These past months have been very demanding ones as we watched the Covid-19 virus spreading across the world. Here in Italy, as in so many other places, we have seen the devastating effects as the numbers of infections and deaths rose daily. This pattern has continued and is now in turn affecting many other parts of the world. At UISG we were deeply affected by the death of a former colleague and by the deaths of many religious women and men first in Italy and then elsewhere.
Containment measures are bringing about total new ways of relating and working. These certainly are VUCA times. Whether we like it or not we are being thrust into situations that are not neat and tidy. I feel a deep sense of being “squilibrato” and of being called to live so many of the learnings from our Discerning Leadership programme. My workload at UISG has certainly doubled during this time with many new challenges arising at pace. I often find myself asking “where am I now in the Theory U trajectory or in the cycle of life, death and resurrection” as demands multiply from many different quarters? I feel that I am living these and other theories learnt. In the midst of this crisis, there are people to be accompanied and tasks to be accomplished. The tension of holding both requires a creative capacity for complexity and a discerning heart. I have reflected on Pope Francis’ words calling us to really listen to the cry of the people by living with the heart rather than proceeding with good ideas, pastoral plans and pre-established solutions.
Across Zoom, Whatsapp and other platforms, we as a staff have connected in whole or in part to listen deeply, share honestly and on occasions to weep openly. There is so much I (we) would like to do and yet the circumstances and the need call us to hold deep conversations with people in many different parts of the world so that we can identify our desolations and consolations. These conversations happen formally and informally. The many webinars which UISG has offered to religious leaders and others have come from our communal listening with the heart to thousands of participants. Topics such as dealing with stress and grief, promoting care and protection of the most vulnerable among us, caring for our Common Home and uniting in prayer and contemplation are helping to build a global intercultural solidarity.
These online encounters have helped us as a staff to discern the deeper needs asking ourselves continually “what is the Spirit saying to us.” We have invited others to global conversations led by continental or sub-continental conferences of religious – LCWR (USA), CLAR (Latin America) and UCESM (EUROPE). Similar conversations led by Africa and Asia will follow. The theme “Reimagining Religious Life Post Covid-19” has started a global dialogue where we seek to build effective personal relationships as leaders which will lead religious life to a new place of mindfulness, hope and compassion. At a time of crisis, it seems to me that an organization such as UISG is called to construct a new narrative to explain who we are in the world and how we can serve the Misseo Dei at this particular time.
In conclusion, in these uncertain times I have tried to pray and live the following: “I will follow you wherever you take me, without forcing a step. Wisely ignorant, I’ll go where I do not know. Put the heart in me, I will follow you.”