Date of Award


Document Type



Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2018.

Degree Name

Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL)


Hung Pham, S.J.


The Indian youth of today, including Christian youth, are deeply impacted by the values and culture of the modern world, a phenomenon which has adversely affected the Church of India in general and vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life in particular. Though at present, the Church in India is enjoying a springtime of vocations to the priestly and religious life, we cannot ignore the challenges posed by the present culture to the young people discerning their vocation and also to those who are in formation. This thesis argues that, given the gravity of today’s challenges to vocational promotion and discernment in the Society of Jesus, it is important for the Jesuits of India to return to the Jesuit sources, to the tried and trusted ways of listening to God’s presence and Spirit within others through spiritual conversation in order to effectively carry out the task of helping young men to rightly discern their life vocation.

The fundamental concern of this study, therefore, is to identify the concrete dimensions of the spiritual conversation which enable sound individual discernment, and how such a crucial tool of discernment is related to the present context of vocation promotion and formation in India. Specifically, it demonstrates that in light of the challenges and opportunities inherent within the Indian reality, Ignatian “spiritual conversation,” which is intrinsically dialogical, contextual, and mission oriented in nature, will be an important tool for Jesuits to help young people to discern and verify their life vocation according to the “signs of the times.”

The study is interdisciplinary in nature, employing historical, cultural, economic, and social analysis to examine the contemporary challenges to vocational promotion and discernment in the Indian context. It employs an experience-reflection-action methodology based on the Ignatian discernment process, namely, sentir-conocer-hacer (to feel-to know-to act). In this process, the study first examines the concrete situation of vocation to the priesthood and consecrated life by exploring the historical reality of India, including its multi-religious, socio-economic, and religio-cultural context. Second, it traces the development of spiritual conversation within Jesuit sources, namely the Autobiography, the Spiritual Exercises, the Constitutions, the Spiritual Diary, and the Letters, demonstrating that for Ignatius and the first companions, spiritual conversation was not only an effective means for “helping souls,” but for attracting and selecting young men to join the mission.

Third, the study explores how the various dimensions of Ignatian spiritual conversation may be applied in the present context of India. To that end, it proposes a model of spiritual conversation that may be fruitfully applied in vocational promotion and discernment, one which consists of personal sharing, noticing the movement of spirits, and finally, a response to the movements of the good spirit noticed in the conversation. In this way, the Jesuit, who is expected to possess the qualities of a good conversationalist, helps young people to recognize the will of God for their lives. My hope is that this study will help the Jesuits to further recognize the effectiveness of spiritual conversation in addressing both the vocation crisis and the selection of capable, motivated candidates to the Society of Jesus in India.

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