From all corners of the wind we came. We travelled by air, sea a
nd road and converged on the International Postulancy at Bo, Sierra Leone. Our purpose was to attend Part Two of the West African Orientation Program that had been jointly planned by Transition Support Team (TST) in collaboration with the DLT of West African District and the local Brothers of the Postulancy Staff.
After a hearty welcome and traditional ritual led by the organizing committee, we settled down to share our sacred stories over the one year since Part One in August, 2018. We came to realise that our stories carried the fabric of how the divine had walked with us.
We were conscious of the fact that some members of last year’s group were not physically present with us for varied reasons. We sent our good energy out to them wherever their life journey had taken them.
Next we looked at how to rebuild community among us by re-visiting the Standards of Presencethat we had jointly crafted in 2018. We agreed the nitty-gritty of our household tasks and the practical processes of how we are going to deepen our brotherhood.
Then it was time to get down to business. David Gibson from TST asked us what topics we would like to cover in order to create Vibrant and Cohesive communities. It became quite clear from the outset, that effective LEADERSHIP is at the core of the process of building Joyful, Vibrant, and Cohesive communities. So we delved into the skills for and styles of leadership, and how leadership has the power of breaking or making cohesive communities.
We realised that all of us in one form or the other have been called to leadership roles, whether designated, psychological or effectiveleaders. We all have to make our unique contribution in achieving cohesive and vibrant communities. Two key words emerged which sum up what all members of any given community have to do in order to transform their community – intention andattention. Each member of that community needs to participate generously in the co-creatingprocess, so that it becomesa sacred place for the Divine to dwell among humans.
One tool that can be very effective in this Co-creating process is honest feedback.Feedback given in honest and brotherly fashion, has the capacity to transform behaviour and perspective. Feedback can become a mirror in which blind spots in ones’ life can gradually be made smaller. It becomes a process of self-knowledge and self-discovery.
At the community level, feedback, if received in a gracious manner, can be a blessing as it can change behavioural patterns and attitudes. The openness of each member in receiving and giving honest feedback is a powerful tool in transforming the hearts and minds of a community and in setting achievable goals for the community. Feedback will challenge it’s members to relate to each other at a deeper and honest level.
The week ended with looking at the different stages that all communities go through in the process of forming a cohesive and vibrant community. The Pseudo stage has characteristics like pretence, white lies, making generalized statements to one another, avoidance of conflict, denying differences, going with the dominant view point as a way of avoiding chaos. Other stages are Chaos, Emptiness and Real community. The point is that until a community goes through the four phases, it will remain at the Pseudo stage, where it’s members will settle for the status quo and blatantly refuse to engage each one at a mature level.
The reconciling and healing processes that comes from the stage of Emptiness have a powerful influence in making the community “Real”. At this stage quietness and peace might return to the community where it’s members honour the vulnerability of others, have deep respect for one another and learn to live with difference knowing that diversity can enrich community life.
No doubt through our engagement with David Gibson the week was an inspirational one. The group and individual evaluations point to the fact that David is a presenter in a class of his own with his style and methodology. We held a social evening on Friday evening to give David all the accolades that he deserves and sent him on his way to Freetown and later to Dublin to attend his province Chapter.