Call to action to make life thrive/2

Call to action to make life thrive/2

Call to action to make life thrive/2
By the Editorial Board

In these times of intense commitment to the mission, we often experience complex situations in which we have to find ourselves, look up and continue to ponder together on what we have dared to name the Grace ofa new, third beginning in our history[1], in the wake of the Direction Statement given to each sister and to each lay partner in the mission. Looking to the developments in terms of methodology and values promoted and guided by the Congregation is becoming for us increasingly essential to resist and continue to fight next to the vulnerable people, overwhelmed by the “epochal emergencies”[2], now mainly “displaced”[3] abroad, and to welcome them with “always closeness, always compassion and always tenderness,” [4] in constant harmony with the spiritual heritage of the founders and with the magisterium of Pope Francis, against the globalization of indifference and the typical malaise of modernity[5].

Today, even more so than when we began our reflections “among four hearts and many hands,”[6] we feel we can say that the spiritual and vital energies necessary to respond to the Calls to Action arising from the path towards the 31st Chapter depend above all on the communion of the intentions and actions of transformative communities[7] which today, together with the lay partners, dare to conceive the mission creatively[8] and manage to experience it in complementarity, co-responsibility and delegation of powers[9]. Transformative communities also cultivate a contemplative dimension of life as a way of being “fully active, fully aware, fully aliveaccording to a welcoming[10], adult[11] and open[12] spirituality. Transformative communities DO acknowledge different religious sensitivities, cultures and perspectives that need to interact and form alliances with each another, pursuing integral growth, respect and the awareness that we are part of a whole that immensely transcends us in which we are deeply immersed and which we need to care for, by sharing the common values of justice, reconciliation, mercy and nonviolence.

It is true that in the circumstances in which “a new, third beginning” is emerging, “the Congregations are in critical situations requiring long-term planning on structural, organizational, financial and logistical issues. Our culture is rooted in tasks, which makes it easier for many people to focus on concrete and tangible aspects first. Perhaps it is difficult to focus on creative processes and projects that underlie the inner collective life of Congregations and that allow members to speak to each other from contemplative depths”[13] .

Perhaps, today, complementarity, co-responsibility and delegation of power[14] can be seen as three ways of being together in the mission, that challenge the mind and heart of apostolic communities in particular, for they have the main responsibility of embracing the ideal of a call for radical transformation, understood here as an inevitable path towards embracing, together with the lay partners, the Calls to Action included in the Direction Statement. As a matter of fact, the first Call to Action, on the New Governance Structure, aims to inspire fairer and more inclusive operational processes. That is, more capable of integrating and giving value to the many diversities that interact with each other in the local communities engaged in providing services while unfolding the Good Shepherd’s mission to give continuity to the charism of the founders. The credibility and the coherence of the testimony are at stake, while the testimony becomes a path towards widespread, deeper transformations that may attract new vocations to our mission and its values of justice and reconciliation, stated in the Positions of the Congregation.

This path is difficult, it calls us to explore new ways, specific and converging journeys: “We open ourselves to the unknown, to the uncertain,” Sister Yolanda Sanchez recently said, adding that motivations, meanings, and deep, generative feelings affect the transformation. “When you transform, the revolution takes place inside of you, …and it comes to your outer self in the form of multiple behaviors, of a greater agility, energy and power [15].” This vibrant and well-founded encouragement, shared in Fatima during the Second Pre-Chapter Assembly, urges us to move toward changes that were not planned from above by a leader, and to activate processes that foster the “permanent possibility of transformation that allows organizational adaptation to the conditions of the context, where the leader develops processes that allow them to guide rather than direct. But this transformation can only take place with the commitment of all stakeholders, of all of the members of the organization[16].”

The metaphor of the spiritual journey has always been present in existential paths, and was also referred to several times at the 31st General Chapter to express the dynamism of life, which is movement and continuous transformation. Today this takes on a special resonance, immersed as we are in the fast mutations of our societies and our Common Home. The speed of change makes us all confused, lost and insecure: the complexity in which we are immersed, surrounds, overlooks and challenges even and especially our consecrated life, but “where the danger is, also grows the saving power,[17] even poets say.

Today, as they invite the Mission Partners to respond to the Calls to Action, apostolic communities are more than ever called to integrate the personal dimension with the communitarian one, in order to foster certain shifts from the predominance of the individual aspect to the building of community ties and territorial alliances in which each person’s living space is lived in connection, interdependence, and complementarity with that of others and with the environment. We can say that, to some extent, the Calls to Action represent an opportunity for apostolic communities to rethink the three challenges of the Strategic Plan[18], which were the outcome of careful discernment in which all communities participated, as a path of resilience and reconciliation for the mission[19], as bumpy as it is true.

