01 December 2021
01 Dec 2021

The compassion fatigue

The BRE Province held a Permanent Formation Meeting for the religious with the theme: "The compassion fatigue. The burnout syndrome and the exhaustion of religious today".

by  Fernanda Melo

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The Brazil Recife Province held on November 9-11, a Permanent Formation Meeting for the religious of the Congregation with the theme: “The compassion fatigue. The burnout syndrome and the exhaustion of the religious today“.

The meeting took place at the Provincialate in Recife and was facilitated by the Psychologist Adalto Chitolina, who spoke with our communication team:

1) What is the importance of this type of meeting for the Church?

It is known that in all professional activities, there is constant recycling. For some professions an intellectual deepening is necessary; for others, a more updated training to better perform their work. In our case, the Church, these moments of Permanent Formation become an occasion to reflect and look at oneself. Like other activities, ours is also always focused on caring for others. The priest is always sought out to be a point of relief from the tension of life’s problems that people are facing. But he also needs to take care of himself. Another aspect is the fact of encounter among equals. In his parish or pastoral activity he is usually alone, or at most with a colleague. Being with a larger group, where life, challenges, joys, concerns, successes and difficulties are shared, is always a favorable occasion to also look at oneself.

2) What does this theme reveal to the whole Church?

I would be more emphatic in affirming: this theme “exposes” one of our realities. We are exhausting ourselves physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Driven by the need to help, we are distancing ourselves from ourselves and entering the “living wheel” of activism without realizing it. The great majority of priests are very close to the Burnout syndrome, not because they want it, but because of the excess of dedication and surrender to their own activities.

The perception is growing of how many are acting excessively, and with a strong spirit of evangelical dedication, but without soul! There is an evident dedication, but there is also a cry that comes from the depths of the soul of these men, asking for help. And if we do not listen to this cry, we run the risk of seeing the disaster that is being announced materialize. Proof of this are the suicides of priests that have been happening, 9 in 2021!

When work becomes the motivation for the life of a priest, of a religious, it is as if the warning bell is going off. Every excessive search for something points to a possible way to escape or to compensate for deficiencies. And activism is in this direction.

Looking at this theme, therefore, ends up being a confrontation with the reality of the great majority of us.


The Superior of the BRE Province, Fr. Josemar Joaquim de Lima, scj, also highlighted the importance of this type of meeting and of this theme at the Provincial level:

As religious, we try to have an annual program of meetings in order to be a space for sharing, building, living together and spirituality. Moments like these, besides uniting us, help us to follow an itinerary that enables us all in human and spiritual growth.

The Provincial Government thought and built this theme as a form of prevention for our priests. To give us an idea of the need to discuss this issue, this year, in Brazil, nine priests took their lives. Others still show great fatigue and discouragement on the journey, and others, a tendency to isolation. Knowing this topic helps us to walk a path and look at ourselves, avoid giving reasons for this syndrome to develop in each one of us. Finally, this meeting allowed us to see what we can do to have a healthier life mentally and spiritually.

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