Ando Isamu, S.J. (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
The Social Justice Secretariat, located in Rome, has published last February 2005 a thorough study of 324 Jesuit social centers spread over 5 continents. Superior General Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach introduces the publication with the following message:
Dear friends,
The word 'Social Centre' evokes in all of us both, a memory of a dynamic and creative period in the history of the Social Apostolate in many parts of the world, and a concern about the difficulties and crises that have besieged them over the last ten, perhaps fifteen, years.
At the last meeting of Assistancy Coordinators of the Social Apostolate held in Rome in May 2004, I had the opportunity to see the first, more modest draft of this study, and to receive a set of documents dealing with the new characterization of Jesuit Social Centres, presenting their strengths and weaknesses and making some recommendations. I am glad to note that these three documents have been reproduced in various chapters of the present study.
As I mentioned in the course of my earlier address to all of you (Promotio Justitiae, 2004/4, p.6), I am grateful for the practical recommendations you were able to work out. I have talked about them at meetings with various groups of Provincials. I would like here to stress again the need to bring greater clarity to the apostolic orientation of each Assistancy and Province, to integrate the Social Apostolate, more specifically the Social Centres, in the overall apostolic planning of the Provinces, and finally, the need to discuss the role of the social sector at Provincial Congregations. These steps will go a long way in ensuring the presence of a new generation of Jesuits and finding collaborative ventures that can ease the understaffed situation and the financial strain.
We must remember that in the effort to rejuvenate the Social Centres, attention must be paid towards emphasizing their Jesuit character and their apostolic ownership by the Province/Assistancy. Jesuit Social Centres, as the title of the study points out, can become effective instruments to structure and render visible the Social Apostolate.
As we offer to the Lord, at this feast of the Presentation, the labor so generously contributed by those who patiently answered the questionnaire, by the Coordinators who meticulously planned the work in each Assistancy and Province, and by the Secretariat's staff who have brought this study to light, we hope to see with our own eyes the "deliverance" and the "light" (Luke 2/31-32) that He alone can bring into the world also through the Jesuit Social Centres.
(On the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Rome, 2, February 2005)
   Historical Overview
Social centers (SCs) were first envisaged as institutes that originally focused on teaching Catholic social doctrine to workers or employers and on promoting social groups and organizations. The birth of many important social centers took place several years after Fr. Janssens' Instruction (1949) on the social apostolate.

Only later, in 1965-66, the General Congregation 31 stated that "Social Centers should be promoted by provinces or regions" and that "such centers should carry on research, social education, both doctrinal and practical, and also social action itself in brotherly collaboration with the laity." GC31 added that the objective of social activities should be mainly to "build a fuller expression of justice and charity into the structures of human life in common and thus enable everyone to exercise a personal sense of participation, skill and responsibility in all areas of common life.

GC32 and, Decree 4 in particular, brought the connection between Faith and Justice to center stage in the Society, but did not deal specifically with social centers. On the basis of the principles laid down by GC32, Fr. Arrupe actively promoted the creation of Centers of research and Social Action. He wrote that their "contribution is in the area of prophetic proclamation and denunciation, of inspiration, support and guidance for those working to build a more just society, of Gospel witness to solidarity in favor of the poor and oppressed, and above all in the forming of an individual and collective consciousness in the light of social analysis and reflection.

This definition shows well the changes during the 70s. SCs moved away from the world of academics and theoretical reflection and extended their field of action, participating in social movements and working more and more at grass-root levels.

GC34 reinterpreting the mission of the Society of Jesus speaks of the "integrating principle of our mission" as the "inseparable link between faith and the promotion of justice" and adds that justice, culture and inter-religious dialogue are "integral dimensions of our mission." In this context, GC34 makes the following remarks about SCs.
i. They have integrated the dimension of justice
ii. They need to integrate faith
iii. They must respond to the new dimensions of culture and inter-religious dialogue
iv. Collaboration with the laity takes place in social centers
v. This collaboration must be guided by a clear mission statement and by an exercise of co-responsibility
vi. There is need to increase the collaboration between non-formal (popular) educational institutions and the social centers

In the year 2000, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach stresses in his official letter to the Society, "in each Province and Assistancy, this social apostolate incarnates the social dimension of our mission, concretely embodies it in real commitments and renders it visible," this is reflected, according to the document, in three ways:
i. social research and publications
ii. advocacy and human development
iii. direct social action with and for the poor

As a final touch in this historical overview, the Social Justice Secretariat has played a very important role in keeping alive the social apostolate all over the world.

