Jesuit social centres meet in Dublin

March 15, 2024 in Featured News, News

The European Social Centers Jesuit Network met in Dublin from 28 February 28 to 2 March 2024. They gathered in the Avila Centre in Donnybrook and made trips across town to the Gardiner Street community. Kevin Hargaden, Director of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice here, was one of the attendees. Read his report of the meeting below.

Where Gospel and Society Intersect

The European Social Centres network is a diverse group. The network stretches from Dublin to Budapest, from Munich to Valetta. The focus of each centre is distinctive, with some immersed in practical training and formation, others seeking to lead the arts conversation in their context, with most of them engaged in some form of published reflection on the intersection between society and the Gospel.

The leaders of the Centres meet regularly on Zoom and collaborate on a number of projects, notably the Faith and Politics programme that seeks to help young Europeans discern a vocation for public service. But we have not actually met in person formally since 2019.

The goal of the meeting was to build up our understanding of each other’s work and to identify further possible collaborations. With the European elections just coming into view, one of the questions that is live in all 11 hubs within the network is the rise of populist rhetoric in our politics, the way our societies are polarising, and how the Far Right is strengthening (albeit in different ways and at different rates) across the continent.

We were visited by Prof. Bryan Fanning of UCD to talk about the shape of migration in recent Irish history and the contemporary challenges and opportunities we face and Martina Madden (who used to coordinate Communications for JCFJ and IJI) led a workshop on how to effectively get a faith-based message across in a pluralist context.

Martina shared the ‘7 C’s of Communication’, explaining that from her assessment of European Jesuit works, we were typically “correct, coherent, complete, courteous, and concrete but that you really struggled with being clear and concise.” With lots of practical tips for how we can critically improve our own work, the Directors returned to their Centres with lots of homework!

Alongside this external expertise, the group itself committed to in-depth debate informed by various perspectives. They heard in person about the work of the JCFJ and received a striking presentation from David Moriarty and David Clarke of JRS Ireland on the present crisis around receiving those seeking International Protection. The participants also met with the Irish Provincial, Fr. Shane Daly, for a common Mass and enjoyed the hospitality of the Gardiner Street community for a final meal together (See photo).

In terms of outcomes, we certainly did build up the network socially, enjoying many long and illuminating conversations about the commonalities and differences in our work, sometimes accompanied by live trad music! And we have begun to develop a joint document ahead of the European elections which can be shared across the continent, advising Catholics on how to approach this democratic opportunity informed by their faith.