We have an extremely rare opportunity to encourage and help Jesuit and Catholic Higher Education globally respond to Pope Francis’s upcoming encyclical with a timely commitment to address climate change, ecological destruction, and poverty in their educational programming, institutional structures, policies and practices, and political and social involvements in the months and years ahead.

Achieving that will require a great deal of international networking.  I’m turning to Jesuit Networking to ask your help.

I will describe the opportunity I see in this posting and then lay out some of the questions and activities requiring globally networked collaboration to help the institutions involved seize the opportunity.  That’s where I am hoping we can work together.

The Opportunity

By the best information I can get, Pope Francis will issue his encyclical on integral human ecology at the end of June this year, probably on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29th.  It will surely be a strong call to all of us individuals, networks and institutions for global action inspired by our faith values.

Within days of that release, there will be 4 consecutive meetings of Catholic Higher Education leaders in Melbourne, Australia at the Australian Catholic University:

  • July 6-7 General Assembly of the Association of Universities Entrusted to the Society of Jesus in Latin America [AUSJAL]
  • July 7-10 “Expanding the Jesuit Higher Education Network: Collaborations for Social Justice.”  Presidents of Jesuit Higher Education institutions and the Directors of other Jesuit institutions from around the world.
  • July 11-12 “Presidents’ Roundtable” as part of the 25th Anniversary celebration of the Australian Catholic University featuring themed discussions of international models of collaboration in curricula and research, networking opportunities with Australian and international universities, and opportunities for presentation of international mission related initiatives.
  • July 13-17 25th General Assembly of the International Federation of Catholic Universities [IFCU]

Other notes of interest suggesting the extraordinary potential for this unusual set of gatherings:

  • The host of the July 7-10th meeting is Rev. Michael Garanzini, SJ, Secretary for Higher Education for the Society of Jesus, is also the keynote speaker for the July 13-17th IFCU meeting.
  • Garanzini’s cohost is Patxi Alvarez, Secretary of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat for the Society of Jesus.
  • The July 7-10th meeting will feature an address by Fr. General Nicolás entitled “Social Justice and the Jesuit University” and have several workshops on ecology and justice.
  • The General Secretary of the IFCU is also a Jesuit, Fr. Pedro Rubens Ferreira Oliveira.

This unique convergence of meetings, people, circumstances, and planetary crises makes possible a rare if not unique international commitment of Catholic Higher Education to respond forcefully and globally to take up these challenges precisely as institutions of higher education, leaders in global education.  [St. Ignacio Ellacuría, inspire and guide us!]

But that commitment won’t happen unless advance preparations and networking spread awareness of the opportunity and suggest possible materials or means for seizing it.

How can we contribute to that?  I will post another blog in a couple days trying to address that question.  In the meantime, please think it through yourself.  Who are the people we need to inform of this opportunity?  How can we do that?  What materials might they need?  What kind of commitment[s] would we like to see or suggest?

For another, somewhat longer description of the opportunity described here, you can find other blog pieces at http://ncronline.org/blogs/eco-catholic/australia-july-could-be-scene-jesuit-led-climate-action and at http://ignatiansolidarity.net/blog/2015/05/01/climate-change-jesuit-higher-education-reportback-from-loyola-chicago-7-final/.


Photo: C. Schubert (CCAFS) via CC license at Flickr