The Universal Apostolic Preferences: A vision for the future

By Xavier Jeyaraj SJ

Indigenous Tseltal women in Chiapas, Mexico, participate in their community’s assembly.

Indigenous Tseltal women in Chiapas, Mexico, participate in their community’s assembly.
Photo: Enrique Carrasco SJ

The Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) are the result of a global process of discernment that lasted 16 months and involved the whole Society of Jesus, including Canadian Jesuits International (CJI). Confirmed by Pope Francis and promulgated by Father General Arturo Sosa SJ in February 2019, they are to serve as a guide for all Jesuits and Jesuit partners for the next 10 years.

The four Universal Apostolic Preferences are: (a) showing the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment, (b) walking with the poor and excluded, (c) journeying with youth, and (d) caring for our common home.

First and foremost, UAPs are Universal. They are not limited to one particular Jesuit province or one particular sector like social justice, education, or pastoral ministry. They are for the entire Society of Jesus. Secondly, UAPs are Apostolic, that is, they are mission-oriented. Thirdly, UAPs are Preferences, not priorities. As Fr Arturo put it, “This is not a strategic plan or a ministry checklist, but a call to conversion.” Priorities would mean that we exclude or stop certain things that we are doing. Instead, UAPs are intended to orient ourselves in all our ministries.

Although there are four preferences, they must be seen as integrally related, not as separate entities or as four different types of work to be done by different apostolic sectors. The challenge is for each of us to integrate these four preferences in whatever mission we are engaged in.

Having been brought up in a multireligious context in India, I believe that the divine spirit is active in every religion and in every human person. All of us are pilgrims on this earth, just as St Ignatius was or many other divine-seekers have been. God cannot be imprisoned in one religion or one type of spirituality – or one UAP! The conversion that Fr Arturo speaks of in relation to the UAPs is not simply an ideological or mental change. It is a changing of our ways, our lifestyle, our perceptions, our actions. It will cost us, but it will give us new life!