In the following decree, the delegates of the 31st General Congregation urge that provincials in the Society of Jesus receive greater responsibility and “broader faculties” in the governance of the Society of Jesus. Provincials, in return, were to “carefully listen to their subjects and direct them in the Lord, taking into consideration the internal knowledge which they have of them.” The decree also explains the goal of a provincial, namely to “foster in the province religious life, the training of our men, and apostolic ministries, seeking always in all things the greater service of Christ’s Church.”
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1. The General Congregation calls to mind that our holy father Ignatius wished indeed that “Father General have all authority for the greater benefit of the Society,” and that from him “as from the head, all power of the provincials should proceed, and descend through them to local superiors and through them down to individual persons.” He wished that “for the same reason, in each province Father General should have provincials of demonstrated trustworthiness, since he realizes that the good government of the Society to a great extent depends on them,” and “they should be men of the sort to whom a great deal of power can be entrusted.” The power that is given to them either by common law or the Society’s law in virtue of their office is “ordinary power.”
2. In this way Father General, “by sharing his work with them as far as the business permits,” can have more leisure and time to attend to more universal matters, and more light to see what must be done about them. Subordination under holy obedience will be better preserved in the whole body of the Society, “the more clearly inferiors understand that they depend immediately on their superiors and that it will be very proper for them, and even necessary, to be subject to them in all things for Christ our Lord’s sake,” having persuaded themselves that “their superior possesses the knowledge, the will, and the ability to govern them well in the Lord.” Provincials themselves and other superiors should devote themselves with a greater sense of responsibility to the task of government entrusted to them, not seeking to avoid making plans or decisions by themselves, but with a courageous spirit embarking on great undertakings for the divine service and remaining constant in carrying them out.
3. On this account, provincials should carefully listen to their subjects and direct them in the Lord, taking into consideration the internal knowledge which they have of them. This is especially so with regard to rectors and local superiors whom they ought diligently to aid in carrying out their own function, showing them confidence and sharing broad power with them as the matter may demand. They should also foster in the province religious life, the training of our men, and apostolic ministries, seeking always in all things the greater service of Christ’s Church. Moreover, although provincials are appointed to rule their particular provinces, “they should turn their attention to the needs of the whole Society and look on interprovincial and international houses and works as part of their duty and responsibility, and willingly help them according to the measure and proportion worked out by Father General for each of the individual provinces.”
4. In addition, the obligation rests “especially on the Fathers Provincial in the sight of God to consider and do what they ought to do for the general welfare of the Society” in those matters that concern Father General; as a rule, however, they will fulfill this duty through the General Assistants, unless the matter should be extremely urgent.
5. The participation of the provincials in the government of the Society demands that there be “a more frequent personal communication” between the general and the provincials and that Father General “know well, as far as can be, the consciences of the Fathers Provincial,” so that from this intimate knowledge and mutual communication the “necessary” influence of the head may more easily “descend” to the provincials “for the sake of the goal that is set for the Society.”
6. Therefore, the General Congregation:
a. recommends that the personal communication of Father General with the provincials be increased, not only by calling them to Rome some time after they have taken office so that they may discuss things with him, but also by calling together all the provincials of a region or even of the whole Society as he shall judge it to be useful;
b. has revised some decrees of general congregations in which the necessity of seeking the consent of the General was laid down as a requirement;
c. hands over to the prudent judgment of Father General the matter of his habitually sharing broader faculties with the provincials in some affairs.
Original Source (English translation):
Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees & Accompanying Documents of the 31st–35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, ed. John W. Padberg. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009, General Congregation 31, Decree 46, “Provincials,” pg. 203–205 [666–671].