Jesuit Networking participates with a keynote address at the international meeting of Jesuit universities at the Ibero in Mexico City.
"Networks are not mere structures of coordination, but opportunities to channel a culture of collaboration and collective action that allows the Society of Jesus to discover new areas of mission and offer innovative apostolic responses." This is how Father Dani Villanueva, coordinator of the Jesuit Networking project, ended his presentation last Wednesday at the Ibero University in Mexico City, entitled "Prophetic Networks: Weaving Jesuit Structures for Global Collaboration."
Father Villanueva began by reviewing the last 40 years of Jesuit history, demonstrating how the Society of Jesus has witnessed a gradual move to create international networks in different apostolic sectors, largely linked to the use and effect of information technology, but above all due to a progressive awareness of the global nature of our apostolic body and a growing formulation of the universality of our shared mission. “These new structures,” emphasizes Villanueva, “are affecting the way in which the Society of Jesus understands itself, its mission and its structures.”
“I like to call them prophetic networks because they remind us what we could become if we let the Mission be what shapes our structures.” Villanueva insisted on how these networks are liberating the apostolic potential of our current institutions, so that, through networking, we can find new configurations of our organizations for greater apostolic efficiency (greater scale, stronger impact ...) or even new areas of interdisciplinary mission that were unattainable through our separate institutions.
This is the reason why, Fr. Dani insists, the last two Father Generals have been constantly raising the question about the structures, and after the last Congregation, collaboration and networks have become two of the fundamental elements of our current way of proceeding. “Once we have accepted our call to universality and we are aware of the internationality and diversity of our apostolic body, the Ignatian criteria make the issue of structures (organizational), a key variable in discernment for the mission.” Specifically, the search for the most universal good or the absence of other actors point directly to the main dilemma: What is it that we can do together, that has a more universal reach and where others are not responding? This is why collaborative organizational development and the adaptation of our mission’s structures are increasingly critical issues in our apostolic future.
This was the greatest emphasis of the whole talk, “let there be no doubt, the Jesuits develop networks for the good of the mission.” Since GC35, the Society of Jesus is in a process of reconfiguration of provincial structures and conferences in order to not only favor apostolic life but also to promote greater universality in the face of greater boldness and creativity in our decision-making. The proliferation of networks in recent years has to be understood in this context as a major renewal of structures for the mission. “Interconnection and collaboration are key to understanding the current world and the possibilities of our apostolic response.”
Once justified the apostolic importance of networks and the centrality of the mission related to structures, Fr. Villanueva went through the seven keys of this “prophetic” approach of networks, using examples from the last 10 years such as the global ignatian advocacy networks, the international hospitality campaigns, interdisciplinary projects such as Healing Earth or HEST, and collaborative platforms such as Educate Magis, Ignited or the Jesuit Networking project.
Thus, according to the speaker, the keys that differentiate Jesuit networks "so that they are truly prophetic" include (a) the absolute precedence of the mission, (b) their construction based on identity and shared mission, (c) respect for diversity and promotion of inclusion, (d) openness to novelty and creativity, (e) facilitation of structures for participation and collective discernment, (f) the inauguration of a new level of agency in the mission, and (g) the existence of enabling leadership and a formal link with global Jesuit governance.
This is the reason, Villanueva argues, why collaboration is so crucial: “Our apostolic future is not about creating new institutions, but an innovative combination of current structures.” Thus, the growing creation of networks is the result of our constant apostolic discernment and our primary vocation to universality.
We are still far from having finished "weaving" our renewed apostolic body with new connections and possibilities. We need an ecosystem that encourages collaboration and association on a larger scale and the training of individuals with the necessary skills, vision and leadership for a universal and collaborative mission. There have been many efforts at the conferences and the apostolic secretaries in recent years and - little by little - the fruits can already be seen. Universities, insists Dani Villanueva, are fundamental to guarantee the depth and harmony of this progressive apostolic reconfiguration. “This process is emerging, it is not directed, it is a consequence of continuous dialogues and decentralized experimentation. That is why we need you to take part in these dialogues - he ended by speaking to the rectors of the universities present at the congress - to ensure that emerging networks are truly prophetic, and our organizational development at the international level truly responds to that of an apostolic body with a shared mission.”