We need to put together a critical analysis of the reality in which the people we are evangelizing live their lives, putting special emphasis on understanding the situations of injustice, poverty and margination. This analysis must be followed by theological and pastoral reflection and a growing sensitivity, starting from the period of formation, to the Church’s role as liberator of the oppressed, evangelizer of the poor, defender of justice and of the voiceless.
The following outline is presented to aid achieving these objectives even in the novitiate. It is an instrument for analyzing the reality in which we are going to evangelize. Thus it needs to be from a pastoral perspective.
An analysis of external reality should be followed by an analysis of the reality of one’s own community in regard to its members, its way of being and its undertakings.
Finally, the community should specify its future commitments in the community project and the pastoral project.
I. TOOLS FOR SOCIAL ANALYSIS
1. Gathering the Data
We first should locate the sources of information that we can utilize. The main ones are:
1. Our own experience: arising from contact with people. This provides us with a rich vision of the reality, but it may be partial because it presents only one point of view. Thus it should not be taken as the final word.
2. Information from all kinds of social and political organizations: their periodic reports, their analysis of the reality throughout the country, their political programs are all a vital element for understanding the situation.
3. Information from daily newspapers and periodicals: the basic source here is newspapers, as well as radio and TV news shows; editorials in nationwide journals and periodicals, foreign journals and periodicals, specialized publications dealing with economic, political, cultural (etc.) aspects.
Regarding newspaper articles, it is essential to have an archiving system that allows them to be managed appropriately. The most convenient form is to cut out the article and put it on a piece of official stationery where we can record all the data that allows us to identify the source and date (name of periodical or journal, number, date, page) and its thematic content. These pages can then be archived in folders categorized by topic and an index made of the contents of each folder.
2. Critique of Sources
Every source needs to be critically evaluated: looking at the origin and viewpoint of the source (they are not unbiased). The accuracy of the sources must be confirmed and priority given to the most trustworthy ones. Contradictory information must be compared. We need to consult experts in various fields and use common sense and our own knowledge of the situation.
Every periodical has certain biases and filters its information through a particular view of things. Therefore, information in periodicals needs to read critically. On the other hand, censorship or self-censorship under repressive regimes prevents the reporting of certain news. From this arises the importance of the unofficial popular press, usually with limited printings and difficult to obtain.
3. Clarifying the Data
3.1. Levels: international, national, regional and local.
3.2. Types of Problems:
1. Human: hunger, loss of jobs, margination, poverty, family, women, housing, etc.
2. Social: injustices, landholding, exploitation, immigration, social and political tensions, drugs, sex, crime, etc.
3. Cultural: illiteracy, professional training, inculturation, education, MCS, ideologies, cultural models, etc.
4. Religious and Church-related: lack of religious formation, indifference, lack of commitment, alienation from the Church, lack of lay involvement, scarcity of Christian communities, agents of evangelization, shared ministry, etc.
4. Analysis of Causes
Based on the data collected we can make the analysis properly so-called. We should look for causes by trying to answer the following question: Why have these things happened? We need to know how to discover the course of events, the scenarios and the social players.
II. RESPONSE: WHAT TO DO AND FROM WHAT PERSPECTIVE
1. Formation Perspective
From a formation perspective, the following is required:
• Maintaining an ongoing discernment of reality. This needs arises from a theological reason (God is revealed in the situation although not identified with it) and a philosophical one (reality is not static, but dynamic).
• Training ourselves in the techniques for social analysis.
1.2. Process of Social Analysis
a. Social analysis involves:
• Accepting the situation as it is, neither avoiding it nor idealizing it.
• Asking ourselves about the meaning of events (personal as well as social) before making moral judgments about them.
• Looking for the root causes of the phenomena analyzed, not being content to merely identify symptoms.
• Learning how to transform the situation to the extent this is possible through specific commitments.
• Integrating what cannot be changed into a broader vision.
b. This process often faces 4 difficulties:
• The glut or excess of information that characterizes our society today.
• The difficulty in finding criteria for interpretation, given the huge amount of data received and the various sources they come from.
• The obsession with responding that pushes us to find an answer to everything or to commit ourselves to finding a solution for everything.
• The development of our personal lives in the midst of a complex society, which requires a great balancing act.
2. Pastoral Perspective
2.1. Making the Situation and Object of Prayer
Contemplation of, and prayer over, this situation will be the best response we can give during the period of novitiate. We can sensitize ourselves more and more to have clear concepts and strategies that we can outline. Our spiritual strategy will be to practice the Cordi-Marian attitude: treasuring all these in our heart (cf. Lk. 2:51b).
2.2. Pastoral Projection
Social analysis has as its object application to our missionary ministry. This work serves no purpose if we do not end by deciding what we are going to do, just as we should never throw ourselves into a bunch of activities without knowing the situation in which we are working. A key step, therefore, is knowing the situation in order to pray over it, study it, understand it and then be able to confront it with options and action steps in our pastoral planning. During the novitiate year, one can balance the pastoral activities carried out by enriching them through this practice of analysis in order to grow in apostolic zeal, in tenderness and in prophetic boldness.