Sharing the Experience of the Congregation
David Schultenover, S.J.

Friday, February 1, 2008


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Dave Schultenover, S.J. is a delegate to the Congregation from the Wisconsin Province, in the US Assistancy.

He is a Consultor to the Provincial of the Wisconsin Province and a professor of historical theology at Marquette University.

He is the editor in chief of THEOLOGICAL STUDIES, A Jesuit Sponsored Journal of Theology.


February 1, 2008

Today in the aula we begin to hear reports from various groups on topics that will eventually be treated either in the form of decrees or as recommendations to the Society’s “ordinary governance,” that is, the Superior General or regional assistants and provincials. Today’s topics are youth, religious fundamentalism, and Africa. Interesting to note is the fact that for the first time in our history, the subject of youth has come up in a general congregation. Although the Society has been working with youth from our founding, the question arises, why are youth of special concern today? A partial answer: the influences of globalization and electronic communications are weakening traditional family and formational structures, exposing youth to very powerful agents of formation other than their traditional influences and often resulting in looser or even ruptured bonds and even, in some sense, redefining the meaning of human relations (think of the teenager — or a person of any age — who communicates with 400 of his or her closest friends in a single day. Perhaps we will soon see couples walking arm in arm down the street and talking to each other on their iPhones.) And these influences are global.

These reports mark the beginning of probably the most difficult part of the congregation — hammering out documents that will be passed by the majority of the assembly — or not (I’m sure everyone is grateful that we work with a simple majority or, in British English, an absolute majority!).

In the past week we have been working along parallel tracks. Some men have been writing first drafts of documents, while most of us have been discussing topics in large and small groups, preparatory to reports or eventual documents.

Wednesday we were allowed the afternoon off to do extra reading, prayer, and reflection. This gave me the opportunity to—as the Scriptures put it—walk while it is still light. Brisk walking is the only form of exercise I’ve found so far in Rome—apart from the yoga I do each morning. It will get me through.

Usually I have to walk after cena (supper)—in the dark, although the Roman streets are well lighted. Walking tends to be less pleasant here than in the States because in the narrow and uneven cobblestone streets pedestrians and motorized vehicles contest for the same space. Guess who wins! And in those tunnel-like spaces, engine noise is amplified. I counter with an iPod and noise-canceling earphones. To add interest, I sometimes go in search of the holy grail, Rome’s perfect gelato. I think I’ve found it, thanks to a tip from fellow-Jesuit John Belmonte, now principal of Marquette High School, who spent four years here studying theology — and gelato. Not Giolitti’s gelato, although theirs is in the top tier. But Della Palma’s, in the Via della Maddalena, about a block closer to the Pantheon than Giolitti’s. I concur with John that the cioccolato all’arancia (orange chocolate) is matter for confession. Fortunately the price—ca. $4.50 for what in the States would be a single scoop—helps check my appetite. . . . Helps.

My fellow congregants and I are extremely grateful for the prayerful support we have been receiving from all corners of the world, and we simply beg your continuing prayer as we enter more deeply into the minutiae of document production, that we be as open as possible to where the Holy Spirit is guiding us.

David G. Schultenover, S.J.
Rome, 1 February 2008

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