(Washington, D.C., July 29, 2014) — The Jesuits of two distinct U.S. provinces will join as one on July 31, 2014 as part of a larger reorganization of the Society of Jesus in the U.S.
The Jesuits of the New Orleans Province and the Jesuits of the Missouri Province will unite to form a new entity, Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province.
The new province, at more than a million square miles, includes 13 states and stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains and from Missouri to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond to the Central American nation of Belize. Roughly 400 Jesuits who are vowed members of the worldwide Society of Jesus, a religious order of Catholic men, will serve the new combined province.
Establishment of the new province will take effect July 31 on the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuits’ 16th-century Spanish founder. On that day, New Orleans Provincial Mark Lewis and Missouri Provincial Douglas Marcouiller will relinquish their respective leadership roles to Fr. Ron Mercier, who has been named provincial of the new province. The transition to a new provincial will be marked at a simple, private Mass for Jesuits that day in New Orleans. A decree establishing the new province will be read at two public celebrations at Masses on Aug. 1 in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, and Aug. 2 in New Orleans.
The uniting of the New Orleans and Missouri provinces is part of a larger reconfiguration of U.S. Jesuit provinces that has been under way for 10 years, and by the end of this decade, will reduce the number of U.S. provinces by more than half, from 10 to four.
In 2004, the Superior General of the Society at the time, Very Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, encouraged the 10 U.S. provinces to evaluate their mission and reconsider how best to use their resources to serve the Church. Over the next few years, U.S. Jesuits met to discuss their future, and considered various realignments.
New Orleans and Missouri chose to join together, based in part on their shared emphasis on Hispanic ministry, focus on education and cultural fit, and submitted their recommendation to the Jesuit Conference. In 2007, the national office of Jesuits included it in its proposal on province reconfiguration to Kolvenbach, who gave his approval.
Joining together, it is hoped, will create greater efficiencies and a strength and vitality that afford more opportunities for partnerships, innovation and synergy.
Over the last few years, in anticipation of the consolidation, New Orleans and Missouri Jesuits have been crossing province lines to serve in new capacities and have collaborated on vocation work, formation of new Jesuits and various operations.
No Jesuit ministry in the New Orleans and Missouri provinces is being cut or reduced. The Jesuits have been partnering with lay associates for years, and will continue to do so in an era of fewer vocations to religious life.
Included in the new Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province are six Jesuit colleges and universities, 13 parishes, 11 high schools and seven retreat or spirituality centers. Provincial offices will be in St. Louis.