Lisa Connell, Delegate for Social Ministries in the Australian Jesuit Province, and Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards, are in Rome this week, presenting to and participating in an international congress being held to mark the 50th anniversary of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES).
The meeting brought more than 210 Jesuits, experts and activists from around the world to the General Curia of the Society of Jesus, with the aim of renewing the commitment to the promotion of justice and reconciliation with creation in an increasingly complex world.
‘Let us take advantage of this very special moment’, said the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr Arturo Sosa SJ, ‘in which God is once again speaking to us and inviting us to remember, thank, discern and take bold, daring and risky decisions to accompany Jesus and his people in the realities of the frontier, together with the most excluded, poor and vulnerable.’
A statement promoting the occasion pointed out that the challenges facing the world today are more complex than those 50 years ago, when the SJES commenced. It outlined three objectives for the meeting:
- to celebrate God’s faithfulness on this journey
- to discern a roadmap for putting into practice the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) — the orientations that will guide the Society of Jesus in the next ten years — in the social sector
- to create opportunities for collaboration and networking with others.
The meeting is also an opportunity to recall the past of the SJES — achievements, milestones achieved, lessons learned — and to work on how SJES can best contribute to fostering respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people with whom it works around the world.
Those who work in social and environmental ministries, said Ms Connell, ‘are challenged to be audacious, fearless and to go to new frontiers to continue the great mission that has been established by “those who have gone before”‘.
The meeting, she added, has been marked by ‘deep personal sharing, willingness to be transformed, and openness to the call of the Spirit’. ‘Inspired by speakers from social justice, advocacy, spirituality and ecology areas, we are determined to breathe new life and passion into our Universal Apostolic Preferences, particularly Walking with the Excluded and Caring for Our Common Home.’
‘The celebration does not focus on what we have accomplished in the last 50 years, but on the poor and vulnerable’, said Fr Xavier Jeyaraj, Secretary for Social Justice and Ecology. ‘Poverty is a scandal we cannot accept. Our goal is to renew our commitment and reaffirm that we are determined to walk with the poor and recognise the God who suffers in them.’
For the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Secretariat, various events, meetings and retreats have already taken place throughout the year in Latin America, Asia and Africa, and other initiatives will take place in the coming months in Europe and North America.