The annual meeting of the Jesuit European Social Sector took place from 15 to 18 May in Lisbon. The meeting was attended by social delegates from the different European Jesuit provinces, together with the heads of their main networks. Our Director, Alberto Ares, a member of the steering committee, participated and contributed on the reality of the JRS network in Europe. The meeting had the aim to further align the European Social Sector with the universal apostolic preferences and to increase the operationalisation of our work in a collaborative way.
The President of the European Provincials, Franck Janin, began the meeting by inviting everyone to connect the mission of the social apostolate in Europe with the guidelines of the Society of Jesus in the world. Each social delegate then shared the reality of the social apostolate in his or her province, focusing on some successes, along with some challenges or difficulties. Monday concluded with a visit to the “Centro Padre Amadeu Pinto”, a project that provides support to children, young people, and their families, a work very much connected to the Jesuit-led parish in the same neighbourhood.
On the second day, a good amount of time was devoted to deepening the understanding of the spirituality of the social sector. First of all, Jérôme Gué, shared about spirituality from his life experience in the social world, from three calls to Fraternity, to be a community that builds the Kingdom and to be witnesses of Hope. Klaus Väthröder then helped build bridges from spirituality to the institutions that form the social apostolate in Europe.
On this second day, participants were also invited to think about new structures to carry forward our mission of the social apostolate in Europe through a case study: The process of reorganisation of the Social Apostolate in Spain. Luis Arancibia and Alberto Ares introduced the topic and moderated the subsequent discussion.
The third day began with an interesting debate on new structures for mission and new possibilities for collaboration in the social apostolate, led by the European social delegate, Filipe Martins. The final Eucharist was a real thanksgiving for the time shared and the debates that will surely help to continue the journey in the coming years.
The rest of the day was spent visiting three important Jesuit projects in Lisbon. Firstly, the JRS Portugal office in the suburbs of the city, where André Costa, its director, and a team of professionals work daily to accompany, serve and defend refugees and migrants. Secondly, the “Centro Social da Musgueira”, guided by Ana Barata and Constante Silva. A unique project of care and guidance for young people combined with care and guidance for the elderly. Finally, the centre “Brotéria” led by its director, Francisco Mota, sj. it is a cultural centre of the Jesuits in the Bairro Alto district, open to the encounter with the city.
All participants were very grateful for the welcome of the Portuguese Province, and especially to Mariana Mariz, the Portuguese social delegate, and Filipe Martins. “Muito obrigado por tudo!”