The process of discernment

The process of discernment

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The discernment process used during the world Assembly

The delegates gathered in Amiens were to contemplate the wonders of the Community and discern the calls and priorities for the CLC World Assembly. Béatrice, Sarah and Flavio, the three facilitators guided the journey with the “U process”. Here’s a look back at the discernment process at work over  ten days…

The facilitators proposed the delegates to live “a journey in U” during the ten days. This journey goes from the opening to the realities and to every other companion; to the opening to God’s voice to achieve choices and decisions, not only for orientations but for very practical points such as the budget  too. In order to do that, each day begins with a common prayer to be together under God’s gaze. At the end of the day, eucharist gathers the delegates and volunteers, for, it is Christ who gathers us and puts us all at each other‘s service. Along the days, delegates have time in groups with long deep breathing periods, silence, as well as mutual blessings.

Day 1 enabled everyone, through various means, to meet and to identify the languages and continents, to open to oneself and to the others : be aware of the present moment “who we are, how we feel, what are our expectations and concerns”.

The “ U process” was presented, explaining what happens when we close to ourself and to the others (inverted U theory), suggesting to review such a situation with our neighbour. These different moments enabled everyone to feel how he/she arrived and therefore to open to himself/herself and to others. This attitude allows everyone to have a fresh mind.

Day 2 and 3 were the days to contemplate, with an open mind, how God is working in the community thanks to the apostolic initiatives from different countries. Delegations had sent these initiatives, they were linked to CLC priorities (youth, family, globalisation and poverty, ecology and spiritual ministries). They were posted in the Community 3 official languages. Like Jesus during his 30 years  of hidden life, the delegates contemplated the world; it enabled them to open to realities from countries very different from theirs and to rejoice to all that had been achieved. Invited by Ignatius, they contemplated God who incarnates today. In this way, they were able to see how His Spirit has been at work since the Beirout (2013) and Buenos Aires (2018) gatherings.

At the same time, the questions on the community life are presented, as part of the discernments to be made : the W. Exco report, the financial report, the budget and questions on the evolution of the General Principles and General Norms.

Day 4 was the “open day” : about 1000 people gathered from different countries to visit the members of the Assembly and support them. In groups of 20, they shared, walked and lived a fraternal time with the delegates. Nothing else than opening one’s heart to continue the contemplation of the Spirit’s work, to feel the Community support.

Day 5, the delegates listened to Father Sosa, General Superior of the Jesuits and  world assistant of the Community. He gave us keys to hope : hope starts when we feel in God’s hands for our hope is in Him and not in created things. When Christ is our anchor, hope is the compass which guides our steps and invites us to live in tension between “the created things” and the Kingdom He announces. Hope makes it possible to accept humiliations to go on carrying the cross of the Lord, to serve  Christ poor and humble.

When he left, the Assembly approved the membership of 4  new countries : Ethiopia, New Zealand, Slovakia and Sweden. Then  they had a spiritual conversation in groups to go deep down with the question “where is your hope anchored in the community ?” and to describe this hope by a symbolic drawing.

In the evening, the delegates entered  the silence for 24 hours, they were invited to ask God to enlighten them  on the question :”what are we called to ?” And now is the time to go to the desert with Christ.

Therefore day 6 was a retreat day, a silent and prayerful day to listen to what God says to everyone in this assembly. The delegates let themselves be worked by the Spirit from all that they received : “like bread which has been prepared with patience”, they are going to pass through the fire. It is time for them to listen deeply to God’s call to the community. This is the lowest point of the U, the moment that corresponds to the death/resurrection of Jesus-Christ.

When the delegates gathered on day 7, they began “crystallizing”, to make the diffuse take shape ; in order to do that, they listened deeply to each other, first in pairs, then in groups of 4, then in groups of 8, to feel the essential calls of the Spirit for the community : what can CLC bring to the world ? What is its mission if it wants to help to save the world today ? The presence at the frontiers was reminded.

Day 8, the assembly was invited to open to the future, to open to God. To do this, it began to ask itself how to act to answer these calls : crystallization went on. Jesus call to Peter was said :” go forth and throw your nets” (Lc 5, 4). Jesus, the carpenter’s son, invites Peter, the professional fisherman to go fishing even though he had fished nothing all the night ! As Peter, the delegates have been called, from their discontents, to leave their toxic discontents to listen deeply their “saint discontents” that come from the good spirit, that set things in motion, to be creative, to give courage : that’s how we can create a future where more life will come in. After sharing them in groups, they were shared in the assembly, as “manure” that will fertilize the soil and help hope to grow.

Day 9 begins with the votes on the amendments of General Principles and General Norms : “good news”, they are to be revised. Then the vote for the budget, where we can feel more tensions between countries, where vote takes time. In the end, the budget  voted by a majority has been significantly increased to enable the world secretariat to be strengthened without affecting other items in particular the apostolic fund.

The writers presented to the assembly what they had already perceived. They underlined that the contemplation of the Incarnation had been fundamental for the Assembly ; indeed ,  we do not speak anymore of the delegates gathered but  of one Assembly gathered in one place : a sacrament, visible sign of what is CLC. CLC, a lay, apostolic community that wants to serve the frontiers of the world whatever the national or regional priorities. All of it becomes the mission.