   Social Centers in Perspective
During the 80s and 90s there have been various attempts to examine Jesuit social apostolate and to reflect on the nature and objectives of the Social Centers, specially the Naples Congress (1997) that a year later published the document "Characteristics of the Social Apostolate of the Society of Jesus."

The study on Jesuit social centers was the result of the cooperation of the Assistancy Coordinators with the Social Justice Secretariat in Rome and the data provided by all social centers around the world, together with the inputs of several representatives of the social apostolate. Due to the variety of Jesuit social centers, all over the world, the Complementary Norms that actualized the Society's law, after GC34, provide a definition of a social center that has been used in this study. Social centers are dedicated to (a) social research and publication (b) formation and (c) social action. It goes without saying that such activities are not mutually exclusive and that a center may engage in all three types of activities.

On the other hand, from a different point of view, the Jesuit involvement, we may distinguish two types. Type I comprises those social centers where the Society in various ways assumes and retains 'ultimate responsibility.' For practical purposes such centers are usually listed in the respective catalogues of Provinces. Type II centers are those that do not belong to the Society but have a formalized link to it.

There are 324 Jesuit Social Centers spread over 5 continents and 56 of them in East Asia and Oceania (17%). An important finding of the Study is that SCs are, on average, more likely to be involved in social action (69%) and in formation (62%) than in research (37%).

Regarding the level of insertion within the Society, the majority of SCs (72%) belong fully to the Society.
With regard to the level of insertion with the poor, 61% of all sampled SCs (212 centers) have chosen "living with the poor," the high level, medium ('among the poor') 22.7%, and only 16.4% the low level ('for the poor'). As regards collaboration with other partners, collaboration with civil society is generally higher than with the government and the Church.

   Personnel and Finances
When we consider the SCs as a whole, approximately 7,000 people (475 Jesuits, 4,320 employees and 2,195 collaborators) are at this moment actively involved in the activities of the sampled 212 centers, but projecting over all the centers we estimate that as many as 8,800 are engaged in the SCs work. Thus, the data clearly show that lay collaboration and involvement are crucial for the operating and running of SCs.

This Study shows the financial position of the SCs based on the information obtained from all the centers regarding four matters: the approximate annual budget, the financial sources, a forecast of likely budget increases and budget adequacy.

The 212 samples centers mobilize US$85,466,101 with very different patterns.

The main source of funding comes from 'own resources,' from 'international donors,' 'non-governmental organizations' or 'public resources.' Funding from the Society is relevant and crucial for many centers, especially for centers in Northern and Central Europe, Asia and Africa.
Finally, with regard to an evaluation of the impact of their work, almost three-fourths of all centers feel that their activities have a positive impact on their target groups. Classifying the difficulties encountered by the centers, the difficulty that elicited more responses was that linked to personnel. External difficulties, political and other, are also a major issue. Financial difficulties are also, often, mentioned as well as other institutional issues.

The two strengths more emphasized are related to good reputation and positive relationship with partners and to quality of the work.

   Expectations and Recommendations

Social Centers are in a privileged position to make recommendations and suggestions as to how the Society could support their growth and development and/or help solve their problems.

The last part of the Study (Chapter 10) collects the Recommendations made to Fr. General by the Assistancy Social Coordinators. The Recommendations deal with personnel, finances, integration in the overall apostolic planning and on the outside realities.

[Edited from "Jesuit Social Centers -- Structuring the Social Apostolate -" (120 pages) published by the Social Justice Secretariat, Rome 2005]
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