Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Evolving understanding of 'community'

During the meeting for the revision of the Salesian rector's manual, there was a suggestion that prior to laying down the guidelines for the Salesian Rector, it is necessary to redefine 'community'.  Perhaps if I were in India, I would not have understood or taken this insight too seriously.  Having spent more than 7 months here in the UK and observing the Salesian style of functioning here, I cannot but agree with this suggestion.

When I was in the initial formation, the word 'community' only meant those professed or the 'staff' of the community.  The rest of us were present in the house.  I do not say that we were ill-treated or anything. Absolutely no. But the understanding, even among us boys and youngsters, was that only the professed Salesians or the staff members were 'community'.

Later my understanding of the community grew a bit wider, especially during my work in Kondadaba, wherein all those in the house, even the non-Salesian Brothers were part of the 'community'. Even those who worked in the seminary, the 7 support staff, I counted them in as members of the 'community'.

Living here in the UK, I sense my own understanding of the word 'community' has grown to be more inclusive.  That's primarily because, the work of the Salesian charism is not carried out only by the professed Salesians.  It is equally and at times, even mostly carried out by non-professed members in the society.   I'm beginning to see the worth and the quality of partnership we professed Salesians have with the non-professed.

How I wish this level of collaboration and understanding was real even in India.  Most certainly, we would hear the 'no personnel' antiphon less often.  Much more could be achieved by way of outreach and professed Salesians would thereby focus their energy and resources on priorities and not doing everything all by ourselves.  But alas, I guess we are not very good learners!  It may not be till numbers drastically reduce that we begin to see the worth and need of genuine partnership with the laity.  Perhaps only then we will realise that we are not the sole inheritors of the Salesian legacy. 

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