The events that have transpired in the last three decades have tremendously effected a radical change and influenced the flow of our human history. It is indeed a tapestry of evolving civilizations and conditions interwoven in unprecedented manner within the sphere of human experiences.
We are living in an era of globalization. It is a product of interaction and integration among the people, businesses, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade, free market and investment and aided by information technology. Many have been overtaken by surprise, fear and awe as this global phenomenon unfolds.
What are the impact and future implications of living in a globalized economic system? Why is there global inequality and is it getting worse? What is the role of the internet/communication/technology in globalization? How is globalization affecting the world? How is globalization affecting culture? What are the environmental impacts of globalization? Are we moving towards a more dehumanized society? Are there alternatives to Globalization? These are some of the frequently asked questions by the various sectors of society.
As Servants of Mary we echo the same concern and apprehension. We seek for illumination and ways of understanding this phenomenon. We search, reflect and study its implications on our life as consecrated persons and as lay members of the Servite family. This short article does not pretend to offer the whole picture of this evolving global process. Rather it aims to provide a source for further discussion and reflection in our communities and groups.
The World Arena
The forces of change brought about by globalization are unrelenting and continue to accelerate modern society toward an uncertain world where the latest marvels of human ingenuity will co-exist with previously unreached depths of depravity. It has ushered us into a more increasingly globalized humanity faced with climate change, dwindling resources, overpopulation, migration problem and technological upheaval. It is important to understand this current phenomenon and eventually study its adverse effects in the lives of peoples and communities.
The first one is on food security. The obvious reason is that everybody needs food. But the complexity of delivering sufficient food to a national population and to the whole world’s population shows why food security is such a priority for all countries, whether developing or developed. In short, this is a global challenge because it’s not just about food and feeding people but also about practically all aspects of an economy and society.
Second is, Climate Change. We are already seeing and feeling the impacts of climate change with weather events such as droughts and storms becoming more frequent and intense, changing rainfall patterns, glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner. In his remarks to the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, Pope Francis blamed environmental degradation on “a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity” that causes untold suffering for the poor who “are cast off by society.” He further stated that, “The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species.”
Third, the global financial crisis revealed significant weaknesses in the financial system and some of the vulnerabilities that can result from having such an interconnected global market. The Great Recession hit many developed economies in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007-2008. After a year the great recession was declared to come to its end, but many could still feel its ill-effects even up to this current time. In fact, several years after the crisis, the world economy is still struggling with slow growth, unconventional monetary policy in major economies, and constrained government budgets.
Fourth, there is massive forced migration. International migration has become a reality that touches almost every corner of the globe. The least expensive modern means of transport has made it easier and faster for people to move. A complex of factors such as civil conflicts, human rights abuse, extreme poverty, and misguided development schemes have produced in many countries around the world an unprecedented number of migrant workers and people looking for jobs beyond their national borders. Migration is changing the face of the world as the majority of the world’s population now lives in large conurbations that have created a pluralization of societies never before seen on such a scale. A collateral effect of migration is the proliferation of human trafficking. Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery—a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world.
Fifth, the push for economic growth in recent decades has led to substantial increases in wealth for large numbers of people across the globe. But despite huge gains in global economic output, there is evidence that our current social, political and economic systems are exacerbating inequalities, rather than reducing them. The erratic patterns of global capitalism are increasing patterns of inequality in many parts of the world.
Sixth, the communication technologies are changing the way we live, work, produce and consume. Some sectors are saying that we are entering the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a technological transformation driven by a ubiquitous and mobile internet.
The Perspective of the Catholic Church
The Catholic Church is no stranger to globalization in a certain sense. The Church’s mission from the beginning has been to spread the Good News to every corner of the earth. In the course of pursuing that mission for 2,000 years, she has time and again confronted challenges posed by transformations of culture as well as by cultural differences. These great transformations in the history of the Church are seen as evolving phases rather than culminations.
