The UN has been proposing seventeen Sustainable Developmental Goals. They are goals worth supporting and worth working for.
Pope Francis has been repeatedly asking everyone, especially members of religious orders, to move to the “peripheries” or margins—to the forgotten groups, the neediest, the most persecuted, the least powerful.
He has been a personal witness of such concern for those at the margins—refugees, migrants, unemployed people, the sick, the poor. At the Holy Thursday ceremony, for instance, he washed the feet of refugees, including Muslims.
On his visit to the capital of the world’s wealthiest country—Washington, D.C.—there was a dinner for the poor.
At Mother Teresa’s canonization, 1500 poor people and the infirm were given preferential seating, and a meal.
His own simple life is well-known and a challenge to all of us. As a bishop, he lived in a slum, travelled by public transport, and cooked his meals. That simple and loving life continues today, when he is head of the 1.3 billion strong Catholic Church.
HOW DO WE, ESPECIALLY RELIGIOUS AND PRIESTS, REACH OUT TO THE PERIPHERIES TODAY?
1. Moving to the peripheries: Points to ponder
- Which groups and persons get priority in our ministry—the poor, the middle class or the rich?
- On which group do we lavish most attention?
- For which group’s needs do we mostly train our younger members?
- Does living and working among the poor form an integral part of our formation?
- Who are seen and treated as “VIPs” in the province or congregation—those holding top posts, those brining in money, those with prestigious degrees, or those working among the poor?
- Do ministries at the peripheries—street children, prisoners, victims of trafficking, AIDS patients, orphans, …–get adequate personnel and financial support?
- Are they treated as equal in importance to schools, colleges, hospitals, etc?
- Do most members long to work among the poor and disadvantaged, or look for positions with power and money?
- Does our own life-style bear witness to being a “poor church at the service of the poor”?
- Are the poorer people in our own settings—maids, drivers, gardeners, cooks, etc—treated justly and with respect?
2. Moving to the peripheries: Points to ponder
- Which persons or groups would belong to the “peripheries” in our setting?
- Which groups or persons are the neediest today?
- Who are the most deprived and discriminated against?
3.The three grounds for discrimination:
- Money: Who are neediest and most deprived financially?
- Gender: Are women treated with respect and justice in your setting? Do you know women or girls deprived or their rights or treated unjustly? Any particular group suffering unjust treatment because of their gender? (e.g., widows, trafficked girls and women, girls deprived of education, domestic workers, sexually abused women and girls, women sexually harassed at work, women paid lower wages,…)
- Ethnicity: The third reason for exclusion and ill-treatment is ethnicity (the group a person is born into): examples would be race, caste, tribe, etc. Thus a person can be treated as inferior, or persecuted, or even killed, through no personal fault, but simply for being a member of a particular group. People get ill-treated, insulted, deprived of jobs, tortured or killed for belonging to a particular nation, or religion, or race, or caste or tribe or language group. In your setting, does such exclusion or ill-treatment take place? Against which groups?
4. Building a Better World
- Indicate persons or movements or institutions that put the interests of the weakest at the centre of their concern.
- How are they reaching out to those at the peripheries, and bringing them in?
5. From comfort zones to the peripheries:
- Ways in which I can move from my “comfort zones” and personal ambitions to reach out to those at the margins:
- My concrete action plans will include (tick or underline the options you will practice):
- Setting aside a percentage of my income to helping those at the margins
- Devoting ….. hours every week to helping them (coaching, feeding, visiting, washing, etc)
- Learning more about the struggles of the poor
- Cutting down on luxuries to raise funds for the poor
- Supporting or joining organizations that serve the needy
- Donating blood, and promoting blood donation
- Becoming an organ donor and promoting organ donation
- Treating the poor and the weak in my setting with respect and justice
- Speaking up when people are discriminated against or ill-treated because of poverty, gender or ethnicity
- Starting each day with plans to do at least three good deeds that day.
– Fr. Joe Mannath SDB
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