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The fervent prayers of “Black Lives Matter”, “Me Too”, “I Can’t Breathe”, and other movements have in something in common. They are calling for structural change.

At their depth, and apart from tactics, consciously or unconsciously, they are part of a movement that goes back to the mission and movement of Jesus – bring Good News to the poor and marginalized. And his message in turn was the deepest fulfillment of the hopes of Egyptian slaves from Israel. In their prayer, they longed for freedom. Jesus’ God set them free. 

The challenge of Pope John Paul II

Maybe it is time for Vincentians to talk honestly 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 or structural change. But isn’t the call to search for long-term solutions another name for structural/systemic change?

Vincent did not speak the language of structural or 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

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

  • 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 dare to have a dialog about why some feel one way. Others fell another way.

Sharing your honest reactions 

  • Why is seeking long-term solutions important for the credibility of the Church?
  • What makes sense to me in this thrust for the Vincentian Family?
  • What experiences helped me understand the value of the approach?
  • What experiences turned me off?
  • What would help me broaden my horizon?

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

John Paul II and seeking long-term solutions

[See also a related post on FamVin “Daring to Pray for Structural Change which shares a powerful prayer for structural change]