We Serve on the Frontiers and Go Wherever the Need is Greatest
Jesuit International Ministries
The Society of Jesus (The Jesuits) are probably best known for their work in education, research and spiritual direction. However, the Jesuits are also the largest missionary order in the Roman Catholic Church. This vibrant apostolate dates back to St. Francis Xavier (the patron saint of foreign missions) and his work in South and East Asia. More recently, this spirit was exemplified in the courageous Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador (1989). These six Spanish Jesuits were missioned to work in Central America and eventually assassinated for their commitment to faith inspired peace-building and defense of the poor.
Strengthening the Church through evangelization; the struggle for social justice and reconciliation, and the promotion of sustainable human development, the Jesuits of the Upper Midwest are immersed in a variety of international projects.
Former Jesuit Superior General, Pedro Arrupe, envisioned the concept of twinning between Jesuit provinces to help build relationships built on equality between Jesuit units which labor in entirely different contexts. These formal and periodically updated sharing agreements (known as convenios) often partner a Jesuit province from North America, Europe or Australia with a Jesuit province from the global south. Twinning also implies reciprocity and mutuality as the sharing and sacrifice is intentionally a two-way flow.
In this way, the theology of mission moves beyond a “men and money” export dynamic which often characterized previous international relationships. Under the prior model, a wealthier province would take responsibility for evangelizing a new geographic area or “mission” territory but governance and other controls would often reside with the sending province.
Due to global economic disparities, it is natural that twinning often retains elements of financial sharing, but twinning convenios also enact many other aspects of giving and receiving by both parties, particularly when friendships are developed across provinces and new apostolic opportunities are imagined. Through greater international contact, we have also discovered how much our Midwest Jesuits and our partners have been evangelized by the heroic work and witness of South Asian, African and Latin American Jesuits we have befriended.
At a recent meeting of US Jesuit provincials, they confirmed these emerging contours of international ministry:
• From one-way giving to reciprocity
• From philanthropy to solidarity
• From Jesuit-only to partnering with others
• From personal support for ex-pat founders to project support led by local province
• From “men and money” to sustainability
• From spontaneous impulse to advocacy for social change
• From help to self-help
• From perceiving international mission as an export (or expenditure) to seeing it as a gift and opportunity]
Twinning Agreements have been established with the Eastern Africa, Northeast India, and Peru Jesuit Provinces.
The Wisconsin Province also responds to humanitarian concerns and natural disasters through the work of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). In addition, Jesuits established and continue to support the work of programs such as Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Ignatian Volunteer Corps and Ignatian Solidarity Network.