Friday, March 30, 2007

Fighting for Land

Last night, I celebrated the Eucharist with the people whose homes had been demolished. We had the mass in a temporary chapel amid the ruins of the houses that had been destroyed. Out of 140 families, 70 families remained and they live in makeshift home while the case is still being fought in the Court of Appeals. They have set up barricades, to prevent the demolition team from coming back. After the mass, we had agape. The people shared with one another the food that they brought.

For over 30 years, they have been occupying a piece of land owned by the government at the back of the Davao Medical Center. In spite of a memorandum of agreement, the director of the hospital wanted to drive them out and transfer to them to a distant relocation site. Half of the community resisted while the other half gave in. Those left behind were determined to fight for the land that they have be occupying for a long time. They are asking the government to include the land in the government urban housing program.

There are several Basic Ecclesial Communities in our parish that had successfully fought for their land. The first ones where in the Buhangin area several decades ago and the latest was in Spring Valley last year. These communities had to resort to both legal and extralegal means to defend their homes against the demolition teams. In the end the government acceded to their demands.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Recovering from Cancer

I met Alice after mass this morning. She looked very well and felt well. She told me that she is recovering well from cancer. I cannot claim full credit for that but she told me I have been a big help.

Several months ago, she came to me feeling hopeless and helpless after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. She seemed like a woman who had just be handed the death sentence.

During our previous healing sessions I prayed over her and taught her a healing meditation to deal with the pain, visualize the cancer dissolving and visualize herself living up to 80 years old. I helped her go through the process of inner healing - dealing with the recent pain of feeling abandoned by her son which triggered the childhood pain of being abandoned by her mother. Being able to forgive her son and mother and letting go of the hurts and resentment contributed to the healing process. I also advised her to do the things she loved doing (she liked to sing) and to exercise. After a while the cancer stopped spreading and she decided to undergo surgery.

So it seems that she is not going to die yet and she may live up to 80.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Priestly Ministry and forming Basic Ecclesial Communities

I just got back from Catarman, Northern Samar where I conducted a seminar for the clergy. I had to travel by air, sea and land to get to that remote diocese. There were 45 priests in attendance together with Bishop Trance and Bishop-emeritus Hobayan.

Ten years ago, the diocesan pastoral assembly decided to adopt as a diocesan thrust the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) in all the parishes. As part of the tenth anniversary of the BEC program, I was invited to conduct a BEC re-orientation seminar to the clergy.

These were the topics that I presented during the three-day seminar:

1. The BECs: Phenomenological and Ecclesiological Perspectives
2. The priestly ministry vis-a-vis BECs
3. Building BECs: Pre-requesites and Strategic Framework
4. Evangelizing BECs
5. Organizing BECs
6. Mobilizing BECs for Social Transformation
7. Approaches to Building BECs
8. Developing a BEC culture

I emphasized that BECs are considered as new way of being Church. The BECs can be regarded as the Church at the grassroots, the Church in the neighborhood, the Church in the village. The vision of a renewed Church - a community of disciples where the members live in communion and participate in the mission of Christ as witnessing, worshipping and serving communities and as the Church of the Poor - may be experienced by the ordinary lay faithful in the BECs.

The priestly ministry must be understood and exercised in the context of the BECs. A new of being Church, requires a new way of being priests.
According to the Second Vatican Council and the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, the ordained ministry cannot just be understood and exercised in cultic terms. Priesthood is not just saying mass or administering the sacraments. It also includes the pastoral ministry, the prophetic ministry, the social ministry.

As shepherds or pastors, the priests have the responsibility to gather and lead the flock - this means a ministry of forming a truly genuine Christian community and leading it. Since the parish is so big, this means forming a network of small Christian communities or BECs. Thus, the formation of BECs can be considered as a constitutive dimension of the priestly ministry.