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Andrade Approaches Appointment to International Commission with Goal to Find Unity in the Diverse Experiences of Women Through Common Jesuit Mission

Fordham alumna Donna Andrade (M.S.E. ’90, Ed.D. ’94), is immensely grateful for the opportunity to apply the whole of her life’s work as a Jesuit educator, culminating in her recent appointment to the worldwide Commission on the Role and Responsibilities of Women in the Society of Jesus. Andrade is the sole female, African American representative for the North American continent and the only woman from the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States on the commission. As she puts it, “I have this opportunity only because I stand on the shoulders of giants, other stellar women who have been my role models, mentors, friends, and collaborators. I am blessed to have the kinds of colleagues I do and to be able to pursue a vocation that is a calling, not just a profession.”

Currently the Dean of Mission and Ministry at Fairfield College Preparatory School, in Fairfield, Connecticut, she believes the formation of the multinational, multi-cultural commission, constituted by a majority of women members, is “not just lip service.” Andrade notes, “It’s exciting to me as a Jesuit educator that there are people from all over the world [on the commission], that I get to meet them and learn from them, and that I get to experience their contexts.” She added, “I believe that I bring to the commission not only deep knowledge of Ignatian spirituality, but also my unique experiences as both a woman of faith and a person of color.”

The original idea for the commission began during the 50th anniversary of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat in November 2019, when the Very Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus, asked the assembly to review the 1995 General Congregation 34’s Decree 14, which addressed the place of women in Jesuit institutions and their priorities in work for social justice. As he noted, the women participants took it to heart, and after reflection and dialogue, they proposed that a commission be set up to address this important concern.

On International Women’s Day in March, Sosa named the members of the commission, writing: “Addressing the issue of women’s participation from the perspective of collaboration in mission is an opportunity to understand more deeply where the Spirit is leading us and to give greater vitality to our life, which is deeply committed to the mission of reconciliation and justice in all our apostolates.” His letter further explained, “We seek to contribute to the original plan of God to restore “a loving relationship of respect, mutuality and equality among all human persons.”

More specifically, commission objectives, in summary, include a review of previous General Congregation decrees in light of contemporary discourses on:

  • The equality of women and men;
  • Ensuring and promoting the role of women in light of co-responsibility, collaboration, and inclusion;
  • Identifying best practices that embody mutual respect, care, and solidarity between men and women in the apostolic works of the Jesuits, including the support and enhancement in spaces where this is already happening;
  • Making recommendations to leadership to strengthen the Jesuit mission with the active participation of women, including active dialogue between men and women; and
  • Identifying tools for formation, dialogue, structural transformation, evaluation, and accountability.

Now that Andrade is more fully versed in the commission’s mission, she looks forward to drawing upon her experiences as a student, teacher, professor, and/or administrator at Fordham and other Jesuit institutions, and is struck by the experiences at Fordham that formed (and informed) her adult faith and personal outlook in profound ways. She specifically emphasized that her three Fordham GSE dissertation mentors, the late Barbara L. Jackson, Ed.D., professor and chair in the Division of Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy; Toby Tetenbaum, retired former professor in both the Division of Psychological and Educational Services and the Division of Educational Leadership, Administration and Policy; and Roberta Trachtman, former professor in the Division of Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy, were absolutely instrumental in shaping her life and work.

Andrade is eager to find common ground with her fellow commissioners through the lens of Ignatian spirituality and pedagogy, while clearly focusing on the commission’s objectives. She believes they will approach completing their objectives by using the important tools of reflection and discernment so that they are able to “find the unity in our diverse experiences as women through the lens of our common Jesuit mission.” A few of the tools she plans to use for this work include praying the Ignatian Examen, referring to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.’s prayer “Patient Trust”, (excerpted from Hearts on Fire), and contemplating a prayer composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, “Prophets of a Future Not Our Own”, drafted for a homily by Cardinal John Dearden in November 1979 for a celebration of departed priests.

The commission has been charged with completing its work in three years, after which it will present a final report and evaluation to Sosa so that further action may be considered. Andrade looks forward to collaborating with all of the members of the commission to produce a final report that inspires both the Society of Jesus and the laity to take a closer look at empowering women through their critical roles and responsibilities in the apostolic works of the Jesuits.

The Commission on the Role and Responsibilities of Women in the Society of Jesus is composed of the following 10 members:

  • Donna Andrade – Fairfield College Preparatory School, USA
  • Victor Assouad, S.J. – General Counsellor, Rome
  • Michael Duffy – University of San Francisco, USA
  • Maria Elissa (Melissa) Jayme Lao – Ateneo de Manila, Philippines
  • Victor Edwin Joseph, S.J. – Vidyajyoti – Delhi, India
  • María del Carmen Muñoz – CINEP, Colombia
  • Mary Sujita, SND – Bihar, India
  • Cecilia Vanneste – Ignatian Ap. Networks, Flanders, Belgium
  • Catherine Waiyaki – CVX, Kenya
  • Simon Kuen-Sang Yi, S.J. – Jesuit Centre for Migrant Workers, Gimpo, South Korea

More About Donna Andrade

Donna Marie Andrade, Ed.D., is the Dean of Mission and Ministry at Fairfield College Preparatory School in Fairfield, Connecticut. She designs and implements professional and spiritual programs for the Fairfield Prep adult community, oversees the Campus Ministry Department, fosters school-province relationships which focus on the promotion of Jesuit Mission, and collaborates with the Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Fairfield University. Prior to her current position, Andrade served as Fairfield Prep’s Academic Dean for 16 years.

For 25 years, Andrade administered the Students for Educational Excellence through Diversity Program (S.E.E.D.), which focuses, primarily, on recruiting students of color, as well as on economically marginalized students of all racial backgrounds, including providing the support services vital to student retention. In this capacity, she was responsible for the professional formation of Ignatian educators.

Nationally, Andrade most recently served (2012-2017) as board member for the Jesuit Schools Network (formerly the Jesuit Secondary Education Association). She previously served two terms on the JSEA Board (1994-2000), during which she coordinated the first three national conferences for the 44 U.S. Jesuit high schools. Locally, Andrade is a current board member for Fairfield University’s Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality.


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