Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Servant Leadership in the Church

A priest who worked with the Young Catholic Worker Movement in Korea writes about his experiences in a bulletin for priests. He recalled a trip he made to Europe for an international meeting of leaders. Those in attendance were standing at a second-story window looking over an athletic field in which a priest translator was walking towards the building with a small hand bag, while a woman worker was carrying  two big bags.

The sight of the two walking, brought anger to the faces of the viewers who made known their revulsion at what they saw. That priest, they muttered, did not have the right to attend the meeting that was being held: despite what the culture considered the right thing to do in such circumstances. Those who were from the third-world also were appalled at what they saw.

He quotes in the  article a pastoral council president who said that in the larger society, many in positions of leadership have changed to doing many of the works of cleaning their offices and areas of work, but this is not as readily seen in clerical work places.

From about 30 years ago we have heard a great deal about servant leadership that has influenced much of society. Leadership whose primary focus is the well-being of the workers. We are not, he laments, quick to learn from Jesus' washing the feet of his disciples.  

Moving around to different parishes where the work is done by others, to change to another mode of living is difficult. The environment doesn't change, and we become habituated to this way of life.

In the past it was thought necessary in parish convents to have a housekeeper but this all changed when superiors met together, and decided that the sisters would  do their own cooking and cleaning in the convents. This change took place without any problems or opposition on the part of the sisters.

In many countries of the world, the priests do their own cooking and cleaning in rectories. They also do all the work in the sacristies preparing for Mass. Once in giving a retreat in Japan, Cardinal Kim was asked why the Korean priests don't do their own cooking and cleaning. He answered they were too busy. The Japanese priests thought that it was the natural thing for priests to do their own cooking and cleaning in  rectories.

"I,  your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet, You, then, should wash one another's feet. I have set an example for you, so that you  will do just what I have done for you."

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