Since its founding, Jesuits had been dedicated to the service of the Catholic faith, but at the Jesuits’ General Congregation 32 in 1975, “the promotion of justice” was declared a central part of the Society’s mission and a concrete response to an unjustly suffering world.
The mandate was not directed exclusively toward the Jesuits already working with the poor and marginalized. Rather, it was the lens through which all apostolic priorities were to be evaluated.
Today, the service of faith and the promotion of justice is the animating characteristic of the work being done at Jesuit middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities, parishes and retreat houses and in ministries around the world. This mission takes many forms, including works of service, justice, dialogue and advocacy.
In Canada and the United States, the Jesuits’ Office of Justice and Ecology, located in Washington, D.C., represents the Society of Jesus, working to increase awareness and engagement with legislators, public officials, corporations and the Jesuit network on issues including immigration and economic, criminal, juvenile and environmental justice.
Internationally, perhaps the best-known social justice outreach of the Society of Jesus is the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). JRS works in more than 50 countries to meet the urgent needs of those who have been forcibly displaced. In the United States, JRS/USA ministers to the spiritual needs of detained immigrants and refugees.
One outgrowth of this effort is the Kino Border Initiative (KBI), a binational ministry. KBI offers direct humanitarian assistance and shelter to recently deported migrants in Nogales, Mexico, while providing education, outreach, and advocacy through its work in Nogales, Arizona.
The Jesuit “charism” or spiritual orientation has also inspired an emerging family of Ignatian justice organizations such as the Ignatian Solidarity Network. This network coordinates justice-related outreach and advocacy efforts among Jesuit schools, parishes, and other institutions.