The Common Home – Jesuits are Being Converted by the Young

The Society of Jesus is taking forward our commitment to collaborate on the Common Home. That’s the good news emerging from the Extended Council of Fr General which took place from 3rd to 7th of June. That commitment is most clear in the schools and in the Jesuit universities. Now at community and local level it is also catching on.

“We have been a bit slow to take this up at community level” said Father General. “The Procurators’ Congregation highlighted this as an issue and it is true. In this Council meeting, we delved deeper and we found much consolation in the fact that many of the schools in the Jesuit network are way ahead. If those two million students, along with their families and their teachers, are motivated and taking action about the Common Home then we have a huge positive base to start from. We can learn from young people and be converted by them.”

At the meeting in the Curia, Xavier de Benazé SJ spoke about the measures taken in the Western Europe French-speaking Province (EOF):

“As a young Jesuit I was always enthusiastic about this issue and now my mission is to develop our engagement as Jesuits. I do that as ecodelegate of my Provincial and also as leader of a new project to transform our house near Lyon into a Centre of Eco-Spirituality. These two missions offer me great opportunities to collaborate with other for the care of our Common Home and I can take very concrete and direct actions.”

Already the EOF Province has made different recommendations to its members, for example, the recommendation to avoid taking a plane if the journey can take less than twelve hours by train or bus. Communities in the Province are also being encouraged to do a carbon audit; this is done in partnership with the Jesuit European Social Centre in Brussels (JESC). It means that they know their impact on the Common Home and can decide better how to take action.

“In Jesuit communities the general consumption of goods is low – that’s a fruit of the vow of poverty” says Gabrielle Pollet. She’s the EOF Ecological Transition Officer and works closely with Xavier. “But the next step is to look at other areas of CO2 emissions such as the heating systems of the communities, or the food we eat. This can be a great opportunity to concretely follow Jesus poor and humble ever more closely in this 21st century.”

The Extended Council was very aware of the need for changes both within the General Curia itself and within Province and Regional Curias. Now is the time to look at what we can do. Initial steps might include a carbon audit, a change in travel patterns, an examination of energy efficiency or other steps. Nothing is yet decided but the motivation is there.

Boris Foka Wadem SJ, from Cameroon, a Jesuit doing Regency in the Curia spoke passionately about how the commitment to the Common Home sometimes can provoke tensions:

“In some communities I have lived in I don’t see the same concern for the Common Home but I make my own witness and speak and act from my own convictions. That is having an impact and I am getting more and more consolation. The Society is moving.”

A final word from Father General:

“I am now setting up a special commission here in the Curia to ensure that the recommendations made during the Extended Council of June are taken forward. The Society can do a lot and I am determined to support initiatives on the ground as well as giving leadership here from the Curia.”