Global Collaboration for Global Challenges: Structures and Networks Beyond Provinces

Collaboration in the Society of Jesus can be understood in different ways. Often we refer to collaboration with others, with companions, with collaborators or—in general—with those with whom we share responsibility in mission. But in other instances we speak of the necessary collaboration as the Society of Jesus between our own organisations and governance structures in order to respond to global issues that cannot be addressed at the local level. In this latter case, we speak of interprovincial cooperation (GC 31, D.48), and international collaboration (GC 33, D.1), and what these mean has been progressively articulated in the documents of the Society in the past 50 years. Such considerations affect both the governance structures as well as the apostolic structures of the Society and they continue to be the object of intense reflection.

Already in 1965, Fr Arrupe encouraged Provincials of neighbouring Provinces to hold meetings in order to coordinate responses in common. This is the origin of our current Conferences of Provincials, essential platforms to understand the structures which allow Father General to have the necessary tools for the international governance of the Society. As mentioned before, this dynamic not only refers to governance structures, but also to networks and new apostolic structures which permit the institutions of the Society to cooperate in order to face global challenges.

It was GC34 which put forth in detail the need to network in order to carry out our common mission and take advantage of our potential as a universal body: « To exploit more fully the possibilities given us by being an international body, additional global and regional networks must be created. […] Initiative and support for these various forms of networks should come from all levels of the Society, » (GC 34 D.21, n.14).

In 2008, our former General Congregation 35, emphasised this focus: «We encourage the Society’s government at all levels to explore means by which more effective networking might take place among all apostolic works associated with the Society of Jesus» (GC 35 d. 6, n. 29a). This Congregation labelled as undeniable the necessity of collaboration (CG 35 d.5, n.17), while at the same time recognising the concerted and generous effort that had been made in order to increase interprovincial cooperation (CG 35 d.3, n.38). In the last few years numerous apostolic networks have been developed within the ecosystem of the apostolic body of the Society of Jesus. [See list of networks] and little by little joint reflection on the need of structures for collaboration is becoming more common. Since 2012, a group of institutions, together with the Secretariat for Collaboration, have been promoting a hub of reflection and dissemination on Jesuit networking:

The following are three interesting documents on networking with the Society of Jesus published in the last five years:

  • April 2012 – Conference on International Networking: Challenges for the Universal Mission.Español. English. Portuguese.
  • May 2013 – The Coordinators of the Social Sector of the Conferences of Provincials publish: “Networking to respond better to mission. Networks in the Social Apostolate of the Society of Jesus.” Español. English. Français
  • November 2015 – The Secretariat for Social Justice and Ecology publishes: “Networking for Justice” following a meeting of the global networks of the Social Apostolate Español. English.