Saturday, June 12, 2010

Collaboration in the Apostolate

Vertical leadership by priests has to give way to a more horizontal style of leadership if small groups are to be effective in achieving their goals. The priest needs to consider all those he is working with as friends, co-workers sharing the same goals. In the process, religious and lay people will have the opportunity to exercise both their autonomy and their independence.

This was the way the article in The Peace Weekly recounted what happened in the 9th Small Group Apostolate meeting, sponsored by the Bishops' Committee, that met for three days during the last days of May. A total of 276 attended from 14 Dioceses. The theme was taken from John's Gospel 15:15, "I will call you friends."

A layperson, in his address to the assembly, stressed the importance of having a horizontal understanding of authority, getting rid of rank and seeing all as brothers and sisters. Laypersons should not be waiting to take orders passively from the priest, but using their own initiative to set into motion imagination and creativity in the service of evangelization; the apostolate of the layperson has to be acknowledged.

A Religious Sister, in her presentation, said she sees a problem with the Confucian cultural understanding of authority that is a leftover from earlier days, but admits that she also falls into this way of relating in the parish. When the Religious feels that proper respect was not shown, the way to resolve this is to have the Religious be conscious of their own identity and autonomy. They are not shackled to the priest.

Religious should always be concerned with their life of faith, not as authority figures but as servants in the manner of our Lord: always open, discerning properly and clearly, and able to express this in their life. Seeing one's own faults, willing to forgive, and having a big heart allowing one to give up their position for the unity of the group.

A priest, in his presentation, compared the relationship of the layperson, religious, and the priest to a three-legged stool. When one of the legs is shorter or longer than the others, a problem develops. When they are all even and equal, there is equilibrium. Similarly, when the relationships are right, there will be collaboration in the apostolate and a solid foundation for future development.

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