BASIC ECCLESIAL COMMUNITIES: AN EXPRESSION OF A RENEWING CHURCH
1. Holy Mother Church teaches that the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) are small communities, usually of families who gather together around the Word of God and the Eucharist(1-footnote) . The Church firmly recognizes the significant role of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the realization of her own renewal.
2. United with the one Church, the Basic Ecclesial Communities are the presence of the Church and the expression of the Catholic faith in her smallest units; therefore, in these modern times the BEC serves as an effective means of evangelization – which is the proclamation of the teachings of Jesus – so as to lead each of the baptized, who are established among the People of God, towards a genuine knowledge, love of, and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ (2-footnote).
3. This document on the Basic Ecclesial Communities contains the following topics: (1) The Structure of the Basic Ecclesial Communities as an Image of a Renewing Church, (2) The Life of Holiness of the Basic Ecclesial Communities, (3) The Mission of the Basic Ecclesial Communities, (4) The Church of the Poor, and (5) The Basic Ecclesial Communities in the Diocese of Lucena. Before the Call to Action, there is a discussion on the relationship of Mary to the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the context of the building up of a community of meek believers.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE BASIC ECCLESIAL COMMUNITIES AS AN IMAGE OF A RENEWING CHURCH
4. The changing view on the Church’s existence and entirety revolves around the truth that the Church as a community of believers makes up the new People of God. As a race chosen by God, the Church does not forget to look back to its origin, which is none other than the call of God that was ratified by the Lord Jesus Christ, her founder.(3footnote) This manner of existence, in accordance with the will and spirit of the Good Shepherd, is reflected in the unity of her faith and hierarchy, in the common state of all the baptized in dignity and freedom as children of God,(4footnote), and in the common witnessing to the diversity of graces and charisms endowed by the Holy Spirit. (5fn) the first communities of the Lord’s disciples existed and lived with the inspiration of this unity in the Mystical Body of Christ. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42). Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common (Acts 4:32).
5. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the People of God constantly search for fitting ways to meet the demands of the present times in order that they may fulfil more effectively their mission of bringing the Good News to all the ends of the earth at all times. This aim calls for a deeper understanding of the nature of the Church and her situation. It is in this light that the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines exclaims: How must we as a Church act and relate to our world? What kind of a Church must we be to meet the challenge of our society we turn into the third millennium? (6fn) In his desire to inspire and give direction to the People of God that he shepherds, Pope John Paul II makes known to the whole Church the tremendous challenge of the new millennium by ardently pointing out the urgent need for a renewed apostolate of each member of the Church. (7fn)
6. The need for renewal is the primary demand that the People of God has to confront today. Not only the mere alteration of pastoral programs and strategies is called for by the present times, but there is also a need to renew the form and expression of the very life of the baptized who make up the Church. This is the kind of renewal envisioned and prayed for by the Diocese of Lucena in this Second Synod: Transform our hearts and purify our thoughts that… we may truly be a renewing community with human, family-oriented, nature-loving, and Godly visions and aspirations. (8fn)
7. The particular Church in the Philippines recognizes that such kind of renewal finds its concrete expression in the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs). Along this line, the Mission Statement of this synod declares that the diocese shall reinvigorate the formation, intensification, and spread of the Basic Ecclesial Communities as her basic thrust (9fn). In the context of the Basic Ecclesial Communities, the fundamental aspects of the much-needed ecclesial renewal are realized: a movement toward authentic discipleship; a movement toward true community; a movement toward a participatory Church; a movement toward an inculturated Church; and a movement toward a Church of the Poor. (10fn)
