HIGHLIGHTS

MESSAGE TO OFM PASTORS, 2016


MESSAGE TO OFM PASTORS, 2016

My dear brothers, pastors and their assistants and the staff of SME,

 

I would like to thank all of you for coming over for this assembly. I believe something good will happen here and after. When you confer your notes or when you share best practices in the parish in your informal conversations, when you listen to what the Church and the Order through our speakers like Etchie, Reu, and Tacky and are telling us to do or to be, in our times, something good will really happen. Our efforts as pastoral teams will be recognized by others.

 

2013-2021 Years of the New Evangelization

 

You are all working in the pastoral ministry in the context of the Philippine Church as prescribed by CBCP to prepare for the big celebration in 2021. In that year, the Philippine church will celebrate the introduction of the Christian faith into our country.

 

There were other Christians perhaps ahead of the Augustinians, like the one who landed in Bolinao, a Franciscan, blessed Odorico, in 1324. But the 1521 is more popularly accepted and serves as the basis for the big celebration. There were mass conversions and follow ups beginning this year.

 

How can you as pastors/ pastoral teams get your parishioners profit much from this celebration? You must have some ideas by now. You have to be forward looking. Many times we have the tendency to be concerned day-to-day living only. Leaders see beyond the day-to-day living, year-to-year planning. They have a vision.

 

I have in mind as part of my work to encourage all of you to initiate activities related to new evangelization. We review the Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis, how you approach the three kinds of people in your parishes: 1) those who left the church because they were scandalized by us, they became born again, because of our neglect to them 2) those who are with us, we maintain their faith, these are our manangs and religious groups, the faithful churchgoers 3) those non-Catholics who are interested to join our faith.

 

I ask the secretary for missions and evangelization to closely monitor the parishes in this regard.

 

BECs

 

Next year, 2016, is the Year of the Parish as Communion of Communities. As early as June 15, 2014, Cardinal Tagle spoke of BECs this way:

 

The Catholic faithful are called to manifest the characteristics of a renewed church through the promotion of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) in every Catholic household.

 

In his talk during the Manila Archdiocesan General Pastoral Assembly (MAGPAS), Tagle stressed the importance of BECs as the “expression of a renewed Church,” as decreed by the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II).

PCP II emphasizes the need for BECs to rally the faithful behind the Second Vatican Council`s “vision of a renewed Church” and “for the full living of the Christian vocation.”

“PCP II does not tell us to establish BECs only in places where it would be easily accepted. What the PCP II urges us to do is promote it, regardless if it would be easy or hard.”

 

Because of failure to evangelize and form communities to live the faith, the Philippine church has been criticized on two counts.

 

Intoxicated Church

 

Philippine Church is an intoxicated Church. Lasing na simbahan. There is so much emphasis on the Eucharist or liturgy, without giving importance to the Word of God. We spend so much for the adoration chapels, vestments, flowers, candles and security guards. We prepare so much to have beautiful liturgical celebrations, pontifical at that. They should be nice, of course. Yes, we should teach our parishioners the proper decorum and behavior during liturgical celebrations.

 

But what is greatly missing is the appreciation of the Word of God. Our parishioners are not encouraged to attend bible studies or similar activities that would lead them to appreciate the Word of God. Our parishioners by nature perhaps find it hard to read or to listen to the Word of God. We ourselves as a pastoral team do not prepare to treat our parishioners with a good presentation.

 

Pastors must have time to prepare for bible studies. We are much better than the lay, even if they studied at MST or Loyola. We are dealing with bible texts everyday.

Brothers, we priests - pastors are first of all, instructors of the faith and then liturgical celebrants.

 

As I may have shared to some of you, if we do more to explain and give more time to the Word of God, leading people to appreciate it more, we will be able to turn the intoxicated church into a committed church.

 

Committed church

 

A committed church means the faithful are committed to its teachings. They will seriously live by the beatitudes. They will become prophets of our times. They will recognize their mission to evangelize, to bring the good news, the love and forgiveness of Jesus in the homes, in the marketplaces and offices. They will not allow injustices to be committed wherever they are. They will say something about the killings, EJK, evils of drug addiction, human trafficking, environmental degradation due to wasteful lifestyle and the like.

