Jesuits and their collaborators gathered in Nairobi, for training on the ‘Characteristics of Jesuit Social Apostolate’, September 10th to 14th, at the Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations (HIPSIR). Organized by the Jesuit Africa Social Centres Network (JASCNET), the training of trainers focused on reflections on what social apostolate is, developing good practices for social apostolate and promoting synergies. The training also recommended the best ways to promote faith, justice and reconciliation in the ministry of social centres.
Social apostolate endeavors to build a fuller expression of justice and charity to ensure that every human being, has the opportunity to participate personally in all areas of social life and to exercise initiative and responsibility in their life. Jesuit social apostolate in Africa follows these 5 tracks: Peace, justice, human rights and reconciliation, Governance of natural resources, Ecology and Migration. CYNESA was represented at the training by Ms. Hellen Wangechi and Mr. David Munene, Board Member and Programs Manager respectively.
‘Faith that does Justice’, is based on the principle that the promotion of justice is itself a constituent part of evangelization and therefore must be a major life concern and should constitute a dimension of all apostolic tasks. In discussing the role of ‘faith that does justice’ in their various institutions, participants discovered three elements of the life of faith: as a gift and light on our paths, as a way of seeing life and as a mission.
The ‘Preferential option for the poor’ a principle of Catholic Social Teaching, was explored, in light of Laudato Si’, where Pope Francis stresses that poverty goes beyond material poverty, to include any form of devaluation of man, domination and rejection by the social order in force. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits said ‘we cannot call ourselves companions of Jesus without sharing his preferential love for the poor’..
The Magis (which means ‘more’ or ‘plus’), encourages Jesuits and their collaborators to always aim for more, and to choose strategic options that will likely give better results. Participants took part in an exercise of reviewing the value and application of Magis in their various organizations and social centres. Magis as one of Jesuit characteristics permeates them all and their institutions.
Trainees were also taken through a session on collaboration and networking in the social apostolate. Collaboration means working together towards a common purpose. It is the identification, release and union of all gifts in ministry for the sake of the mission. Collaborative ministry is based upon and sustained by spirituality which is shared since at its core, ministry is essentially a collaborative process. Collaborative leaders embody integrity, generativity, compassion, joy and hope. Trainees were challenged to ask themselves: ‘How can I/we have the most positive impact on people’ and what do we do in our social centres that attract others to us?’ They were also asked to establish networks without discriminating anyone or any religion. However, they were urged to maintain the values of their institutions, and not to compromise them when engaging in the process of collaboration and networking with various partners.
Action is an important aspect of Social Apostolate. The activities undertaken should always have these five components: they must be rooted in compassion, accompaniment and service of the poor; they must reach the frontiers, research and explore how historical and structural relationships have shaped existing situations; they must raise awareness and do advocacy to build bridges between the poor and those in decision making positions. This approach should lead to immediate results, and to a long-term transformation of unjust structures.
The training further enhanced the capacity of CYNESA to implement its mission, and its relationship with Jesuit Social Centres in Africa, especially on ecology.
Hellen Wangechi Mugo,
CYNESA Board Member.