8. How is the objective of making the Basic Ecclesial Communities an expression of a renewing diocese to be realized? This largely depends on the openness of mind of each of the faithful in the diocese – the priests, religious, and laity – to the truth that the Basic Ecclesial Community is not merely a product of an effort to accomplish one pastoral plan. As a genuine expression of being a Church, the Basic Ecclesial Community is inclusive of all the members of the Church, even in the concrete context where and how their faith is lived, in their origin, and the end to which they direct themselves. In the Diocese of Lucena, a Basic Ecclesial Community consists of neighboring families who gather around the Word of God and the Eucharist… Ususally emerging at the grassroots among poor farmers and workers, Basic Ecclesial Communities continuously strive to integrate their faith and their daily life. (11fn)
9. The manner by which these Basic Ecclesial Communities are formed is unlike that of civic organizations or clubs. Hence, the Basic Ecclesial Community is a “new image” not in the sense of a “new cloth” made to fit the community but by virtue of the formation of the baptized in the faith that they live in the Christian communities where they belong. It is necessary that all Christians be led back in
10. For the particular Church in Lucena, the Basic Ecclesial Communities are signs of great hope for the kind of evangelization needed by the modern times. (13fn) Evangelization is foremost the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. (14fn) Pope Paul VI stresses that the Church as an evangelizer begins by being evangelized herself. (15fn) In the life of the Basic Ecclesial Community, the baptized are not only strengthened in their relationship with Christ but are also led to a deeper understanding of the universal call to holiness; they are likewise directed towards a better awareness and resolute performance of their duty as agents of proclamation of the Gospel. Whenever neighbors or families gather and listen to and share the Word of God, they are able to inculturate and keep this Word rooted in their concrete experiences and life situations. Their prophetic function, to which by virtue of baptism they are heir, is therefore all the more given concrete expression it is in this light that the present Pope recognizes and affirms the significant role of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the evangelizing efforts of the Church.
11. Since each Basic Ecclesial Community exists for the integral development of all its members, every aspect pertinent to this objective is part and parcel of the inherent nature of a BBasic Ecclesial Community. The laypeople in particular play a pivotal role in the realization of this objective since it is they who account for the majority of the members of the BECs. Holy Mother Church asserts that the laity possess two basic characteristics: (1) The lay state is no less than that of priests or religious since through Baptism the laity are also endowed with the status and rights proper and common to all those established among the People of God; and (2) Laypeople possess a secular character. (17fn) This character, which is proper and peculiar to the laity, entails their active participation in sanctifying the temporal order by bearing clear witness to their faith.
12. Because of the active engagement of the laypeople in temporal affairs, the Basic Ecclesial Communities are able to fulfill concretely their mission of promoting and serving the welfare of all people. In the Basic Ecclesial Communities, there exists a diversity of apostolate or ministry in response to the different needs and demands of the circumstances of the members. There are works of apostolate with particular concern for poverty, injustice, violation of human rights, and caring for nature. There are also assist-programs in relation to livelihood, family life, even political concerns, and many others. Hence, Basic Ecclesial Communities serve as a “conscience” that evokes the consciousness and attention of the members of the community regarding the genuine transformation of society. The formation of a mature Christian conscience in relation to socio-economic and political problems is, therefore, indispensable. (18 fn)
13. If the Church in the Philippines so desires to truly become a Church of the Poor, the Basic Ecclesial Communities must be viewed as a unique sign and means of realizing this. (19fn) The fact that most of the members of the Basic Ecclesial Communities come from the poor in urban and rural areas cannot be denied. The primary characteristic of a Church of the Poor is that its members practice the evangelical spirit of poverty; likewise its members have a special preference and concern for the poor. (20fn) In the Basic Ecclesial Communities, the spiritual nourishment of those who are poor must never be pushed a step behind that of the affluent members. The Basic Ecclesial Communities stand as an image of a Church that is fully alive, where the poor play a vital role in her life and mission, and where the less fortunate are not merely evangelized but are formed in such a manner that they become evangelizers and witnesses of the Good News themselves. The growth of such Church of the Poor through the Basic Ecclesial Communities will all the more find concrete expression when each of the baptized fully lives the spirit of poverty and willingly renounces mentalities, values, behavior, and lifestyles that discriminate against the poor.
THE LIFE OF HOLINESS OF THE BASIC ECCLESIAL COMMUNITIES
14. For this is the will of God, your sanctification (1 Thes. 4:3). Holy Mother Church never ceases to preach that the state of the baptized is closely connected to God’s call for everyone to holiness. The followers of Christ, called by God not in virtue of their works but by his design and grace, and justified in the Lord Jesus, have been made sons of God in the baptism of the faith and partakers of the divine nature, and so are truly sanctified. They must therefore hold on to and perfect in their lives that sanctification which they have received from God. (22fn) Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. 5:48).
15. The examples and teachings of the holy men and women in the Church clearly manifest that holiness is primarily a grace of God, who invites all persons to receive his actions and graces with open hearts. (23fn) in view of this, the life of holiness behoves the baptized to lead a life rooted in and intimately related to God for the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father (Heb. 2:11).
16. Holiness is a duty on the part of the People of God. Each one, according to his own state and situation in life, is called to advance in the path of holiness. In the Church there is a diversity of ministry and ways to holiness, yet there is one call to sanctity. (24fn) While individuals strive to march along the path of holiness, the Church does not tire of sanctifying all the strata and structures of the world. (25fn)
17. Holiness, as a gift and a duty, is made visible and concretely realized in a Church renewed through the Basic Ecclesial Communities. The aspects significant to an authentic growth in holiness include the efforts of all not only as private individuals but also as part of the community of the faithful. In a community the members must lead a life animated by charity and sharing. These characteristics mark the very life and existence of the Holy Trinity.
18. The sanctification of a baptized person begins with his unconditional acceptance of faith. (27fn) This is a fruit of the proclamation of the Word of God, on which the faith is rooted. Incorporation into the Church and growth in grace are primarily realized through the sacraments. Hence, the Church firmly recognizes the Word of God and the sacraments as the source from which holiness springs.
19. As a new expression of being a Church, the Basic Ecclesial Communities and the holiness that characterizes their life are primarily rooted in the Word of God and the sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist. Bibliarasal, Bible sharing, and weekly celebration of the Word, among others, are suitable activities by which the Word of God becomes implanted in the minds and hearts of the families or neighborhoods that constitute the Basic Ecclesial Communities. In this way, this Word is able to bear fruit—holiness is one of the fruits—in their everyday lives. The Word of God is a source of inspiration so that everyone can encounter others as brothers and sisters in one community. Moreover, even the occasional celebration of the Holy Eucharist, which is the fons et culmensof Christian life, (28fn) becomes a unique offering by which God sanctifies the world in Christ, and the worship which men offer to Christ and which through him they offer to the Father in the Spirit. (29fn) Notwithstanding the infrequent celebration of the Eucharist in the Basic Ecclesial Communities, it remains to be a duty of all members to keep aflame their thirst and hunger for this sacrament of the one sacrifice offered by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.
20. It is also to be borne in mind, however, that the various forms of devotions and prayers, such as the communal praying of the rosary, novena to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, the singing of verses from the Passion of the Lord Jesus Christ during the Lenten season and Holy Week, and many others, are also channels of graces and means of sanctification of the members of the Basic Ecclesial Communities.
21. Genuine holiness closely embraces the total being of a person. One can never lead a truly holy life when sanctification is confined to the spiritual dimension and deprived of concrete expression in human life. It is in this light that the Basic Ecclesial Communities become schools of holiness lived and witnessed to. The neighborhoods gathered as a community of faithful in a Basic Ecclesial Community develop an enduring enthusiasm to live by and firmly hold on to Godly ideas and values in the face of the principles and assumptions that are opposed to the Christian faith. In other words, the holiness of the Basic Ecclesial Communities is not merely founded on spiritual activities. In the Basic Ecclesial Communities, authentic holiness flows through all the members in the concrete circumstances of their family life, their struggles in the workplace, and their involvement in socio-political affairs, in order that from there they may radiate the values and teachings of Jesus. It is the aim of Basic Ecclesial Communities to see to it that the entire society and its culture are permeated with Godly inspiration and sense. Therefore, the Church clearly perceives that through the faithful witnessing to holiness by all her members, the People of God will grow in holiness and fruitful abundance.
THE MISSION OF THE BASIC ECCLESIAL COMMUNITIES
22. The Church relies on her lively and intimate relationship with Christ for her continued existence. It is on the basis of this truth that the unity of the community of the baptized is founded. Closely related to her intimacy with Christ, however, is the truth that the Church by her very nature is missionary. The call to discipleship is a vocation to communion and mission. (32fn) The institution of the Church has an indubitable connection to the mission she has received form the Lord Jesus Christ: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you (Mt. 28:19-20). This is the reason why the Church declares the missionary nature of her existence in the world. (33fn)
23. At the heart of this mission is the renewal that is aspired for the society. Through the growth of the Basic Ecclesial Communities, the mission of the Church― which is to proclaim the message of Christ not only for the people to hear and understand but most especially for the same message to take root in the ordinary way of life of a society composed of the faithful— finds its concrete realization. It is in the Basic Ecclesial Communities that every baptized person is provided with an appropriate formation so that he can become an agent of the mission. In like manner, the empowerment of the laity is realized in the context of their Christian community, where they are the primary collaborators in the formation of faith, service, and charity for one another.
24. In this manner of active participation and involvement in the mission of the Church, each family, as the basic unit of the society and member of the neighborhood, is the foremost subject and recipient of formation. By God’s design, the family in not merely a human institution since its very existence has a religious and spiritual dimension. In the relationship of the families that constitute the Basic Ecclesial Community, they are drawn towards development in such a manner that ehy truly become a covenant of love and life, school of Christian discipleship, domestic Church, fundamental and significant unit of the society that nurtures and fosters virtuous behaviour towards others, which is needed for the life of the society. (34fn) Through the Basic Ecclesial Communities, particular attention is directly given to the formation of married couples, parent-children relationship, the pressing problems of the youth, as well as the problems that the neighborhood has to confront.
25. At all times, the Church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the time and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel. (35fn) In view of this, part of the role of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the world is to be actively involved in socio-political affairs, particularly when these significantly impact the faith and moral life of the people.
26. The overall mission of the Basic Ecclesial Communities includes human development in terms of livelihood. An important dimension of this however, is the need to form the minds and hearts of the faithful in the truth that the real meaning of human life is not derived from the amassing of wealth and material possessions, if these material gains can harm to their souls (Cf. Mt. 16:26).(36fn) Nevertheless, through the various projects implemented to ameliorate the economic condition of their members, the Basic Ecclesial Communities are able to fulfil their mission of helping the people rise from poverty. In this way, the dignity of human beings, who are created in the image of God (Cf. Gen. 1:26), is fostered.
27. In a wider perspective of the Basic Ecclesial Communities, the truth that these communities are instrumental to the development and renewal of the society cannot be disavowed. A number of significant events in history in our country and abroad firmly attest this fact. Solidarity in faith and unity of efforts to attain the renewal called forth by the Gospel urge the members of the Basic Ecclesial Communities to act for peace, defense of human rights, preservation of nature, and search for justice. (37fn) In like manner, through communal reflection and study, the minds of the members of the Basic Ecclesial Communities are molded so as to help them acquire a correct understanding of their true and necessary involvement in political affairs. It is through the Basic Ecclesial Communities that the Spiritual, intellectual, and moral treasures of the Catholic faith in regard to this aspect will be revealed and proclaimed in the midst of today’s modern culture. (38fn) The Basic Ecclesial Communities will serve as seedbeds with which we can build a culture that is open and bears witness to the values and principles rooted in faith and morality.
THE CHURCH OF THE POOR
28. A Church of the Poor is one that embraces and practices the evangelical spirit of poverty, which combines detachment from possessions with a profound trust in the Lord as the sole source of salvation. (40fn) Christ wants all his followers to be “poor in spirit” in order that they may completely trust in God. Hence, the Church—her leaders and members—is called to have a special concern and love for the poor.
29. By means of the Basic Ecclesial Communities, the faithful are led to discover the truth about the Church of the Poor. A large part of the members of the particular Church in Lucena undeniably belongs to the poor. Their condition in life, however, should not be an obstacle in their formation and development as members of the Church. Even the well-off members have an active and distinct role in this vision since, by virtue of Baptism, they too are established among the People of God. Hence, the growth and spread of the Basic Ecclesial Communities are signs of renewing diocese that pays particular attention to, recognizes, and acts for the poor.
30. Each baptized has a role to play in the building up of a Church of the Poor in the midst of our society. The members of the particular Church —the priests, religious, and laity— are all called to a deep commitment and sincere giving of themselves—their talent, treasure, and time. The formation necessary for the emergence of the Basic Ecclesial Communities, where the Church of the Poor can be more proclaimed, is among the signs of the times that must be assiduously realized. The Basic Ecclesial Communities must be the centrepiece where all the spiritual and pastoral activities of the diocese should both begin and end. Far from being a mere diocesan program, the Basic Ecclesial Communitiesare actually the point from and in which the action of the entire diocese, the parishes, diocesan commissions, and religious organizations springs up and revolves.
31. Since by virtue of the sacrament of Holy orders they received from God the duty to govern his people, the priests of the diocese, together with the bishop, should spearhead the formation of the Basic Ecclesial Communities as a genuine expression of being a Church of the Poor. Following the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, they are to lead the People of God to greener pastures of a renewed image and life for the particular Church in Lucena. This they can perform primarily by bearing witness through their way of life that embraces the spirit of poverty. In the context of the Church of the Poor, it is expected that there will be a fresh image and challenge in carrying out their priestly ministry. They should readily accept the truth that it is from the life of the Church of the Poor where the active participation and leadership of the laity in various programs and activities spring. In this manner, the ministry of priests is truly put to the support and service of the priestly, prophetic, and kingly functions received by all the faithful from Christ through the sacrament of Baptism.
32. In light of the aforesaid, each of the baptized has an active role to perform in initiating a new way of life and of carrying out the mission of Christ through the Basic Ecclesial Communities. The various parish organizations should not be deterrent to the attainment of this goal. The Basic Ecclesial Communities shall serve as a source of unity and deep relationship among the members of the Church of the Poor even if they belong to different religious organizations such as the Legion of Mary, Catholic Women’s League, Knights of Columbus, Couples for Christ, and others. What matters is that, above all, the minds and hearts of the laity are being formed towards the building up of a Church of the Poor where they can better esteem and realize their status as members of the one Church. It is in the context of the Basic Ecclesial Communities that they learn to live by the evangelical spirit of poverty.
33. Religious life is… a distinct form of discipleship whereby persons consecrate themselves to living Christ’s life radically, publicly and in community, in order thereby to devote themselves exclusively to the mission of Christ. (42fn) This kind of life that is consecrated to God and lived in a community is a firm testimony to and a clear reflection of the way of life envisioned by the Church of the Poor. The act of consecrating oneself to God, as confirmation and embodiment of one’s consecration made in Baptism, means embracing a life that is rooted in God —in chastity, obedience, and poverty. Through the various works of apostolate that they carry out, the religious persons bear witness in the midst of the world—a witnessing that connects the life of faith to everyday
34. The realization of this vision for the particular Church is a challenge to each of the members of the whole diocese. With a profound trust in God and sincere commitment of self, every effort exerted will become a testimony to the call to spread the Kingdom of God on earth.
THE BASIC ECCLESIAL COMMUNITIES IN THE DIOCESE OF LUCENA
35. The First Synod of Lucena clearly stated that after the family, which is the “domestic Church,” the first manifestation of the particular Church as a community of believers is expressed in Basic Ecclesial Communities, where the laypeople exercise their leadership in various functions in the Church and society. (44fn) In light of this truth, the First Synod declared: We envision the formation of small Christian communities in our Diocese. In such communities the ample participation of lay people in the triple task of worship, formation and service can be achieved with greater and greater intensity. (45fn) This explains why the Basic Ecclesial Communities have since been the primary thrust of all the pastoral programs and activities in the diocese.
36. Although the emergence of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the diocese had modest beginnings, it is evident that their birth, longevity, and growth have been brought about by an earnest and common objective. In the mid-70’s, Redemptorist priests carried out missionary activities, called KILUSANG ILAW, in certain large parishes of the diocese such as Lucena, Tayabas, Lucban, Atimonan, and Candelaria. For a few months, these priests immersed themselves in some barangays in the parishes. Although their primary activities were centered on home visitation and celebration of the sacraments (Eucharist, Baptism, and Matrimony), these priests tried to unify the people in the neighborhoods that made up the barangays. Even there and then, the Basic Ecclesial Community could already be seen as a tiny seed that began to sprout in this particular vineyard of the Lord―the Diocese of Lucena.
37. Almost at the same time Bishop Alfredo Ma. Obviar, in the last years of his governance of the diocese, assisted by his then Coadjutor Bishop, Bishop Jose T. Sanchez, summoned his clergy to undertake a renovacion spiritual y pastoral (spiritual and pastoral renewal), which was spearheaded by two Jesuit priests. (46fn) One of its primary fruits was the formulation of a Pastoral Plan whose sole objective was the building up of a Christian Community through salvific formation, worship and service in accordance with the Word of God. (47fn) Influenced by the emerging new ideologies and movements that focused on the new evangelization, and with the initiatives of some priests who were energetic and innovative in the apostolate, the Church began to go to the rural areas in order to reach out to the greater majority who were unchurched. It was through this that the grassroots communities or Basic Ecclesial Communities― they are also called “comunidades de base” ―truly begamtp emerge in the diocese. From the very beginning, they were already referred to in the diocese as Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs). It must never be forgotten that the lay missioners of the Philippine Lay Mission Program (PLMP), which was established and run by the Maryknoll priests in Davao, contributed greatly to the formation of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the parishes of the diocese. Their role in training and forming the first batch of our Pastoral Lay Workers, who eventually devoted themselves to the crucial and challenging task of building up, strengthening, and propagating the BECs in the different parishes of the diocese, must be recognized.
38. After the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines was held in 1991, the clergy, as well as the laity, became more diligent and energetic in fostering the BECs. The Council’s declaration that the Basic Ecclesial Communities are the expression of a renewing Church that is demanded by our present condition and time challenged all.48 in order to execute the intent of the Council’s resolutions, Bishop Ruben T. Profugo summoned 74 priests, religious women, and laypeople to participate in the Diocesan Pastoral Council held on August 12-14, 1992. With the formation, edification and spread of the BECs through community celebration, evangelization and holistic human development as the primary end in view, 49 the Pastoral Council was able to draft a Pastoral Plan that laid down the concrete pastoral activities to be accomplished in the subsequent eight years (1992-2000). This all the more clarified the path that the particular Church had to take.
39. Through the years, the face of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the diocese was further molded by the persistence of and collaboration among the clergy, missioners, religious women, pastoral lay workers as well as the members of the BECs themselves. Although it is undeniable that in the past there sprouted various strategies and methods in the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities in the different parishes of the diocese, the essential procedural components of forming BECs remain. They are as follows: (1)Awareness and Conscientization—where the faithful, especially the lay leaders who are members of the Parish Pastoral Council and religious organizations, are given adequate orientation on BECs under the supervision of the parish priests and pastoral lay workers. This undertaking is accomplished by means of the preaching or homily of the priest, or conferences conducted by persons who possess sufficient knowledge and experience; (2) Organizational Stage—which comprises the following activities: survey/census, integration, mass evangelization, selection of potential leaders, formal inaugural Mass of the BEC, and oath-taking of the officers; (3) Intensive Follow-Up and BEC Sustaining Activities—where the members of the BEC are provided with an ongoing formation on catechism, liturgy, Bible, leadership, family life, and others through a series of seminars, training, and lectures; and (4)Reaching Out—where formed BECs that are already stable are expected to reach out and help in the building up of new BECs in their neighboring areas. The diocese also saw the need of gathering together the BEC units into what is called KAWAN, which represents a barangay, in order to achieve effective collaboration and communication. A KAWAN consists of BECs whose members are neighboring families (in many parishes of the diocese, a single BEC unit consists of more than 25 Christian families). The division of the BECs that constitute one KAWAN is often determined according to geographical settings. This crucial process of building up, sustaining, and enhancing Basic Ecclesial Communities truly requires the personal commitment of each member of the community—from the parish priest and lay workers to the leaders and members of the BECs themselves.
40. Although the diocese is exerting her full efforts to realize her pastoral vision, obstacles and hindrances to the continuous spread and growth of the Basic Ecclesial Communities are inevitable. In the consultation with the faithful of the diocese, which was conducted in preparation for this synod, the problems that the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the diocese are confronted with were seen: the clergy’s lack of determination in and support of the tasks of building up and sustaining BECs, which usually results from the periodic reshuffle of their assignments; lack of openness on the part of some priests, pastoral workers, and members of the BECs themselves to new strategies and approaches in addressing problems related to the formation of BECs; absence of interest on the part of the laity; absence or lack of adequate formation of the faithful with regard to the BECs; absence or lack of ongoing formation and catechesis needed by the leaders and members of the BECs; the BEC members’ failure to attend regular meetings; incompetence on the part of the BEC officers and indifference of members; lack of financial support; inadequate number of pastoral lay workers; and the fact that some members of the BECs are lured to join other religions or sect in their respective areas. Aside from the aforesaid, the faithful are also unanimous in their impression that the BECs are focused only on responding to their spiritual needs, while ignoring the economic and socio-political concerns of the their members. It is also undeniable that to date, women still constitute the majority of active members of the BECs in the different parishes of the diocese. This situation is a challenge to motivate the male members into a wider and more active role in the life of the Basic Ecclesial Communities.
41. The diocese firmly commits herself to the fostering of the Basic Ecclesial Communities. Although she has gone far in this kind of apostolate and pastoral work, it still has many limitations and weaknesses. Nevertheless, the faithful must not ignore the remarkable role that the Basic Ecclesial Communities have played in the life of the particular Church in Lucena. One of the wonderful fruits of the existence of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the diocese is that it has made possible the particular Church’s realization of her character as a “missionary Church.” The sharing of the light of faith evident in the experiences of the Basic Ecclesial Communities is a response to the mission entrusted by Jesus to his disciples. Besides broadening the lay faithful’s involvement in the life of the Church, the Basic Ecclesial Communities continue to serve as seedbeds where Potential lay leaders are formed and prepared. Over the years, countless dedicated lay leaders in the diocese have come from their respective BECs. In the unceasing sharing of abilities, talents, and rich experiences of priests, pastoral workers, lay leaders, and members of the BECs themselves, it is hoped that the Basic Ecclesial Communities shall become the new image of the diocese towards the renewal desired by all.
MARY, STAR OF THE BECs IN THE BUILDING UP OF A COMMUNITY OF MEEK BELIEVERS
42. Like those who make up the BECs—they usually come from the grassroots level of the community—Mary belonged to the common people of her time. In fact, as a woman she was one of the disadvantaged members of society. Yet God chose her to play a unique role in the salvific work of Jesus Christ. She who was exalted as Mother of God believed that the Lord’s word to her would be fulfilled (Cf. Lk. 1:45). In Nazareth, she was an exemplary wife and mother, and thereby a radiant light to the Holy Family. In this light, the BECs must strive to build a Christian community that humbly submits itself to Christ’s light and imparts it to others. The life of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a wellspring of inspiration for the Basic Ecclesial Communities as they persevere in becoming a genuine community of Christ’s disciples.
