Ignatian Spirituality can serve as a guide for networking by providing us with some features that should be followed in our attempt to build and work within our Networks.

 We must look beyond the narrow frontiers of our works and our local, provincial, and national contexts. (1) We are called to participate in a movement for the redemption of the world in its totality, whose aim is to help people to live and to live completely. In the Contemplation on the Incarnation, when the three Divine Persons behold the misery of the world and have compassion on it, their response is, “Let us work redemption.” If we are to take seriously the consequences of this commitment today, it means that we must look beyond the narrow frontiers of our works and our local, provincial, and national contexts. Questions about justice are being decided at a global level which we should aim to influence even if only modestly. Our networks are rooted in this universal perspective, which runs through the Contemplation on the Incarnation, a bedrock of Ignatian spirituality.

(2) Networks oblige us to engage in dialogue, to open ourselves to other forms of work and ways of perceiving reality. They require us to consider the truths held by others and to take on their causes and make them our own. This openness to the other and detachment from the self is an exercise that is profoundly Ignatian.

Networking allows each institution to discern at the local level how best it can contribute. (3) Networks in turn require us to practice generosity and trust since responsibilities are assumed jointly with others. They ask us to give what we can without necessarily realizing any direct institutional benefit. Joint agendas are created for the service of others, and resources, personnel, and enthusiasm are offered to others. This is the way of practicing generosity. Networks also demand that we trust people who are different from us in their language, their ways of working, or their perceptions. Such trust helps us realize better the principle of subsidiarity and allows each institution to discern at the local level how best it can contribute, according to its context and internal circumstances.

(4) Generosity and trust also help toward detachment from power and the realization that power should rely on consensus and operate more horizontally. There should not be imposition of particular interests or agendas. What must prevail is the persuasion of truth and pursuit of the common good.

The Spirit  opens up spaces through the network itself. (5) In networking the way of proceeding is participative through mutual listening, prayerful discernment in common, and active reception of the Spirit who opens up spaces through the network itself. That work of building together with the help of the Spirit is what generates “esprit de corps” throughout the network, which thus constitutes a community of service to a greater mission.

(6) The Society’s networks should carry out their diagnoses rigorously and with profound analysis, drawing both on academic research and on reflection about our experiences of accompanying marginalized communities.

We therefore stress the importance of taking seriously the themes of redemption, dialogue and openness, generosity and trust, detachment from power, discernment, and rigorous analysis. These are characteristics needed for networking, and they form part of the Ignatian spirituality that the Society of Jesus seeks to embody.

This post is part of a document written by the Social Coordinators of the Conferences in May 2013 titled Networking in order to respond better to our mission. Networks of the social apostolate in the Society of Jesus. Published in Promotio Iustitiae, n° 113, 2013/4, also available on our website [English] [Spanish] [French]

Photo from Flickr by Viewmaker.