The Year of the Parish as Communion of Communities is about to end and we are about to begin the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons (or Religious).
The focus of this year has been building up the parish into a network of small communities – of Basic Ecclesial Communities.
There have been a lot of efforts made in forming BECs as agents of communion, participation and mission.
This should continue even beyond 2017.
The Greek word “Paroikia” from which “parish” is derived is associated with “sojourner” - journeying together. Thus, the parish and the BECs within it may be regarded as a “journeying community” – a pilgrim community. This is what the Church is.
The journey towards a new way of being Church continues .
Focusing on the Clergy and Religious in 2018 does not mean forgetting the themes of the previous years: the parish &BECs, the family & Eucharist, the poor, the laity, integral faith formation.
All of these are interrelated and should be linked with the Clergy and Religious.
The sub-theme for 2018 is the Renewed Servant-Leaders of New Evangelization.
This is apparently drawn from PCP II where the discussion on the Clergy and Religious is placed in part IV – Agents of Renewed Evangelization.
The section on the clergy in PCP II provides a holistic vision of the ordained ministry based on Vatican II: the clergy are servant-leaders of the Christian Community which by nature and mission are:
Prophetic and Evangelizing Communities
Priestly & Eucharistic Communities
Kingly, Servant Communities.
This can be correlated with part III of PCP II document which affirms that renewed integral evangelization has three components:
Renewed catechesis, renewed worship, renewed social apostolate.
The vision of the ordained ministry based on the ecclesiology of Vatican II and PCP II has five constitutive dimensions:
A ministry of pastoral leadership and communion (building up the parish as communion of communities & BECs)
A prophetic ministry - a ministry of evangelization, integral faith formation, of denunciation of evil and formation of conscience
A liturgical/sacramental ministry - presiding over the priestly, worshipping community, promoting active participation in liturgical celebration
A ministry of service, of social action –working for integral development & liberation, justice & peace, promotion of human rights, environmental advocacy.
A ministry to the poor in the Church of the Poor.
The five dimensions may be applied to the religious, consecrate life to a certain degree.
Pope John Paul II , in Vita Consecrata, affirms that religious life has often been the bearer of the communion model of the Church and that religious are experts of communion and should be engaged in the promotion of communion.
The apostolic, missionary character of religious life should be constantly emphasized.
Religious communities are called to be prophetic communities and must take the lead in the work of evangelization, integral faith formation, formation of conscience, of denouncing and resisting evil in society.
Religious should take the lead in promoting active participation in liturgical celebration, in prayer and contemplation as an integral part of the Christian life.
Religious should also take the lead in social action – in works of charity, development, in justice and peace, in the defense of the environment, in the promotion of human rights.
Religious must take the lead in making the Church of the Poor a reality as they embrace evangelical poverty and a simple lifestyle, in the their love and option for the poor and in enabling the poor to actively participate in the Church liberating mission.
As the Clergy and Religious exercise their role as servant leaders in the Church that is called to be a community of missionary disciples , they must do this in active collaboration with the lay faithful who also share in the Church’s mission by virtue of their baptism.
The coming year , 2018, provides an opportunity for the clergy and religious to reflect on their life and ministry and assess how they have lived up to the holistic and mission-oriented vision of the ordained ministry and religious life provided by Vatican II and PCP II
It is high time to go beyond a narrow, cultic and exclusively spiritualist view of the ordained ministry and religious life characterized by maintenance mode and lacking in missionary dynamism.