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Latin American EOC Congress

Latin American EOC Congress: in the dialogue between the first and second generation of EOC entrepreneurs, what comes to the forefront is the "Life" that has quietly taken root and grown over the last 18 years

The "Businesses of Communion" are a reality

The Latin American EOC Congress took place in Mariapoli EdC_Latinoamericano_2009_present._EdCLia, 250 km. west of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The Mariapolis is located in the heart of Argentina´s "pampa umida", one of the world´s most extensive and fertile plains. The surrounding nature was dressed in its multi-color autumn tones, making the region particularly enchanting.

Two-hundred eighty-six people participated:  entrepreneurs, scholars, associates, suppliers, clients, consultants, students.  Of these, 237 were Argentinean, while 49 came from other countries: Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico and Brazil.  This multi-nation "Latin American presence" was one of the congress´s main characteristics.

Hugo Marriquín Rivera, an economist from Lima, Peru, wrote: "Words certainly aren´t able to express the experienceEdC_2009_sala that we lived: the serene smile of the people, the growing enthusiasm of the youth who shared their own experiences in the different workshops, the successful organization, the coordination of the program, the beautiful panorama, the joyful dynamic of the participants, the various businesses present who gave their life experiences, the numerous dialogues, just to name a few of the moments that made up this congress..."

EdC_2009_conclusionWell-appreciated were the contributions of Cristina Calvo and Luca Crivelli of the EOC´s International Commission.  In particular, Cristina Calvo opened the panel by speaking about the poor and poverty, while Luca Crivelli not only spoke about work but helped lay out the concluding statements of the congress. Their presence allowed participants to widen their perspective onto the entire reality of the EOC and follow some of the developments in economic theory being generated by the life of the project.

The experience shared by Fr. Renato Chiera from Recife, Brazil, and his collaborator Lucia, helped EdC_2009_Sobre_la_pobrezathose present understand that in speaking about the "poor" one cannot act as if he is dealing with a different category of people.  Their experience working with children on the streets of Recife was a key to see that these poor children are "sons and daughters" who, not having experienced love, do not realize they are such.  The speakers proposed that they simply be called "brothers" and "sisters".

The congress continued with six thematic forums that gave everyone the opportunity to actively participate in an exchange of ideas about the various themes.

Around the conference hall, many businesses from Argentina and Uruguay erected exhibition stands for their products: cheeses, cosmetics, realty services, construction materials, tools, carpentry, tourism,  iron works, cultivation of vegetable seedlings,  language courses, clothing, etc.  As entrepreneurs and their employees were in the stands, the expo was an excellent space for making contacts and getting to know one another.

Some entrepreneurs participated in the congress with their own employees, a fact that is a significantEdC_2009_Historia_EdC_Arg indicator of the new step being taken during the EOC´s eighteenth year.  Before, we were dealing with “entrepreneurs of communion”.  Now it seems that we can speak about “businesses of communion” in which “communion” is the factor that guides the entire reality of the business, in both its internal and external relationships.

The congress represented a flowering of that “life” that has quietly been taking root during all EdC_2009_con_Per_Mxico_Ecuador_Paraguaythese years, almost without us realizing how much it is growing.  This life is now being transmitted to the new generations.    We became conscious of the gifts received and the paths taken.  We experienced being part of a body that has a common economic culture that is expressed in various ways.  One could see a people.    We celebrated the joy of sharing with both old and new companions.  Each moment was an excuse to meet together.  Even after dinner, joyful and varied groups gathered in the café or in the park until well past midnight.

