This is the first letter of introduction I have written for Working Notes, because it goes to press just a few weeks after I have been made Director of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. I received this baton from the out-going Director, John Guiney SJ, in August. John has been at the helm for almost a decade and felt that the time was now right, as we approach the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Centre, to leave it in our hands.
As a team, we thank John for all the years he has served in that role. The Centre has gone through great change under his leadership and those who have followed our work cannot fail to have noticed the advances that have been made.
There is something fitting about this handover occurring in the summer months of 2020. Everything appears to be in transition. But one of the gifts John has left us is a very clear sense of our identity and our reason for being. The Centre arose initially out of conversations led by Frank Sammon SJ and John Sweeney about how to adapt to the modern world with a faith that was authentic. Inspired by a global movement within the Jesuits which understood that living the values of the Gospel meant striving for justice, discussion began about a social research centre that would not settle for ivory-tower theorising.
Those involved in that early experiment did not imagine that their work would bear fruit well into the next century. Now, at the cusp of the Centre’s fifth decade of research and activism, the intention to integrate social questions and spiritual practices persists. We hope that can be glimpsed in this issue in which Keith Adams, as editor, has curated a diverse range of essays to add insight to each of the areas the Centre is called to address: penal policy, environmental care, economic ethics, the housing and homelessness crisis, and theological reflection. Each, in its own way, contributes to the emerging and vital conversation about policies for after the pandemic.
The pandemic will end. The work to build policies that will leave a more just society in its wake has already begun.
Dr Kevin Hargaden, JCFJ Director