May 16, 2016 — This month, the Center of Concern, a Catholic think tank founded by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and Father General Pedro Arrupe, SJ, celebrates its 45th anniversary. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Center was created on May 4, 1971, as a joint project of the U.S. bishops and the Society of Jesus.
Influenced by Catholic social tradition, the think tank aims to research, educate and advocate, leading conversations about issues of global social justice such as education, ecology, global women’s issues, human rights and international financial policy. The Center also advises foundations, universities, civil society and social service organizations on their strategic philanthropic plans.
“We work hard to nourish Ignatian charisms in our mission, strategy and programs,” said Lester A. Myers, president of the Center. “We continue to benefit from participation by Jesuit board members, and team members and colleagues who have studied and/or worked with the Jesuits.”
Father General Arrupe and Cardinal Bernardin missioned Canadian Jesuit Bill Ryan to establish the Center, raise the funds and be its first director, a position he held for 8 years. Other former presidents of the Center include Father Peter Henriot, SJ, and Father James Hug, SJ. Father John P. Langan, SJ, currently serves on the board of directors. The Center also hosts alternative spring break and other programs for Jesuit institutions.
Current initiatives at the Center include the Rethinking Bretton Woods Project, which advocates for reform of the international financial system with attention to sustainable development and human rights. Project director Aldo Caliari recently led panel discussions and delivered presentations at the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations and Columbia University on these topics, including standards and safeguards for public-private partnerships.
"We are continually augmenting our efforts in research, education and advocacy in public and private centers of influence around the world to be the voice for global social justice and peace," Myers said.
The Center maintains an educational resource database, Education for Justice (EFJ), targeted at schools, parishes, religious congregations, retreat centers, social justice centers and health care organizations. The EFJ offers print-ready lesson plans, fact sheets, bulletin inserts, case studies, prayers and Gospel readings with a Catholic Social Teaching perspective. Additionally, the Center debuted an anti-human trafficking documentary titled “I Am Miriam,” and its companion website, Against-Humanity.org, in February, under the direction of EFJ editor Sister Dianna M. Ortiz, O.S.U.
"The Center remains mindful of its responsibility to educate and nurture the next generation of social justice leaders," Myers said. "We and all whom we serve benefit from the vision of our co-founders, Cardinal Bernardin and Father General Arrupe, and the women religious who have been so dedicated in providing leadership and financial support.
“Their legacy has been a gift to a world whose vision now benefits from the transformative leadership of Pope Francis: a world that aspires to an integral ecology of justice and care for our common home and one another." [Sources: Center of Concern, America Magazine]