In October, 1997 Frs. Thomas Michel, S.J., Coordinator for Interreligious Dialogue for the Society of Jesus (globally) and Francis X. Clooney, S.J. were invited by the United States Provincials to meet with them during their fall meeting in Sedalia, Colorado, to discuss the follow-up to the 34th General Congregation's initiatives on interreligious dialogue. In the spring of 1998, the provincials accordingly asked Fr. Clooney to become the coordinator for mission and interreligious dialogue in the ministries connected with the Society of Jesus in the United States. The overall scope of this new initiative was therefore wide, since it included Jesuit-related ministries in secondary and higher education, campus ministry, retreat and spirituality centers, parishes, hospitals, and other ministries.
During 1998-1999 Fr. Clooney began to develop first of all a network of Jesuits around the United States involved in some way in interreligious encounter, either formally or simply in the course of other ministries. His presupposition from the start was the interreligious dialogue, in its many varieties, is already a part of the ministries connected to the Society of Jesus in the United States, and that work in this area would be primarily to bring these incipient and developing connections to the fore. In the course of this first year, he wrote an introductory piece for National Jesuit News in October 1998, and at the invitation of Fr. James P. Bradley, S.J., New Orleans Provincial, addressed the members of that province at their annual assembly on the topic of "interreligious dialogue in Jesuit history and in our ministries today."
In the spring and summer of 1999 he formed an initial advisory committee, which included one Jesuit from each province and one from Canada. In consequence of the correspondence of the members of that group, a meeting of that initial advisory committee was held in St. Louis in February, 2000.
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