“Progress Report of Jesuit Apostolates,” Pedro Arrupe (1978)

At the Congregation of Procurators, held in 1978, Pedro Arrupe provided a comprehensive report, The State of the Society. The survey included a summary of the advances made by the apostolate of the Society of Jesus. As presented in a collection of Arrupe’s letters and addresses published by Jesuit Sources, the text below is the section of the report detailing some of that progress.

For more sources from Arrupe, please visit The Arrupe Collection.



21. Calling to a shared and varied apostolate

During the past three years the Society’s apostolate has been clearly changing, though in different ways and degrees in different Provinces.


The main agent of this change has been Degree 4 which has brought about a distinct shift in our apostolate towards “the service of faith and the promotion of justice” both in education and pastoral work, social action, etc. The evaluation of our works, which is being carried out at the moment, is being done in the light of this priority.


This renewal continues in spite of the ambiguities and tensions characteristic of change: a ministry to the poor or to those who are socially and economically influential; a predominantly spiritual apostolate or one based on integral human development and liberation; a choice between objectives with short-term results or long-term ones; a parish ministry or a specialized one; an institutional or a personal approach; an apostolate using simple methods as a witness to poverty or one using costly equipment for the sake of apostolic efficiency, etc.


But since you have already received full reports on the different sectors of the Society’s apostolate (atheism, education, social apostolate, etc.), here I believe I need only refer briefly to each and give you my personal assessment.


22. Social Apostolate

The social apostolate has undergone change in the past few years and gradually becomes a dimension permeating all our apostolic activities. We must admit, however, that its impact on our more traditional apostolic commitments is still limited and that, at Province or Assistancy level, it has not produced the basic changes we were hoping for.


In the social sector properly so-called we see new commitments, both personal and institutional. The Social Institutes or Centers which played such an important role in the past are passing through a crisis in some places. They are trying to adapt to new needs by linking themselves more closely with those working at grass-root level and by co-operating with other sectors of the apostolate (educational, pastoral, theological and interdisciplinary reflection, etc.) and thus extending their field of action.


Directly social work is often conditioned by the social, political and cultural situation in each country. To the difficulties inherent in this type of apostolate and the strong hostile reactions it sometimes provokes, must also be added in some places a lack of preparation and of right criteria on the part of those engaged in it.


23. Education

Education continues to be the apostolate occupying most Jesuits. Many doubts and discussions have been voiced whether we should maintain our educational institutions and whether other more direct apostolates and with poorer people should not take priority. Today its value is recognized but only on condition of a change in its goals, contents and methods.


Our universities are facing serious economic and staffing problems. In other instances the difficulties have to do with their independence. The Society cannot lack the juridical means needed to preserve the Ignatian characteristics of such institutions. I am aware that in some Provinces they represent a heavy burden calling for considerable sacrifices. But they are also nerve centers of our apostolate and important means for propagating it in the long term, so the Church asks us to continue providing this costly service. But the number of our universities is another problem: can we continue to maintain all we have at the moment in view of other apostolic needs, many of them new, and the lack of personnel?


One problem that has emerged in these last years and that is a matter of concern to superiors is that of the relationship of faculties of theology to the superiors of the Society. The status of the faculties, frequently, make it difficult for superiors to intervene, especially in academic questions and yet, if the Society is to continue to recognize them as its own, it must have the statutory ability to intervene when the occasion demands. The Statutes will have to be revised to insure that this possibility is safeguarded without any sort of ambiguity.


The colleges or secondary schools also continue to be an effective means of our apostolate. In many places they have become real educational communities which reach out to the lay teachers, parents and old pupils. More emphasis is placed on social training and religious education is taking new forms. The possibility of admitting all classes of pupils and thus overcoming economic obstacles is being followed up as fast as conditions in each country permit. There are many new schools for poorer students and the proportion of poor students in our other schools has increased. In many cases professional schools have been given top priority. The idea that we were educating the upper classes is disappearing.


Educational work in institutions, universities and secondary schools that do not belong to the Society is another service that is being offered generously and has much in its favor. But is has difficulties too, not only for those concerned but also for our own institutions which find themselves thus deprived of additional staff that is often highly qualified and sometimes badly needed. The apostolic mission of these men as such, must be carefully evaluated, as is true of the mission of everyone, and it would be to our advantage, if every kind of individualism were overcome and closer ties were established, on the basis of a common mission, among all members of the Society who work in institutions of higher learning that do not depend on the Society.


24. Intellectual Apostolate

I consider this one of the most privileged means for that defense and spreading of the faith mentioned in the first paragraph of the Formula of our Institute. Consequently I tried to dispel all doubts arising about the validity of this apostolate today by publishing a letter to the whole Society reaffirming its importance for the service of the Church and the readiness of the Society to undertake it.


