Thursday, July 03, 2008
A Retreat with the Priests of the Prelature of Infanta
I came down from Baguio this morning after facilitating the retreat of the clergy of the prelature of Infanta. There were 30 priests who attended the retreat including Bishop Rolando Tirona. The priests came from the remote parishes of northern Quezon province and the nearby group of islands.
The theme of the retreat was: "Priestly Ministry & Spirituality vis-a-vis the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs)."
There were four sessions and each session followed the following process:
a. a presentation/talk by the retreat facilitator
b. individual meditation/reflection
c. group sharing (by vicariates for 3 sessions, in plenum for 4th session)
The following are the topics of the presentations and the basis for reflection & sharing:
1. Pastoral Ministry (ministry of pastoral leadership and communion)
2. The prophetic ministry
3. The liturgical/sacramental ministry
4. The social action ministry
The framework for the presentations and reflection is grounded on the understanding of ministry broadened by the Second Vatican Council and further explicated by the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II). I also made use of John Paul II's encyclical "Pastores Dabo Vobis."
The following were the main points of my presentation:
1. Ministry of Pastoral Leadership and Communion
Following Christ the Good Shepherd, the priest is called to be the shepherd or the servant-leader of the Christian community.
This means forming and leading the Christian community (in the parish and in the local communities/Basic Ecclesial Communities -BECs).
The priest is also called to promote communion (sense of unity and sharing) among the laity and with them. This means becoming close to the flock.
Pastoral leadership is to be exercised in the spirit of service, and not in terms of power, privilege or prestige. A participative and collaborative style of leadership is to be adopted, rather than the authoritarian or laissez-faire style.
This ministry is grounded on a spirituality of pastoral charity and communion.
2. Prophetic Ministry
The priest shares in Christ's prophetic office. The ordained ministry is a ministry of the Word - of proclaiming the Word and and witnessing to the Word.
This involves the task of preaching, evangelizing, and catechesis.
This involves prophetic denunciation - of becoming a conscience in society and denouncing the sin and evil (including injustice, oppression, the culture of death & violence, corruption, the destruction of the environment, etc). This also means calling people to repentance and conversion.
This also involves prophetic annunciation - announcing the Good News of the Kingdom, of salvation and liberation, of justice and peace, and of life.
The prophetic ministry of the ordained forms the Christian community/BECs into a prophetic community - the community that listens to the Word, proclaims the Word and lives the Word, that acts as conscience of society and denounces sin and evil.
The prophetic ministry is rooted in a spirituality nourished by the Word.
In exercising his prophetic ministry, the priest must be ready to risk his life.
3. Liturgical/Sacramental Ministry
The priest exercises leadership in the liturgical/sacramental celebration of the Christian community.
He enables the laity to actualize their common priesthood by promoting full and active participation in the liturgical celebration.
He forms the parish and the BECs into truly priestly/worshipping community.
The community that celebrates what it lives and lives what it celebrates - a life of communion with God and with one another, of unity and sharing, of self-sacrifice
The liturgical/sacramental ministry requires a spirituality nourished by the Eucharist and deepened by prayer and contemplation.
4. Social Action Ministry
The priest ministers to people who are poor, hungry, oppressed, victimized and dehumanized. He cannot be blind to their suffering. Social action is therefore a constitutive dimension of the priestly ministry. This is exercised in the context of the community. Thus, the priest has to form the Christian community/BECs into ministering/servant communities that address the problems that they face (poverty, hunger, injustice, violence, corruption, environmental destruction, violation of human rights) and work for social transformation that will bring about justice, peace and development.
In carrying out this ministry, the priest must avoid being subservient to political ideologies and parties. He must avoid involvement in partisan politics.
This ministry requires a spirituality rooted in compassion. It also requires a simple lifestyle, immersion in the life of the poor, solidarity with the poor, and forming the Church into truly the Church of the Poor.
PCP II considers the BECs as the realization of the vision of a renewed Church. It is a new way of being Church that requires a new way of being priest. This can be done by living out the four dimensions of the ordained ministry.
(These presentations were followed by individual reflection/meditation and then group sharing.)
While listening to the sharing of the priests, I was impressed by how they have tried to live out these four dimensions of ministry.
They have tried to be good shepherds of their flock, they have formed their parishes into networks of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs). Some still feel the need to revitalize their BECs.
Over the years, especially under the leadership of Bishop Labayen and continued by Bishop Tirona, the priests have been prophetic. They have tried to live out what it means to be a Church of the Poor.
Some of the priests have initiated income generating projects and livelihood programs in the BECs to address the problem of poverty. They have introduced organic farming.
They have also helped establish the zones of peace in Infanta and General Nakar. Recently, Fr. Osee initiated the setting up of the peace zone in his parish in Real.
The bishop and the priests have been leading the efforts to defend the environment, mobilizing the communities to struggle against logging in the province that has caused a lot of devastation. (Four years ago, Fr. Chast Colendres died while trying to save parishioners from flash floods).
The Task Force Sierra Madre, headed by Fr. Pete Montellana, is coordinating the anti-logging campaign. It has exposed the corruption in DENR that has allowed illegal logging to continue. Several priests have been actively involved in the anti-logging campaign in their parishes such as Frs. Boyet, Joefran, Olet, Israel, Eric, Nilvon, and Osee. One of them, Fr. Boyet Valenzuela of Dinalungan, has received death threats after leading a group composed mostly of BEC leaders in investigating logging activities. Bishop Tirona has already denounced the ongoing logging in Northern Quezon inspite of the total log ban declaration by former DENR secretary Angelo Reyes.
The retreat was followed by a whole day meeting where the clergy of Infanta came up with a unified stand against logging. They drafted a letter to DENR secretary Lito Atienza and also a statement.
I am more impressed by the clergy of Infanta who live simply among the poor and who risk their lives for their flock, to address the problems of poverty, violence and the destruction of the environment, rather than those who make millions of dollars beating the shit out of their opponents in the ring. If you are looking for real heroes, they are in Infanta, not in the boxing arena of Nevada.
by the way.
(I have just read the comments in my blog. Some irate fans of Manny Pacquiao are angry with me because of my comments about boxing as a brutal sport, for not being thrilled about his victory and for refusing to hail him as a hero. I have received a lot of insulting remarks. I am amused by their reaction - they reveal what kind of person they are. I will not apologize to anyone for expressing my opinion nor will I tolerate any insult or abusive language in this blog. So I am moderating the comments section. Speaking of heroes, we are the only country who consider our boxing champions as heroes. Muhammad Ali, the black heavyweight champion, was never considered a hero in the US, rather it was Martin Luther King, the civil rights leader. Heroes are not just object of admiration, they are role models. I wouldn't want our little boys to grow up thinking they can become heroes by using their fists and beating up other boys.)