Decree 27: “Pastoral Services, Residences, and Parishes,” General Congregation 31 (1966)

The delegates at the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus chose to address three pastoral institutions—and how they might change, “under the present circumstances of the Church”—namely pastoral services, residences, and parishes. The following decree urges Jesuits to renew and to “energetically” promote some pastoral works and also to cease those that “cannot be adapted” to their changing contexts. It also suggests three ways to train Jesuits so that they “may be better integrated into pastoral work today.” With regards to residences (or “communities destined for pastoral work”), the decree states that they be “‘living communities,’ in which the members feel that they are working for the same goal, and, moved by a common spirit, share with each other their worries and successes.” Lastly, the decree declares that the “care of souls in a parish, in general, is no longer to be said to be contrary to the principles of the Constitutions,” though it leaves to the superior general to “judge, all things considered, whether a particular parish is to be accepted or given back.”

For more from the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, please consult this page.



I. Pastoral Services

1.     Under present circumstances in the Church, those pastoral works or services that have been begun for the greater service of God and the more effective welfare of souls in accordance with the spirit of our vocation are to be renewed and energetically promoted, provided that they still fulfill the end for which they were intended and are approved by the hierarchy. Those should be dropped that cannot be adapted. In arriving at this decision the judgment of the bishops and of lay directors should be taken into account. Jesuits should diligently look for new forms of pastoral services, according to the tradition and spirit of the Society, that answer contemporary needs. For the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the pastoral apostolate does not imply uniformity, but rather proposes a harmonious plurality of all pastoral undertakings, according to the diversity of the Spirit’s gifts.

2.     So that in this adaptation the spirit of our distinctive calling may flourish in its entirety:

1° Jesuits themselves especially are to be trained to give the Spiritual Exercises in the true and correct way, and others among the diocesan and religious priests are to be helped to do the same, so that the faithful may be led to an intimate knowledge of the Lord, to love and follow Him more.

2° All should have a high esteem for, and be keenly mindful of, the mystery of the heart of Christ in the life of the Church. It should be so much a part of their own lives that they can promote the knowledge of it among others in their apostolic activity. In this way the results of different ministries may be daily increased, “for from the side of Christ asleep on the cross there has arisen the wonderful sacrament of the entire Church.”

They should also trust in the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary in their assigned tasks and activities, and everywhere show more and more clearly the role of the mother of the Savior in the economy of salvation. For in holy Church and in our tradition the Virgin Mary “holds a place which is the highest after Christ and yet very close to us.”

3° In all their apostolate, our men in pastoral work, in accordance with the desires of the Second Vatican Council, should share with a generous and open mind in the spirit of liturgical, ecumenical and pastoral renewal as well as the introduction to the faith, and with all their strength propagate this spirit.

4° Our works should begin and be carried on under the guidance of superiors, and not in an individualistic and scattered way. Cooperation should be stressed, both among Jesuits who are working amicably and most eagerly for the same apostolic goal, and with others, religious and diocesan priests and the laity. Jesuits should willingly take part in the pastoral planning proposed by the bishops and collaborate with it in a humble and sincere desire of serving the Church.

5° In the selection and planning of ministries and pastoral services of Jesuits as well as in the determination of the places where such ministries are to be exercised, careful attention should be given to what is contained in the Decree on the Better Choice and Promotion of Ministries. In order that Jesuits may be better integrated into pastoral work today, it is necessary that men working in this field be really suitable and competent, and thus they should be trained:

a. on the one hand, by the general training in the course of studies, provision for which has already been made in the Decree on the Training of Scholastics Especially in Studies;

b. on the other hand, by special training, so that the Jesuits who are to be assigned to these ministries have a sufficient skill in some pastoral work (e.g., in preaching the word of God, in giving the Exercises, in catechetics, in spiritual guidance, in ecumenical activity, in spiritual theology, in family counseling and dealing with working men, and the like);

c. and also by institutes that are to be conducted at regular intervals in their regions, so that the priests who are already working in the ministries may be continually kept up to date in regard to new aids.


II. Residences

3.     In this decree, “residences” are understood to be communities destined for pastoral work, or for any other apostolic work other than the education of youth, which according to the Constitutions belongs to another class of houses.

