By Doris Yu
October 1, 2014 — Jesuit Father John W. Padberg, director of the Institute of Jesuit Sources, offered insights into a turbulent time in the history of the Jesuits at a recent lecture, “The Society of Jesus Restored: How New? How Old?” to mark the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society.
Fr. Padberg’s lecture focused on the suppression, the first phase of the restoration and the Society’s official restoration. The suppression began in 1773 and lasted 41 years, a period when the Society of Jesus was outlawed and more than half its members were dismissed until Pope Pius VII restored the Society in 1814.
Jesuit Fathers John Padberg and David Collins hosted a question-and-answer session on the restoration.
Sponsored by the Maryland Province Jesuits, the event was held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with guests from Georgetown Preparatory School, Georgetown University, Gonzaga College High School, Holy Trinity Church, the Jesuit Conference, Loyola on the Potomac and Washington Jesuit Academy.
The program included remarks by Jesuit Father David Collins, assistant professor of history at Georgetown, and a question and answer session. A special Mass followed, celebrated by Maryland Province Provincial Jesuit Father Robert Hussey, with Georgetown Vice President for Mission and Ministry Jesuit Father Kevin O’Brien and Georgetown Jesuit Community rector Jesuit Father Joseph Lingan.
Georgetown University president John J. DeGioia opened the lecture, noting the work Jesuits have done to reimagine St. Ignatius’ spirituality in an accessible way for the modern age. “We commemorate this afternoon the restoration of the Jesuits, the enduring qualities of our tradition in the spirituality of St. Ignatius,” he said. “And in so doing, we are reminded of the importance of reimagining this tradition.”
Fr. Padberg gave special attention to the history of the Maryland Province Jesuits, who were instrumental in building the Society in the U.S. after the restoration.
He compared the founding of the Society in the 16th century with the 19th century restoration, which both occurred in the midst of extraordinary changes, and the European and American Jesuits’ response to the restoration.
“In Europe, it responded to those changes with almost no imagination in its internal life and not much in its apostolates,” said Fr. Padberg. “In the United States, it responded with great practical, pragmatic imagination in its apostolic life, especially in its high schools.”
Fr. Collins added, “The suppression and restoration were among the best things that could have happened to us — the best things that could have happened to us as Jesuits, the best things that could have happened to us as Catholics. The suppression allowed for the foundation of an organized, ordinary church. The restoration set the Jesuits on a trajectory that influences us to this day.”
Guests were also invited to view historic artifacts surrounding the suppression and restoration, presented by the Georgetown University Library, during a reception after the lecture and Mass.
Videos of the lecture, question and answer session and Mass are available here.