A New Way Forward: Jesuit Parish Justice Summit Explores Universal Apostolic Preferences
BY ISN STAFF | September 18, 2019
From September 9-11, 2019, fifty-five parishioners, staff, and clergy representing twenty-six U.S. Jesuit parishes gathered in Morristown, NJ for the 2019 Jesuit Parish Justice Summit.
The 2019 gathering was grounded in the Jesuits’ new Universal Apostolic Preferences, exploring how the preferences can be woven into parish life. Multiple pathways toward this goal were provided, including opportunities for more deeply exploring the context and history of the preferences, reflection, best-practice sharing, networking, and action planning.
Fr. Fred Kammer, S.J., executive director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University New Orleans and former chair of the ISN board of directors, set the stage for the Summit during the first session, leading attendees through the history and background of the process that lead to the Universal Apostolic Preferences. He offered insights into what they mean for the Jesuit network as a whole, and invited participants to begin reflecting on how the preferences can guide the work of individual Jesuit parish communities.
During the second day of the Summit, a panel of staff and parishioners shared a framework for discernment in the parish decision-making process in light of the Universal Apostolic Preferences. Panelists from Bellarmine Chapel at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH, St. Ignatius Church in Baltimore, MD, and St. Ignatius Parish in San Francisco, CA, shared information, resources, best practices, and experiences in discernment leading to deeper justice engagement in their parish communities. Later in the day, attendees put information from this session into action during a prayerful discernment process designed to lead to action planning on the individual parish level.
The Summit also incorporated three unique breakout sessions. Fr. Rafael Garcia, S.J., and Suamy Meza from Sacred Heart Parish in El Paso, TX shared the strength of their parish’s “strong tripod” of liturgy, religious education, and social ministries—including advocacy, education, and direct service—in building and maintaining a healthy parish. ISN partners Christina Rossini with Capeltic Coffee and Daniel Cardozo with Ethix Merch presented a session on ethical purchasing on the parish level—highlighting ethically produced coffee and t-shirts as examples. Annie Fox, the provincial assistant for social ministries organizing for Jesuits West, rounded out the breakout offerings with a session on building powerful and widespread parish engagement in justice work.
In addition to opportunities for small group and one-on-one discussions designed to connect individuals from different parishes, attendees had the opportunity to join discussion groups based on issue area interest—focused on immigration, environment, and racial equity. Individuals shared ways in which their parishes are already engaged in justice work in these areas and then brainstormed ways in which parishes can collaborate around these issues, with ISN serving as a hub for resource sharing and networking.
The Summit concluded with parish action planning. Each parish delegation was asked to determine one to three actions that would enhance and deepen their parish’s justice work. Action plans presented ranged from increased spiritual care for those already engaged in justice work to ethical coffee purchasing and utilizing the liturgical calendar to building awareness, solidarity, and action around specific issues.
“Catholics are a powerful force when we come together in solidarity with the poor, the outcast, the hungry, the immigrant,” said Emily Bruce from St. Ignatius in Baltimore. “It is necessary to be reminded of our power and how to harness it for the common good.”
Coming together in solidarity with the poor, the outcast, the hungry, the immigrant – it is indeed mutually empowering.