Social transformation: ‘Another world is possible’

New ways of thinking and acting, individually and congregationally, and collaborative action with other organizations are some of the ingredients needed for social transformation. With the growing divisiveness, instability and systemic violence that we encounter in the world and, admittedly, contribute to on some levels, we must utilize our “spiritual power” as a congregation of the Precious Blood to continue to act for justice and ecological responsibility. We must also be willing to dialogue with those who are different from us in order to foster community and connection and to bring about peace. While this may be daunting at times, we look to Jesus as our inspiration and model.

The subject of social transformation was highlighted last year in an article by Sister Amata Miller, IHM, in Occasional Papers, a publication of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). Here, I summarize what she conveyed about the current thinking on this trend and concrete ways to bring about transformation.

All of us are practitioners of justice and peace. When disparate groups who share the same values work together, they “bring about forces that ultimately change structures.” Transformation requires a commonality of perspectives — a new intentionality, social scientists call it. Thoughts about human identity, social purpose and relationships must be shared. It requires many people networking and collaborating, but acting in their spheres of influence according to their passions, talents and responsibilities.

Social scientists outline eight action roles for social transformation. People acting in these roles out of concern for the common good can bring a new world order. The action roles for social transformation are:

  1. Study and teaching — Keeping informed about social issues from various points of view and sharing successes that foster hope.
  2. Building a new value system — Women religious strive to affirm alternative values. These can be effectively conveyed though the arts, teaching, social media, etc. to foster beauty, truth and sharing. “Ordinary exchanges can foster positive values, spreading light rather than darkness, and gradually shape new social norms.”
  3. Choosing lifestyle consciously — Recommitment to living simply and sustainably and cultivating a sense of “enoughness” in our personal choices and desires.
  4. Initiating and nurturing alternatives — Addressing unmet social and environmental needs through new ministries and by supporting existing ones.
  5. Transforming existing institutions from within — Self-reflection of our charism and Gospel values with respect to diversity, inclusion, dignity, etc.
  6. Strategizing for political and corporate change — Being agents of change through advocacy.
  7. Resisting what is going in the wrong direction — Through prayer vigils, editorials, marches.
  8. Praying and living an integrated spirituality — Bringing our justice concerns into frequent prayer. “Sharing our spiritual power more fully with all our brothers and sisters — digitally, visually, creatively — will powerfully convey the resurrection message of Jesus Christ and foster social transformation.”

Certainly, there is much work to be done. No one can say that there is nothing that he or she can do! We must be visible as Christian communities, drawing upon our spirituality to stimulate and sustain creative engagement. Operating together in community is what will sustain the resistance and effective action for social transformation over the long-term.

The Brazilian theologian Rubem Alves reminds us that hope is a sense that true reality is more complicated than what we understand, and that the actual realities we see before us are not the true limits of what is possible. “The beauty of all Creation, divine teaching through Scripture and tradition, and the goodness within so many human beings, bear messages of undying hope.”

Story by Colleen Kammer

Sunrise; Sister Janet Winandy photo.

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