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Women Leaders in the Ignatian Family

Christelle Nickie Assogba

Institution: Mer et Monde

Title: Executive Director

Location: Montreal

What does your job entail?
My work consists of organizing international solidarity internships in Senegal to enable people from Quebec to meet other people from another culture in a dynamic of cooperation and sharing. I coordinate the work we do in Senegal with partner communities and organizations in order to respond to local problems or needs, with the collaboration of interns from Quebec, or by carrying out projects.  

What is your favorite part of your job?
The ability to contribute to the work that several Senegalese organizations are doing for the development of their country. 

What is one of the challenges you’re facing right now?
The biggest challenge I have been working on for two years now is the resumption of our organization’s activities. Due to the pandemic, we had to stop our international placements, and we officially started up again in 2023. Between recruiting new people, revising our tools and procedures, and several other projects, I am working on all fronts, and it is for a good cause.  

What are some of the lights and shadows you’ve experienced as a woman working in partnership with a men’s religious order?
Mer et Monde was founded by a Jesuit priest, with whom I still have contact today, and I enjoy being involved in the Canadian Jesuit Province’s discussions on issues related to education, justice, ecology and Indigenous relations. This connection helps me to not stray from the values and vision that inspired the founder of Mer et Monde. Even though it is a male religious order, I see a great openness to collaboration and involvement of lay people and women in the work that the Canadian Jesuit Province is doing. 

Concerning the shadow side, I would say that it is sometimes a matter of not understanding or grasping the issues or the dynamics of this religious order, but with time, over the course of the meetings, the shadow becomes clearer.  

How does Ignatian spirituality shape your approach to work?
It reminds me that faith and the desire to be like Jesus Christ must continually guide my work and my actions, and this is precious to me.  

How could the Jesuits and the church as a whole foster women’s leadership more effectively?
I think that it is by giving women the opportunity to express themselves, to get involved, but also by equipping them through training or other means, the Jesuits and the church could empower them to express their leadership.  

What’s one of your favorite quotes about leadership or the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve learned is: “You transmit what you are, not what you do.” I learned it in the church, so it’s in a Christian context.