Globalization seems to be spreading a thin transnational culture that is not only resistant to ethical perspectives, but inimical to respect for the dignity of all members of the human family. The Catholic social tradition is one in which the faithful are obliged to be active in working for justice, freedom, respect for the dignity of the person, the common good, and peace. Pope John Paul II has counseled and modeled a cautiously hopeful view of globalization. Provided that the principle of common humanity is recognized, he said in his World Day of Peace Message in 2000, “this recognition can give the world as it is today — marked by the process of globalization — a soul, a meaning and a direction. Globalization, for all its risks, also offers exceptional and promising opportunities, precisely with a view to enabling humanity to become a single family, built on the values of justice, equity and solidarity.”
Pope Francis in his recent address to the Roman Roundtable of Global Foundation on January 14, 2017 called for a more fraternal and cooperative globalization as opposed to the globalization of indifference. This means that we need to take a second look, trying to understand the concepts of human dignity and human rights and our responsibility to one another, and to find solutions that are constructive going forward.
As the global community, developed and envisioned the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals, Pope Francis reiterated the importance of respecting human dignity – the lack of concern for persons is a sign of regression and dehumanization in any political or economic system. The Church reminds the world of the globality of human nature and of the need for a universal solidarity between all peoples. Christian solidarity consists in making ourselves responsible for the welfare of others. It is more than compassion or sentiments, as it calls for a full reciprocity in human relationships.
The Challenges of Globalization to the Consecrated Life
Undoubtedly, the current world arena greatly influences the faith-life and witnessing of Christian faith. Globalization affects our daily lives in all aspects. Seemingly, the dynamics involved could not be fully understood, because it is developing and evolving, a process whose outcome is still unclear.
An important sector of the Church, the consecrated life has been affected positively and negatively by this phenomenon, provoking a critical situation that has been evident in the recent decades: radical shifts in demographics, economic problems stemming from the global financial crisis, restructuring of presences, understanding the mission in the contemporary times, the weakening of fraternal and the spiritual life, issues of internationalization, the threats posed by relativism and a sense of isolation and social irrelevance, together with the preoccupation over an uncertain future among others. Are we living in a time of upheaval that will call forth new forms of consecrated life even as current institutes either radically reconstitute themselves or disappear altogether?
History would teach us that despite the challenges of the changing times, the religious institutes of men and women in the Catholic Church have often emerged at times of upheaval or profound social change. The eremitic and monastic movements of the fourth century began in Syria and Egypt in response to Christianity no longer a persecuted minority in the Roman Empire, but now the default religious position of the majority. Monasticism in the West both guarded a classical heritage and was the seedbed of a missionary movement that evangelized northern Europe and beyond. The rise of the mendicant orders in the thirteenth century was a response to the rebirth of the cities in medieval Europe and to new institutions such as the universities. The apostolic orders of the early modern period and then again at the time of the Industrial Revolution and the expansionist policies of imperial Europe in the nineteenth century, addressed social needs that had been exacerbated by urbanization, industrialization and colonialism.
From the many current studies and researches made on the consecrated life, one could conclude that the present form—structures, organization, work methods, lifestyle—does not respond adequately to the needs and challenges of a society that is changed and is changing radically and is shaped by modern information and communication technologies. As consecrated men and women of our time, the change in an era is leading us to a new paradigm, shifting gears in order to seek for new way of being in the Church and in the world.
The Order of Servants of Mary: A Paradigm Shift
In the last three decades, the Order developed and evolved in an unprecedented manner with new openings in Asia and Africa and at the same time attempts of re-foundation of the Order were made in the east European bloc. With the recent developments in the Order, the newer foundations are looking for expansions and collaboration with the older jurisdictions. The presence of multi-cultural communities is making itself more evident in these past years. Many vocations coming in from countries where we are not present, is a current phenomenon. Formation work is becoming more complex and demanding, from cross-cultural and inter-generational perspectives.
These new developments are challenging our common vocation as Servites in the aspects of evangelization, Servite spirituality, cross-cultural integration, community life, vocations, formation, witnessing and ministry in the present history. We have to discern and evaluate this new and emerging reality in order to respond to the needs of the times.
A Call to a Renewed Consecrated Life
Globalization demands of us new competencies that are able to face new complexities, but at the core, our mission is still the same: to proclaim Christ to the world and to reach out to those who find themselves at the margins and peripheries of life.
