missionary order — the largest such order in the Catholic Church. Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., Superior General of the Jesuits, has reaffirmed what he calls “the vision of our universal vocation, which is “to go anywhere in the world where there is hope for God’s greater glory.”
International Jesuit ministries are seeking to nurture hope in places that would seem to offer little of it. In Canada, the Jesuits founded the organization Canadian Jesuits International to support poor and marginalized peoples struggling for social justice and dignity in developing countries. The Jesuits in English Canada also support the Jesuit Refugee Service, run by the Jesuit Curia in Rome, which sponsors schools for children who often spend years in those troubled surroundings, along with many other services. Hope is found in the myriad works of justice, peace, and care for creation — the Jesuit social ministries.
There are also primarily spiritual ministries carried out by the worldwide Society of Jesus.
These include the Apostleship of Prayer, which is essentially a global prayer group with daily online offerings. The apostleship has been called “the pope’s own prayer group,” because it also circulates his personal intentions — on behalf of priestly vocations, for example, or mutual respect among world religions. Another spiritual ministry is the Christian Life Communities, a Jesuit-sponsored lay association that has nurtured small, faith-sharing groups in some 60 countries.
A less typical ministry is the Vatican Observatory, one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world. It is run by Jesuit astronomers who peer through their telescopes in Tucson, Arizona, and at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence.
In addition, the Society of Jesus has crucial responsibilities in Rome on behalf of the Universal Church. Particularly significant among these is the education and training of future Church leaders.
The Jesuits carry out this task at a number of institutions including the Pontifical Gregorian University, the Pontifical Biblical Institute, and the Pontifical Oriental Institutes. Those three now serve more than 3,500 students from 120 countries on six continents. The students are preparing for service as priests, sisters, religious brothers, and lay leaders. They have a strong impact on the Church: graduates of the three institutions include one fourth of the world’s current bishops and half of the cardinals who voted in the most recent papal conclave.
Jesuit provinces or regional jurisdictions take responsibility for ministry in regions not currently served by a Jesuit province abroad. Canadian and U.S. provinces also partner with their provincial counterparts, especially in developing nations, on the full range of ministries, in what are often referred to as “twinning relationships.” The Jesuits in English Canada support works in India.