Community that our world yearns for

What is your sense of community that our world yearns for? I live in Camaragibe, Brazil. It is in this tropical place, filled with enormous challenges and poverty that I have come to feel how far we are from building life communities together with the whole of creation. One of the negative things which most move me in my neighborhood, for instance, is people’s lack of care for the maintenance of public areas.

Most do not seem to care about the condition of their streets; they throw garbage and dirt choosing to believe that only ‘city hall’ has the responsibility to keep the city clean. The awareness that each of us is the city, and that we all are the citizens who together form the city, still seems remote to us. We are excellent in finding faults in others, but hardly ever see our own limitations and the absolute need to take responsibility for our social body.

comunità di Camaragibe Sr Maria Atorino in Camaragibe Community, PhilippinesIn this sense, Churches could assume more responsibility in promoting educational processes directed toward the construction and maintenance of the community of life.

Educational campaigns to raise awareness in the public sector are quite new.

We ought to undertake them in all our activities and in the different organizations to which we belong.

It is very difficult to clearly understand what the word "community" means today.

Many people yearn for community, but in a society characterized by individualism, what is called by that word does not always have the connotation of "sharing values to further the common good."


Creating community, I think, means taking into account the whole world around our neighborhood, while at the same time caring for that particular community. Living in community does not necessarily mean living under the same roof, but rather that we organize ourselves to attain an objective, a purpose, or a mission as an attempt to care for the common good.

I am convinced that we need to build small communities around urgent and immediate needs. It is no longer “community for community’s sake,” although we may welcome and even promote the value of community life. However, if there is no precise objective, we run the risk of closing upon ourselves and, little by little, destroying ourselves through petty difficulties or the intrigue of daily life. I am not necessarily talking about religious communities here; however, I would not exclude them from the need to revise their community goals.

comunità e speranzaI believe that the time has come for us to open ourselves to the building of pluralistic communities, starting with precise objectives befitting today’s needs.

With this perspective we ought not to have pretensions of accomplishing great things. We must dare to begin small so as to train ourselves to achieve something bigger.

Let us for instance consider a group of mothers and fathers who try to accomplish together the improvement of a public school.

They could put forward the formation of a neighborhood team to work on waste recycling by organizing cleanup crews.

Another example could be the preparation of more inclusive liturgies.

I am obviously writing this from my own context, that of living in a poor neighborhood. However, I am convinced that those living in middle class sectors will have other ideas regarding their own activity for the community. Some possible steps we can take would be to approach the people and listen to them before we come up with answers and begin a common activity.

We also need to recognize that we do not have all the answers and that the Community of Life is much larger and more creative than all of our good ideas. Surely we can do something, although we cannot possibly do everything we imagine. We must let go of some of our pride as well as the perfectionism into which we have been educated in order to welcome life with all its paradoxes – small and great. Developing such an attitude would make us become more humble and steadfast in all we do.

Life calls us today to be able to accept our responsibility for it in a loving way, as someone who is able to welcome all of life’s wonders and even its cruelties. And, finally, to be able to sing, together with the people:

“Oh, my God, I know, that life
Should be much better-- and -- it will be!
But this does not prevent me from repeating:
It is beautiful, it is beautiful, and it is beautiful...”
[ From the song: ‘What is It, What Is It?” by Luiz Gonzaga Jr. , Brazil]

Sr. Ivone Gebara, SP

Question for Reflection:

What can I/we do individually and communally to meet the deep yearning that people have for community?

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