Social Ministry Delegates Meet in Santo Domingo

Over ninety representatives of Jesuit social ministries gathered in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic from April 4 - 8, 2016, for the Intercontinental Jesuit Gathering for Social and International Ministry. Delegates attending the meeting represented twelve different Jesuit provinces from as far north as Canada and as far south as Central America, including the Caribbean, Mexico, and the United States. Maryland Province Provincial Fr. Bob Hussey, S.J. attended the meeting, along with six other Jesuit provincials, Fr. Patxi Álvarez, S.J., Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat, Jesuit Curia, and Fr. Timothy Kesicki, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.

The gathering began with a presentation by Fr. Alvarez offering an overview of the history and current implications of Decree 4, a key section of the document produced during the Jesuit’s 32nd General Congregation in 1974, entitled “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice.” “Saint Ignatius from his conversion was living and serving the poor. I do not think we remember that as much as we should,” said Alvarez, as he began his presentation, emphasizing that social ministry has been at the core of Jesuit mission since the Society of Jesus was founded in 1540.

Over the course of the next three days the delegates learned about the hemispheric realities of four key justice issue areas where the Jesuits and lay partners are engaged throughout the region: the economic system and exclusion, the environment and natural resource extraction, violence and organized crime, and migration.

Rosa Cañete, coordinator of the "Equal" campaign against inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean at Oxfam, offered of an overview of economic exclusion in the region. Pedro Landa of Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación, a Jesuit-sponsored social research center in Honduras, explained the harsh impacts of the extractive mineral industry on Honduran communities. Jorge Antilano González Candia and Gabriel Mendoza Zárate of the Programa de Reconstrucción del Tejido Social, a project of the Mexican Jesuits, describe the impacts of violence on the social fabric of communities throughout Mexico. Rafael Moreno, S.J., director of the Jesuit Migration Network provided an overview of the consequences of migration in the Central America and Mexico region. After each session delegates gathered in multinational groups to discuss what they heard and discern ways that the intercontinental Jesuit social ministry network might respond more collaboratively to the realities.

Toward the end of the gathering the delegates met in the province groups to discuss ways that they could carry forward the relationships and knowledge that was built during the gathering.  The Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces hope to more deeply connect parishes, high school communities, and faculty researchers to the themes discussed during the gathering, exploring ways to use video conferencing and virtual networking tools to expand upon and continue the conversations that began in Santo Domingo.

On the final day the group had an opportunity to visit a number of Jesuit social ministries based at parishes in Santo Domingo neighborhoods facing significant economic challenges. The delegates also visited Centro Bonó, a Jesuit social research institute based on Santo Domingo that works on a wide range of issues, particularly migration and economic injustice.

“As a scholar, I appreciated the opportunity to connect with practitioners, with those who actively work with the populations I study,” reflected Dr. Terry-Ann Jones, a faculty member at Fairfield University and member of the MAR and UNE delegation. “It was humbling to learn about the ways in which our work is complementary.”

Fr. Robert Hussey, SJ, Provincial of the Maryland Province Jesuits agreed, “It was inspiring to get to know and learn from the experiences of an impressive group of people from across provinces and nations as we discussed excellent presentations on a range of justice topics that affect us all.  We all benefitted from hearing the stories of the challenges and labors in our different local or national settings and considering how we might collaborate across regions.”

The Maryland and USA Northeast Province delegation included:

Fr. Timothy Brown, S.J. - Loyola University Maryland
Ben Horgan - Loyola Blakefield
Fr. Robert Hussey, S.J. - Maryland Province
Dr. Terry-Ann Jones - Fairfield University
Fr. Christopher Llanos, S.J. - Jamaica Jesuit Community
Nicholas Napolitano - Maryland and USA Northeast Province
Steve Nicholson, n S.J. - Loyola University Chicago
Dr. Mary Railing  Wheeling Jesuit University
Fr. Samuel Sawyer, S.J. - America Magazine
Maura Toomb - St. Peter’s Prep
Kate Tromble - Holy Trinity Parish

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