The following are reflections offered by Fr. Abzalón, the Superior General, at the 2019 General Conference in Busan, South Korea. He was illustrating the four movements of Spirituality of the heart as he had experienced them in his accompaniment of members across the Congregation.
We have found communities where there is a systematic disconnection, I have experienced that at some communities just by listening a few minutes to a confrère, I have been able to discover some details of his life. Then when I am with another member of that same community and the subject comes up, the one who has been living with him for years, is surprised he knew nothing. These are not things of stealth; they are ordinary but important things. I have found confreres who are not aware of anything about the congregation and not for lack of information. Some asked me about a brother MSC, of whom he is a friend, but they did not know that two years ago he became a bishop.
In some accompaniments to communities, we have found confrères whose experience has been that the leaders only call them to ask for something, for things of work but not to ask how they are or how is it going personally or about ministry. When we were with those confrères, we discovered that by opening our hearts they are very much in need of being listened to. Especially those who live in remote areas, far from leadership centers. It is difficult for us to conceive of a leadership that is only management. We are aware that we have a management responsibility, but that does not replace presence and listening. I have accompanied leaders who spend more than half of their time in office things or solving problems. We have to do it, but for that we have leadership teams. Encouraging, necessarily needs presence and openness of heart. To be with our confreres in their reality. At least open your mind to our confrère’s reality as well as to our confrère’s lives.
Opening the heart. We have been able to experience that when we listen to some of those who we call difficult cases they start changing some of their attitudes. Sometimes we have been looking at them as individual problems when in fact, they are signs of systemic failures, henceforth we all have a part of responsibility. By the way we convert and open our hearts and consider them not as isolated problems, there is more chance of recovery. They are not the only toxic thing poisoning the system. I have heard brothers in that situation, and I have encouraged the leadership team to listen to them. Sometimes we are afraid to listen to them, and we should do it as teams. Open your heart as a team not to judge or condemn, but to seek together the ways of conversion. As leaders I think we need a lot of conversion, I personally felt invited to that when I open my heart to listening to the mission. Myself I have had to review the way I have been doing my service.
I remember wonderful encounters when some provincial leaders opened their will and they have let me go into their reality, even personally. It has been wonderful to hear the life emerging from within leaders who are aware of their need for conversion. I remember times when some leaders have come down from their hearts to their deepest inner being, to their source of life. That listening is what gives us possibilities and opportunities to retake paths, to make decisions, to recognize weaknesses and strengths. And so, it leads us to live an authentic and marvelous humility (humanity).
There have been experiences in communities when the possibility is opened to listen to the life which emerges from within each one, the community atmosphere begins to be different, it is a process. I remember a wonderful experience of a group of MSC who lived through a very big catastrophe, with thousands of Victims. And when I was with them instead of speaking to them, I facilitated each one to expose their pain, helplessness, anguish, uncertainty, and strengths. It was a moment of openness to incredible life, that’s also what the mission of leadership is about: to make the flow of life possible. It doesn´t mean that we would care less about our organizational and managerial service, but it does require that we should balance it.
We have been able to hear and contemplate how blocked life is at times in the communities and in the Entities. For this we need a positive attitude, realistic but positive. We remember at the beginning of our service, we had to go to an Entity from which we had received 80% of negative data, we prayed a lot may we arrive and to be able to feel and listen to the life that emerged from within each confrère. We found challenges and systemic failures, but we tried to look at them based on the life which was emerging from their inner beings, as a result, we found more positives than negatives. We could sense their life. We understood that by being positive and listening in this way, we could initiate processes of solidarity with ourselves and with our confrères, processes of personal and community conversion.