Sunday, May 18, 2014

Progress Notes

Dear Catholic Workers,

I've enjoyed the lively and thoughtful emails that many of you have offered since our first gathering at Adam's house a few weeks ago. They have challenged me to look deeper into myself to discover what moves me to believe that our project is worth undertaking. In so doing, I have discovered a strong desire to have some sort of a framework against which we can bounce our ideas.

In looking for a model, I found myself returning to a useful method I learned and practiced while doing mission and development work in Latin America in the 1970s and again in the 1990s. I'll offer it for your consideration. We called it : Ver, Juzgar, Actuar, (See-Judge-Act)
While in Chile in 1993, our mission team used this method of implementing Catholic social teaching to guide us. Our first task was to see clearly the situation. In order to do this, we were encouraged to spend time getting to know the people, culture, language, food, etc. Of the three year service contract, the first year was considered a time of learning, observing, building trust, often just hanging out with the people we came to serve. The most frustrating part of this was that when asked by others what it was we came to do, we had no clear plan to offer them. Letters back to our friends and supporters in the states were similarly vague on what we were accomplishing that first year, as we strove to remain true to the method. Patience wore thin at times. We attended endless parties, first communions, horse races, fund raiser, soccer games, parish meetings, and funerals, We established our presence and built trust.

Eventually, after many months of what felt like idleness, we were able to begin to ask the people we came to serve what it was that the community wanted. Several expressed a desire to own a piece of land on which they could build their own home. This became our project, our focus. Progress was slow but the project was clearly a group effort, one that began with the community’s expressed hopes and dreams.

After a year of “seeing” we were able to judge or discern how to best use our skills. After a time of discernment, we acted. It was only then that the group moved forward on a project that resulted in the construction of over 50 small single family houses. The action phase came, just as we were completing our three year contract. In truth, it was not until a return visit some 7 years later that were able to share a meal with our friends in the completed houses. We were not around for the brick and mortar phase of the project, but I'm glad to have been involved in the planning and organizing. In truth, I would have enjoyed helping with the construction phase.

I'm really not sure how relevant this experience is to what we are undertaking with MCW. I could argue that our first task might be to establish a presence in the community, and that opening a worker house is the best way to make our intentions known to the community we intend to serve. Showing up, I've been told, is half the key to success.

Another approach could be to challenge ourselves to spend significant time and energy getting to know the community of persons we intend to serve. Ideally, I'd really like to be invited in. Several of us have suggested ways that we can get to know Madison community. Sharing meals and prayers with them seems to be a very good starting point. Spending a night or two at the shelters might also be helpful. I'd be honored and thrilled if I were offered the chance to sleep out with them on the streets. I wonder what a person who is homeless considers to be his or her “home”. I'll need to learn how to respect that space. My hope is that through some of these conversations, we might be called to serve, and that this call to service can be translated into what will become Madison Catholic Worker.

Frankly, at times I feel overwhelmed with what I need to learn in order to be effective. I can't help remembering how utterly helpless and ineffective I felt those first few months in Chile. I'll need the support of our CW community to remain focused. May the Spirit guide us as we move ahead. I believe we have the will and the skill to create a Catholic Worker presence in Madison.
Finally, here is a quote on the See- Judge- Act model:

Pope John XXIII wrote in one of his encyclicals:

First, one reviews the concrete situation; secondly, one forms a judgment on it in the light of these same principles; thirdly, one decides what in the circumstances can and should be done to implement these principles. These are the three stages that are usually expressed in the three terms: look, judge, act.”

Here is a PDF that elaborates on the See-Judge-Act model.

In Christ's Peace,