Meeting Geedi, the smiling young man from Somalia that you see in the picture, a former pirate in the Gulf of Aden, arrested by the Italian Navy and currently collaborating with Francesco (a fantastic volunteer) in several social projects at the Diocesan Caritas Benevento, Italy, was a joyful and touching encounter that I had some months ago.
People, concrete people, are at the centre of all our endeavours in Caritas. Encounter, listening, compassion, love, tenderness and accompaniment with concrete people who suffer poverty, indifference, hatred for being different, uprooting due to forced migration, injuries in body and soul. This encounter is our ‘core business’. Also and especially for Caritas leaders, isn’t it?
And what means leadership in Caritas? The leadership task force of Caritas Europa discussed it in depth in 2018.In a nutshell: A Caritas leader needs to be connected to the poor, having a deep and compassionate interest and love, but not of academic nature, but through concrete experience of encounter, willing to learn from the people in need. A Caritas leader has to be committed with integral human development, starting with oneself: willing to reflect on the own strengths and weaknesses, accepting that he doesn’t know everything, relying on the team, always learning. Willing to lead people is about making others grow, supporting the team, being a servant leader, a person of dialogue and a bridge builder. A Caritas leader builds a long-term vision for Caritas and the society together with others. He advocates with and on behalf of the poor for structural change. A Caritas leader needs to have management skills for the organisation and its processes and needs to work in partnership with many other organisations. The understanding of the Church and of Caritas has to be combined with a deep spirituality based on the encounter with the Lord, the encounter with people and a sense of communion.
After nearly nine years assuming a leadership role in Caritas Europa, I have learned so many things and grew personally thanks to wonderful people: people who were suffering (I recall Andreea from Romania, Geedi in Benevento, an Afghan mother with children in the Piraeus port, or that funny boy in the children’s home in Lithuania, and so many more), people in our Caritas family (the fantastic team in Brussels, all the experts and leaders of Caritas organisations, wise presidents and Executive Board members, the international Caritas family) , people in other organisations and European institutions, and so many people who are implementing the programme of the Good Samaritan with an increasing professionalism and an ever more attentive heartfelt concern. All of them, all of you, covered my shortcomings. Thank you so much also for this. What a great experience! And as we know from the Psalmist, “if the Lord does not build the house, the work of the builders is useless”.
And in the next pages you will find the 2018 outcome and activity report of our network. And I invite to start by the end, reading the very inspirational article written by Maria Alverti, Director of Caritas Greece. God bless you all!
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