Here are a few of the impressions received from the participants, giving an idea of the reality lived during the congress:

I can tell you that what has changed my life is understanding that the EOC is not just a theory, but a LIFESTYLE that one incarnates day after day in the small decisions that we take in each moment.  I think that these days were a gift for the soul, and the joy I experience at work is that I can life the EOC at the bank.  This is really beautiful! “ – Alejandra (Santiago, Chile)

Our society is very wounded – we  are very wounded.  We have much resentment inside, too much dissatisfaction, and this makes us hypocritical.  It makes us lose our trust.  Many times we have been defrauded and disillusioned!  It is hard to believe.  We try to put in some good will, but it isn´t enough. It´s not enough to be tenacious.  We need a grace.  We need others.  And you (the EOC group) have these things; you have a group of enthusiastic, trusting, decisive people… You have made me remember that we need to find a “second innocence”.  I believe that the expression belongs to Nietzsche, but I found it again in Ricoeur.  The first innocence is ingenuity.  Then, you can arrive at an ideology because one doesn´t yet have the elements to critique and self-critique.  The first innocence can be terrible.  We need criticism.  But with criticism alone, we´re only half-way there, and being only half-way there doesn´t bring us anywhere, and it´s better to not even have started down that road.  The path of pure reason leaves us disoriented.  What is difficult is arriving at the “second innocence”.  It´s the wisdom of who is able to “make oneself like a child”, of who sees with the eyes of faith.  Of who sees the possible (although not yet possible).  And so I believe I´ve found something like this, a community of people with faith, that have the courage to do “crazy” things because they see what the others don´t see.  There is still a long way to go, because we have to arrive at the second innocence…and I think that I´ll acquire this maturity and grace from God as time passes.  But what happened the other day was a “flash” like the children say.  A small Tabor that shows us the goal.  I also want to thank you for having been instruments of God.” – Octavio Groppa (Economist, Theologian -  Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Yes, you can live loving.  Yes, you can change our economical ways of acting.  Yes, you can illuminate the world.  On the other side, dialoguing with many of us, I realized that we arrived to this congress thirsty for concrete things.  From this lens, the experiences shared, the reflections presented,  all contributed to making us feel the reality of the EOC – EOC which is a “project” and, as such, is learning from itself and still has much to say in the future.  It´s like a living being that we need to nourish. Chiara Lubich showed us the direction to take: now it depends on us to understand how to “build” and do it! This is our chance to make history”.  – Francesco Albornoz (Business Administration -  Punta Arenas, Chile)

For me, this meeting was a transformation.  It went beyond expectations. Imagine an economic model based on gratuitousness and generosity.  Until today, I believed that it was possible. The congress has convinced me that it is not only possible – it is already a reality.  Until today, I had the faith, but it was the strength of the life experiences that this faith was transformed into certainty.  Until today, I had the theory and my experience. Now I have the communal experience of an entire group, a body committed in the same philosophy, that is to say, in a new way of doing things.  It was like a big concert where the whole orchestra was reading the same sheet music even though playing different instruments. I was able to see the diversity of gifts, all with the same objective.  When I stepped on the bus to return to Buenos Aires, I had the impression that a lot of time had passed even though it had only been three days.  I believe that it was for the fact that there were many generations in the hall – youth, adults and many like me – all at the beginning of a new maturity.  I remembered the passage of the Gospel where Jesus tells the parable of the workers who get to work during different hours of the day, but at the end of the day they all receive the same wages.  It was beautiful to see the pioneers of the EOC project in Argentina next to the youth who are joining them to continue to go ahead together”.  – Galo Pozo (Economist, Consultant -  Quito, Ecuador)

I´m convinced that EOC is not only a paradigm for entrepreneurs but responds to a cultural paradigm, because it heals the social fabric and from there rediscovers God´s plan for each culture.  Thanks!!!” - Marie Inés Silvestro (Professor – Salta, Argentina)

On April 26, Luca Crivelli concluded the congress by expressing his own impressions and a very adequate summary in five points. (see Conclusioni di Luca Crivelli)

We left one another giving ourselves a series of appointments for the near future.  The first of these is a meeting for entrepreneurs for July 18 -19, in La Paz, Bolivia.  In Argentina, we will meet from September 12-14 in Rosario-Paraná.  Preparations are being made for a November meeting in Ecuador, while the date for the next congress has already been established for 2010: April 23-25 in Mariapolis Lia, in Argentina.



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