The Ten Seeds of Systemic Change
MEXICO CITY, Mexico–Participants at the Association of International Charities (AIC) Assembly Feb. 22-25, at Casa Lago, 30 miles outside Mexico City, learned personal change is necessary before any social change can take place. The theme, “Women Can Change the World” addressed how systemic change will assist the poor and included a two –day workshop on discrimination.
Speaker Father Robert Maloney, Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission from 1992-2004, addressed the assembly using material for a book he wrote Ten Seeds of Systemic Change. “It was unknown to St. Vincent and his contemporaries that many of the structures they began 350 years ago would still be functioning today”, he told them. “St. Vincent was born and died in a multi-tiered society with nobility, bourgeoisie, clerics and peasants.”
The first seed of the ten seeds of systemic changes is affective and effective love. The love demonstrated to the poor by the Daughters and Ladies of Charity is not only tender, it is effective because the poor are served concretely. It is unjust societal structures with unjust laws, inequitable treaties, artificial boundaries and oppressive governments that oppress the poor.
Evangelization by word and work is the second seed. This is done by witness, proclamation and human promotion. “St. Vincent was deeply convinced that what we say is credible only if our actions corroborate” said Fr. Maloney. St Vincent saw teaching, preaching and service as complimentary to one another and today, the unity between witness, evangelization and what we know (called human promotion) is one of the many intricacies of Catholic Social Teaching.
“The third seed in St. Vincent’s words are ‘We serve the poor spiritually and corporally,’” remarked Fr. Maloney “The modern phrase is holistic service.” St Vincent used this phrase several times in talks to the groups he founded.
Seeing Christ’s face in the poor which can be viewed as quality service is the fourth seed.
The fifth seed is organization. St. Vincent believed that a well-intentioned charity must be well organized, planned and executed with precision and care.
The sixth seed involves contracts and rules upon which the organization has a solid foundation.
Simplicity is the seventh seed. The poor are attracted to those who speak and live simply, who are transparent in what they say and what they do.
The eighth seed is education and training for which St. Vincent expressed great value and included in the work of the various Vincentian entities.
Collaboration and advocacy round out the final two seeds of systemic change.