Jesuit Missions UK attends the fiftieth anniversary of SJES in Rome


An interview with Paul Chitnis, Director of Jesuit Missions UK

The following is an interview with by Paul Chitnis, Director of Jesuit Missions, who is attending the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES) of the Society of Jesus. 

The purpose of the Congress is to celebrate 50 years of this secretariat and the focus on a faith that does justice. In 1975 the Jesuits held a general congregation that was a seminal moment in the life of the Society of Jesus, when they affirmed that they were to serve the faith through the promotion of justice. I think just acknowledging that and celebrating the work of the last 50 years is important for this Congress. I had the chance to ask him about the significance of this event and he touched on the special milestone that it will be for the Society.

Caring for our Shared Home (which is the fourth apostolic preference) has become an integral part of the Jesuits Missions' work. In particular, the charity supports partners overseas who are lobbying for a better deal for the environment. Commenting on how the Congress should address this important issue, Paul said: “I think probably one of the things is better communicating the work that it is undertaking and finding the synergies, the connections between the different strands of work that they are doing. How can we find connection and work more coherently around this issue?”

The Congress will also be looking to address the challenge of proclaiming the Gospel in an increasingly secular society. Of this Paul said:

‘‘I have found it very refreshing in the British Province that, whereas in recent years the Church has regarded the aggressively secular, and possibly anti-Christian voices that have come to the fore, defensively, the Society doesn’t regard it defensively. They regard it as an opportunity because they think that young people can see that there is space in their lives for the spiritual, not just the temporal.

It boils down to creating a reflective space in peoples' lives where they can grapple with some of these big issues. There is little space in young peoples' lives to sit and reflect and I think that when people sit and reflect, and are helped in a guided way, on some of these big issues, interesting and different things can emerge for them.”

When asked if there was a special moment he was looking forward to, Paul answered:

“Cardinal Czerny, who worked for many years with people who have HIV and aids; people who are migrants and refugees, is talking about re-imagining the role of the social apostolate and that’s one of the things that really interests me… How can we re-imagine the work of the Society of Jesus in the 21st century? Especially in a way that is faithful to the origins of the Society, to the founding vision of Saint Ignatius, and yet simultaneously radical in a way that looks at the root of problems.”

If you are interested in following Paul’s progress during the Congress, then follow the Jesuit Missions Twitter Account for updates on how he gets on.