 

That is a sign of committed church. The whole parish is moving as an organism towards this direction, not just one or a committee or the JPIC desk, poorly manned. By the way, each parish must set up also an Ecology Desk.

 

Sacramentalized but not evangelized

 

Another criticism hurled at us as a Philippine church is being “sacramentalized but not evangelized.”

 

Many of our parishioners come for baptism, then for the first confession and first communion. We are happy for this. But you see, it is observable that after the first communion, there is no more second communion. The kids do not come back anymore. It is as if the first communion is like a graduation. When they grow old and get married, they do not even go to the priest for the sacrament of marriage. They go to the judge or just have live-in partners.

 

In between the first communion and the marriage, what happened to his baptized children of God? I am sure. This happens because there has been no much instruction, or mechanisms to follow up. Too bad, if the baptized do not belong to any organization or association that reads a gospel text to start their meetings.

 

The sharings in the charismatic groups are not enough in the evangelization process. PCP II tells us of integral evangelization. The good news is proclaimed to the people when they are helped by their pastors in the spiritual needs especially when they are in crisis or sick. There is evangelization if the poor workers are liberated from oppression and injustices, if they are protected from victimizers, human traffickers, etc. The poor are evangelized if they are enabled to participate in the decision making of the parish.

 

Evangelized parishioners can help us evangelize. How many lay people have confidence in explaining the gospel to the gospel or the implications of our baptism?

 

Home visitations

 

One of the obligations of the pastors is to visit the homes of the parishioners, according to Canon Law.

 

Brother pastors, you monitor yourselves in this regard. Go to the peripheries, according to our pope and minister general. There are so many people around needing to experience God`s mercy and compassion through the face of the pastors and consecrated religious.

 

Brothers, we cannot do much if we are busy doing other things, like doing what the lay should do, when there is too much clericalism, or if we have acedia, according to our retreat master last January.

 

Active animations in the BECs can be the antidotes to the two basic criticisms against our Church.

 

Homilies

 

I still hear people complain about our homilies. Very long. Archbishop Villegas calls it as “abusive homilies.” According to him, “Long, winding, repetitious, irrelevant, unprepared homilies are signs of a sick spiritual life of the priest. Homily abuse can harm souls.” (April 2, 2015)

The pope says 8 minutes only.

 

It is not funny to have long homilies, as if it is a way to endear yourself or justify your behavior. We are actually turning off a lot of people and making a bad impression. We are revealing our insecurities, pent up emotions and personal issues, the desire to be accepted. Let us heal ourselves, brothers. Homilies are centered on Jesus, not on us and on our personal exploits.

 

You should have sufficient time to prepare your homilies. It is not easy to deal with the readings. I myself am still struggling to understand many of the epistles. It is easier to handle the gospels. Those who are practicing lectio divina can detect easily if the preacher has reflected on the readings or he is talking out of his head, not from his heart.

 

I often remember what Fr. Jim Perry MM whom we invited one time to help us improve our homilies as pastors. He said, “Your preaching depends on how you live your priesthood.”

 

Do we prepare our homilies? How much time we try to reflect on the readings? Do we condition ourselves, our bodies, our psyche? Do we have time for personal prayer?

 

Our homilies begin with how we treat our sacristans, our secretaries, and the people. We are also delivering a good homily after leaving the lectern when we show respect to the same people.

 

Fr. Perry indicated that to improve our performance as preachers, we must respect our priesthood. We must have self-respect.

 

What a way to prepare for mass when we are arguing with a parishioner or a worker, or playing computer game and tinkering with our cellphones minutes before time. Discipline, brothers.

 

Pastoral Ministry as Franciscans

 

We fail in our pastoral ministry as Franciscans if we act like secular priests, exercising full authority without due regard to our community.

 

Relationship among ourselves

 

As Franciscans, we run our parishes as brothers, as a community. If we are poor in community life, it is hard to run a parish.

 

So many injustices are committed in our fraternities. Some friars leave their jobs just like that, without due consideration to the other friars who would be overloaded. Brotherhood abused is not a brotherhood. If you think no one is complaining, you are mistaken, when you are always out or not doing your job.

 

Relationship with our workers

 

Let us be reminded who should stay with us in the convent.  No children should stay at the convent. They are the most vulnerable. They are easy to abuse.

 

In terms of employment, we should not employ our relatives or friends. We see to it that our employees do not discriminate against our fellow friars.