The Challenges of the Strategic Plan

Now, these three challenges still reflect the paths decided upon at a local level to relaunch the mission and respond more urgently to the cry of our wounded world
to build a future that will be spiritual or will not be[20]. They also remind us of some passages that refer to the radical novelty of the Second Vatican Council regarding consecrated life:

“…The religious today is compelled to move
from a state of possession to a state of inclusion,
from a position of authority to a position of collaboration,
from a religious superiority complex,
to a feeling of fraternity,
from a human inferiority complex
to an open participation in life,
from a concern for ‘moral conversion’
to a missionary commitment.”[21]

Is it then primarily the Sisters’ responsibility, while they respond to the Calls to Action with their lay partners in the mission, to commit themselves to building and regenerating the community fabric daily, through new lifestyles and relationships? How can we not step back in the face of conjunctural and structural human frailties made heavier by the current Italian (but not only) social and cultural context seen as a stagnant river where the exchange of water is no longer possible[22]?

Everything is uncertain, but not all is lost and everything returns. The vision and the mission of our strategic plan are always relevant[23] and can converse both with the calls to action in co-responsibility, complementarity and delegation of powers, and with the unification process of the future Southern Europe region, that has sustainability of services and continuity of charism at its heart.

This “epochal turning point requires that we start again from the spiritual and social ‘fraternal bond’[24].

Hope and energies come to us from the human miracle of solidarity among different people achieved with Jesus: the multiplication of loaves and fish also offers us a key to dealing with lacks and understanding complementarity from a spiritual perspective… Isn’t it St. Paul who reminds the Corinthians (but also all of us) that “When I am weak, then I am strong”?  And what about the path that Saint Mary Euphrasia shows us: “Humility is like the anchor that will keep you steady in the midst of storms.”

Let us take a breath with the intercessory prayer prepared by Sister Yolanda[25]for the Fatima meeting: it contains all the light of Grace we need!

God help us
to change and transform ourselves,
to transform our lives and our world,
to recognize the need to do so,
to face the pain of losing our way,
to step out of the comfort of my life,
to take a step into the unknown,
to experience the joy of doing so.

This way we can embark on the journey without understanding
everything, without knowing the difficulties and challenges, not even the destination.

Amen.

(to be continued)


[1] See Call to action to make life thrive/1
[2] See Strategic Plan …. Epochal emergencie
[3] See Bruce Alexander, in the book The globalization of Addiction. A study in Poverty of the Spirit, 2008. According to this American psychologist, people experiencing different types of uprooting suffer from “dislocation” disorders that undermine psychosocial integration and thus the normal foundations of human identity. Bruce Alexander defines “dislocation” as the “poverty of the spirit”, as opposed to material poverty
[4] From the Address of Pope Francis to the participants in the General Chapter 2021 of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joan Antida
[5] See Charles Taylor, The Malaise of Modernity, House of Anansi Press Inc., 1991
[6] These reflections, too – just like those included in “Calls to actions to make life thrive/1” – are the result of conversations among the members of the Editorial Board, coordinated by Dr. Fiorella Capasso, who motivated them and edited the final draft[7] In note 9 of the first part of these reflections, we suggested that we resume the series of articles uploaded on the website of the Congregation about various aspects of transformative communities
[8] See the March 2022 special edition of the Journal of the Good Shepherd dedicated to the new Congregational Leadership Team, page 4
[9] Sister Brigid Lawlor reiterated this during the first Pre-Chapter Assembly for the Unification of the Provinces Portugal, Spain and Italy-Malta, as reflected in the final document of said Assembly
[10] See MARCO DAL CORSO (edited by), Teologia dell’ospitalità (Theology of Hospitality), Queriniana, 2019
[11] See CARLO MOLARI, Per una spiritualità adulta (For an Adult Spirituality), Cittadella Editrice, 2008
[12] See Aldo Capitini, Religione aperta (Open Religion), Laterza, 2011
[13] See Pat Farrewell, OSF, Diriger grâce à l’attrait du Saint Mystère: Contemplation et Trasformation
[14] In modern language
[15] In her opening remarks at the Second Pre-Chapter Assembly of the future Southern Europe Region. On page 4 of the Power Point
[16] From Sister Sanchez’s speech, on page 24 of the Power Point “Cambiare o Trasformazione? (Change or Transform?)”
[17] See Friedrich Hölderlin
[18] See Italy-Malta Unit Strategic Plan Document 2017-2022, page 31
[19] On page 15 of the Strategic Plan Document
[20] See Presentation of the Strategic Plan
[21] As explained by the Mother General of the Daughters of Charity Suzanne Guillemin, auditor at the Second Vatican Council, in the text La religieuse dans la pastorale d’aujourd’hui (The mission of the religious today). Fleurus, 1968
[22] See ISTAT 2022 report, presented last July, where the situation of stagnation is despairing
[23] On page 19 of the Strategic Plan Document
[24] See Strategic Plan Document
[25] See Document on Power Point Cambiare o Trasformare (Change or Transform)
ALIGI SASSU, The multiplication of loaves and fish (The Providence)), 1967