Sarah Signorino

ERIE — In December 2018, Superior General Father Arturo Sosa of the Society of Jesus, called for a global congress to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Secretariat for the Social Apostolate. In 1969, then Superior General Father Pedro Arrupe, S.J., appointed the first secretariat to deepen and organize the entire society’s commitment to a “faith that does justice.” 

Signorino at the papal audience
Contributed photo/Sarah Signorino

I was privileged to be one of the 21 delegates representing North America at the congress.   

Father Xavier Jeyaraj, SJ, the secretary to the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES), called the congress “a Kairos moment” that brought 210 delegates representing 62 countries to the Jesuit Curia in Rome. The five-day gathering, held November 4-8, 2019, celebrated the successes and failures of 50 years of the SJES, examined how the Society of Jesus promotes faith and justice across all works and, in the spirit of the Jesuit martyrs, allowed delegates to prayerfully identify challenges and opportunities to discern where God is calling us in the coming years through the lens of the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs).  

Father Sosa addressed the congress on the first day and invited us to be bold, collaborative and creative as we, members of and lay collaborators with the Society of Jesus, considered the Universal Apostolic Preferences and the priorities of the Social Apostolate. Father General’s keynote provided a lens for the delegates to look through as we examined consolations and desolations happening in the global social apostolate.    

We were blessed with a private audience with Pope Francis on November 7. The Holy Father addressed the congress and spent time greeting each person. Since we each only had a few seconds with Pope Francis, I said, “Thank you for your joy,” as I shook his hand. I loved watching Father Sosa and Pope Francis greet each other as Jesuit brothers.  

The congress concluded with Mass at the Church of the Gesù, the mother church of the Society of Jesus. The bodies of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and Pedro Arrupe, are both buried inside. Father Sosa presided over the gathering and reminded us of the “centrality of the spiritual dimension to our commitment to social justice and integral ecology,…the need and complexity of broadening collaboration among ourselves…and to promote processes of reconciliation.”  

Signorino at the Vatican
Contributed photo/Sister Erin McDonald

After Mass, delegates were invited to tour the original rooms of St. Ignatius, where he spent his final years in Rome. I found walking through the simple spaces to be so moving and powerful. Visitors can see St. Ignatius’ shoes and a first edition of the Spiritual Exercises and pray in the chapel where the founder of the Jesuits celebrated Mass and where he died

The SJES Congress filled me with hope, inspiration and a fire for justice. Pope Francis, in his address, reminded us that “we need a true cultural revolution, a transformation of our collective gaze, of our attitudes, of our ways of perceiving ourselves and of placing ourselves before the world.”