We have to go back at the core of our “sequela Christi”. We have to proclaim Jesus, the Incarnate Word especially in this crucial moment of our history. By His gratuitous act of love, our spiritual lives must bring us to be in touch intimately with our own humanity. We have to feel anew that love affair we had and still have with our Savior. As Christians and consecrated persons we must be passionate about Christ and transmit the same passion to everyone. The Gospel should not only be proclaimed to others, it should serve as our mirror as we continue to tread along the many and diverse crossroads in life.
Listening to His Word must lead us to respond to the plight of brothers and sisters. It is not enough to read it; it is not enough to meditate. Jesus asks us to implement it, to live his words. While globalization and technological developments have given us more and more control over the external world, they have given us little grasp of the inner world of the human person and the ultimate questions of human existence. It has somehow blinded us to see the suffering reality of our people.
We have to go back to the very core of our vocation and be able to read the signs of the times and creatively interpret our servite charism. The new call urges us to go to the existential peripheries of life where the marginalized, the hopeless, migrants, refugees, abandoned, sick and elderly, and desperate young people are waiting. Our life is above all a life of radical self-giving in service to others even in the midst of ingratitude, misunderstanding, and rejection and downright evil.
We may ask ourselves: am I anxious for God, anxious to proclaim him, to make him known? How passionate am I for Christ and for humanity? Do I have the same passion for our people; am I close to them to the point of sharing in their joys and sorrows, thus truly understanding their needs and helping to respond to them?
One important aspect of consecrated life is vocation. While there is abundance of vocations coming from the southern hemisphere of the world, the prospect of new vocations seems to be gloomy in the western jurisdictions of the Order. Despite this contrasting vocation reality, it is imperative that we continue to promote Servite vocation. In order to develop effective vocation programs, every vocation director or directress, or every Servite in particular, must be familiar with the reality of the young people of today.
When we speak of the young people of today, we are dealing with the so-called Generation Y (the Millennial) and the Generation Z (also known as Post-Millennial, the iGeneration, Founders, Plurals, or the Homeland Generation). The Generation Y is the generation of children born between 1982 and 2002, some 81 million children who have taken over K-12, have already entered college and the workforce. It is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies. On the other hand, the Generation Z is the demographic cohort following the Millennial. Demographers and researchers typically use starting birth years that range from the mid-1990s to early 2000. A significant aspect of this generation is the widespread usage of the Internet from a young age. They are typically thought of as being comfortable with technology, and interacting on social media websites for a significant portion of their socializing.
Both generations live in two parallel worlds. Their lives are interwoven both in the real and virtual world. The knowledge of reality passes almost exclusively through the mediation of social media. For many young people the virtual world is a place where you feel the security and the freedom to express themselves without fear of being judged.
Vocations today, in addition to the initiative of God, arise as a result of a new cultural mediation deeply that let glimpse the youth of today. This digital world, also called the sixth continent that favors the new anthropologies and ways of thinking.
Am I ready to go out from my comfort zone to be with the young people of today? How prepared am I to meet this generation in the digital world they call their new “home.”
Faced with the challenge of providing services to people, the enormous task of maintaining huge structures and with fewer members, many religious institutes find themselves in this desperate situation. Many are abandoning their ministries, closing communities and selling their properties. Pope Francis reminds that we should open ourselves to a new religious life style that is inclusive – ad-intra e ad-extra, a kind of “networking” where communion and the encounter between different communities, institutes, charisms and vocation becomes a journey of hope. No one builds the future by isolating themselves. The present situation of every religious institute calls for communion that is always open to encounter, dialogue, listening, and mutual aid. In this endeavor we must not forget the important role of our lay groups who, with consecrated persons, share the same ideal, spirit, and mission.
Collaborative ministry is not new in the Order. We have had experience of collaborative effort in various aspects among the various members of the Servite Family. Even in the present times cooperation inside the family is visible in some regions of world. We have to encourage and foster this significant value in order to foster and deepen our fraternal spirit.
