In the fifth chapter of Fratelli tutti, it emerges that in the epochal change that we are experiencing, the role of social ministers is to accompany people of different cultures and identities to become a people, to build a new society because everywhere we experience that we are in a global village, a crossroads where great diversities meet. Social ministers are called to facilitate the meeting of diversities, their interaction, stimulating creativity, participation, co-responsibility to arrive at cohesion and communion for a shared project.
All this requires a methodology and skills. The magisterium and the social praxis of the church offer us such tools through the ‘Pastoral Cycle’, which is the development of the method of revision of life originally developed by J. Cardijn ( See – Judge – Act) a century ago. Today we look at this tool as a community process, rather than a ‘technique’ used by individual pastoral agents. The methodology can be illustrated in seven steps.
1 – Insertion into Reality
It is about a group of Social Ministers who are first of all ready to “get out of their comfort zone” in order to “enter and live” in a certain social situation, free from preconceptions, prejudices and individualism. It is a question of making common cause with the people, with a heart that focuses on communion and, with this explicit desire, is ready to begin the process.
2 – Cultural and Social Analysis
See, observe, recognise, read reality. This phase is not only to be carried out by the ministerial team embedded in the social situation, but it implies the participation and deep listening of the people who live in that reality, especially listening to cultural, generational and other diversities. The result is an exchange, discussion, meeting to grasp the reality, enriched also by previous research and experience. There are many aspects to “observe”, to consider, but we focus our attention on social, economic, environmental, political problems; trying to define the causes and the effects of these problems, to grasp their dimension and cultural interpretations.
3 – Resonance
That is followed by a verification of communication, of understanding. The team of social ministers creates room for listening and gives participants enough time for answers. This phase is very important because in each person who finds his words, his thoughts, his experiences, apart from feeling valued, there is a greater openness to express also his feelings, his hopes, his fears, without difficulty. She herself enters more fully into the process of analysing reality. This will be fundamental for interpreting it and finding common goals for the transformation of that reality.
4 -Theological Reflection
The objective of theological reflection is to link social, economic, political problems identified in socio-cultural analysis with the Social Magisterium of the Church in the light of the Gospel, so that everything can be judged, evaluated from the point of view of faith. This process is designed to guide people to question the circumstances and causes of problems, and then reflect on “how Gospel values can change that reality”.
5 – Planning
The objective of pastoral planning is to move from the process of gathering information, analysing reality and making a discernment, to the elaboration of a pastoral response in the form of a concrete plan, a common project to achieve social transformation. Concrete, that is: who, when, how, where, what steps, how long, etc. to achieve it. The priority objective(s), the final objective(s) and also intermediate objectives will be chosen. Also in this phase the actors of the previous phases should be involved. It is about democratic participation.
6 – Celebration
Whether the social ministers and the people involved in this process belong to one faith, whether the religious background is heterogeneous, or even with non-believers, we consider it significant to “celebrate together” the journey, the decision. To celebrate “the common project” that we now have to realise with dedication, by joining efforts, by networking, in close cooperation. We are talking about human events, about social issues, and we are of the opinion that the celebratory dimension is a human component that should not be overlooked in any human event. We know that a ‘celebration’, a ‘feast’ is an affirmation of life as well as an affirmation of vital bonds between those who participate in it.
7 – Evaluation
Later on, during the implementation of the “common project” it is crucial to evaluate fundamental aspects: whether the priority objectives are being achieved, whether the timetable is being kept to, whether new signs of the times are being accepted, new social data which may require an evolution in the planning or the project itself. This tried and tested methodology should never remain static, but always open to new transformations.