V. Rev. Mark Lewis, SJ, provincial of the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus and former director of the Jesuit Historical Institute in Rome, presented a lecture on April 5 at the Xavier Jesuit Community, focusing on the factors that led to the suppression of the Society and its restoration in 1814.
Beginning in 1759, Jesuits were expelled from Portugal, France, Spain and other areas by leaders who, historians argue, saw the Society as a threat to absolutism. Under political pressure, Pope Clement XIV issued a papal brief in 1773 that officially disbanded the Society of Jesus. Jesuit properties in foreign countries as far away as New Orleans and Brazil were seized, and members of the Society were exiled, imprisoned or forced to live in communities that functioned as refugee camps.
Fr. Lewis pointed out that during the decades following the start of the suppression, liberal revolutions took place in France and in the United States.
When absolutism weakened toward the end of the 18th century, sentiments against the Society of Jesus weakened as well. Pope Pius VII issued a bull of restoration in 1814, effectively marking the reestablishment of the Society.
A panel discussion took place following Fr. Lewis’s keynote address, featuring Sr. Mary Dolan, regional superior of the Sisters of St. Ursula in the United States, Mr. Jack Raslowsky, president of Xavier High School and Mr. John Schmitt, a pastoral council member from the Church of St. Francis Xavier. The panelists spoke about the lessons that could be learned from the suppression and restoration, and ways that the repercussions from that time period might still be sensed today.
“One question that we might ask is, ‘Do we threaten anyone enough these days where they might want to suppress us?’” Mr. Raslowsky said. “Our works, if they do things well, should make people uncomfortable. Often the response to that discomfort can be great growth. I think that’s what we hope for our students. We hope that if we expose them to poverty and give them insight to the ‘other,’ they can respond with gratitude, generosity and service and that they can make God’s presence real in those places.”
Two key academic conferences will take place to mark the Jesuit restoration anniversary this year. Boston College will host Jesuit Survival and Restoration: 200th Anniversary Perspectives from Boston and Macau from June 11-15, 2014, examining neglected aspects of the history of the restoration in east-central Europe and Russia, China and the United States. Loyola University Chicago will also host Restored Jesuits and the American Experience from October 16-19, 2014.
To learn more about the history of the Jesuit suppression and restoration, click here: http://www.sj2014.net/