Speech by Felipe Rojas Román at the Ven y Verás Training Programme Closing Ceremony

"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples" (John 13:35); that is, my friends will be recognised by their way of loving others.

Tuesday June 18th 2024, Madrid

Being here and seeing each of the participants of this event, seeing the panel that honours us, is undoubtedly a verification of a method: RELATIONSHIP. Relationship is the antithesis to a world where leadership is promoted that focuses on protecting structures rather than on relationships that build structures. Therefore, this diploma you will receive is the verification that we are going against the current and that we are on the right path. We aim at the affection that arises from relationships and want to build leadership founded on affection.

First and foremost, I want to thank the friends who have joined this wonderful madness of the “Ven y Verás” programme. Trusting such a proposal shows me that we do not emerge better but more as friends. I remember those days of phone calls and WhatsApp messages, telling you about the idea I had in mind, and without hesitation, purely trusting, you said yes. This is the key point I want to highlight: the yes to the proposal. Thank you, María Ángeles, for your vision, commitment, and encouragement, which enabled me to design and think of a programme like this, whose only genius is to bring friends together. “By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35); that is, my friends will be recognised by their way of loving others.

Relationship bears the fruit of friendship, creating the possibility of giving oneself completely to another. No one has greater love than the one who lays down his life for his friends, and friends are those who dare to enter into a relationship and create a bond. Can you imagine what it would be like if those called to make the country’s major decisions preceded a friendship, and I do not mean a civic friendship, but a deep friendship? Pope Francis pointed out that today Jesus tells us that for Him, we are precisely that: friends, beloved people beyond all merit and expectation, to whom He extends His hand and offers His love, His Grace, His Word; with whom He shares what is most dear to Him, everything He has heard from the Father. Even differences of ideas would be anecdotal, easily overcome because affection would prevail. Therefore, friendship is the best antidote against all ideology, against all distance, against all prejudice, against all ignorance. Ideology is the anaesthetic of today’s world that wants to cure us of affection.

What you hold in your hands, therefore, is a diploma certifying that you have experienced a leadership programme that aims, among other things, to demonstrate two essential criteria of what it means to be a leader founded on affection. The first: a leader is not someone who knows how to control or organise. Pope Francis warns us against the “temptation of efficiency, of thinking that the Church is doing well if everything is under control, if it lives without ‘shocks’, with the agenda always in order, everything regulated”. Therefore, a leader is someone who lives with shocks and is able to be guided and oriented. These young people have experienced meeting great leaders, those who live on the margins of the system and face the chaos of their lives but who live because, despite their difficulties, they are able to serve others. We have encountered the loneliness of young people, homeless people, undocumented migrants, drug addicts, people with severe disabilities. We walked with them, and in that encounter, we realised they were our teachers, our role models, because God speaks to the humble and small. We must listen to Him before ourselves. A leader is someone who has the humility to listen, which arises when instead of speaking, one listens, ceases to be at the centre. Therefore, this is the second criterion: a leader is not someone who seeks a leadership position but who accepts a calling. For us, a leader is not someone who builds their own work but who serves the work of another, who says yes to a proposal rooted in reality. We must be humble to accept that the path to perfection is to accept that we do not control the results but our actions. Taking the step and accepting the call is the first act of any leader, despite saying no, they say yes. And this, let me tell you, I have seen in you and your final projects of the programme.

For example, Don Carlos, what do you think of the idea born here that municipal facilities be transformed into community coworking spaces to prevent unwanted loneliness and create bonds between Madrid’s residents? Libraries, youth centres, day centres for the elderly, enabled so that those who work can meet. What would you say about a SARA project, to promote community support for children whose parents have to work and lack a family support network? Could the neighbours themselves be a support network? What would you say that, among the participants, a leader is someone who has responded with a yes to a reality that hides a cross that no one would humanly choose? Because for me, a leader is someone who accepts a calling, does not seek to be first but to serve. For example, you know that among the participants, we have a young man who had to flee Nicaragua because, seeing his church persecuted by the dictatorial political regime, his life was exposed, and from Spain, he has accepted the call to represent a silenced voice of a persecuted church. Did you know that among the participants, there is a woman who has survived two cancers, who can radiate light and say yes to life, dedicating her life to creating a playful enterprise through cards to strengthen human bonds, and today in her final project, she plans to create a café that promotes encounters with different realities? Or a young woman from a family of 10 siblings who, at the end of the Bocatas path, understands and points out to us all that, knowing she has never lacked anything in her life because she has valued her family’s love, it is not the same reality experienced by other young people her age, and her final project aims to mobilise hearts to help a hospital in Iberia?

I could go on, but you, dear young people, have experienced that the best social projects are born from affection, from what affects us, from answering the question provoked by Scholas Occurrentes: What happens to me with this that I live? What happens to me in the encounter with this reality? And here you are, receiving a diploma because you have accepted the challenge of saying yes to the experience of meeting others, of creating bonds, and above all, and with this, I conclude, of knowing yourselves as originals. A leader is someone who knows they are original, made in a unique image and likeness, and that we do not aspire to be a school that forges a stereotype of leaders but to discover the leader we all carry within because as many hearts exist, there are as many leaders. Because if our leadership is to discover that light that shines within us, our particularity, our originality, our heart! From “Ven y Verás”, we not only have to identify future leaders but awaken the leadership so that from their reality, they bear witness to a greater love, a love that looks at us as we are called to look: with a tenderness that awakens a commitment in society. Thank you to each participant for being here, for being the first edition, and above all, for giving us the opportunity to see that the dream of building a community, a community in outreach.