November 4, 2019 — Jesuit organizations from across the world are gathering in Rome this week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat. Established by Fr. Pedro Arrupe to assist the Society in its promotion of justice, the Secretariat is the center that unites global Ignatian social ministries. This hub guides the six global Jesuit Conferences in their work to promote an ethic of care for our common home and solidarity with vulnerable people — from impoverished communities to victims of systemic violence.
In marking the Secretariat’s “Golden Jubilee,” the assembly of over 200 Jesuits and lay collaborators will celebrate the Jesuit commitment to justice and reconciliation around the world. The Jubilee will also look toward the future, reimagining how the Society of Jesus can best promote justice and ecology in the 21st century. Throughout the week, sessions will focus on how Jesuit ministries can respond to the call of the Universal Apostolic Preferences — showing the way to God, walking with the excluded, journeying with youth, and caring for our common home.
“The Jubilee recognizes the important role of social ministry in the context of Jesuit ministries and the work of the larger Church,” says North American representative Christopher Kerr, Executive Director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network. “Social ministry is rooted in the experience of encounter — walking with those on the margins of society. In a world that is increasingly disconnected from human interaction, I can think of no better time to gather to celebrate the spirit of encounter.”
For the 21 delegates from the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States (JCCU), the Jubilee provides a chance to reflect on their everyday work and a time to chart a path to future justice efforts.
“The Jubilee gathering offers a wonderful opportunity for us to learn more about Jesuit social ministries around the world, to share with others what we're doing across our Conference, and together to begin discerning how best to live the UAPs,” says Fr. Ted Penton, JCCU Secretary for Justice and Ecology.
For the last 50 days, JCCU’s Twitter feed has shared stories of impact from social ministries across the provinces. From a beekeeping collective at St. Leo’s parish in Tacoma, Washington to an advocacy campaign by the Latino Leadership Institute at Sacred Heart Center in Richmond demanding driving privileges for undocumented Virginians, Jesuit communities work at a grassroots level to address the injustices in their backyards and further afield. These ministries, though committed to local action, are united in their vision of global peace and environmental, social, political, and economic justice.
“Jesuit ministries delve into the complexities of our world in a unique way — challenging us not only to respond to the immediate needs of those on the margins but also the systemic realities that force people to those margins,” says Kerr. “Jesuit ministries seek to be ‘of the world,’ inviting everyone to see themselves as one, rather than creating divisions that divide people as us and them."
For Director of Canadian Jesuits International (CJI) Jenny Cafiso — whose activism began when she joined Cesar Chavez’s California grape boycott campaign in high school — social justice work is an essential part of her faith. At CJI, Cafiso works with Jesuit ministries in 20 countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, such as Radio Progreso, a community radio station in Honduras that promotes quality journalism, human rights advocacy and civil society engagement.
“The universal nature of the Society of Jesus, made possible by its presence in many countries and in many different cultures and realities, calls us to permanent renewal, challenge, adaptation, transformation,” Cafiso says. “I look forward to reflecting together on how we can work for true solidarity between the Global North and the Global South based on mutuality and shared power.”
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