Jesuit Social Delegates meet in Malta

Seventeen social delegates from provinces all over Europe came over to Malta to hold their annual meeting here between April 12-14, 2012. 

Some of the main themes that emerged from the formal part of the meeting were:

(1) The significance of social ministry – it may be the best witness we can give at a time when both Church and State are losing credibility. In this context we noted the prompt in GC32 (General Congregation 32) to see social justice as a dimension of all apostolic worksand take on the challenge that it implies - to make explicit the link between social action and faith.

(2) The need to stay close to the poor – what form(s) is this to take? The Spanish provinces presented us with a spectrum – at one end, communities of insertion; at the other, advocacy; and in between, the possibility of many different models of solidarity (including “communities of solidarity”).

(3) Ecological concerns – where Jesuit practice seems to reflect the values of secular society in particular provinces. So for instance Germany, Holland and Switzerland seemed highly aware of “green” issues; Croatia’s immediate problem was defusing landmines; and Upper Egypt (Aswan) was confronting conditions of unregulated heavy industry, with consequent high rates of childhood cancer and of liver and kidney failure. Provinces were asked about their response to the document “Healing our Broken World”: and Fr General’s accompanying letter and questionnaire

(4) Interfaith dialogue – and in particular Christian-Muslim dialogue. Several delegates made the point that shared social ministry (including leadership and citizenship training) and/or shared cultural activities (such as film festivals, street theatre etc) provide a natural context for faiths to work side by side with a common objective, and so promote dialogue.

(5) Numbers - with currently (approximately) 5.000 Jesuits in Europe; 118 novices; and 50,000 co-workers of various kinds (the largest group being in schools and universities), thought was given to identity, for the next generation of Jesuits, and to lay formation – as high priority.

Besides the formal meetings delegates got a first hand experience of the situation of irregular migrants by visiting two Open Centres: Marsa and Hal Far Family Open Centres. One evening Fr. Beatus Mauki SJ and Regent Jaroslaw Mikuczewski SJ shared what their two year mission with JRS Malta meant for them. All the delegates present agreed that this was the highpoint of the meeting.

The meeting was coordinated by the director of the Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC) Fr. Jose Ignacio Garcia SJ. Fr. John Dardis SJ President of the Conference of European Provincials; Fr Michael Schöpf SJ Director of JRS Europe and Fr. Patxi Alvarez SJ Head of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES) also attended the meeting.

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