Then the delegates left in groups, with the mission to give voice to the Spirit, to tell the writers the priorities they wish to see in the final report. We can feel peace and joy, a work guided by the facilitators, a childbirth which was painful some times. The baby is not here yet but they will be able to contemplate him soon.

Here we are ! different discernments were done. On day 10, the Assembly elected the new World Executive Council, taking the time to bless the president, vice president and the 5 councilors. During the last afternoon, there was the presentation of a version of the final document which will be enriched by the writers thanks to the recommendations of the assembly. They were blessed and entrusted by the assembly to finalize the document in the next weeks.

The facilitators

The World Executive Council entrusted the running of the Assembly to three facilitators, Béatrice, Sarah and Flavio, members of the Discerning Leadership accompaniment network. Let’s find out more about them and hear what they have to say about this experience and what they learned from it.

Who are they?

  • Béatrice Castaing de Longueville (France): General Delegate of the French association “Christian Entrepreneurs and Managers”
  • Sarah Broscombe (Grande Bretagne) : Consultante en formation et développement
  • Flavio Bottaro sj (Italie) : Jesuit

All three are members of the Discerning Leadership accompaniment network. None of them belonged to CLC, but each of them already knew it more or less through the Ignatian family.

What is the “Discerning Leadership” accompaniment network?

The Program for Discerning Leadership is an answer to Pope Francis’ call for “a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything” and his request for the Society of Jesus to share the gift of discernment. Its purpose is to “build the capacity of senior Church leaders, including officials in Vatican Dicasteries, General Superiors of religious orders, bishops, and lay leaders, for this mission of discernment, reform, and renewal”.

Through courses and coaching, the Program facilitates and supports the participants in developing the attitudes, skills, and knowledge required to lead in a synodal manner, i.e., in a way of proceeding that is Spirit-led, process-oriented, collaborative, and co-creative.

For further information: Discerning Leadership Program | New leadership for the Church

How were they called to this service?

The World Executive Council decided to entrust the running of the Amiens Assembly to the Discerning leadership accompaniment network. Béatrice, Sarah and Flavio were selected for this role and received their first call from the World Executive Secretary in November 2022.

How did they work?

Béatrice, Sarah and Flavio didn’t know each other well before the call. They had to learn to work together gradually from March onwards.

Before the Assembly, they had the opportunity to work once with the members of the World Executive Council, for four days in April. The rest of the work was done remotely. In Amiens, they were in daily contact with the World ExCo, the redactors, Phileas, communication and liturgy teams. Everybody had to fit together and work together to support the Assembly.

The “U process” is one of several tools proposed by Discerning Leadership. It is particularly useful for going into depth and taking into account very different ideas and points of view. This methodology helps to make visible the invisible. The Body Prayer was also very valuable for this. However, it was a challenge because of the different perceptions of the body in different cultures around the world. Despite this, the delegates managed to express communion through it. It was very impressive, especially at the moment of election when each member of the newly elected World Executive Council was silently blessed by the Assembly.

What memories do they have of this World Assembly?

As a Jesuit, it was one of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve ever had.” says Flavio. “To be a bridge between this wounded world and the Lord is impressive.

The dynamics of the Assembly

Some delegates were surprised that Discerning Leadership, rather than ESDAC, had been entrusted with the facilitation. The proposed method was new for most, and at times confusing, but the Assembly trusted the facilitators and let themselves be carried along by the adventure.

The facilitators were met with a disciplined and polite assembly. The advantages and disadvantages of being a good student: it was both pleasant and a brake to daring to propose new ideas. Sensing this resistance, the facilitators adjusted their support, particularly on Day 8, to suggest that the delegates look at their sacred discontents, to enable them to share “what they hadn’t dared say until then”. A shift in communal energy was apparent from the very next day. And something was released. The delegates’ contributions to the final document on the last day were very different from those of the previous days. We were no longer engaged in personal analysis, but in genuine co-creation.

A starting point

The U process did not end with the World Assembly in Amiens. A dynamic has taken shape and is giving the new World Executive Committee the keys to how it can support the dissemination of the World Assembly’s guidelines over the next five years. The image of a baby in its mother’s womb sums up the situation. How can we support it from now until birth?

There is sometimes a big gap between the official documents that define what CLC is and the reality of what the national communities are experiencing. The need for training has become clear, as has the need to create synergies between the different levels of the Community, from local to global, and to increase the sense of belonging to a worldwide Community. The creation of a widely acclaimed technology platform reflects this. This will be one of the major challenges for the new World Executive Committee. The application that was available to delegates during the Assembly demonstrated that technology can be at the service of the relationship as a means of connecting and exchanging in concrete terms, a “living technology” and not just a tool.

Do you have a message for the delegates and for CLC worldwide?

  • Follow the life! Look back on what happened during the global Assembly. Be attentive to where the life is and from where the life comes. Forget generic hope: cultivate your own hope, electrify your hope! Don’t buy your hope from someone else but follow the hope YOU have! Sarah
  • Don’t be only worried to the World but also to the Church. Look at the Church as a mission. The Church needs to be provoked by people they trust. Go beyond your boundaries! Dare to propose a way of welcoming people, go beyond traditions, of thinking a Church for all of humanity and not only for Catholics. Flavio