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The social apostolate: the importance of collaboration

November 7, 2019, Rome – The Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat of the Society of Jesus, gathered these days in Rome to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its creation, following the audience granted by Pope Francis at the Vatican, has continued its work today, examining how to strengthen and develop the different forms of collaboration within and outside the Society of Jesus for a more effective social apostolate.

The first morning session, moderated by Annie Fox, was dedicated to collaboration and networking “beyond the Society of Jesus.” Mauricio López spoke of REPAM, in his capacity as Secretary General of the Pan-Amazonian Network, which played a key role in the recent Synod; Sister Sheila Kinsey, of the International Union of Superiors General, coordinator of the “Showing Hope for the Planet” campaign, stressed that the care of the common home “integrates the efforts” of the different religious orders. The Executive Director of the World Catholic Climate Movement, Tomás Insua, said that “it is necessary that each person and each institution commit themselves to the protection of the environment”. Fr. Roberto Jaramillo, President of the Conference of Provincials of Latin America, concluded by pointing out that in order to connect “a conversion of mind and heart is necessary” and this implies a “radical institutional transformation of the Society, going beyond the work of the sectors, as well as grandstanding and self-sufficiency.”

In the afternoon, the discussion continued with a round table focused on the search for “a new way forward in the social apostolate,” moderated by María del Carmen Muñoz, from CINEP, Colombia. Valeria Méndez de Vigo, coordinator of Global Ignatian Advocacy Networks (GIAN), summarized the experience of the networks on ecology, education, migration, and justice in mining initiated in El Escorial in 2008, in a workshop where there was a “positive energy, like we are experiencing these days.” In her analysis, she highlighted best practices and shortcomings, as well as, for the future, the hope of a stronger commitment to public advocacy and the importance of allocating adequate resources to networking. Vijaykukar Parmar and Sister Ruby Mary Kujur presented the work of LokManch in India, a network of more than 100 Jesuit and civil society organizations committed to promoting the fundamental rights of Dalits, Adivasis, women, minorities and other marginalized members of society. From the United States, Chris Kerr reported on the experience of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, stressing, among other things, that leaders are needed to keep the network alive, “people who wake up every morning and strive to spread the spirit of collaboration.” Finally, Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, president of the Conference of Africa and Madagascar, made a theological reflection on the theme of networking He said, “It is to unite our forces to put the soul at the service of the weakest or, as Jon Sobrino said, of the crucified.”

Commitment to the social apostolate was also the theme of the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Arturo Sosa, who presented the Pope to the audience this morning in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace: “Let us listen to the cry of the people who accompany us on all continents and let us pursue the challenges of each context, trying to better understand the cause of so much injustice in order to find the most effective way to overcome it.” In addition, Fr. Sosa assured the Pope that “his magisterium is for all of us a permanent nourishment of the faith that seeks to be incarnated in works of justice and reconciliation.”