ASSESSING OUR MISSION AND OUR EDUCATIONAL AND PASTORAL PRACTICES IN THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL, OUR CHARISMA AND SOCIAL SCIENCES
As a contribution to reflection on this guideline, here certain criteria are offered which, beyond the different methodologies that can be implemented to maintain a system of continuous assessment, may be used to discern the content and methods of evaluation of our service to the poorest and needy children, adolescents and youth.
DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINAL, SOCIAL AND METHODOLOGICAL PRINCIPLES
I. MURIALDINE SPIRITUALITY, CHARISM AND MISSION
Our inspiring and guiding principles
The inspiration and guidance for our task in social work are derived from three sources that are:
First, the social doctrine the Church developed over the centuries and which reflects the principles that Jesus left us and how the Church gradually put them into effect in time and history. In short, as the salvation of which Jesus speaks in the Gospel, which is the Kingdom of God, is present in history, at any time and any place.
Secondly, the Murialdine Charisma which is basically one of these applications over time, in history and in a particular place. By a person: Saint Leonard Murialdo, who seeks to implement the set principles of salvation.
Thirdly, the Murialdine Pedagogy which is the practical application of the charisma in education, principles that have formed over time and experience in the institutions of the Congregation from Murialdo until our time.
1. The Church’s Social Doctrine
The Saving Plan of God in the history is the primary source and ultimate goal of our task. The Word of God, the action of Jesus, the action of the Church have always as their central mission the salvation of man: “ForGod so loved the world that he sent his only son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:16-17). This salvation of man is realized in his own history with its difficulties and needs, specific to each time and place, and the Church’s task is to answer to these needs and difficulties to accomplish her mission. Focusing on man, we read his requirements and needs from the Dignity of the human person, of man as a child of God. Such dignity that is reflected in man as God’s image is essentially the image of God’s love, is the love of God reflected in man who makes present his image. “Onewho does not love does not know God, because God is love ... and this is love: not that we loved God, but He loved us first ...” (1 Jn 4:8-10). When we see an image corrupted by selfishness, hunger, abandonment ... our fraternal task as members of the Church becomes more urgent for man in an integral dimension and for all men without distinction. This fraternal task or social action to restore the wounded image of God in man and in the suffering Christ: ""... For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink: I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you visited me, in prison and you visited me ... Truly I tell you that whenever you did this to one of these little ones, you did it for me.” (Mt 25:35-40), takes place mostly through participation and solidarity and its goal is the common good, obtained from the values of truth, freedom, justice and love.
2. The Murialdine Charisma
The plan of salvation that takes place in Saint Leonard Murialdo, in his life and his personal experience of God, after a serious personal crisis, allows him to discover in a particular way the love God has for him. Discovering it especially as a merciful love that will become the spirituality or the light that illuminates all his experiences and, of course, his pastoral work. And this spirituality, according to the will of the loving Providence of God, will call him to the mission of accompanying the poor, orphaned and most needy of help youth, finding in them the special place in which to pour all his experience of this divine love. To do so, to answer that call, he founds the Congregation of St. Joseph, entrusting it his as the core of his charismatic legacy with the commitment to disseminate the knowledge and life experience of God’s merciful love, experience born and nourished by an experience of faith and prayer.
It is this love, which he recognizes as a present, personal, free, infinite and eternal love... and which is expressed mainly through the virtues of humility and charity... that is manifested in his mission: “ne perdantur” (that they do not go astray). Driven by this spirituality and central motivation, to accomplish his mission, he will look mainly for poor and at risk children and youth, workers and working classes.
3. The Murialdine Pedagogy
This Mission, as part of the charisma and nurtured by the spirituality mentioned above, is realized in a practice and from this practice in a style of educating girls, children and adolescents at risk, a style that focuses on the poor young. A young man seen in a personal way and from an integral perspective (in all his dimensions and all his needs: physical, emotional, spiritual, social, etc.).
A style of education that also relates to the young starting from affection and friendship, knowing that education starts from the heart (education of the heart). So we are laying the foundations of our pedagogy of love, which means that insofar as the girl child, the child and the young man feel loved, they recover and strengthen their self-esteem and their faith in a God who loves them, and from there may begin to build their lives, their values, skills, etc.
Through commitment and fortitude, but also and above all sweetness and patience we obtain that the young man comes to be the subject of his education and his life.
II - CHARACTERISTICS OF WORKING WITH CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS AT RISK STARTING FROM SOCIAL PRINCIPLES
The situation of children, girls and adolescents is one of the most common general themes and able to motivate community organizations to act. In all districts, towns, regions of the world, many different organizations are working in different ways for children at risk.
We at the Congregation of St. Joseph have particular reasons that inspire us in this task in what we called charismatic principles, this is our founding identity as members of the Church and people of God.
However, our search for identity does not stop at the charismatic structure of our task. Working with children and adolescents living in poverty today is strongly framed by laws and universal conventions that promote and envisage a socio-cultural context we can not ignore.
In particular, reference is made to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which seeks to be a summary of the quest for a consensus among nations to define clearly what the basic rights of children and adolescents are. Convention which is in turn inspiring the laws of every country (e.g. in Argentina the law 26061 on the integral protection of the rights of girls, children and adolescents) and the corresponding regional or provincial laws.
Even if surely we look at the historical development through the eyes of our faith, we cannot fail to recognize the need to adhere strongly to these pulses of new life coming from the said Convention, as well as to central and local laws that are slowly adjusting the specific tasks of those working with children at risk in Argentina and other countries.
