Social Ministry (22nd September 2013)

CRE – Working group “Social Ministry” 22nd September 2013

Social Ministry
The working group on Social Ministry reflects on how we can make effective, the pastoral care of migrants and those from the margins of society who are often deprived of any pastoral help.

The group consists of following persons:
Fr. Winfried Pauly (San Clemente Province) – chairman
Fr. Urquizo Vasquez Guillermo Ulianov (France Province)
Fr. Ivan Levitsky (Lviv Province)
Sr. Renate Drexler MSsR (Wien)
Mr. Jelle Wind (San Clemente Province)

The group elaborated an understanding of Social Ministry.

Social ministry – spiritual, social, in solidarity

1.) Christian faith and Christian living both are exercised in community.
They are expressed in the celebration of faith (liturgy), in preaching and proclamation, and through Caritas, in practical neighbourly love. Basically, the aim is to achieve a balance of these various aspects.
Social ministry is pastoral work with a changed perspective, taking Caritas as the starting point from which it connects to liturgy and proclamation.

2.) Social ministry is oriented toward concrete local social circumstances and accepts people as they are. Pastoral work is thus always also social work. “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted; these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.” (Vatican II).

Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbour.
Jesus identifies himself with those in need, with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). Love of God and love of neighbour have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God. (Deus caritas est, 15)

The special nature of social ministry lies in its being a social service to the community which is religiously motivated and exercised in solidarity. It is non-tendentious and has no desire to coerce. It is indispensible to how the Church conceives of itself. The Church cannot shed itself of its responsibility in this respect by delegating such duties to other agents.

3.) Social ministry comprises an option for those affected by poverty and marginalisation. It is not present equally for all people but, in the spirit of Jesus, it is biased towards and in solidarity with the poor. Social ministry poses the question Mother Theresa often asked: Do we know our poor people?

Social ministry is about serving people and it is not membership-driven (e.g. baptism), but need-driven.

The option for the poor has implications for the shaping of the liturgy, for proclamation, for communal living, for dealing with financial resources and for the question of how much time is devoted to whom.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The Church is her true self only when she exists for others.” Effectively, this leads in many situations to intercultural, interreligious and ecumenical dialogue.

4.) Social ministry can have a coming and a going structure.
This means that it finds its expression both in places and in offers to which people are invited and also in pastoral activity that seeks people out, offering presence where that is helpful.

5.) Social ministry extends beyond personal and/or material welfare care and strives to achieve a changed perspective, viewing the world from the viewpoint of the poor. In this respect, the poor can become our teachers.

6.) Such preferential attentiveness to the poor leads to a missionary dialogue and to encounter on an equal footing; it leads from a Church for the poor to a Church of the poor; from moral distance to personal involvement.
The missionary approach involves listening and learning as well as a non-coercive offer to let people experience what Christian proclamation has to say.

7.) Social ministry is characterised by endeavouring to enable the poor to become active subjects in change processes. As a rule, the root causes of poverty and social injustice can only be combated together with those who themselves are affected. The aim is to promote social justice.

8.) Social ministry is realised within a spectrum ranging from relation-oriented presence through to the solution-oriented tackling of problems.
Depending on individual understanding, successful social ministry consists in building up relationships of trust, in shared endurance / compassion, in the solving of problems and/or in loving solidarity.

9.) Social ministry has a variety of starting points:
Individual case oriented (e.g. telephone counselling)
Group oriented (e.g. for homeless people)
Social environment oriented (e.g. community centres)
Socio-political (e.g. lobby work).

Social ministry is currently undergoing a shift of emphasis from problem-oriented individual case scenarios to a more social environment oriented solution approach.
Dom Helder Camara points out a dichotomy in how pastoral social action is accepted and interpreted: “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

10) Social ministry can take place in secret or with prophetic self-assurance in the public sphere of media and politics.

CRE – Working group “Social Ministry” 22nd September 2013

Stimuli for reflection:

a) Who shares the options associated with pastoral social action – individuals, groups, the whole congregation?

b) What does the balance of liturgy, proclamation and Caritas look like in our parish / congregation?
Are all sections within the congregation equally appreciated?
Does a relationship exist between these sections, and do they influence each other?

c) Are we conversant with what cause the people around us to rejoice or makes them anxious; with what they hope for and what grieves them?
Do we know the social circumstances of our social environment?

d) To what end can the Church serve and who can it serve?

e) How is poverty recognised, and what forms of poverty do we discover?

f) Are our contacts predominantly restricted to members of the congregation or are we in regular contact with people of other faiths and/or with no denominational affiliation?

g) How are those perceived who are not Catholics – more as rivals, or more as potential cooperation partners?

h) To / for whom are the resources of the congregation available (time, premises, finances, volunteer work …)

i) In what way does supporting the needy influence how we relate to them?

j) Have I / has the congregation been able to learn from people who are affected by poverty? What have I / they learned?

k) How does the congregation / the general public react when Christian commitment becomes political, prophetic and thereby perhaps openly offensive?

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