Because I Don’t Work For You: Notes from the East Coast Fraternity Exercises 2011

Last night, the hundreds of us who gathered at a conference center in New Jersey for the East Coast Fraternity Exercises had the chance to listen to some witnesses – folks who found a way to verify Christ’s presence in our lives.

One young woman’s story moved me deeply because I found in her story traces of my own experiences.  Who among us has not faced an unfair boss or the struggle to be recognized in the work place?

This March, M. , a recently married middle school science teacher, let the principal at her school know she was pregnant, figuring the supervisor would have time to find a maternity-leave replacement for her when she gave birth in September.

Instead, she was fired. Instead of caving in to despair, or heading to the board of education to protest this injustice, M. meditated on the reasons she was a teacher. She realized she teaches not for the recognition of her principal but because she feels Christ calls her to. As a result, she dove even more deeply into her teaching this year, going well beyond what the job required. She hosted the school’s first-ever science fair, an event her principal didn’t bother to attend. When she arranged for her students to skype with a well-known astronomer of her acquaintance, one parent took notice, asking the principal why in the world she was firing this dedicated teacher.

Eventually, the principal had a change of heart, telling M. with tears in her eyes that she was so moved that M. continued to do her job, despite the fact she had failed to renew her contract. “How were you able to do that?” she asked “I don’t work for you,” M. told her, explaining that her motive for working was to teach young children about science, and to expand their understanding of the universe in the process.

At an assembly this morning, a few at the retreat said they are puzzled by M’s response. Chris Bacich, the U.S. leader of Communion and Liberation, explained.

“In the world we live in,  human relations are based on mutually exchanged goods – whether explicit or implicit. From marriage to work to friendship. That is the law of human relations in the world….But (as Paul tells us) I am a new creature. For me to work is to live according to the deepest needs of my heart. M. was telling her boss ‘I loves the destinies of the kids at your school. Therefore I am free from you.”

I never understood the “liberation” part of Communion and Liberation. Bacich clarified it for me and everyone else when he said: “True religiosity is the only escape from EVERY form of power, even clerical power. Our charism says that what matters is to live according to the heart. Christ gives us a clarity and the energy to live according to the heart and this is living a new life, a life in freedom.”

  • Laude Arts and Gifts

    What a deeply touching story. It helps me to rethink my position in a very difficult job. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  • Anonymous

    I am curious, what is meant by freedom from clerical power? Is this to mean that christ means to free us from those who have legitimate spiritual authority over us?I wouldn't agree with that if that was what was mean't, but from every other authority, I have experienced this myself. :)

  • Anonymous

    If this is a new understanding of the need to bend to the will of God?..I like it!! What a sense of humility M showed as well as the example that every moment is a teaching moment. By the way…was M married? If she was teaching young adults this might have been a cause for scandal. Perhaps this was the reason for her contract not being renewed…perhaps not!

  • Allison

    @Anon: 1:10 Good question. I believe he meant clerics who abuse their authority over their parishioners. The movement is very orthodox and in line with the Church's teaching.@Anon 2:03 Thanks for stopping by and reading. Yes, M. is married; theirs is a "honeymoon" baby.

  • Marci

    This is an exquisite witness to true freedom

  • Sandy C.

    Thank you, Allison! I wrote today about struggling over not getting either of the jobs for which I recently interviewed. One of the things I struggled with was the "unfairness" of both hirings. In my own not-so-humble opinion (and fed by others who expressed their opinions to me) lesser-qualified teachers were hired in both cases for political reasons. How did God let this happen? My rational understanding that God's timing is perfect and He has other plans for me was tested by my lack of faith (not to mention the complications my lack of humility presented). M.'s abiding and overriding faith is an inspiration to me to continue teaching whenever and wherever I have the opportunity because I do not work for either school system which failed to hire me! I am already "employed" by the One I do work for and He will direct my path.

  • Frank

    What Marci said!

  • Allison

    @Sandy C: I am sorry about your not landing the job. Speaking from personal experience, it can really sting. One thing M. was advised by her CL friends at the time of her firing was that "God gives all of us power. Some people misuse that power." They encouraged her to understand that Christ will be victorious.

  • Allison

    @Anon 1:10 I have been mulling your question. There is clerical power, and then there is clerical authority. We need true authority, yes? You and I do not disagree at all; I am just parsing Bacich's words to see how they jive because I know he agrees with us, to.

  • Sarah Harkins

    I like that teacher! I can't believe the principal was going to fire her…is that against the law to fire a person for going on maternity leave? Anyway, she is true testimony for a Christ centered approach to all work positions. Thanks for sharing!

  • Allison

    @Sarah: You would really enjoy this young lady (about your age) if you met her in real life. Her parents were Catholic missionaries. Yes, it is illegal to fire someone for being pregnant. Alas, it sometimes happens – folks can circumvent any law, find loopholes, say it's a layoff, poor job performance etc. etc.

  • Fran

    Fascinating post Allison. I was praying for you and am glad to read this. I too love what Marci said!

  • David H.

    She should have sued. As an S.P.H.R. (Certified Senior Professional in Human Resources), I can tell you that all most organizations care about is money. If you want to effect change, you have to hit them in the pocket book. They need to hurt to see how much they hurt others. In Psychology, we call this negative reinforcement. In the Church, we call the temporal punishment. Same rationale, people have to experience the negative consequence of their sin to learn from it.

  • Ann

    Wow! What a lucky child M is carrying, and what a wonderful mother she is!