BY ISN STAFF | March 8, 2021
The 2021 celebration of International Women’s Day this year on March 8 coincides with an announcement from the Very Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), of the newly formed Commission on the Roles and Responsibilities of Women in the Society of Jesus.
In 2019, during the inaugural address at the Congress marking the 50th anniversary of the Jesuits’ Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES), Fr. Sosa issued an invitation to assess the place of women in the work of the Jesuit order. In response, women in attendance at the Congress proposed the establishment of a women’s commission to address this concern.
In 2020, a task force was formed in which SJES played a leading role, to create a proposal for this commission. The announcement of this commission is the fruit of this work, living out the call of the Jesuit’s General Congregation 34 to walk with women with “a loving relationship of respect, mutuality and equality” (GC 34, D 14 § 6).
In a letter, Fr. Sosa acknowledged the role of women in the work of the Society of Jesus today. “In the present apostolic body of the Society of Jesus, whose way of proceeding emphasizes discernment in common, apostolic planning, collaboration and networking, an enormous number of women are involved,” he wrote. “Addressing the issue of women’s participation from the perspective of collaboration in mission is an opportunity to understand more deeply where the Spirit is leading us and to give greater vitality to our life, which is deeply committed to the mission of reconciliation and justice in all our apostolates.”
Commission objectives include a review of previous General Congregation decrees in light of contemporary discourses on the equality of women and men; ensuring and promoting the role of women in light of co-responsibility, collaboration, and inclusion; identifying best practices that embody mutual respect, care, and solidarity between men and women in the apostolic works of the Jesuits, including the support and enhancement in spaces where this is already happening; making recommendations to leadership to strengthen the Jesuit mission with the active participation of women, including active dialogue between men and women; and identifying tools for formation, dialogue, structural transformation, evaluation, and accountability.
Inaugural commission members include Donna Andrade, Fairfield University, USA; Victor Assouad, S.J., general counsellor, Rome; Michael Duffy, University of San Francisco, USA; Maria Elissa (Melissa) Jayme Lao, Ateneo de Manila, Philippines; Victor Edwin Joseph, S.J., Vidyajyoti, Delhi, India; María del Carmen Muñoz, CINEP, Colombia; Mary Sujita, SND, Bihar, India; Cecilia Vanneste, Ignatian Ap. Networks, Flanders, Belgium; Catherine Waiyaki, CVX, Kenya; and Simon Kuen-Sang Yi, S.J., Jesuit Centre for Migrant Workers, Gimpo, South Korea.