Statistics are not that interesting unless you’re bean counter. Even then the numbers don’t account for everything that’s happening in the Church and in a group. Admittedly, there needs to be room for the work of the Holy Spirit.
Having said all this, if you want to see how culture and theology are working together –or not– you need to look at the numbers. There is a claim that the largest order of men in the Church is the Society of Jesus, founded in 1540; if you bring together the various Franciscan groups of men they’d likely outnumber the Jesuits.
Several years ago Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach said that looking at the original charism of the Society the vocation to be a Jesuit was given to very few men. In the course of history, and for particular reasons, the Society exploded in numbers surpassing expectation and control. And yet, there has been a tremendous amount of good done through Ignatian spirituality, but there has been a demonstrable chaos wreaked by the same. It looks as though the chaos is lessening but it will take another generation or two for a more authentic living of the charism of Saint Ignatius and the first Jesuits to be fully lived again.
To give you a sense of the scope of the Jesuits worldwide consider this information for today:
- There are 83 provinces, 6 Independent Regions and 10 Dependent Regions;
- Roman Houses (including the Jesuit curia) 403;
- As of 1 January 2013, the total number of Jesuits was 17,287: 12,298 priests, 1,400 brothers, 2,878 scholastics, and 711 novices – a net loss of 337 members from 1 January 2012.
Compare total numbers in the USA:
Compare total numbers worldwide: