A Challenge is in the Air

by | Apr 28, 2021 | Formation, Reflections, Systemic change | 1 comment

It’s a challenge that’s in the air

Think about the hot button issues of the day:

  • Police reform
  • Climate change
  • Poverty
  • Homelessness
  • Election reform
  • Systemic racism
  • #metoo

You name it. People are calling for more than just quick but temporary fixes. People are calling for systemic reform.

The challenge of St. John Paul II

Maybe it is time for Vincentians to talk openly about a challenge Saint John Paul II addressed to all those drawn to walk in the footsteps of Vincent and Louise.

In 1986 he spoke directly to all Vincentians…

“Search out more than ever, with boldness, humility, and skill, the causes of poverty and encourage short and long term solutions; adaptable and effective concrete solutions. By doing so, you will work for the credibility of the Gospel and of the Church.” (Osservatore Romano, English Edition, August 11, 1986, p. 12).

St. John Paul II  did not use the words systemic change. But isn’t the call to search for long-term solutions another name for systemic change?

Vincent did not speak the language of systemic change. But he was one of the best illustrations of always seeking out long-term solutions. Just recall how he went from a sermon to giving parish missions; from giving parish missions to working toward the formation of the clergy, first by offering a weekly formation program for clergy and then shaping a seminary system to ensure each parish had dedicated well-formed leadership.

Our international leaders are calling us to think beyond the first aid of addressing only immediate needs and respond to the challenge of getting at root causes and long-term solutions.

Vincentian attitudes toward searching out long-term solutions/systemic change.

I must admit that over the years I have encountered a wide range of attitudes toward working toward long-term solutions/systemic change.

  • Deeply committed to and actively engaged in fostering systemic change.
  • Sympathetic to the thrust of the Vincentian Family but not actively engaged.
  • Still trying to figure out what it is and how a systemic change mentality would affect “my ministry.”
  • Puzzled why Vincentians are even talking about it.
  • Turned off.

Where do you fall on that spectrum?

So I thought I would ask you to honestly think about where you fall on the above spectrum, and why?

I also suggest we also dare to have a dialog about why some feel this way and others feel that way. But before we rush off to dialog maybe it is time for an honest look at our own attitude. No matter where you fall on the spectrum each of us needs to repent or change our way of thinking about some aspect systemic change.

This is not a scientific survey of the state of the Vincentian Family’s understanding and implementation of a systemic change thrust on behalf of those on the margins. It is simply a heartfelt effort to surface what helps and hinders an approach called for by leaders of the Vincentian Family as well as St. John Paul II.

An examination of conscience 

  • Why is seeking long-term solutions important for the credibility of the Church?
  • What makes sense to me in this thrust of the Vincentian Family?
  • What experiences helped me understand the value of the approach?
  • What experiences turned me off?
  • What would help me shift my horizon to include a sensitivity in how I approach the way I could serve more effectively?
  • Has this weekly series helped you grow in understanding and practice?
  • Anything else you care to share?

It is time to talk openly about these things! Thanks for thinking.. and sharing your comments!

1 Comment

  1. Joe Kruse

    Systemic change, while it seems to be about the “systems” and the “whole” of things, it is really about personal relationships and putting the person first in our thinking and doing. It is really about knowing, loving, and serving the person. Exactly what our life in Christ and our God is all about. Take the list above: police reform, climate change, poverty, homelessness, election reform, systemic racism, #metoo movement… and putting it in the context of personal relationship and seeing the face of Christ in others and how it makes one re-examine what I am thinking, saying, and doing overall as well as how is the whole relating to others? Am I perpetuating systemic brokenness or working toward Oneness?