Boosting the community – discernment in community

Ann Siew’s talk at the Formation week in Malta

1.  Introduction

In the past days, particularly today you learnt about many tools that can help you and your community in finding new ways to reach out and engage in the contemporary society. However, everything starts with changing our own attitude as a community. When you go home you will feel the need to gain supporters among the members of the community to new ideas you learnt here. In the following I will provide you with some ideas on how to transform the community from inside to make it capable for this new mission.

Therefore I want to tell you a story: “Our iceberg is melting”, created by Professor Kotter, faculty member of Harvard Business School. I took the idea from a Flemish Jesuit.  I used slideshows and a good English summary from the internet. I’m going to conclude the presentation by pointing at the link between the story and Ignatian spirituality.

So, from tales and stories we can learn. And we are now trying to find out how changes provoked by difficult circumstances can be successful. For this we can distinguish 8 steps in this story.

A group of Penguins is living on an Iceberg and consider this as their home forever. Now professor John Kotter shows us how that group of penguins instinctively applies the 8 steps in order to strengthen the community

It’s about leadership, team building, psychology, changing mind, openness for new things, thinking in a creative way, ….

2.      For the story, see the Power Point here

3.  The Eight Step Process of Successful Change


a) Set the Stage

  1. 1.  Create a Sense of Urgency.

Help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately.

  1. 2.  Pull Together the Guiding Team.

Make sure there is a capable group to guide the change with leadership skills, credibility, communications ability, authority, analytical skills, and a sense of urgency.

b) Decide What to Do

  1. Develop the Change Vision and Strategy.

Clarify how the future will be different from the past, and how you can turn that future into reality.

c) Make it Happen

  1. Communicate for Understanding and engage others.

Make sure as many others as possible under­stand and accept the vision and the strategy.

  1. Empower Others to Act.

Remove as many barriers as possible so that those who want to make the vision a reality can do so.

  1. Produce Short-Term and reachable goals.

Create some visible, unambiguous successes as soon as possible.

  1. Don’t stop going on with the changes.

Press harder and faster after the first successes. Be relentless with initiating change after change until the vision is a reality.

d) Make It Stick

  1. Create a New Culture.

Hold on to the new ways of behaving, and make sure they succeed, until they become strong enough to replace old traditions.


4.  Management, changings and discernment

4. 1. Change – Choice – discernment

The experience of consciousness of “being unsatisfied” leads to desire and striving for change. Ignatius challenges us to find the best choice that makes the change successful. A discernment is required for this.

4.   2. Indifference

Ignatius asks in advance to the one who will do the Spiritual Exercises to control what he calls ‘indifferentia’. An attitude of fundamental freedom and impotence that allows me to be detached, which is taking distance, also from my strongest habits and my greatest certainties.

Being indifferent, in mystic and Ignatian sense, means having the art not to clinging to acquired security, habits, customs, and structures in which I nestled myself and who give me the impression to be on solid ground and be protected against everything. It is the biblical virtue that allows Abraham to take the risk away from the safe Ur.(Gen. 12) Everything is possible!

4. 3. discernment  in community

This mode of progress (modo de proceder) goes back to the way in which the first companions around Ignatius discussed with each other how they would respond as a community to changing circumstances. The best example is the ‘deliberatio’ of his first companions with the question: Do we stay together as a religious community led by a ruler?

  • We all had one and the same thought and will (…) but concerning the most appropriate effective means to use for ourselves as well as for our neighbours there are quite different views.
  • In common agreement, they decide to use all their human resources/capacities to address among them certain issues that should be investigated carefully and with rigorous wisdom.
  • They are going to work in their usual way. That consisted of seeing and reflecting on these issues during the day, and praying deeper. In the evening, everyone told the others what in his opinion would be best and most appropriate, so that all of them could take a position that was well considered and most agreed based on good agreements.
  • The deliberation process starts with emphasising the individual freedom of the members.

When Ignatius refused to take the lead of the community, the companions had to apply and refine the new method. It was explicitly demanded from the companions that when they present the result of their contemplations and personal prayer to the others in the evening, “everybody should consider himself as not belonging to the group” This attitude must help them to think and judge in a free way:  not like this or that, influenced by their first desire to stay in the group.

  • As a result a wide variety of and often conflicting views were expressed. But these were discussed extensively and in all freedom. He reached unity of opinion by adhering to a strict discussion and method of consultation. This meant that everyone was asked to speak freely and to listen to each other with the greatest possible attention and goodwill.

5. Questions

– How do I get along with changings? If I look to the picture (John Fisher) with different possible reactions, in what stage do I feel myself most connected?

– Do I see things that are blocked, in institutions/workplace where I work or where I take some responsibility?

– How, in my job, do I help people who are confronted with changings?

– What can I ameliorate in the teamwork I’m belonging to?

– What can I ameliorate concerning ‘communication’ in my work place/environment/factory?

How do I see myself as a leader in a changing world. Do I dare it? What do I have to release?

– …..