Change, Change, Change!

by | Dec 4, 2019 | Formation, Reflections, Systemic change | 2 comments

Serving in an era of unprecedented change

Things Are Changing, Changing, Changing… In your world. Everywhere around you.

  • Family is changing.
  • Technology is changing.
  • Belief systems are changing.
  • Friends are changing.
  • The way we communicate is changing
  • We are changing

What is more, change is happening quicker and quicker. It used to take generations to see changes. We valued things pretty much as our families had done for generations. Now we see vast changes from one generation to the next… and even within just a few years time, there are major changes. Late teens and early 20 somethings seem surprised by what younger teens experience and value.

This is a formula for what Alvin Toffler described decades ago as “Future Shock”, “too much change in too short a period of time”.

How does this affect our ministry?

We are kidding ourselves if we do not recognize that all these changes have implications for our ministry. In this post, I would suggest we give some thought to how all of these changes affect our ministries.

Have the needs of the people we are committed to serving changed? In one sense they have not changed. They still need food, clothing, and shelter. In another sense, they have changed. We are more aware of systems that trap so many.

One of the major changes in medicine today focusing on prevention. We have found that it spares people all kinds of suffering; it also is cheaper in the long term.

In our ministry

  • Have we recognized that we are called to understand the underlying causes and look for long term solutions as Pope John Paul II reminded Vincentians some 30 plus years ago?
  • Have we recognized our call to foster the integral development of those we serve as called for by Pope Paul VI fifty years ago in Populorum Progressio (“On the Progress of Peoples”)?

Should not followers of Vincent and Louise have the courage to address unrecognized situations and causes of poverty?

If we are still doing ministry the way we always have done ministry will our ministry doom whole segments of our brothers and sisters to forever remain in poverty, dependent on our handouts?

The Official Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church reminds us “the poor should be seen not as a problem, but as people who can become the principal builders of a new and more human future for everyone” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, p.253, #449).

  • the poor are able to become responsible actors in their own promotion;
  • awaken their personal development … bettering their situation in both the medium and long range;
  • constant concern for the promotion of the whole person;
  • respect for the other person’s ability to organize his/her life. Therefore here we are not dealing with problem solving but rather with a process of accompaniment.

What all these expressions have in common is the difference between a “hand out“ and a “hand up.”

A handout is something given freely or distributed free to those in need. It can refer to government welfare or a charitable gift, and it may take the form of money, food, or other necessities. As such it addresses an immediate need.

A hand up, in contrast, seems to go beyond “first aid” and meeting an immediate need. A hand up literally means helping someone stand up on their own. It does not mean carrying them if they can walk.

How to cope with changes in how we minister?

One suggestion is to look through the archives of FamVin posts marked systemic change to discover ideas and insights that capture your attention.


  1. Tom McKenna

    Thanks. On Target….

    • Deb Zabloudil

      Give a person a fish (hand out) and they eat for a day. Teach a person to fish (hand up) and they eat for a lifetime. Making sure they make a living wage so they can afford the appropriate licenses and equipment eat, is systemic change. And then, making sure that their access to the pond is not impeded is a matter of justice and also systemic change. The issues off hand outs and hand ups are huge. But if stomachs aren’t full, how in the world will they have the energy for the tasks of fishing, working and fighting for their rights and claiming their voices?

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