BY ISN STAFF | August 2, 2023
Jesuits West Collaborative Organizing for Racial Equity (Jesuits West CORE) sponsored two student-led advocacy events in March and April. California held its second Ignatian Advocacy Summit in Sacramento, while the Northwest hosted its first Ignatian Advocacy Summit in Spokane, WA.
These advocacy events provided students with the opportunity to engage directly with their local legislators to bring forward the students’ top social concerns: housing, ecology, migration, and restorative justice. Jesuits joined with 125 youth, over ten schools, two universities, and nine parishes and partner organizations for the Advocacy Summits.
From March 26-27, 2023, students from across California joined forces at Jesuit High School in Sacramento to lead all California Jesuit ministries in a day of prayer, reflection, and advocacy. The California Ignatian Advocacy Summit brought together Jesuit students, parishioners, priests and other leaders to put faith into action by engaging directly with legislators at the California State Capitol. The event began with a Sunday afternoon session with workshops, prayer, and social time. On Monday, March 27, students led a mass public witness at the State House followed by legislative advocacy meetings.
From April 13-15, parishioners, Jesuit Volunteers, students, Jesuits, and social ministry leaders came together at Gonzaga University in Spokane for a three-day summit moving through the pastoral cycle and explaining how to make justice real in local contexts. The Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center and Se’Si’Le were important partners in planning and executing the summit. The event focused on standing with Catholic Bishops and Native peoples in their call for salmon protection in the Lower Snake River Dam. Participants engaged with local experts and university faculty, and conducted advocacy with local officials.
Because high school students led these advocacy events, they gathered beforehand for online preparatory sessions to build community and prepare for their meetings with legislators.
In addition to the Ignatian Advocacy Summits, earlier in the year on February 22, 2023, students and adults from schools and parishes gathered at the Arizona Capitol with the youth-led immigration advocacy organization Aliento to talk about the importance of #TuitionAccess for all Arizona high school graduates regardless of immigration status.
These programs served as an opportunity for students to build community with each other, deepen their understanding of the legislative process, and put into action what they have been learning through their justice work at their local school sites.
The Ignatian Advocacy Summits were an opportunity for Jesuit ministries to come together in support of students, and to lift up their voices for justice. Students, teachers, Jesuits, and parishioners left these events energized to continue their advocacy work in their local communities.
“So often we try to do the work of justice alone, but in the Universal Apostolic Preferences, Fr. General Sosa tells us that walking with the marginalized requires confronting the social, political and economic systems that cause human suffering,” said Annie Fox, the provincial assistant for justice and ecology organizing at Jesuits West. “We’ve realized that no Jesuit ministry has the power to change systems alone, but when we come together in the Spirit of God, we can have powerful and prophetic impact in our local governments and communities.”
Preparations for the upcoming 2024 summits are well underway. The Northwest summit will be held from February 22-24, 2024, at Seattle University, where participants will continue to deepen the focus on ecology and solidarity with native peoples. The California event will be held from April 14-15, 2024, at Jesuit High School Sacramento.
This year, students will meet at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice to initiate preparations and then complete synodal-style report backs from the Teach-In to local parishes—conversational sessions designed to allow the full group of students and parishioners to mutually discern where the Spirit is leading—to begin their collaboration for the summits.