4.     Though these residences are generically of one kind, they can have different names, structures, and ministries, according to the needs of men, times, and circumstances. In them, not only the ministries that are strictly priestly works are carried on, but also all those that, according to our situation and according to the needs of the Church of Christ in the modern world, ought to be accepted, as is set forth in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes.

5.     Residences should be “living communities,” in which the members feel that they are working for the same goal, and, moved by a common spirit, share with each other their worries and successes. So that this can be done more easily, these communities should not be too large, and should be set up, as far as possible, according to natural grouping by works.

The community should be gathered together at regular intervals under the direction of the superior or of some expert designated by him, to review their work, to investigate in common both their methods and their results, and to study contemporary problems.

The tools needed for their labors should be found in the house, such as books, specialized periodicals, and the like.

Young men engaged in this work should be introduced to their pastoral ministries by experienced priests in a brotherly way.

6.     The whole house should be so set up that the members can pray, work, and rest according to the demands of their apostolate. Under the direction of the superior, the house discipline should be adapted with the needed flexibility, in accordance with the Decree on Community Life and Religious Discipline.

7.     According to our Constitutions and also according to the new dispositions of the Council, a house destined for the apostolate ought to be outstanding as a “collective” and “more effective” witness to poverty.

The members who live in the residences can live off the income from their work, in accordance with the Decree on Poverty of the 31st General Congregation, but “they should avoid every appearance of luxury, of excessive wealth and accumulation of possessions”; they should cherish the free rendering of ministries, and place their confidence in God alone. They should look for new forms of poverty with diligence and in a concrete way, each according to his fashion, and insist that there be, e.g., a more extensive practice of hospitality, a fraternal sharing of possessions, support of the poor, and so on.

8.     In accordance with the spirit of the Society, and especially in accordance with the repeated wish of the Church, the General Congregation urgently requests the provincials to establish and promote residences among working men and among the more neglected groups. There, Jesuits in a special way should carry on their apostolate, in various manners, while living their life with the poor Christ.


III. Parishes

9.     Decree 233 in the Collection of Decrees is abrogated.

10.     A new decree should be entered in a suitable place to this effect:

1° Our Society freely embraces the wish of the Church expressed by the Second Vatican Council, that the religious who are called on by bishops in accordance with their needs “should lend helpful efforts in various pastoral ministries,” no exception being made of parishes.

2° The care of souls in a parish, in general, is no longer to be said to be contrary to the principles of the Constitutions, now that the discipline of the Church in regard to parishes committed to religious has been changed. But because of the seriousness of the matter, it belongs to Father General to judge, all things considered, whether a particular parish is to be accepted or given back. The texts of agreements with local ordinaries about parishes are to be approved by Father General.


IV. Recommendations to Superiors

11.     Superiors, with the approval of Father General, should insist:

1° that the apostolic services of the province and the region be reviewed by the commission on the review of ministries, so that Jesuits may serve the hierarchy of the Church with greater freedom;

2° that the directors of works sincerely adapt themselves to contemporary pastoral practice, for example, in giving the Exercises, in popular missions, in the cooperation of Jesuits with a program of renewal of the sodalities or the Apostleship of Prayer in those regions where the bishops and major superiors, having first listened to the lay directors, decide in fraternal harmony to renew them so that they may be more effectively promoted;

3° that Jesuits have a high esteem for the teaching of Christian doctrine to children and the uneducated, either by themselves or by others, as occasion may offer, in accordance with the tradition of the Society and the vows they have taken; for the promotion of new forms of modern catechetics and introduction to the faith by suitable means; for the giving of spiritual aid in hospitals and prisons;

4° that there be set up institutes for the training of directors of the Exercises as soon as possible, because of their importance and their necessity for the renewal of our ministries; in these institutes there should be research into the “genuine meaning of the Ignatian text”; indeed, there should be a real “reworking” “of the Spiritual Exercises themselves to unfold their spiritual riches to modern man, and to express them in the concepts of the theology of the Second Vatican Council.”



Original Source (English translation):

Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees & Accompanying Documents of the 31st35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, ed. John W. Padberg. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009, General Congregation 31, Decree 27, “Pastoral Services, Residences, and Parishes,” pg. 163–167 [468–494].