The Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES) held its annual meeting from 10-14 May at the Jesuit Curia in Rome and it was an opportunity for delegates to meet in person after a couple of years of interacting online. The gathering consisted of six conference social delegates, six members of the SJES Advisory Committee, four leaders from the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network (GIAN), and staff members of SJES led by Fr Xavier Jeyaraj SJ.
This meeting experience allowed delegates to get a deeper sense of the global network of the social ministry of the Society of Jesus. Many common challenges and experiences were shared and exchanged among the different conferences. A common theme was trying to overcome the difficulties that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. The move to online platforms was a necessity as all the networks had to seek new and creative ways to communicate.
Sue Martin, the Reconciliation with Creation Project Officer in the Australian Jesuit Province, was appointed by Superior General Fr Arturo Sosa SJ as one of the six members of the SJES Advisory Committee on 17th December 2020. Previously the membership of the Advisory Committee was restricted to Jesuits. However, Fr Arturo felt the need to extend this membership to lay people. “Given the need to respond collectively to global challenges, articulated so well in the Universal Apostolic Preferences, I feel it is essential that we work jointly,” Fr Arturo said. Sue was honoured to be part of this movement to include lay voices in the Advisory Committee. “It is a privilege as a lay Ignatian woman from Australia to be attending the SJES 2022 gathering. Our week in Rome has been a chance to dialogue, share stories of our struggle over the past two years with the Covid pandemic”.
Over the week, climate and ecological crises were expressed and shared among the delegates. An example that was shared was the issue surrounding the increased production of electric vehicles. The demand for more natural materials that make up the lithium-ion batteries in these vehicles has caused an exponential increase in materials such as cobalt. This has escalated pressure on the mines in Congo, and thus intensifying child labour and other dangerous or degrading practices.
Sue stated that it was important to hear over the course of the week the calls for a greater commitment to the cries of poverty across the world. “We are working across the whole Ignatian family to advocate for those in poverty, especially our Earth.” Sue expressed that a better collaboration amongst the global conferences needs to be continued and meetings such as these are vital in making progress.
Sue thinks the Annual Review report (July 2020 – June 2021) of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat is a “culmination of the work that the group has put forward towards social and ecological justice.”
Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ concluded the weeklong meeting with a spiritual and reflective experience that contrasted with the business formalities that occurred earlier in the week. Delegates were encouraged to write questions or suggestions for him about the social ministry. Fr Arturo gave a profound response to delegates with great depth on the history of the Society. In particular, Fr General expressed the need for greater social analysis and reflection to add to the social work that was carried out on the ground.
Finally, delegates came away with an enriching experience to acknowledge all the social and ecological justice work that the Jesuit conferences are doing around the world. “I have been inspired by the sharing from all in the SJES team, who we are called to assist Father General to lead the whole Ignatian family on the journey in developing the apostolic mission of the Society of Jesus,” said Sue. It is hoped that the strengthening of these Jesuit networks continues to pave the way and make large strides towards providing a greater service to the people in need and God’s creation.
By Janark Gray
Feature photo by Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific.