Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Curiously enough, while I was in Atlanta making my retreat, the General of the Society of Jesus, Very Reverend Adolfo Nicolás, changed the boundaries of the New Orleans and Maryland Provinces. South Carolina and Georgia, previously part of the Southern Province, will, on January 1, 2013, come under the jurisdiction of the Maryland Province. This change is part of the realignment of the American Jesuit provinces that will occur in the next decade.
Although individual Southern Jesuits have long worked in South Carolina, Jesuit presence in Georgia has been more of a corporate presence. In 1887 the bishop of Savannah offered the New Orleans Mission a former seminary, Pio Nono College, for use as a house of formation if the Jesuits would agree to staff a local parish. The Jesuits came to St. Joseph’s parish in Macon, where they stayed more than seventy years. Pio Nono College became the novitiate and juniorate, until a totally destructive fire in 1921 led to the removal of the house of formation to St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, Louisiana.
In Augusta the Jesuits ministered at Sacred Heart parish for almost seventy-five years. During the first twenty years, the Society of Jesus conducted Sacred Heart College, a high school.
In suburban Atlanta the mother of Father John Schroder, S.J., one of our retired Jesuits, donated the family’s summer estate on the Chattahoochee River to the New Orleans Province for use as a retreat house. For six decades Ignatius House has offered the Spiritual Exercises to the people of Georgia and has provided the Archdiocese of Atlanta and individual parishes a place for prayer and meetings. This ministry will continue with the Maryland Jesuits.
Eventually there will be four Jesuit provinces (administrative divisions) in the United States instead of ten. The entire east coast, except for Florida, will be one province, with the combining of the New York, Maryland, and New England Provinces. The south central United States will consist of the Missouri and New Orleans Provinces, including Florida. The north central section will be composed of the Chicago, Detroit, and Wisconsin Provinces. The Oregon and California Provinces will make up a western province including Alaska and Hawaii.
Our province has shrunk in size in other decades as well. North Carolina, part of the Maryland Province since the nineteen thirties, was once a stark mission region staffed by Southern Jesuits. Even Oklahoma, now attached to Missouri, was once Southern Jesuit territory.
The Maryland Jesuits once had the most unusual legal name in the United States: the “Roman Catholic Gentlemen of Maryland,” dating from the Suppression of the Jesuits in 1773. Those priests in the Colony of Maryland incorporated themselves under that title to prevent the expropriation of Church property. As of now, we Southern Jesuits have the most unusual legal title, the “Catholic Society for Religious and Literary Education.”
As our Jesuit journey continues, let us remember that all of us—all of us—are on pilgrimage from the Lord to the Lord. Let us pray for one another especially at the Sunday Eucharist. Please pray for us Jesuits as we seek to serve the Lord and the Lord’s Church.
In the Risen Lord,
Fr. Donald Hawkins, S.J., Pastor