Do you find this “time” an opportune occasion for us to step out more courageously from the confines of our respective Institutes and to work together, at the local and global levels, on projects involving formation, evangelization, and social action? As a family, which area are we willing to collaborate and promote a common endeavor? What does lay active participation and involvement means to me?
The Challenge of the Multicultural and Extraterritorial Communities
In the early eighties, Italian congregations began their work of recruitment of new vocations from Asia and Africa. Many young people came to have their initial formation in Italy and eventually some of them stayed to do their mission work in Italy and other countries. With the end of communism in the Eastern Europe, a new wave of vocations was coming from this bloc and as a result there have been efforts of re-foundations and new openings among some religious institutes. One thing that is happening now is the fact that we are living through such a time of contraction as has happened at different times in the past, as religious institutes merge their provinces, and smaller institutes merge together into new entities.
In the recent years with decreasing number of vocations in Europe, North America and opening of new mission territories, there seems to be a trend of calling confreres and sisters from other jurisdictions to help out in continuing the congregation’s mission. Religious communities, which have become more multicultural from the point of view of ethnicity and culture, demand that superiors and all the members of these communities become sensitive to this new reality. Nevertheless, while this constitutes a challenge to religious life, it is good to affirm the fact that we are not dealing with something that is impossible. Those in leadership are constantly faced with a challenge of animating communities towards a socio-cultural, relational, ecclesial integration among its members. Another reality that is in parallel is the so-called extraterritorial communities (communities (friars/sisters) of the same ethnic group operating in a foreign jurisdiction/territory). There is an urgent need to address the current situation by creating venues for an open dialogue, community sessions, reflections and discussions of the past and present experiences. A periodic evaluation has to be conducted in order to monitor the problems, processes and progress of mutual integration and eventually develop manuals and guidelines to facilitate the creation and implementation of similar projects in the future.
Are we open, sensitive and willing to understand the richness and the values of culture, as well as respect the cultural characteristics of the brothers and sisters who form part of our communities? Are we ready to dialogue, confront and exchange our present experiences?
Conclusion and Recommendations
We are called to engage in dialogue and to seek resolutions and solutions in order to respond the challenging issues of the times. We are called to analyze these new experiences and ways of thinking in order to arrive at new ways of living and acting. Every Servite, therefore, must be equipped with a capacity for dialogue, acquire the ability to speak the language of his contemporaries and assimilate the riches of diverse cultural and religious thought. (cf OSM Const 107)
In our ardent desire towards a paradigm shift, I would like to recommend the working method proposed by the Church. In Mater et Magistra Pope John XXIII affirms the process of See, Judge, Act as a way of reading and responding to the signs of the time:
Seeing, hearing, and experiencing the lived reality of individuals and communities. Naming what is happening that causes you concern and examining carefully and intentionally the primary data of the situation. What are the people in this situation doing, feeling, and saying? What is happening to them and how do you/they respond? What do you know about this issue or what did you observe? What specific facts can you cite about this issue or experience? What did you learn or observe? How do you feel in the face of this issue or experience? How does it touch you personally? Therefore, there is a need to be connected – to be personally connected with one’s reality around him.
To Judge is to analyze the situation and make an informed judgment about it. Judging involves Social Analysis and Theological reflection. Social analysis helps us to obtain a more complete picture of the social situation by exploring its historical and structural relationships. Why does this situation exist? What are the root causes? Theological Reflection explores the experience and its deeper analysis, in dialogue with the religious tradition. What Scripture passages can help us to interpret this experience? How do biblical values us to see this reality in a different way? What does Catholic social teaching say about this issue? What key principles from Catholic social teaching apply to this situation?
And lastly, what action needs to be taken to change the situation? To address root causes? How would you transform the structures and relationships that produce this situation? How can you act to empower those who are disadvantaged in this situation? How will you evaluate the effectiveness of your action?
We can live life as chronos by doing all the things we must do each day. Or we can live life as kairos, by looking for meaning among the circumstances of our day.
This is the time for innovation.
This is the favorable time to begin anew with zeal and enthusiasm.
This is the propitious time to make a leap of faith.
This is the right to time to decide for a better future.
This is the opportune time to act together.
Fr. Rhett M. Sarabia, OSM