Decree 19: “Parish Ministry,” General Congregation 34 (1995)

The following decree describes a Jesuit parish’s goals and characteristics (among them a parish “energized by Ignatian spirituality, especially through the Spiritual Exercises, and by individual and communal discernment”). The delegates of the 34th General Congregation also state that a parish provides “a favorable context to live with the poor and to be in solidarity with them.”

For more from the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, please consult this page.



Parish Ministry Today

1.     Approximately 3,200 Jesuits labor in two thousand parishes throughout the world. In recognizing the important service to the Church represented by this investment of manpower, we affirm that “the parish apostolate is not contrary to our Constitutions” and add that, under certain circumstances, it is an appropriate apostolate for carrying out our mission of serving the faith and promoting justice.

2.     The parish, moreover, offers a favorable context to live with the poor and to be in solidarity with them.


Goals and Characteristics of a Jesuit Parish

3.     A parish is Jesuit if, committed to the pastoral goals and policies of the local church, it also “participates in the apostolic priorities of the Society” and in the mission plan of the province, according to “our way of proceeding.” As central to its life, the parish gathers as a community to celebrate its joys, struggles, and hopes—in the Word, in the Eucharist, and the other sacraments—in well-planned, creative, and inculturated ways. A parish becomes an evangelized and evangelizing community committed to “justice and reconciliation” and makes its popular devotions relevant to contemporary needs.

4.     A Jesuit parish is energized by Ignatian spirituality, especially through the Spiritual Exercises, and by individual and communal discernment. It tries to provide well-developed programs in catechesis and formation for both individuals and families; it offers opportunities for spiritual direction and pastoral counseling. Following the model of the election in the Spiritual Exercises, it helps individuals to discern their vocation in life.

5.     The parish opens itself progressively to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and reaches out to alienated Christians as well as to nonbelievers. It grows into a participative church through such means as basic human and ecclesial communities and promotes opportunities for lay participation and leadership.

6.     In its service of the faith, a Jesuit parish is called upon to develop strategies to promote local and global justice by means of both personal conversion and structural change. Networking with other Jesuit apostolic works as well as other ecclesial and civil organizations, it opposes all forms of discrimination and contributes to a genuine culture of solidarity which transcends parish boundaries.


The Jesuit in a Parish

7.     A Jesuit is missioned to a parish, Jesuit or otherwise, in order to contribute meaningfully to its total life. He should be selected for his lived spirituality and pastoral competence. He must be able to interact positively with various age groups and should have the necessary skills for working collegially with laity and other members of the parish staff.

8.     Jesuits in parish ministry should have ongoing contact with other Jesuits, diocesan pastors, and other religious ministering in the region. They should spend time with them for collective reflection and common action.

9.     A Jesuit destined to become a pastor must have special training, especially in such skills as homiletics, liturgy, catechesis, sociocultural analysis, social communication, and conflict management. In addition, opportunities for contact with model parishes and appropriate pastoral training centers must be available to him for ongoing formation. It is also recommended that apostolic experiments in parishes be made available to Jesuits from the early stages of formation.


A Mandate to Father General

10.     We mandate Father General to evaluate and update our existing norms for accepting and withdrawing from parishes and to communicate the results to the whole Society. Given the many different types of parishes in the world, provincials will need to adapt the norms to local situations.



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 34, Decree 19, “Parish Ministry,” pg. 635–636 [420–429].

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