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British-Irish pooling of talents

The first meeting of the Joint Ecology Group of the British and Irish Provinces took place on Friday 13 November 2020. The meeting was a result of consultative discussions and planning undertaken by the Joint Apostolic Planning Commission (JAPC) of the British and Irish Provinces, headed up by Stephen Power SJ and Pat Nolan, respectively. The Joint Ecology Group was appointed by the British Jesuit Provincial, Damien Howard SJ, and the Irish Jesuit Provincial, Leonard Moloney SJ.

The formation of this new group links the work of the Laudato Sí Research Institute at Campion Hall, Oxford, and the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in Dublin. The members of the group from the British Province are: Dr Celia Deane-Drummond, Director of Laudato Sí Research Institute; Stephen Power SJ; Mr Paul Chitnis; and Dushan Croos SJ. The Irish Province members are: Dr Kevin Hargaden, Director, JCFJ; Niall S. Leahy SJ; Dr Ciara Murphy, JCFJ; and Dr Pat Nolan (Facilitator).

The inaugural joint-meeting, according to Kevin Hargaden, was very productive. It was agreed that certain issues of ecological importance would be addressed by select members of each province working together. Four working groups were established to explore the potential for joint initiatives in the following four areas:

  • Divestments / Ethical Investments
  • Conversation on C.O.P. 26 (UN meeting on global climate change)
  • Ignatian Spirituality and Ecology / Biodiversity
  • Jesuit communities and Eco lifestyle

Both Kevin and Ciara Murhpy attended the first meeting, held on Zoom, of the Irish and British ecology group. Kevin noted that a “lovely complementarity between the distinct approaches each province has taken to exploring what it means to ‘care for our common home’ quickly emerged.”

He added that while efforts in Ireland have concentrated on shaping the societal and political conversation, the initiative at Campion Hall seems to be the centrepiece of the British response. “It’s a global centre for the intellectual development of Laudato Sí, and it’s a very impressive initiative,” Kevin noted. He is convinced that there are clear opportunities for collaboration and mutual learning between both groups. “One of the lasting encouragements of this group,” he commented, “might simply be the fact that there are lots of people elsewhere similarly impassioned about this topic.”

Pat Nolan says that the Joint Apostolic Planning Commission (JAPC) is a key initiative for the long-term Jesuit mission on these islands. “My sense is that, as we move through this decade, collaboration between the two Provinces will grow incrementally and that by the early 2030s it will be accepted as essential.”

There is also an administrative need that partly drives this project, according to Pat: “We must remember that in the 1960s there were 36,000 Jesuits globally; today there are less than 16,000. In the 1990s there were 9 Provinces in the USA; today there are four. Similarly in Europe, a merging of France, the Low Countries and HIB/BRI, or some other combination for administrative purposes, is inevitable.” The work of JAPC, he remarks, can facilitate HIB/BRI becoming a more effective English-speaking unit for mission within this new configuration.

“The coming together, in the Joint Ecology Group, of the Laudato Sí Institute at Oxford and the JCFJ is significant both as a contribution to the Universal Apostolic Preference of Caring for our Common Home and also for the promotion of collaboration in and of itself,” Pat says: “We need to search for reasons to collaborate.”

The group has agreed to meet quarterly. Its next meeting will be in February 2021.