The discussion involved what the responsibilities of a Regional Work Commission Chair (RWCC) really are and what resources are available to help them do their jobs. The recently edited Work Commission Manual was made available for participants to review and ordering instructions were given. The cost of the manual is now $25.00 due to increased copying and shipping costs as well as the addition of a section with resources for the monetarily unemployed.
Our job is really to help SFOs come to the attitude of seeing work as a gift to esteem as Article 16 of our rule states. This is quite a counter-cultural message since so many see work as something they get paid for so they have money for necessities and other things in their lives. Often the only people who see work as a gift are those who have been monetarily unemployed for several months and are frustrated trying to find employment from which they could feel some satisfaction.
Many SFOs are involved with all kinds of volunteer activities but, because they don't think of work as things they are doing to foster the kingdom of God here on earth, don't recognize this as their contribution. Technically SFOs are never unemployed as we are to be about doing what God calls us to do. Yet, as realists, we recognize people need a source of income to live in this world and provide for themselves and others.
Teresa Redder used a Power Point presentation entitled "How do We Esteem Work" as a basis for discussions during this session. This presentation is also available as part of the Work Commission ACC resources at this site.
Teresa's presentation centered around 3 questions:
Teresa reviewed the history of how the commissions evolved. Participants were invited to use the themes and articles from the TAU-USA for formation at all levels. She explained that as the NAFRA Work Commission we are the link between the National Fraternity and the regions. We can be a conduit for their feedback and ideas as well as bringing ideas down to them.
To help people better understand the word "esteem", Teresa presented an analogy between the "Antique Road Show", a popular Public Television program, their estimators, and the word "esteem". To esteem something means to "regard with value". Just as the estimators regard things with value, SFOs are to regard our work with value. Participants were encouraged to "take the flame back and crank up the pilot light in your regions."
How do we value our work and go change it? We transform others and ourselves by looking at things in new ways. Look at things through the eyes of the commissions and, most especially, through God's eyes.
In Ephesians 4:2 we are told to renew our inmost being. Put on a new person. Each day when we put on the TAU we should pray that this can be done and that the necessary changes can be made within ourselves so that, as our beings change, the way we do things will reflect those changes.
We are exposed to so many things, ideas, etc. each day. We need to SEE these things by recognizing them, we need to JUDGE these things through the filter of Franciscan Spirituality, our Rule, and Catholic Social Teachings, and then we need to ACT in accord either by involving ourselves or letting go.
We are all apostles. We are in unity with the whole Franciscan family, called to build a "more fraternal and evangelical (gospel) valued world. Refer to the Work Commission Mission Statement and Goals. We are never to lose sight of the presence of God in others, especially those that seem difficult. Each of us has the presence of God within us. In some that presence is waiting to be touched and, perhaps, transformed by the things we say and do.
Potential SFOs are in formation for 2.5 years now. During this time serious study of our rule, constitutions, national statutes, Franciscan writings and other Church documents are to be studied so each candidate knows what our lives are about and can make an educated choice about whether (s)he has a vocation to the SFO. Make sure part of that study involves the commissions, their purpose, and how they can help SFOs bring Franciscan Spirituality into the realities of their daily lives. Formation is the responsibility of every SFO, not just the Formation Director.
Catholic Social Teaching-We can find out more about this from Vatican and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) websites. The basics of Catholic Social teachings include:
Our job is to build solidarity and care for God's creation. The focus of all the commissions is included in Catholic Social Teachings.
Declaring that information can lead to transformation, Teresa then connected with the Internet and demonstrated how to find these resources sighting several of them with texts particularly relevant to our focus of work.
Small groups were formed. The question discussed was "If we as SFOs truly esteem work as gift and sharing, how shall each of us further the work of the reign of God?"
Responses reported included:
We can change the way we pray. When we pray the Liturgy of the Hours or other prayers and get an insight we may want to do something with that insight later. The apostolic actions we choose to get involved in flow directly from this information and formation.
We closed with a prayer Teresa had found about us being in the eye of God. She had found a beautiful picture from the Hubbel telescope that depicts, as we may imagine God's eye might look if God was human, an eye shape looking down from the heavens.
We spent this session discussing anything the group wanted to discuss so they could go home feeling like "I can do this!"
