.- The General House of the Society of Jesus reported this week that the number of Jesuits in the world has dropped by 286 during the last year, thus confirming a 16 year-long downward trend in the order’s vocations.
According to the Fides news agency, as of January 1, 2006, there were 19,564 Jesuits in the world, whereas in 2005 the number was 19,850.
The current number of Jesuit priests is 13,735 (231 less than in 2005), the number of brothers is 1,865 (56 less than in 2005), and the number of novices is 897 (down from 909 in 2005). Only the number of scholastics has seen an increase of 13 since last year, totaling 3,067.
The median age of 57 is another important factor for the Jesuits. The average age of priests is 63, scholastics, 29, and brothers, 66. Geographically, in Latin America there are 2,957 Jesuits, 60 less than in 2005. In North America there are 3,034, 183 less than in 2005. In Europe there are 6,447, 192 less than in 2005.
The Jesuits have seen growth in Asia, however, with 42 new members this year among a total of 5,698. In Africa their numbers are 5,698—up by 429 from 2005.
An important part of the universal mission entrusted to the Society is carried out by the Houses in Rome directly dependent on the Father General (General House, Gregorian University, Istituto Biblico, Istituto Orientale, Vatican Observatory, Vatican Radio, "La Cività Cattolica", other hostels and formation houses), reports Fides.
The 446 members of these houses who still belong to their original provinces in the year 2005-2006 include 3 cardinals, 374 priests, 39 scholastics and 30 Brothers.