Called to be Signs of Hope
It is just over a year since the conclusion of the 37th General Chapter. For some months now, we have had the Acts of the Chapter available and have been encouraged to take time in prayer and discussion to reflect on the document. While the Acts of the Chapter provide a plan of action for the General Administration during its term of office, they are also meant to guide us in living out the charism in our own lives.
In the MESSAGE OF THE 37TH GENERAL CHAPTER, #9, we read: “We are called to be signs of hope, witnesses, and artisans of the Kingdom in these difficult times for the Church and the world. The General Chapter has given us new energy and a new vision to look forward with joy and confidence and to commit ourselves for a better world.” Today, more than ever, people around the world are in need of hope. We are constantly bombarded with news of war, strife, the inhumanity of people towards others, the scourge of poverty and hunger, the plight of refugees, the deep divisions within the Church and among people of faith, and the catastrophic effects of climate change. In the face of all this, how are we to be signs of hope and artisans of the Kingdom in our world?
Like St. Eugene, we are called to stop and take a close look at the world at our doorstep. St. Eugene understood that the whole world of his day was in turmoil and in need of change, but he knew that he had to focus on the needs of the people he would encounter each day. Seeing the deep needs of those in his milieu, he responded: caring for the needs of the prisoners of war in Aix, gathering the youth and helping them to live Christian lives, reaching out to the poor (especially the labourers) in their own language and encouraging them, showing them their dignity, preaching missions and re-evangelizing the communities where the Church had been absent. His actions, and those of the early Oblate community, might seem insignificant in the face of global needs, but transformation has to start somewhere, usually in a seemingly insignificant way, the ripple effect continues to widen.
In our day, we recognize many needs around us: the need for reconciliation and healing, for care for creation, for affordable housing, for care for refugees, and the list goes on. Where do I start? What are some concrete actions that I can take as an individual and that we can take as communities and as a province?
First of all, I need to become more aware of the needs around me. I need to take time to listen to Indigenous voices as they seek healing and reconciliation. I need to learn about the history and effects of colonialism not only in our country but also in my attitudes and actions. Where am I (and we) called to change? How am I called to be an ally and to walk together with my Indigenous sisters and brothers? Do I take the time and make the effort to attend programs and events that focus on education, healing and reconciliation? To be a sign of hope and a witness and artisan of change, I need to be involved; I cannot sit back and simply think positive thoughts and speak nice words.
The same applies to responding to the needs of the homeless, poor and refugees. Am I aware of the issues and needs? Am I willing to step out of my comfort zone to respond in some way? Am I willing to advocate for others? The Chapter document also calls us to care for creation. Again, the problem seems so vast that it is easy to sit back, confident that “my little efforts won’t change anything”. However, solving the issue of climate change will not happen without the efforts of every individual, every community, every nation. What am I called to do, and to what am I willing to commit in my life to make a difference? These are the fundamental questions posed by the 37th General Chapter as we are called to be “Pilgrims of Hope in Communion”.
By Richard Beaudette, OMI