Pastor’s Pen – May 5, 2023

In our last issue, I made an appeal for you to propose candidates for our young adult leadership program based in Ignatian spirituality.  I repeat that today! – applications are open at least until May 31.  Scroll down to the end of this article for the details.  I want to add something further about Contemplative Leaders in Action (CLA).  The current cohort of 14 young adults (8 of whom are SSPP parishioners) is finishing their two-year program this weekend with a final retreat at Colombiere Center in Clarkston.  I will be leading the retreat (but will be back here for Sunday mass). Please pray for us this weekend as we follow the Ignatian practice of Examen, reflecting on our experience in the light of the Holy Spirit.  Pray that the participants may solidify and appropriate all they have learned over the last two years through this time of spiritual reflection together.  And pray that our parishioner-participants may return with a growing desire and commitment to engage as leaders in our parish community!

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. As you know, a main purpose of the various history and heritage months is to increase our awareness and understanding. So I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you some things about the Jesuits and our ministries that most American Catholics probably don’t realize. While I will only speak about Jesuits, the narrative is indicative of changes in the whole church and in the world at large.

First, you may be surprised to know that there are by far more Jesuits in the Asia-Pacific region than in any other continental region.  For example, the USA and Canada together have 2,500 Jesuits, while India alone has 4,000. The rest of Asia-Pacific has another 1,600; of these, Indonesia has the most, followed by the Philippines and Vietnam. (These statistics are from 2017, the most recent I could find.)

Now let’s look at the U.S. (current stats from 2023).  In the index of U.S. Jesuits, the most common surname is Nguyen (17); former standouts Murphy and Smith have dropped to a distant second place (9 each). Of the 26 men who entered the Jesuits last fall across the U.S., 4 are of Asia-Pacific origin (15%). In our Midwest Province (region), we have 10 Asia-Pacific men among all those in formation. The West has 16, while the East and South have 5 or 6 each. That gives you a good picture of the geographic distribution within the U.S.  By far, the largest single national origin of Asia-Pacific Jesuits in the U.S. is Vietnam.

Those are only numbers, but they tell a story. Ultimately it is the story of how the Gospel and the Holy Spirit of Jesus continue to spread around the world and transform lives everywhere. I must skip over the rich history behind the numbers, reaching back to the 16th century missions of St. Francis Xavier in India and Japan. I cannot go into the fascinating contemporary reality in those numbers – the amazing inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogs that have developed between Asia-Pacific Jesuits and their own contexts, and between them and their western counterparts.  New theological and spiritual currents are emerging from it all, and new life is flowing into the Church.

Beyond all the numbers, it is interesting to note the ministry to Asia-Pacific populations carried out by Jesuits in the U.S.  I can only tell you what I know anecdotally. Our Jesuit schools in the San Francisco Bay area (2 universities and 2 high schools) serve a huge number, as do our schools in Seattle and Portland. Vietnamese-American Jesuits in Los Angeles have built an enormous, successful ministry to Vietnamese Catholic young adults throughout the west. I just learned last year that there are several Jesuits from our Korea Province stationed in an Atlanta suburb, ministering to a large community of Korean Catholics in that area. Who knew?! An Indian Jesuit who taught at our university in Detroit ministered to a community of Indian Catholics here that numbered in the hundreds.  I’m sure there are examples like this in many of our major U.S. metro areas – I’ve only mentioned a few I’m aware of.

Finally, we’ll review the Asia-Pacific connections of our own Midwest Jesuit Province.  Every Jesuit Province in Europe and North America had historic ties to its own “mission territories”; today we view these relationships more as mutual partnerships in the mission of Christ. In our province, Detroit Jesuits have had a long relationship with an area of south Asia that has now grown into three Jesuit provinces: Patna and Delhi in India, and Nepal. Wisconsin Jesuits ministered for years in South Korea, which is now also an independent province; in more recent years, their attention shifted to the Kohima-Meghalaya region of northeast India – that narrow “peninsula” of India that lies between Tibet, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

I’ll close with a twist that is a sign of the times. The fastest growing area in the Jesuit order is Africa; our province is heavily committed to the East Africa Province – but many of the non-African Jesuits serving there now come from the old Jesuit “missions” in India!  There you have it – Asia-Pacific Heritage Month from a Jesuit perspective.

CLA (Contemplative Leaders in Action)
Please take a few minutes to see if you know any young adults (ages 24-39) that you could nominate for our Ignatian leadership program for young adults. It enables participants to integrate their spiritual development with professional leadership skills. They don’t need to be members of our parish or of any parish. We are now accepting applications through May 31. Over the last several years about 40 young leaders have been deeply influenced by CLA through our parish. Your personal referrals are most important in finding new participants! Direct others to for more information. Submit nominations or inquire by email to