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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised that a redemptorist priest has been busy promoting the PCP-II vision of the Church, the Church of the Poor, particularly through the formation of the BECs.

“Our vision of the Church as communion,participation and mission, the Church as priestly, prophetic and kingly people, and as the Church of the Poor—a
church that is renewed—is today finding expression in one ecclesial movement. This is the movement to foster Basic Ecclesial
Communities.” (PCP II, 137)

My impression is that BECs as a model of being Church has long been abandoned by many priests--either they failed to see its vital role in re-animating Christian life, particularly the significant participation of the laity in terms of decision-making (priests and bishops are not yet ready to lived-out the participatory Church); or these priests may have understood BECs but have difficulties in sustaining them in their respective parishes. The issue of sustainability in indeed important, specially when their bishops are not so supportive of their activities.

In a parish here in Cebu, I never heard a priest talking about it in his homilies. Nor I heard of significant mobilization of BECs members responding to any social issues in order to affect change.

Good luck and more power for your effort in providing these priests ecclesiological framework of BECs as well as some practical tips or strategies in promoting, forming, educating and hopefully, mobilizing these communities.