BY SEAN SMITH | June 5, 2019
[Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on the Boston College website]
Boston College (BC) will collaborate with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)—a Rome-based international Catholic relief and human services organization operating in more than 50 countries—to develop programs and activities aimed at improving the quality of life and care of refugees and forcibly displaced persons in areas of the world where JRS is involved.
Boston College President William P. Leahy, S.J., and JRS International Director Thomas H. Smolich, S.J., signed a three-year memorandum of understanding to affirm the partnership on April 12. Also attending were BC School of Social Work (BCSSW) Dean Gautam Yadama, who signed a sub-agreement with JRS on behalf of his school, and School of Theology and Ministry (STM) Dean Thomas Stegman, S.J.—whose school is discussing a similar sub-agreement with JRS—as well as other BC faculty and administrators and JRS representatives.
The BC-JRS partnership will include joint research and consultancy, mutual provision of educational and experiential services, production of academic materials and publications, and awareness-raising campaigns for the benefit of refugees in the care of JRS.
JRS was founded in 1980 by then-Superior General of the Society of Jesus Pedro Arrupe, S.J., and officially registered as a foundation of the Vatican City State in 2000. Its programs and initiatives are in the areas of education, emergency assistance, health care, livelihoods, reconciliation, psychosocial support, advocacy, and human rights work.
As speakers at the ceremony noted, the memorandum builds on, and formalizes, a longstanding association between BC and the JRS: Over the years, the organization has developed ties to STM, BCSSW, the Lynch School of Education and Human Development, BC Law School, and Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences through various initiatives involving administrators, faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Among those present at the April 12 event was Sister Maryanne Loughry, who chairs the JRS Staff Care Advisory Board and has been a visiting professor at BCSSW for more than a decade.
In his remarks, Fr. Leahy said a dedicated partnership with JRS was important in the context of BC’s Strategic Plan, which calls for the University to broaden its international presence and impact.
“BC’s relationship with JRS has already been fruitful,” he said. “This memorandum of understanding provides a valuable connection between both institutions, and for BC, a further manifestation of our international commitment.”
Turning to Fr. Smolich, Fr. Leahy added jovially, “Let’s partner up.”
“Being associated with BC helps us raise our game,” said Fr. Smolich. “It will help extend awareness of JRS, and create or expand interest in our work. JRS shares in the mission of the Society of Jesus and Boston College to build faith and promote justice, through study, reflection, service, and action.”
Vice Provost for Global Engagement Alberto Godenzi, who formally opened the signing ceremony, hailed the multiple ties between BC and JRS: “The best partnerships are bottom-up. There have been many lines of contact over the years between BC and JRS, and this memorandum of understanding codifies these affiliations on an institutional level.”
BC-JRS collaborations have included more than 30 BCSSW field placements in which students have provided therapy for trauma survivors in Malawi, taught job skills to asylum seekers in South Africa, and helped resettle refugees in Portugal; Lynch School Professor Dennis Shirley’s work with the JRS Global Education Initiative, which seeks to educate displaced children; and a conference co-sponsored with BC’s Center for Human Rights and International Justice that brought together JRS staff with BC theologians to discuss the moral, theological, and spiritual values guiding work with refugees.