It's time for the Religious to pick up the cudgel for missionary dynamism
Priests celebrate Mass in Manila during a Holy Week observance. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines declared the Year of the Clergy and the Religious from Dec. 3, 2017, to Nov. 25, 2018, to prepare the faithful for the celebration of 500 years of the coming of Christianity in the country in 2021. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
Focusing on the clergy and consecrated persons, the so-called Religious, does not mean forgetting church themes of previous years, like the Basic Ecclesial Communities, the family and the Eucharist, the poor, the laity, and integral faith formation.
All these previous themes should be linked with the clergy and the Religious as we in the Philippines celebrate the "Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons" this year.
The "Year of the Parish as Communion of Communities" focused on building up the parish into a network of small communities, of Basic Ecclesial Communities or BECs.
There have been lots of efforts made in forming BECs as agents of communion, participation and mission. This should continue.
The Greek word "Paroikia" from which "parish" is derived is associated with "sojourner" or 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, and the journey toward a new way of being church continues.
The sub-theme for this year's celebration of the Year of Clergy and Consecrated Persons" is "Renewed Servant-Leaders of New Evangelization."
This is apparently drawn from documents of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines where discussions on the clergy and Religious can be found titled "Agents of Renewed Evangelization."
The section on the clergy in the Plenary Council documents provides a holistic vision of the ordained ministry based on the Second Vatican Council. It states that the clergy are servant-leaders of the Christian community, which by nature and mission are prophetic and evangelizing communities, priestly and Eucharistic communities, and kingly, servant communities.
This can be correlated with another part of the Philippine Plenary Council documents that affirm that renewed integral evangelization has three components: renewed catechesis, renewed worship, and a renewed social apostolate.
The vision of the ordained ministry based on the ecclesiology of Vatican II and Philippine Plenary Council has five constitutive dimensions:
• A ministry of pastoral leadership and communion, that is, building up the parish as a communion of communities and BECs;
• A prophetic ministry, meaning a ministry of evangelization, integral faith formation, of denunciation of evil and formation of conscience;
• A liturgical/sacramental ministry that presides over the priestly, worshipping community, promoting active participation in liturgical celebration;
• A ministry of service, of social action, and working for integral development and liberation, justice and peace, promotion of human rights, and environmental advocacy;
• And a ministry to the poor in the Church of the Poor.
To a certain degree, these five dimensions can be applied to the Religious and Consecrated Life.
St. Pope John Paul II in "Vita Consecrata" affirmed that Religious Life has often been the bearer of the communion model of the church and that the Religious are experts at communion and should be engaged in the promotion of communion.
The apostolic, missionary character of the 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.
The Religious should take the lead in promoting active participation in liturgical celebration, in prayer and contemplation as an integral part of the Christian life.
They should take the lead in social action, in works of charity, development, in justice and peace, in the defense of the environment, and in the promotion of human rights.
The Religious must take the lead in making the Church of the Poor a reality as they embrace evangelical poverty and a simple lifestyle, in their love and option for the poor, and in enabling the poor to actively participate in the church's 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 share in the church’s mission by virtue of their baptism.
The coming year 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 the Second Vatican Council and the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines.
It is high time to go beyond a narrow, cultic, and exclusively spiritualist view of the ordained ministry and Religious Life characterized by a maintenance mode and lacking in missionary dynamism.
Father Amado Picardal C.Ss.R is known for his activism and advocacy for human rights. He is executive secretary of the Committee on Basic Ecclesial Communities of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.
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