 

When we employ, we follow the labor laws in the regional level. The Provincial Financial Board asks all our friars to set aside money for the retirement of our workers. This is to help also the provincial procuration lessen its burden. As employers, you must know when they are retiring.

When you have doubts or to make sure you are dealing with your workers right, we have a lawyer. RJ can ask for you from the Padilla office. We are paying for this office so that we can avail of their legal opinions right away.

 

Overtime

 

Let us avoid making our workers working overtime, because it goes beyond our budget. If ever there should be overtime, it should be paid in another form, like lessening working hours next day.

 

OLAS can be commended for avoiding overtimes. They are saving around Php 100,000 a month for avoiding overtime. Overtimes can be abused, with a little output, because nobody is supervising anymore. But you may have other reasons for overtime.

 

Relationship with the parishioners

 

Precisely, we are assigned as pastors because of them. We have to take care of them. Our identity to them is that of a shepherd. I learned this from Bishop Mylo since his coat of arms is that of a shepherd, that a shepherd has 3 things: one, a staff to guide the flock; two, a rod to castigate the hardheaded; three, an oil, to heal the wounded.

 

Shepherding is guiding through educationing or formation; castigating or rebuking through the sacraments or fraternal correction, talking to the persons or groups causing trouble in the parish. The pastor has to protect the church from disintegration and division. Healing when they are badly beaten by their co-members in the organization or by their own families.

 

We should prioritize them over our friends in other parishes. We should not leave them just like that. Sacrifice, brothers. We make our loved ones sacrifice also.

If we make more enemies than friends in our parish, we have to think again. Shepherding is embracing all that the Lord has given us in the parish. Pastoring is showing a merciful stance to our parishioners who are not quick to understand or who oppose us. We have to review the vision of our parish or our own CVM.

 

Relations with the Clergy

 

In the meeting of the AMRSP and the CBCP, this group we call ECMR, Episcopal Commission on Mutual Relations, we tried to identify the tensions between the religious and the diocesans. How we religious and the diocesans can help one another to build the local church? We religious are categorized as charismatic gifts, while the clergy as a hierarchy.

 

A bishop complained of some religious in his diocese asking for endorsement when asking for foreign funding, but no accountability afterwards. These are just using the bishop.

 

The bishops also are at loss as to the religious who are sent to their dioceses. They have no choice. Parang hindi pari ang naassign dito. Religious kasi. Maybe the hierarchy should have a say in our ordinations. We the religious recommend even the dubious.

 

On our part, I brought also a complaint on our part that we are supposed to provide personnel only, so why invite without a convent or facilities. Then, they should question the congregation if they allow a religious living without a community. As of now, it is ok for the bishop to have a priest religious in a parish, even without a community. The hierarchy needs to appreciate our life as religious. In our convent, there are lay brothers. To the hierarchy, the brothers do not exist. When they ask for our presence, they must be prepared to accept not one, but three. We are not diocesan priests.

 

We live in community. We are all accountable to one another as brothers. Do not forget that you are all consecrated people, whose charism is community life. This has to be translated into the teamwork of the pastoral team.

 

Relationship with OFS/Youfra

 

Part of our jobs as Franciscans is to share our spirituality with others. As I see it, most of the fraternities we are assisting are not in our own parishes. Why not make your goal to establish OFS fraternities in your own parishes in Catanduanes, Donsol, Navotas, Sta. Teresita, Casambalangan, Sto. Tomas, Palanan, Caliat, and Sta. Fe?

 

Brothers and minors

 

In our dealing with our brothers and sisters in the periphery, we must be fraternal and humble, brothers and minors. Even if we know better or have more experiences, we still have to be meek and humble like Jesus. We cannot build our people by despising them. Let us preserve healthy relationships with them, by giving them due respect.

 

My term as a provincial will end on 2022. I will try to monitor your activities with regard to the New Evangelization, until 2021 and see how the definitory and the other secretariats like JPIC and OGF could be of help to our pastoral ministry. I still have 5 and a half years more to go.

 

God bless you, brothers. God bless you, Gladys and other lay partners. God bless you Napoly.

 

Mabuhay kayong lahat.

 

 

Fr. Cielito Almazan, OFM

Minister Provincial

Province of San Pedro Bautista, Philippines

 


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