Fifty years of creative initiatives

The Faith-Justice mission in the U.S. and Canada

The 1960s social apostolate had three features. First, a few “labor priests,” often at universities, focused on workers’ rights, poverty, and race. Second, some parishes served the Hispanic and African-American poor and Native American missions. Third, answering the call of Pope Paul VI, Provinces committed men to Latin America.

In 1965, Gaudium et spesstressed the “joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties” of the poor. Facing segregation, poverty, and the Vietnam War, our provinces became more involved in inner-city parishes, civil rights and anti-war activism, and social outreach. Provinces named provincial assistants and committees on social ministry and investor activism. They urged all apostolates to promote justice.

GC32 taught that “action for justice is the acid test of the preaching of the Gospel” (1975). Intentional small communities opened to live among the poor. The first of many Nativity Schools began for middle-school boys in Manhattan. Jesuits engaged in community organizing, founding the Pacific Institute of Community Organizing network and similar local groups. The Center of Concern opened in Washington, D.C., for social analysis, education, and advocacy. In Montreal the Centre justice et foi was founded in connection with the longstanding magazine Relations. In Toronto the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice opened, later to become the Jesuit Forum, which continues to lead dialogues on faith-justice issues. Numerous Jesuits staffed the social offices of the U.S. and Canadian bishops’ conferences.


In 1980, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, started the Jesuit Refugee Service. A refugee sponsorship program began in Quebec, initially to welcome the Vietnamese boat people. Many parish-based social ministries were founded in the 1980s, including Holy Name Church in Camden, New Jersey, Immaculate Conception Parish in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Dolores Mission in Los Angeles. The mission of Christian Life Communities incorporated faith-justice. The Jesuit Volunteer Corps, begun in 1956 in Alaska, expanded nationally and internationally. Lay colleagues began increasingly to assume leadership roles in many ministries.

When the Salvadoran Army murdered six Jesuits in 1989, we better understood the call to work for justice. Universities developed memorials and students mobilized for advocacy. The killings drew many to share peace and justice stories at the yearly School of the Americas protests in Georgia, giving rise to the Ignatian Solidarity Network. In Quebec, the mission of international solidarity begun in the 1980s continues through the work of Mer et Monde. With the overthrow of Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986, French Canadian Jesuits returned to Haiti, where many young men began entering the Society. Social engagement there grew into extensive networks of Jesuit Migrant Service, Foi et Joie schools, and CERFAS, a social center.


In 1990, Pope John Paul II’s Peace with God, Peace with All Creation boosted environmentalism. Organic farm communities were already thriving – at la Ferme Berthe Rousseau in Quebec and at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Ontario, which integrates ecology into its spiritual ministry. In 2002, Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia launched the Appalachian Institute to promote the building of healthier, more sustainable communities in the region.

In 1992, Homeboy Industries was founded to offer hope, job training, and support for former gang members in Los Angeles. That same year in Quebec City, La Dauphine began to welcome and assist homeless youths. In 1995, the Ignatian Volunteer Corps started providing volunteer opportunities and Ignatian formation for those 50 years and older. The first Cristo Rey Jesuit High School opened in 1996 in Chicago, bringing college prep education and job experience to low-income students – the network now numbers 35 schools! In 1998, the Ignatian Spirituality Project started offering retreats for people experiencing homelessness. The Kino Border Initiative, a collaborative project of Mexican and U.S. Jesuits, women religious, and dioceses, began to accompany migrants and to advocate for just immigration policies in 2009.

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In the new century, the Jesuit Secondary Education Association included “teaching and acting justly” as a criterion for What Makes a Jesuit School Jesuit (2000). In 2000, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach challenged 400 delegates from 28 universities at the Justice in Jesuit Higher Education Conference to make faith-justice transform their institutions, and they have responded in numerous ways. The Jesuit Social Research Institute, for instance, was founded in New Orleans in 2007 with a focus on issues of race, poverty, and migration in the region. In 2015, Loyola University Chicago added an innovative two-year associates program – Arrupe College – for low-income students.

These 50 years spurred many creative initiatives to embody the faith-that-does-justice, helping Jesuits and colleagues walk with the poor and marginalized.

[Article from "Jesuits - The Society of Jesus in the world - 2020", by Élisabeth Garant, Anne-Marie Jackson, Fred Kammer SJ and Ted Penton SJ]

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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