Kacper Maliszewski

consecrated brother, ccn, Aix-en-Provence, France

On the men's side

Diversity makes life fruitful

My name is Kacper, I'm 27 years old, I'm Polish, I come from a family of 4 children, two girls and two boys, my mum is a teacher in a small school, my dad works in bricklaying.At home, men and women know how to cook and split logs with an axe, and daily tasks are shared.

I have the impression that women are respected in my country. I remember when we used to give tulips to all the girls in class for ‘women’s day’ at school, and a few days later the girls would give us little presents for ‘men’s day’. Gestures of kindness towards women are part of our heritage and our tradition, like opening doors or helping with shopping… When I arrived in France, I had the feeling that these gestures were not always well received by some women, because they were felt to be humiliating, and this surprised me greatly. But I realise that, on the one hand, our cultures are different, but also that respect means more than opening doors and giving flowers once a year. For example, while women are respected in my country in general, you don’t very often see women with major responsibilities in the Church in Poland.

At the end of my secondary school, when I began to ‘feel’ God’s call and to ask myself questions, it was a woman who helped me in my discernment: a nun who lived right next door to my secondary school and whom I met through pastoral work. At such an important time, when I was considering my vocation, I was very touched by her respect and sensitivity. I appreciated her attentiveness and availability, which enabled me to hear and recognise the Lord’s voice in my heart.

A little later, when I met the Chemin Neuf Community, several surprises and even shocks awaited me: in Poland, to see a sister managing the organisation of a parish is quite unusual! Then, in the Community in France, I saw several married women and single consecrated women exercising important responsibilities, and that was a real surprise. This enabled me to discover what Pope Francis calls in his latest book « In God’s name, I ask you. Ten Ways to a Better World », when he talks about the « feminine genius », which is also revealed in decision-making. His words resonate deeply with me: he writes that women in positions of power in society can change the system: « Innovative approaches, with greater social sensitivity, greater empathy, a perspective of benevolence as a general guideline, have shown that increased roles for women in society is a sign of hope for the future ».

We are a mixed community that bears responsibilities together; we take decisions together and that is a great richness, an opportunity, and the challenge of letting the female and male perspectives unfold, in diversity, and without crushing either of them. Several times when I’ve worked with sisters in different missions, I’ve been struck by their attention to people, to details, to things that I haven’t even seen, but which are important and which help us to take better care of others, in other words, to love them better. A very clear example is the preparation of menus for the week: I plan the main lines, quantities etc… and it’s often the sisters who think about diets (linked to allergies and health problems).

I think that this feminine perspective enriches the masculine perspective, and takes nothing away from it; on the contrary, it allows us to become more masculine.

They’re only a few people, but they need more attention. 

Several times I’ve been touched by the gentleness of their very simple gestures. This way of governing based on « caring for others » does us a lot of good. It’s also good to know that each of us has our place respected.

Working with a sister in youth ministry at a home, I’ve noticed that her attentiveness and gentleness help to open hearts and build relationships. There are even times when I ask myself: « Why do young people go to see this sister so much more often than I do? In those moments there’s a kind of good jealousy in me that makes me ask the question: why don’t I have these capacities for compassion and listening? Not in a spirit of comparison, but to allow myself to be challenged by our differences.

I think that this feminine perspective enriches the masculine perspective, and takes nothing away from it; on the contrary, it allows us to become more masculine.  Encountering empathy allows us to discover it even more within ourselves. I then have the impression of receiving more than I expect. As a result, it shows me things I would never have thought of, it helps me to build my own sensitivity, to become more human, to aspire one day to be the shepherd after God’s own heart, who knows and cares for his sheep. This diversity builds me up. For me, this diversity that we are lucky enough to experience is truly a gift to be shared with the Church and the world. For a fairer, more humane world.

I also see two fears linked to the changing roles of men and women in our societies and the Church.

My first fear would be that we would give women major responsibilities, but without changing anything about the way we do things. That’s not good enough. We need to accept women for who they are and their way of doing things, which is not the same as ours. Certainly, there are tensions between these two ways of doing things, of governing, and that’s normal. But I believe that this tension will only be fruitful if each and every one of us has the opportunity to be himself or herself, in his or her entirety. By being free, we can dialogue and seek the best solutions together. That’s why we need a change of mentality, not just a change of structure.

The second fear is that of self-sufficiency. In this day and age, we see many movements fighting for women’s rights, and that’s good. We also see feminist movements saying that women no longer need men. I’m afraid of this self-sufficiency of no longer needing others. In our Western societies, individualism is making us unhappy in many ways, starting with the ecological crisis, consumerism and turning in on ourselves. I think that this change in women’s place in society should bring us closer together, encourage encounters and dialogue, rather than the other way round.

I’m afraid of this self-sufficiency of no longer needing others.

This does not mean that only women need men, because men need women to the same extent, and today we need to hear this and embody it in our ways of governing and taking decisions. We men need to take responsibility for this important role in order to become true brothers and fathers, who support and reassure. For me, as a man, I know that I need to make an effort to hear the feminine perspective of my sisters, even if it’s more comfortable to stay in my own perspective, without questioning it. We need this diversity that builds us up and makes life fruitful in the Church and in the world.

Cet article fait partie du numéro 77 de la revue FOI

Femmes et hommes : un enjeu de paix

juin-juillet-août 2023

Vie de la Communauté  

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