Global Perspective

Building an Equitable and Just World

Director of the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education Appointed to Commission on the Role and Responsibilities of Women in the Society of Jesus

by Lisa Klope

Dr. Michael Duffy, Director of the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education, was appointed to the Commission on the Role and Responsibilities of Women in the Society of Jesus.

Established in March 2021 by the Society of Jesus, the ten member commission (six of which are women) includes representatives from across the globe. The commission will examine the inclusion and collaboration of women within the Society and make recommendations for ways to promote further integration.

Dr. Duffy spoke with the School of Education about his work with the commission, the privilege he feels to be part of this critically important work, and his hope for the commission’s global impact. Check out the conversation.

Why is the creation of this commission important at this moment?
“The commission is long overdue. An acknowledgement of the work that women have done in the Catholic community is even longer overdue - by centuries. Throughout the history of the Catholic church, women have frequently not been allowed to participate to the same extent as men. 

In 1995, during a General Congregation, the Jesuits wrote the document, “Decree 14: Jesuits and the Situation of Women in Church and Civil Society,” which was part of the Jesuits' implementation of their mission. The Society understood that the situation of women (including unjust treatment and exploitation) throughout the global work of the Jesuits needed to be addressed.

The document was a start. Conversations engaging the document took place and continue up to the present throughout the Jesuit network. As with many religious communities, the number of Jesuits around the world has been declining. Qualified personnel are needed for the multitude of Jesuit institutions, ministries, and organizations.  Women have been assuming these roles for many years.  However, many women continue to be overlooked and underutilized in these institutions.

Pope Francis, a Jesuit himself, realizes the loss if half of humanity is prohibited from participating completely in the church, society and culture. While Pope Francis’ influence is certainly making a difference, women involved in the work of the Society of Jesus have been instrumental in creating enormous influence and impact.  Many women’s communities and women’s groups have been meeting and working with Jesuit leaders and administrators to advance the role, recognition, and contributions that women are making as they lead Jesuit institutions into the future."

What are you looking forward to as a member of the commission?
“The commission’s membership has a majority of women - six women and 4 men. Additionally, the commission membership is a majority of people of color - 8 people of color.  The design of this membership signals the sincerity of the effort.  The demographic makeup of the commission is very exciting.

As those of us on the commission are getting to know each other, I’m humbled by what people are sharing. Many stories have been told about how we have intersected with the Jesuits and what that has meant. The commission represents a global network reaching all aspects of humanity and the global community.  

I’m looking forward to listening, hearing the stories, struggles, and celebrations of women from around the world. I want to listen and learn about the ideas for the future….and about how we all get there together."

What hope do you have for this commission? 
"My hope is for the commission to reimagine structures, think differently, expose injustices as women get their rightful place and recognition of equality and justice. The commission has a unique opportunity to use this global platform in raising awareness of the roles and responsibilities of women in the Society of Jesus around the world.  Hopefully the commission will intersect with other entities as a means of leveraging the many ways of moving forward towards a more equitable and just world for women around the world."