This is where the challenge comes of defining guidelines in the work project for the Social Centres of the Congregation in relation to the direct service done with children, adolescents and families in situations of vulnerability (economic, social and personal).
The main criterion of these conventions and laws is the superior interest of the child, girl and adolescent, as the fundamental criterion of interpretation.
2. Fair distribution of goods and services
Together with the criterion “superior Interest of the minor” there is a fundamental context in which our activity is set. This social principle that is strongly tied to the spirit of our age, also set out as “fair distribution of wealth”, is clearly evoked in the Social Doctrine of the Church. In Populorum Progressio, the concept of assets as economic wealth includes the concept of “fair distribution of goods”, and in this line of thought, Paul VI speaks of an integral development of the whole man and all men, in clear reference to the dignity of the human person concept.
It is starting from these concepts of “superior interest of children and adolescents” and “integral development”, “dignity of the human person” and “fair distribution” that we find the characteristic profile of our Social Centres, what makes us different in the general context of the institutions.
Thus, we face the problem of social and economic development with a lot of strength and concern so to be able to “build spaces of justice”, because it is the underlying context of our work. We assume, as did Murialdo, the debt that our society has with those most marginalized and the immense gulf between rich and poor, and the creation of these spaces of justice is the only way to truly overcome them.
3. Public policies: a place where the social principles are realized
Our acting as Congregation is called, starting with our social activities, to occupy a significant place in respect of governmental and nongovernmental actors that define and implement public policies for children and adolescents.
This means that we must be present in places where public policies are planned, such as roundtables or management tables, social forums, municipal bodies, agencies for the defence of rights, etc. Being present in these places is to resolve the issue of social management from its origin. It also means ensuring the space for a just distribution. But more than anything is the exit door, through liaison with other social actors and networking, from the endless circle of isolation and attrition in which end social organizations, when they try to solve everything by themselves. Going beyond solitary work improves our actual activities with children, girls and adolescents.
4. The institutional identity in the perspective of social service
The profile was defined as:
- For human, social and economic promotion.
- Work with children and adolescents materially poor.
- Openness to new forms of social exclusion.
- Horizontal cohabitation of all actors.
- Being an educational community with participation of the community where families know that there is love, respect, affection and support.
- Work teams that are specialized and under continuous formation.
- Attitude of welcome, support and guidance.
- Our centres should be organized around the integral protection of children's, girls’ and adolescents’ rights. This is the fundamental system of law.
- Being always institutions in touch with the Church and her evangelizing mission.
We also found it necessary to clarify certain guidelines:
- Encourage and promote the integral development of children, adolescents and communities so that they have their life project. It is important to worry about and deal in a special way of vocational training and job training of our children, girls and adolescents. We cannot separate economic development from the life project.
- Creating spaces of belonging and permanence helping the exercise of citizenship. Every place where rights are exercised is already an exercise of citizenship, our institutions must be an example of participation and community life.
- Promoting autonomy, strengthening the identity and providing valuable tools for analysis and decision to build a community that be more just, less poor, more peaceful and with a greater degree of social participation.
- Strengthening the family and the ties between its members and the community of reference.
- Strengthening the communities where these families are living.
- Creating and maintaining links with other NGOs, with public officials in charge and also within the Church.
- Motivating to deepen the Murialdine Charisma and the social Doctrine of the Church. Know and put into practice them. Creating opportunities for education and training for those who seek in this service a way of living citizenship, being Church and working as educators.
III – METHODOLOGY, PROFILES AND RECIPIENTS OF OUR SERVICE
For its own merits our mission requires a specific methodology that can be summarized as follows:
The community awareness of our service requires that it also be shared, in networking inside and outside the institution, and that it is planned in a consensual way by a work team, ensuring that communication is clear and coherent, creating spaces for dialogue and a project to accompany the team, with an initial and continuing formation, which takes account both of socio-community aspects and the didactic and pedagogic ones, and the doctrinal and charismatic principles.
It also requires strategic planning with a clear vision both of the mission and the strategies appropriate for achieving the ultimate goal or goals of the project, based on continuous assessment and with the necessary adjustments.
The profile of people working in our social institutions should be as follows:
- Vocation to service
- Ability to teamwork
- Social sensitivity
- Availability of time
- Openness and flexibility
- With sincere commitment to the project
- Openness to personal, social and Christian values
- Being dependable and trusting
- Receptive to suggestions, criticisms and contributions
- Ability to self-evaluation
- With no desire of profit or power
- Desire for growth and training
- Reliability and accountability in service
Children, adolescents, youth and workers, who are in conditions of material poverty, which causes the following difficulties that we will surely find as challenges to be resolved.
Common social difficulties:
Abandonment – Children living alone – Family violence – Addictions and use of drugs – Discrimination – Malnutrition – Juvenile Pregnancy – School Dropout – School Exclusion – Street life – Delinquency – Poverty and begging – Economic poverty – Transgression of the law – Access to healthcare – Minor work – Lack of participation – Overcrowding – Parents alcoholics – Violence among peers – Parents or relatives in prison – Absent parents – Psychological and physical abuse – Sexual violence – Rights violations – Unemployment – Insecurity – Lack of opportunities – Lack of political participation and citizenship – Learning Disabilities, and others that cannot be listed because each social environment has its own problems to solve. The important thing is that from here you can find the profile of the recipients of our mission.
Fr. Joaquín Fernández C.S.J.