Pedro Walpole SJ
As participants to the 2023 Annual Meeting of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES) listened to each other, reflected, prayed, and discerned on the global social apostolate, there was a stronger shared sense of global mission and a willingness that we can, and want to, work together.
For all, the social apostolate is fundamental to the Society of Jesus and is where the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) for the youth, the margins, the environment, and spirituality are put into practice. With a greater understanding of the networks, there is a greater commitment to intersectionality because of the UAPs. Everyone is trying to form an understanding on how they are engaging with the four elements of discernment – youth, margins, environment, spirituality. Thus, the UAPs are active in the minds of the different apostolates.
We are called to commit to social justice and there is, in all of us, a passion for justice, though much is not realized. We understand the lack of systematic apostolate work partly because we are diverse and the paths are very difficult, and we always have had these problems in form or another.
In going through this process, we know this is not simply about defining a social strategy but how God breaks through in our actions. We have a greater sense of wisdom and with this sense of wisdom, we are able to struggle with the realities of our powerlessness.
We are trying to look at conditions of possibility for advocacy, acknowledging how the SJES networks proceeded in recent years in moving the advocacies towards justice and reconciliation. We want to create a framework, a space for global collaboration, fully aware that some organizations are limited in personnel, in financial resources, and in what they can contribute.
We know that the challenge is in getting the right people for the job. For core members of networks, we are trying to understand and lay out the process for engagement and selection of people. And as core members, the agenda is to facilitate and not lead as we try to put together what is needed in the broader social negotiation, to affirm faith and justice, and to renew the commitment of younger Jesuits to this faith and justice.
Social delegates are more pro-active and better informed and are connecting with people in the Conferences to identify who has passion and capacity for the work.
For ecological concerns, there is a greater understanding of the reality of climate change and a willingness to dig into the problems and not just joke or pass comment. Instead, strategies for response and action are sought at different levels.
A lot has to do with information and inclusion and the intention is not to make more enemies or radicalize the situation, but to get people to experience from the heart what is actually happening, why there is so much suffering in the margins, and to do this with hope.
SJES produced a brief video about the meeting.
Participants to the 2023 SJES Annual Meeting held in Rome from 26 to 30 June 2023 included the social delegates from the six Jesuit Conferences, the leaders of the four Global Ignatian Advocacy Networks (Ecology, Justice in Mining, Migration, Right to Education), the SJES Advisory Committee members, and the four SJES coordinators (Promoting a Consistent Culture of Protection, Collaboration and Research, Communication, Network and Advocacy). The gathering also provided opportunities for updates on the Women’s Commission and a conversation with Fr Joseph Christie, Secretary for Jesuit Higher Education on possible collaborations with the International Association of Jesuit Universities.