25. Pastoral Work

Through the Exercises in particular there has been much development in our parish work, in Christian Life Communities, in rural apostolates, and in new types of ministry to youth, married couples, etc.


Bishops increasingly wish to hand over parishes to the Society and this sometimes puts us in difficult situations. On the one hand, a parish community provides an excellent opportunity for apostolic work and, in some countries, is a need that presses hard on the Bishops. On the other hand, this work can get in the way of others that the Church also expects from us and to which we give priority according to our charism. It is often very difficult to make a discernment here.


26. Means of Social Communication

We are putting behind us the days of the worthy self-taught pioneers in unexplored territory, and we are now beginning to rely on men with good training suited to modern needs. Such men are, however, far from numerous. Still, a hopeful sign is the growing interest aroused by this apostolate, especially among the younger men who have been introduced to it in the course of their training. Allied to this is a very keen awareness of its far-reaching importance for the future, an importance denied by no one today.


Two problems in this area call for a speedy solution. One is the integration of the communications media into the formation of our men, and the second is the coordination of all our activities in the field of the communications media in order to achieve greater depth and wider apostolic outreach.


27. Evangelization in the “Missions”

This is one of the fields of our apostolate where change is remarkably swift and deep. A contributing factor is the development and evolution in the very theology of evangelization in what were formerly called the ‘missions.’ The movement of personnel is now less and at the same time it has become more diversified: young churches are now among those supporting those even more recently founded or with more pressing needs.


We do, however, find that we must re-assert our mobility and our universality, as in some places there are noticeable tendencies that may be called ‘regionalistic’ or ‘nationalistic’ which are clearly out of harmony with the total availability on which the effectiveness of the Society’s apostolate must be founded.


The internationalizing of the ‘missions’ is going ahead successfully. But progress is still needed with regard to international solidarity both in the area of finances and in that of personnel.


The tension between evangelization and human development is approaching a point of integration and balance.


Inculturation is a dimension that we can in some respects regard as new. This holds at least in as much as we see it these days as something right, something we cannot do without, and something with untold apostolic possibilities. We see this especially, but not exclusively, where the Church is new and where the nation is developing. For this reason, in obedience to a charge from the General Congregation, I wrote a letter to the Society on the subject.


In the interests of brevity I should like to refer to page 6 of the statement on ‘Evangelization and Missions’ where there is a summary of the answers to the questionnaire issued in 1977. There you will find plenty of information on this topic.


The vision of the world as one vast mission field is becoming more common, and rightly so. It is also good that we are less inclined to distinguish between Christian countries and countries with the prefix ‘mission.’ This must not, however, lead to a loss of zest for spreading the Gospel and for apostolic endeavor in countries other than our own.


28. New Apostolates

Creativity is these days indispensable. It breathes new forms into old apostolates and brings to light apostolates that are quite new. In its path it must overcome uncertainties, insecurity, resistance of various kinds, and situations that are in a constant state of flux. This sort of thing leads some people into a state of chronic hesitation, a lack of self-confidence and a lassitude which can lead to passivity. We have seen innovation, and we continue to see it, for example, in “involvement,” in the rural apostolate, in the means of social communication, in educational institutions, in education in outside institutions, in pastoral work and catechetics, in Christian Life Communities, and so on. There is, in fact, a great desire to open up new roads for the apostolate. But we must be careful not to fall into the trap of ‘immediatism,’ that is, choosing the apostolate that demands no great effort on our part and yet gives us a feeling of satisfaction by quickly producing results that attract a certain measure of public attention.


But there can be no doubt that changing conditions often call for new apostolates or new forms of those already established. We must not only accept these but actively promote them, avoiding on the one hand a naive awe for something that is ‘but the bloom of a day’, and on the other hand an attitude of suspicion and fear that is without foundation.


29. A brief indication of other points that may be developed:


1) Collaboration with the hierarchy and our involvement with the diocesan clergy and other religious in ‘shared pastoral work.’


2) Collaboration with the laity, to whom we ought to give an increasingly greater share of responsibility in our works, including structures of wider participation and joint administration in which the apostolic identity of our institutions is guaranteed.


3) Greater involvement with the people of God, with smaller communities carrying as much weight in our apostolic commitment as larger institutions.


4) Opening up of our retreat houses as houses of prayer and other kinds of apostolic encounter.


5) Opening of many of our theological faculties to seminarians and laity.


6) The “Workers’ Mission” in various countries.


7) Theological reflection.


8) The press and publications.


9) The Apostleship of Prayer, etc.






Original Source:

Other Apostolates Today: Selected Letters and Addresses—III, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1981, “Progress Report of Jesuit Apostolates,” pg. 25–31.


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