News
Jesuit missionaries to Canada.
We go in by their door, in order to come out by ours.
Enter Through Their Door: Reflecting on the Ignatian Spirit of Collaboration

March 1, 2017 - by Henry Frank

(During this Lenten season, we are taking time to reflect on some of the values that are fundamental both to the Ignatian life and to our organization. We will take a look at spirituality, spiritual direction, collaboration, leadership, and mission, focusing on how these values are understood in the Ignatian tradition.)

Collaboration is at the heart of the Ignatian mission. 

As a buzz word, “collaboration” is familiar to most of us. The word is plastered on ads for the latest cloud services or project management apps, right beside “efficiency” and “innovation.” But familiarity sometimes breeds vagueness, so let’s clarify its meaning in relation to the Ignatian life. 

To some extent, the intended meaning is straightforward. Glance at the history of Jesuit missions around the world, and you discover no shortage of examples of Jesuits collaborating with kings and queens, governments and politicians, business people, merchants, other cultures, and other religious traditions in service to their mission. That fact alone, that Ignatius encouraged his followers to be savvy, is not particularly profound – it’s good business practice for an effective organization. 

“Resourcefulness” is a bit closer to an Ignatian definition, but it lacks the sense of a genuine encounter that Ignatius has in mind. He said about Jesuit missionary activity, “We go in by their door, in order to come out by ours.” As we begin to grasp the depth of this statement and what it demands of us, we come to understand what true Ignatian collaboration means. 

We ought to start by taking Ignatius at his word – he is not endorsing guile or duplicity. He earnestly encourages his followers to “go in by their door”, fully aware of the vulnerability and imagination necessary for that kind of collaboration. 

Ignatian collaboration, therefore, requires honesty both with ourselves and with our partners – the type of honesty that comes from self-reflection. We must be attentive to the movements of the Spirit in our lives. We must listen to the people God puts in our lives, discover their challenges as well as their strengths, and engage them in their own space. For individuals, this entails more listening than speaking. For organizations, it requires that they analyze studiously the needs they seek to address, before offering solutions. Once we fully understand the circumstances, we can begin to imagine a way forward. 

Ignatius expects that entering through “their door” will change us, if we do it honestly. He expects his followers to dress, think, speak, and act differently as a result. He probably would not have guessed, for example, that 75 years after his death, his followers would paddle up the St. Lawrence river in birch bark canoes, dressed in beaver pelts for warmth, and preaching the Gospel to Algonquin boys in their own language – but it certainly would not have surprised him. 

Of course, the change wrought by Ignatian collaboration is not absolute. Collaboration is done with a purpose, and not for its own sake. The goal of missionary activity, after all, is to spread the Gospel – hence, “…in order to come out by our door.” 

Imagination is the companion of this type of honest encounter. What it looks like differs with circumstances, but the object remains the same. Can we imagine, can we see, how God is calling us to spread the Gospel among those around us? Have we listened to the needs of our brothers and sisters, and are we brave enough to enter through their door? Are we prepared for the arduous task of working together for a better church and a better world? 

Each of us may answer these questions differently, but all of us have an opportunity during this Lenten season to reflect on our own work and recognize the people with whom God is calling us to collaborate. 

It is trite to say that we can make a difference together, but Ignatius believed it. Our challenge is to summon the courage to be vulnerable and the creativity to imagine what it looks like to “come out by our door.”





Recent News

October 5, 2020 — Registration is open for Jesuit Friends and Alumni Sunday, which is returning once again this year — this time online. Mass will be celebrated by Fr. Joseph O’Keefe, SJ, provincial of the USA East Province, and Fr. Adam Rosinski, SJ, assistant director of vocations.

The Season of Creation concludes on the Feast of St. Francis (Oct. 4). Cecilia Calvo from the Jesuit Office of Justice and Ecology and Brenna Davis from the Ignatian Solidarity Network will offer a special Eco-Examen that asks us to reflect on our personal relationship with creation, acknowledge and amend our ways, and promote ecological justice by standing in solidarity with those most impacted by environmental harm.

The Office of Ignatian Spirituality (OIS) is hosting two virtual info sessions for a new initiative call "CURA." The first session will be from 5:00pm-6:00pm on October 1, and the second will be from 12:00pm-1:00pm on October 14.

September 8, 2020 – This month Pope Francis is asking us to join him in praying for Respect for the Planet’s Resources. We pray that the planet’s resources will not be plundered, but shared in a just and respectful manner.

August 12, 2020 – These two Ignatian examens are intended to guide prayerful reflection on the role that race, racism, and racial bias play in our lives and society. The first examen is written for everyone. The second is written primarily for people who identify as white.

August 12, 2020 – In early March, Jesuit ministry changed nearly overnight. Emails poured in, summarized in the word “canceled.” Masses were canceled. Retreats were canceled. Even Holy Week, for a moment, seemed like it might effectively be called off. But with remarkable speed toward the end of the Lenten season—no doubt attributable to the adaptability innate to the Jesuit way of proceeding—the ministry of Ignatian spirituality moved online.

August 3, 2020 – This month Pope Francis is asking us to join him in praying for The Maritime World. We pray for all those who work and live from the sea, among them sailors, fishermen and their families. Our world cries out for healing and renewal. May we place our hand into the hand of the God who calmed the seas that his beautiful gift of creation may be restored and all whose lives depend on the fruits of the ocean be protected, this day and always. As one, may we rejoice and give thanks. Amen.

view all news

Search news


Eastern Point Retreat House
Eastern Point Retreat House, a grand house located on the Atlantic shore in Gloucester, Mass., has been welcoming retreatants since 1958.