At the End of the Course for the Leaders
of the Camillian Task Force (CTF)
A course for the training of Camillian leaders in responding to emergencies caused by natural and man – made disasters was held at the Generalate House on 12-17 February of this year. The variegated make-up of the group showed that the involvement of the Order in coming to the aid of the victims of disasters can take place through coordinated and multidisciplinary action. Fr. Charly Ricafort, Fr. Zefferino Montin and Fr. Rocco Pairat represented the respective (Vice-) Provinces of the Philippines, Peru and Thailand, which are already actively involved in responding to emergencies; Fr. Miranda Aristelo, Francisco Pratt, Fr. Edgar Yameogo and Malaika Ribolati testified to the role of the Pastoral Centres in formation; Theresia Sinaga, Sherman Runions, Mike Firmin and D’Ann Fisher were present on behalf of the NGO SOSDrs, which is responsible for logistical and financial support; Fr. Paolo Guarise and Br. Luca Perletti, members of the General Council respectively for ministry and missions, made their contributions; Fr. Scott Binet, the international coordinator of the CTF, and Marco Iazzolino, an expert in formation, animated the programme; and Dr. Eva Müenker-Kramer and Fr. Hugues Delétraz SJ (the Jesuit Refugee Service) contributed their experience and their expertise. Because of prior engagements, Fr. P. John Mosoti of the Pastoral Centre in Nairobi, was not able to join us, but his interest and the commitment of his Delegation are guaranteed.
Thanks to their experience, the participants generated the practical contents of the programme and offered suggestions and stimuli for the restructuring of the Camillian response to emergencies. In particular, Dr. Eva Müenker-Kramer accompanied us in discovering an aspect of emergencies that has been previously underestimated but which is recognised as the post-trauma syndrome. This syndrome is characterised by a complex set of symptoms where – side by side with psychological symptoms and disturbances – there are also disturbances of a spiritual nature connected with an inability to respond to the fundamental questions about meaning which accompany extreme situations.
In doing all of this we affirm out deepest identity. Indeed, the first responses to disasters were already evident during the epoch of our Founder. He himself was actively involved in providing relief to the population of Rome, which was afflicted by plagues or fell victim to periodic flooding by the River Tiber, and he did not fail to send his followers where a new emergency had broken out. In these ‘festivals of charity’ the Camillians were able to give the best of themselves, thereby actualising and making fully meaningful the fourth vow by which they pledged themselves on entering the Order.
Down the centuries other organisations have been created dedicated to responding to disasters: they have made an important aspect of the Camillian ministry their own. The fire has always glowed beneath the embers and the Order has never failed to live up to the inspiration and the example of the Founder himself. In a silent and often anonymous way, Camillians have provided service to the victims of wars and earthquakes, to refugees and displaced persons, and we may include here the recent initiatives following the tsunami, the earthquake in Ica in Peru, the recurrent cyclones in the Philippines and the freak wave in Burma. It may be remembered here that between 2004 and 2009 the network of the CTF has responded – and this is something that it continues to do – to fifteen disasters. Still today, where man is severely put to the test by a sudden disaster, the heart of the Camillians is there – beating!
The goal of the course was the promotion of the CTF through structured participation, initiatives at a local level, and specific initiatives. Taking work through a network as a model, sub-dividing tasks and responsibilities, and identifying a sector for specific action (interdisciplinary work), we Camillians will manage to place ourselves – fully qualified to do so and with expertise – in the vast world of associations which are defined by their action in the sphere of disasters. The following steps should be taken:
- The Provinces should activate themselves and create their own modus operandi, beginning with formation;
- the Pastoral Centres should help to train qualified people, above all members of the laity, in the specific sector of Pastoral Care in Emergency, through spiritual and psychological (post trauma counselling) support;
- NGOs should create funds to support activities related to emergencies;
- an authentic coordination of activity should be launched from the centre of the Order.
- there should be membership of the wider world of organisations with a specific task.
At the end of this week we can affirm that we have achieved the following goals:
- The presence of the Camillians in the world of emergencies is the result of a joint effort. The CTF will find its full expression when the various activities of the Camillians enter into synergy, have access to shared resources, are coordinated, and – albeit with understandable logistical differences – offer a ‘Camillian’ response (as regards contents) to emergencies.
- Various agents work to determine what the CTF is and does. During the course, the internal personnel structure of the CTF was established with each member given a task so as to achieve the common objective. The various skills and capacities of the participants are a source of riches for the CTF taken as a whole. After establishing the internal personnel structure, it is hoped that everyone will be given access to the same material and human resources so that everyone – wherever they may be – can offer an effective response to emergencies.
- All of this will be a useless exercise and only something that exists ‘on paper’ if it is supported by a spirit of cooperation. Because of the fact that it is supra-Provincial but at the same time not centralised; because of the various skills involved; and because various elements and factors are present, the success of the Camillian Task Force cannot depart from cooperation between the centre and the Provinces, between the Provinces themselves, and between the Pastoral Centres and the NGOS. For us this is a challenge and a commitment!
- We leave this course in the full awareness that presence in the world of emergencies is an integral part of the Camillian ministry. The CTF is an expression, on the same level as others, of our charism of mercy towards the suffering. It is most deservedly in line with the many activities by which the Order down the centuries has known how to provide a response to the needs of people for health and wellbeing. The recognition of the fact that the presence of Camillians in emergencies is a part of our own ministry means that this presence should be structured and not episodic, qualified, and something that begins with the strategy of each Province, as, indeed, occurs with other ministries.
- The multiplication of emergencies has produced a proliferation of agencies and organisations. At the present time our action runs the risk of becoming linked to good will and not having a specific direction. It is necessary to define the specific character of the Camillian presence in emergencies. From this course the proposal emerged that both religious and lay Camillians should become specialists in the Pastoral Care in Emergency, with special attention to the psychological dimension (post-traumatic counselling) and to spiritual one (questions of meaning).
- In order to make the course bear fruit, an action plan (planning) was established that is directed towards strengthening cooperation, to deepening specific skills in that area of intervention identified as being specifically Camillian, and to structuring the response to emergencies through appropriate choices in the (Vice-)Provinces. The contents of planning include a necessary theoretical basis for the Camillian response to emergencies and the operational models which at a local level will allow Camillians to make themselves present in disasters. All of this will be achieved over the next two years (2009-10).
Faced with the challenge of making the Camillian Task Force a part of the activities of the Order, one well perceives its value and its potentiality. It implements and expresses our charism of bearing witness to the merciful love of Christ for the sick. It places us at the heart of the suffering of man, above all of the victims of dramatic events which not only threaten life but also the certainty that God the Father exists, who is good and loves life. In the attempt to alleviate pain linked to sudden losses, we implement the mandate of our Constitution when it reminds us of our presence near to people at moments of darkness and vulnerability (cf. C 47).
The contribution of the Order to the CTF is the Pastoral Care of Emergency through an humanitarian, medical and pastoral action. Moved by this certainty we walk forward to make the Order capable of being present near to those who suffer in body and spirit because of losses connected with natural disasters and/or disasters caused by man.
The Executive Group of the CTF
Fr. Scott Binet Bro Luca Perletti Fr. Paolo Guarise Marco Iazzolino