Real discernment in forging a future under the Holy Spirit’s guidance

Real discernment in forging a future under the Holy Spirit’s guidance

Pictured: Quyen Vu SJ Australian Jesuit Provincial with Arturo Sosa SJ Jesuit Superior General


Michael Ryan SJ reflects on the Jesuit Father General’s visit to Australia in January 2024, and what he had to say about discernment.

I’ve always found a visit from Rome HQ by the Jesuit major superior a boon and encouragement to the Jesuit life in community, our varied apostolic endeavours with our Partners in Mission, and in particular to the bonding and solidarity with the universal Society of Jesus. The first and recent visit to Australia by Fr Superior General – Arturo Sosa SJ did not disappoint. I was touched by his warmth and his various sharings on the Ignatian identity and it as a gift for this present age.

And being the practical man he is, his direction and encouragement to look to the future of the Province’s apostolic ministry became a key refrain as he addressed us. Yes, there is planning to do, but we have to set ourselves up to do real discernment in forging a future under the Holy Spirit’s guidance – planning without discernment is doomed was a recurring theme.

Drawing upon his experience of Synodality, especially as practised at the significant Church Congregation in late 2023, we could see that he obviously relished living what ‘synod’ means: ‘walking together, not so much to achieve common goals, but simply to be with each other as human beings created by God, listening to the voice of the Almighty speaking to each one – no road to follow, the road is made as you walk.’

Fr General spoke of the need for apostolic discernment in each place and time, and a process for being drawn into it: ‘we are experiencing a transformation in the relationships between Jesuits and Partners in Mission, which is part of the Church’s learning to rescue synodality as a fundamental characteristic of its way of being.’ Not just for the wider church, but there are implications for us now. Fr General’s plea is for a deepening the experience of conversation in the Spirit leading to a communal discernment. This means an openness to dialogue, to become people of dialogue.

Fr General exudes that hope that something new is being born in history, that we might trust in the word of Jesus. As he expanded on the synodal model, it was most heartening to hear of a confirmation of the Spiritual Exercises as that necessary school of prayer and discernment.


Thank you to Michael Ryan SJ for this contribution to the JISA Discernment Series. Michael is an Ignatian Spiritual Director, giver of the Spiritual Exercises, and Supervisor and retreat giver. He works with Jesuit and Ignatian Spirituality Australia at JISA Campion and offers hospitality for those who attend the many retreats at Kew in Melbourne.