I just returned from a gathering in St. Louis of over 20 Jesuits who are interested in the work of the Apostleship of Prayer. This is the fourth such meeting since 2007. There were Jesuits, young and old, from around the country and this year's meeting included two Jesuit scholastics from Canada who are members of this summer's Jesuit Mission Band which will be giving "Hearts on Fire" retreats for young adults in six cities throughout the South. Their schedule and more information can be found here.
We began Monday evening with Evening Prayer and then shared about the role that devotion to the Sacred Heart has played in our lives. Tuesday was a full day. After Morning Prayer, I gave a presentation entitled "The Apostleship of Prayer: an Ignatian and Eucharistic Spirituality." Then Fr. Claudio Barriga, the International Delegate for the Apostleship of Prayer in the Jesuit Curia in Rome, talked about the Apostleship of Prayer and the Eucharistic Youth Movement from an international perspective. He also shared parts of a document designed to promote the "recreation" of the Apostleship of Prayer. By presenting the traditional mission and practices of the Apostleship of Prayer in a new light, the document is another step in the process of its worldwide renewal so that it may play a role in the new evangelization.
In the afternoon Fr. Phil Hurley, the Youth and Young Adult Director of the Apostleship in the U.S., and a panel of Jesuits who have worked on past "Hearts on Fire" retreats gave a presentation and talked about their experience of the first two years of these retreats. Lastly, before celebrating Mass together, we discussed how the Apostleship of Prayer can play a greater role in the work of various Jesuit institutions-- universities, high schools and other schools, parishes, and retreat houses.
After Morning Prayer on Wednesday, I gave another presentation. This one was entitled "A Contemporary Approach to Sacred Heart Spirituality." It was followed by a discussion about collaborating with various organizations and initiatives like the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement and Christian Life Communities (CLC). We also heard from Joseph Hill, a Jesuit scholastic who has been teaching at Jesuit High in New Orleans, about the revival of the Sodality there and the Camino Retreats with which he has been involved. These retreats, like the "Hearts on Fire" events, target young adults, 19 to 39, and lead them, over a series of four 3 day silent retreats, through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
In the afternoon I, Fr. Hurley, Fr. Chris Collins (the President of the Apostleship's Board of Directors), and Dr. Doug Leonard (the Apostleship's Director of Operations and Development) talked about the obstacles we face, the opportunities we have, and our needs, both in terms of personnel and finances. We ended our meetings with a Holy Hour that included a personal consecration prayer to the Sacred Heart and then Mass.
In planning this meeting I wasn't sure how much time to schedule for questions and discussion. Based on the lively discussions that followed the presentations, it's clear that we could have used more time!