What Does It Mean to be a Solidarity-Based Partnership?
Despite the apparent disparity in resources, our Sister Parish Ministry is a “solidarity-based partnership," defined by Catholic Relief Services as one rooted in the belief that we all have much to give and receive by being in a relationship with peoples and communities with a reality very different from our own. Our relationship offers everyone involved an opportunity to grow deeper in faith and solidarity with our sisters and brothers in a different culture and country.
"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."
– John Milton
Our Sister Parish Ministry, like all “solidarity-based partnerships," is based on five principles:
Relationship, not resources
Mutuality and equality
Give and receive, Learn and teach
Change unjust systems
Deepen faith in the community of the global church
Emphasize Relationship Over Resources
A true partnership implies the building and nurturing of a familial relationship over a period of time that transcends one act of working together (such as a project), or of sending a series of checks. If the partnership is based on resources, then the partner with little material resources is excluded from fully participating, and relegated to only receiving. When the relationship is valued above all, it allows for mutual participation and transformation, and all are invited to participate equally, as we all have the ability to love and pray and be present to one another.
Practice Mutuality and Equality
True mutuality allows each of the partners to function from a place of strength rather than weakness. Each must acknowledge the wholeness of the other. We must be alert to the historic imbalances of power between the North and the South, and the way that plays out in all levels of a relationship. We need to intentionally incorporate opportunities for dialogue, planning, assessing, challenging, and reflecting together, in order to not to fall into the trap of the giver and the receiver, of the superior and the inferior.
Seek to Give and Receive, Learn and Teach
True relationship is a constant give and take. We all bring something to the table and we all have poverties that need to be addressed. In fact, our poverties are an invitation to another to share their gift, affirming their value and contribution. Above all, this requires a spirit of humility, recognizing that we are mutually interdependent and in need of each other.
Work to Change Unjust Systems and Structures
If we are conscious to focus on the relationship, ask open-ended questions, and learn from our partner, they will invite us in to see and understand their reality - their joys and celebrations, as well as their sorrows and struggles. We begin to recognize the structures and systems that often keep people in poverty and are unacceptably unjust, and are challenged to gently confront our own role and contribution to this injustice, whether through our inaction (e.g. when important legislation was being considered), or more actively through our consumer choices, our levels of consumption, etc. We are then called to work to change those systems and/or our own personal habits and activities, for the sake of those we have come to know and love (and others who share the same challenges).
Deepen Our Faith by Experiencing the Universal Catholic Church
Our partnership calls us more fully into St. Paul’s image of the Church as one Body of Christ, with many unique parts offering different gifts, but possessing unity in Christ. As Fr. William Nordenbrock of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, explains, “If we approach our partnership as a mutual sharing within the body of Christ, then in our desire to evangelize, we receive the gift of being evangelized; of having our faith renewed.” We are challenged by our partner’s witness of faith amidst adversity. As we come to know brothers and sisters of faith from a culture other than our own, we learn new ways of understanding the Scriptures and we see new models of being a parish community. We concretely experience our oneness in Christ, and are encouraged to enlarge our tent, and expand our sense of shared humanity, not only with our parish partners, but with all God’s people in the universal church.