Brendan Mac Partlin SJ was in Rome as one of the European representatives at the Social Apostolate coordinators annual meeting from 26 to 31 May. They met to look at Jesuit social apostolates in the light of General Congregation 35 and to prepare a strategic vision for the Social Apostolate and the Social Justice Secretariat office. They also looked at the role of advocacy from an Ignatian standpoint, the subject of a workshop which will be held in Madrid in autumn 2008. [Photo: Brendan, back left, with Fr. General, centre.]
Meeting of the Assistancy Social Coordinators, 26-31 May 2008
Brendan McPartlin SJ
The coordinators of the social apostolate of the ten assistancies of the Society met in Rome in the last week of May to look at their social apostolates in the light of General Congregation 35.
They continue to describe their activities as works of faith and justice aimed at the restoration of right relationships, with God, with other people and with the created order. A central strand in this work is reconciliation and on what that may cost in terms of confrontation and restitution before restoration.
They continue to take up the position of ‘being with the people’ and ‘seeing through the eyes of the poor’ and at the same time of dialoguing with social structures and keeping up with best thinking. This may lead to frontiers that others find hard to reach. Common apostolic discernment is the preferred way of going forward.
Refugees, migrants and indigenous peoples are a focus of concern among whom the most neglected are a priority for our limited resources.
Their response to neo-liberal forms of globalisation, especially in how they threaten political agency and decision, cultural vitality and diversity is critical. They assert the need to recognise and rectify historical injustices. They challenge fundamentalist ideologies with a deeper and more human economic, political and religious analysis. They want to emphasise the importance of cultural analysis and of trying to penetrate the most powerful values and motivations, especially those of young people. They are also concerned about environmental destruction and its social impact.
They would like to see the Society’s commitment to Africa spelled out in more detailed actions and recognise the need for preferential focus on territories such as China, Amazonia, Afghanistan.
Advocacy, at an international level, is a way to be effective in the social apostolate and a workshop on the topic is planned for Autumn of 2008. The coordinators wish to strengthen their networks both within and beyond the Society but most crucially between Jesuit apostolic sectors. They feel the need to attract younger Jesuits to this aspect of apostolate and want to ensure relevant formation and training.
Among the highlights of the week was a meeting with Fr General, a visit to the migrant reception centre Astalli and a meal out that was pipped by curial ‘melius quam sol’.
The results of the meeting will be published in the next issue of Promotio Iustitiae, due to be out in November, and will also be made available on their website.