One participant wanted clarification regarding the meaning of the word "redemption" in Article 16. If one thinks of "redemption" as in the reason for the crucifixion and death of Christ, it is hard to image any other human having the power to redeem anyone. A number of others shared work related experiences of what this meant to them. Teresa Redder does prison ministry. She answered that just not writing the prisoners off when they have a bad attitude means she is showing them God's redeeming love. Others told of doing their jobs well and others being affected in positive ways by the SFO's attitude and work ethic. The information seeker is an engineer. We ended up referring him to Richard Morton, SFO, for further clarification regarding different ways to define "redemption" from the perspective of another engineer.
A commonality with some is that we have worked with some really difficult people that can make life at work miserable. Coming to work with a Franciscan attitude of cooperation, collegiality, respect, etc. improves the lives of our coworkers so they don't mind coming to work. This can have a trickle down affect.
One participant had been away from the Catholic Church for a number of years and returned. She found reconciliation helped her change the way she acted towards people at her job. As she changed, the attitudes of her coworkers changed in positive ways. She felt she was taking care of her soul but also the souls of the others to an extent.
We were reminded of how little recognition employees working in the service industries often receive. We just take them for granted. Affirming them verbally, leaving that extra tip, being courteous, and smiling may help them feel more appreciated.
One participant had experienced wealthy professionals potentially interested in becoming an SFO asking if they would have to give up all their wealth. Her way of answering was that those folks are blessed with education and employment positions from God. They can bring Christ to strata of society many of us will never participate in such as the corporate board room, top level management decisions, the country club, the luxury car dealer, the broker, etc. Good stewardship, using their money as a means to help others and not making money and possessions the be all and end all of their lives so they have balance would fit quite well into Francis's way of seeing the world.
Mary Kim and Sally Haddad were the facilitators for this session. Our commission wanted participants to actually experience a type of workshop they could do back in their regions. This session was based on books obtained from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called "Sharing the Tradition - Shaping the Future".
The session opened with a prayer:
Lord our God, we bless You.
As we come together to ponder the Scriptures,
We ask You in Your kindness
To fill us with the knowledge of Your will
So that, pleasing You in all things
We may grow in every good work.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.
The scripture reading that followed was
MATT 20: 1-16
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, "You, too, go into my vineyard, & I will give you what is just." So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o'clock, he found others standing around, & said to them, "Why do you stand here idle all day?" They answered, "Because no one has hired us." He said to them, "You, too, go into my vineyard." When it was evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, "Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first." When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them got the usual wage. And on receiving it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, "These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the heat." He said to one of them in reply, "My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?" Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.
Sally spoke of the reflection that we are all equal in dignity even if we are not all equal in gifts.
Mary spoke of her work in a highly unionized setting, trying to include workers in decision making to help them see their work as having dignity and a sense of inclusion in the overall tasks that are accomplished. Different work habits are reflected in the behaviors of someone who simply sees their work as a job vs. those who see themselves in a career.
We broke into small groups to discuss the questions--What have you done for work-pay or volunteer? and How does each of us apply the dignity of work in our workplaces?
Suggestions from this were to watch for people to open doors and opportunities for faith at work. Think about how this relates to the regional and fraternal level.
Andy Buchleitner, Regional Work Commission Chair for Five Franciscan Martyrs Region, and his wife work full time creating and managing ministries for the economically disadvantaged. He has helped create 8 ministries that include foster homes, post prison rehabilitation, elderly food outreach, a women's clinic for crisis pregnancies, housing for single mothers, and a homeless shelter. He said all this has been made easier lately because of the government's faith based initiatives and the monies available from that initiative.
Mother Teresa was asked how she did what she did. She answered, "One." She did her work one person at a time. We can all be inspired by her example.
The closing prayer of the session was
May God, the Source of all patience and encouragement,
Enable us to live in perfect harmony with one another
In the spirit of Christ Jesus.
With one heart and one voice
May we glorify God, now and forever.
* These prayers are taken from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, which is available form the USCCB, 3211 Fourth Street, N.E.,Washington, D.C. 20017-1194 or call 800-235-8722. In the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, call 202-722-8716. Refer to publication no. 292-6.