Supporting Fe y Alegría Since 2005

American Jesuits International was originally founded as Magis Americas (MA) in December 2005 by Federación Internacional de Fe y Alegría (FIFyA), with support from the Avina Foundation. At this time, the organization envisioned an office in the United States that would implement advocacy and fundraising efforts to support the work of Fe y Alegría in Latin America and the Caribbean. In effect, the objective of the U.S.-based office was to mirror the work done by Entreculturas-Fe y Alegría Spain, thereby providing an additional source of international cooperation funding. 

Starting with one full-time employee in Boston, MA moved its offices to New York City in 2007 and quickly began to build out a team to access both individual and institutional funding opportunities. However, the timing of its founding and the aggressive nature of its operational growth was hampered by the global economic recession of 2008-2009. By late 2009, finances had necessitated the dismissal of the entire staff. 

A Shared Work of Two Jesuit Conferences

Following this development, the Jesuit Conference of the United States (JCUSA) and Conferencia de Provinciales en América Latina y el Caribe (CPAL) began conversations to reorient the organization. In 2010, the two Conferences signed a memorandum of understanding that made Magis Americas a shared work of the two Conferences and moved MA’s offices from New York City to the JCUSA offices in Washington, DC. The objective of this agreement also broadened the scope from support for Fe y Alegría to increase and deepen collaboration on behalf of the mission of the Society of Jesus in the Americas and more broadly support Jesuit social and education works in Latin America and the Caribbean. Despite this new MOU, however, MA did not employ any full-time staff for the next eight years.

Friends of Fe y Alegría

In 2014, under the legal framework of MA and at the behest of then-CPAL President Jorge Cela, S.J., FIFyA began renewed fundraising and awareness-raising efforts in the United States. The initiative, “Friends of Fe y Alegría”, was comprised of three Fe y Alegría staff members, all of whom worked abroad, and focused its work in three areas: (1) institutional relationships with universities, foundations, and businesses; (2) global citizenship education initiatives focused on the right to education; and (3) fundraising with Latino diaspora communities. Given its expertise and success in Spain, this initiative was led by Entreculturas-Fe y Alegría Spain.

Following three years of sustained growth by the “Friends of Fe y Alegría” initiative, representatives from FIFyA, JCCU, CPAL, and MA met in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2017 to discuss the future of MA. This meeting concluded with the following agreements: (1) a renewed commitment by the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States (JCCU) and CPAL that MA was a shared work of the two Conferences; (2) a commitment  by MA to hire an executive director to lead the renewed efforts of the organization; and (3) said person would coordinate with FIFyA and Entreculturas to build off of the efforts of the “Friends of Fe y Alegría” initiative. 

At the Service of the Global Mission of the Jesuits

In March 2018, the MA Board of Directors hired an executive director and tasked them with, among other things, developing a strategic plan (see here) that would outline the organization’s priorities for the following three years and set the organization for a long-term plan toward growth and sustainability. During implementation of the 2019-2021 Strategic Plan, conversations began between JCCU and MA about the role MA could serve in the JCCU’s mission to the global Society of Jesus. While the Canadian Jesuit Province had a long tradition of international solidarity through the work of Canadian Jesuits International (CJI), the U.S. Jesuit Provinces never counted on a centralized international solidarity organization.  

Thus, and at the behest of the Jesuit Father General in Rome, the JCCU began exploring options for increased collaboration with the global Society of Jesus from the U.S. to coordinate with and mirror the work of CJI in Canada. After two years of dialogue, the JCCU and MA agreed upon a MOU which designated MA as the international solidarity organization of the Jesuits in the United States. This new role meant that in addition to supporting Jesuit education, migration, and ecology initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean, MA would also act as a U.S. fiscal sponsor for social and education initiatives of the Society of Jesus worldwide. Likewise, MA was accepted as the second North American member and 14th member overall of the Xavier Network, a network of Jesuit development NGOs and mission offices from the Global North. Acceptance in this network also allowed MA to launch fundraising appeals to support work done by Jesuit organizations in times of emergency (i.e. an earthquake in Haiti) and participate in a coordinated Jesuit response.  

A Growing Community of Solidarity

By the end of the 2019-2021 Strategic Plan, MA had exceeded its stated goals for the three-year period by almost tripling its revenue from a number of sources and had increased the staff from one full-time person to four. 

Following completion of its first strategic plan, the MA Board of Directors approved the 2022-2024 Strategic Plan in March 2022, which outlined the following priorities: 

  • (1) Strengthen our organizational capacity; 
  • (2) Improve recognition of Magis Americas among Jesuits and Jesuit institutions in the United States; 
  • (3) Support the growth of our partner organizations’ capacities; and 
  • (4) Establish a project portfolio in alignment with our mission.

American Jesuits International

Finally, in 2023, the JCCU approached MA with a proposal to merge this organization with Jesuit Missions International, Inc, (JMI), another U.S.-based Jesuit organization. Since 2021, MA had taken on much of the work processing donations and maintaining relationships that were previously associated with JMI. This longstanding history of collaboration was beneficial for both organizations and the JCCU. However, the merger would formalize and clarify the relationship by creating a single entity for the Jesuits in the United States to channel support and resources to Jesuit organizations abroad.

In October of 2023, the four U.S. Jesuit Provincials who served as the Board of Directors for JMI, voted to approve the merger and move forward with a plan to consolidate these two organizations into a single international solidarity organization. In November of 2023, the Board of Directors of MA voted to recommend the merger as well and it was approved, shortly after, in a full vote by the Board of Members of the organization.

The organization was renamed American Jesuits International, a name which reflects the history of both organizations and the special relationship that the new organization will have with Jesuits throughout the Americas. At the same time, the Board of Directors and staff worked to refine and affirm the mission and vision of the organization, contributing to the strengthening of the organization as a whole.

In a letter to all Jesuits and Directors of Jesuit Works, the Jesuit Conference President and Provincials of the United States explained the merger in the following way:

American Jesuits International’s mission is to mobilize individuals and institutions to support Jesuit education and development initiatives that serve marginalized communities in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The organization will continue to accompany Jesuit organizations and networks previously supported by JMI and MA, chief among them Fe y Alegría. 

Built on the legacy and tradition of many other Jesuit development organizations and mission offices, American Jesuits International will replace its predecessor, Magis Americas, as the U.S. member organization of the Xavier Network. Together with Canadian Jesuits International, the organization will respond to Father Sosa’s call to collaborate across borders and will strengthen our Conference’s contributions to the Society’s global mission of reconciliation.

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