The Loyola 2022 Congress will take place between 28th March to 1st April 2022 at Loyola, Spain. The Congress will act as a milestone in the “deeper renewal” and align processes of the Jesuit Conference of European Provincials (JCEP) Justice Networks, equipping them to implement the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) by 2029.
Finding our Place
At the end of March 2022, representatives from across the European Social Apostolate are
gathering at Loyola for a Congress. Our intention will be to strengthen the apostolic body as we see to explore the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs). This will be a week of formation, of catalysing input and engagement which can be carried home to our specific offices and which will inform an alignment around our shared pursuit of the UAPs.
For many of us, this is the first time we have attended an event of this nature. We all have
important work that demands much of us, so it is natural that our attention is captured by what is in front of us. The connection that we might have to people doing similar work in another nation may not be immediately obvious, nevermind the link that might exist between us and those who are pursuing what seems like entirely different work.
Yet as we all make our way to Loyola, the fact is that we travel in the same direction. We come from our own place, with our particular concerns, and the Congress will be a success largely to the extent that we can share openly about the place we occupy, about the challenges we face, and the possibilities that might emerge when we find partners in mission we did not know about.
To that end, we have drafted this brief primer, a document that is heavy with questions but
contains no answers, intended to help us all reflect before the Congress. The Congress will have a focus on ecology and migration, as a means into the rest of the UAPs, in a large part because we recognise that these are pressing crises facing Europe (and the wider world). But great effort has been expended to craft a gathering geared towards people drawing connections – with wider issues, with distant works, with other people. There are no answers set in advance. Rather there is an openness to genuinely discern together how the work we do overlaps with the work of others, engages with and extends the Jesuit tradition, and impacts with the wider issues of our day.
Reading the Signs of the Times
In consultations within our movements, some recurring themes and motifs kept arising as we discussed the critical issues of the day. To help prepare ourselves for the Congress, we gather here a brief discussion of a small sampling of those issues, along with questions to ponder as a means to prepare to for the journey towards Loyola. In all these reflections, we encourage you to assume the point of view of Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises where he proposes we do not just focus on the negative in the world, on what is wrong, but consider as well what is positive, where the new beginnings can be seen, the seeds of hope.
The Movement of Peoples
Since the start of the millennium, over 20,000 human beings have died trying to cross the
Mediterranean. Migration is a major electoral concern across the continent. Francis teaches ching that “Our societies will have a ‘colourful’ future, enriched by diversity and by cultural exchanges” if we welcome these newcomers1. Where do you find this kind of experience in your reality? How can your work contribute to your society embracing the Pope’s positive vision for responding to this phenomenon? What challenges linger?
The Environmental Crisis
The climate and biodiversity crisis is emerging as a genuine civilizational threat. The political impasse around this issue is inversely proportionate to the suffering t is already causing.2How does the “caring for our common home” universal apostolic preference impact your work? Where can your work intersect with mitigating the climate and biodiversity catastrophe? How can our striving for progress in this area allow us to reimagine solutions to the other crises facing our societies (LS §137)?
Faith and Justice
The first universal apostolic preference – showing the way to God – is the entryway into each of the others. But in our day and in our place, the connection between practicing faith and doing justice can sometimes seem obscure. In some instances, there may be cultural or political pressure to downplay religious convictions under an impression that this will make our work more accessible to others. How does your striving for justice interact with your spiritual convictions (or even your spiritual questions)? Where might the idea of a faith that does justice offer a unique contribution to your society?
The Challenge of Populism
Across the continent, though considered in different terms from one nation to the next, a persistent challenge faces our societies. In some places it is discussed as the problem of “fake news”, others might talk of a democratic deficit, and Pope Francis engages with this problem carefully in Fratelli Tutti, calling us to a “better kind of politics” (Ch. 5). Whatever frame is used, there is a deep problem of polarization, within our societies, and sometimes even between our nations. Where can Jesuit works enter into dialogue with those who are different to help bridge the chasms that open up under the influence of this cultural trend? What is there of merit in the arguments of our opponents or where do they source their positions from concerns we share in common? Pope Francis writes: “Nowadays it has become impossible for someone to express a view on any subject without being categorized one way or the other, either to be unfairly discredited or to be praised to
the skies” (§156). What can our works do to model a different mode of communication?
Emerging from the Pandemic
We write in hope that the worst of the pandemic is behind us and that when we meet in spring next year, Europe will largely have put the scourge of Covid-19 behind us. But deep questions are emerging at this point in the crisis around ideas of social solidarity, global justice, and whether it is possible to avoid just going back to the old ordinary. Some speak of “building back better”, but free would be content to return to the old status quo. As we approach some kind of new normal, what opportunities do you see to create structural change that were not there before the pandemic? Are there features of life through lockdown that might be able to guide us through the aftermath? If the pandemic taught us – painfully at times – that we are all in this together, how can we work together more effectively in the future?
This document is intended to provoke thinking and perhaps start conversations, to engender an openness that we hope will mark the entire Congress. We hope to update this document at various stages as the Congress approaches. There will also be short video introductions from some participants, so we can start to get to know each other even before we get to know each other! The Congress is a great opportunity for refreshment and realignment. We look forward to meeting you in person and wrestling with the important questions facing our work together.