Jesuits and Women
8 March - Women’s Day - 1st Anniversary of the Commission on the Role of Women
On this International Women’s Day, the Commission on the Role and Responsibilities of Women in the Society of Jesus marks its first anniversary. The Commission includes five lay women, one woman religious, four Jesuits, and one layman. It was established by Fr. General Arturo Sosa to: 1) evaluate the appropriation of GC 34’s Decree 14, Jesuits and the Situation of Women in Church & Civil Society; 2) evaluate the participation and position of women and the structures of collaboration at all levels in institutions of the Society of Jesus and its apostolic works; and 3) make recommendations to the different levels of leadership in the Society of Jesus to strengthen the mission of the Society with the active participation of women.
past year, the members have met monthly. It has been an opportunity to
familiarize them with each other’s individual regional and cultural contexts.
Today, two members of the Commission offer reflections on their work thus far:
Catherine Waiyaki, from Kenya, and María del Carmen Muñoz from Colombia.
Catherine: I am filled with deep gratitude that the Jesuits care about the role that women play in their lives. This has been clearly manifested by the Jesuit members of the commission who are open and supportive, allowing our style of work to take shape comfortably for everyone; this process took almost six months. We have become a community of deep trust, care and understanding beyond the work we were set up to do. There is no contribution so small as to be ignored, or so big that it overwhelms: we are moving forward in consensus. We are working with professionalism but as the friends we now consider ourselves. New developments convince us that the Lord is guiding this process. I am grateful that technology has allowed us to accomplish all this through virtual meetings with members spanning so many time zones across the world.
María del Carmen: Several
aspects of our work are significant. First, the hope that comes from knowing
that the central government of the Society of Jesus recognises the value of
women for the Order and encourages us to be part of the change. Second, the
challenge to discern the role of women in the organisation in the same spirit,
a spirit of respect for the difference they make. Thirdly, the trust that has been generated in
the Commission, as a result of the process of self-recognition of our identity,
tastes, work and commitment. The spirit of Jesus has permeated this space and
become part of our way of seeing the world.
Catherine: In terms of the contribution that the Commission could bring, I expect that there will be a broad dissemination of the results of our work to all the Jesuits so that they listen deeply, individually and collectively, to what the women have to say. That, in a spirit of discernment, they will consider, along with any proposals made, how to collaborate better. We hope that individual Jesuits will undergo a transformation of heart; that they will remove any systemic injustice against women in their religious congregation; that they will influence the Church to eradicate injustice against women; that they will influence society at large to remove this injustice.
María del Carmen: The contribution we can bring will be a shared reflection on gender-justice that will allow us to open a path of listening, inclusion, respect and reciprocity, in order to build equitable and diverse apostolic bodies in the Provinces of the Society of Jesus. Most of us women want to collaborate in the mission from wherever the Spirit calls us, recognised in our dignity and our capacities.
I tell my colleagues in the Gender and Equality group of the CPAL (Conference
of Latin American Provincials) about what we are doing in the Commission, they
are happy to feel connected, knowing that together we are working for the
recognition of our value in the Society and seeking to have an impact in the
Church. This is what Pope Francis encourages us to do when he speaks forcefully
about how little is known about the value of women in the Church, how that
value goes beyond functionality, how women also have an important role in
awareness-raising, humanising and bringing affect - all gifts not exclusive to
women, but characteristic of us.
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