43. Mary was poor in fact and in spirit.50 Her life radiates a profound trust in and humble obedience to the will of God. Though perplexed by the words of the angel at the annunciation, Mary exclaimed: Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word (Lk. 1:38). With the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the model-disciple who listened and bore witness to the Word, the Church of the Poor envisioned by the particular Church in Lucena will become an enduring sign of the power of God who has lifted up the lowly and has filled the hungry with good things (Lk. 1:52-53).
CALL TO ACTION
This synod recommends the following Call to Action (CTA) in order to propagate and ensure the growth of Basic Ecclesial Communities in the diocese.
I. THE STRUCTURE OF THE BASIC ECCLESIAL COMMUNITIES AS AN IMAGE OF A RENEWING CHURCH
CTA-1. The Bishop and the clergy, particularly the parish priests, have the primary duty of building up BECs in their respective parishes. In relation to this, each parish shall submit a pastoral plan in accord with the vision and mission of the diocese.
CTA-2. The clergy shall undertake an in-depth study of and training in the Basic Ecclesial Communities. In this way, they can further commit themselves to the effective implementation of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the diocese.
CTA-3. The Pastoral Director shall regularly monitor and follow up the pastoral programs and plans of the parishes. He shall ensure that the building up and spread of the BECs are faithfully accomplished.
CTA-4. Each parish priest shall formulate and submit to the Pastoral Director a yearly evaluation of and report on the condition of BECs in his parish. The parish priest and the Pastoral Director shall maintain regular coordination and discussion on how to foster the BECs.
CTA-5. In order to truly advance the welfare of the Basic Ecclesial Communities, it is strongly recommended that an effective structure of leadership be organized in these communities with the assistance of lay workers, catechists, and religious sisters. It is also expected that the would-be leaders of these BECs shall be provided with a program of training and continuing formation.
CTA-6. This synod also recommends that a proper line of action be taken in order to continue “Balik-Sigla,” a program of the Diocesan Council of the Laity. Its primary aim is to reinvigorate the faith-life of the members of the BECs.
CTA-7. Particular attention shall be given to the ongoing formation of the BEC leaders, pastoral lay workers, and BEC pastoral teams. Dynamic leadership can be ensured if regular meetings and periodic evaluations of the programs of the BECs are faithfully done. In like manner, an association of Pastoral Lay Workers in the diocesan level must be established if their welfare is to be promoted.
CTA-8. The teaching catechism is important in the development of the Basic Ecclesial Communities. It is imperative to assign catechists who will devote themselves to the teaching of catechism in the Basic Ecclesial Communities, with the intention of providing the faithful with a deeper understanding of the truths of the faith and enjoining them to lead a moral life.
CTA-9. Under the supervision of the Pastoral Director, this synod recommends that the Diocesan Coordinating Council, whose primary function is to serve and atten to the needs of the BECs, be revived and reinvigorated.
II. THE LIFE OF HOLINESS OF THE BASIC ECCLESIAL COMMUNITIES
CTA-10. It is strongly recommended that regular celebration of the Holy Mass be held in the BECs, at least once a month or more frequently.
CTA-11. The following spiritual exercises shall be observed so as to ensure growth of the BECs and keep their enthusiasm aflame: (a) monthly Mass, (b) monthly meeting, (c) seminars, (d) block rosary, (e) prayer meeting, (f) Bibliarasal and Bible service, and (g) annual assemblies of the BECs in the parochial and diocesan levels.
CTA-12. The sincere and devout reception of the sacraments shall be encouraged among the members of the BECs. In this regard, the teaching of catechism, including the importance, nature, and grace imparted by the sacraments, particularly the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance, will be of great help.
CTA-13. It will definitely be of invaluable help if every BEC, depending on the community’s needs and situation, can have its own chapel and if it can be supported financially in its various programs and activities.
CTA-14. Visiting those in need, especially the sick, victims of calamities, or those languishing in jail, can also help the members of the BECs feel that they are truly part of the Church.
III. THE MISSION OF THE BASIC ECCLESIAL COMMUNITIES
CTA-15. It shall be ensured that programs for the family are being implemented in the BECs. Lectures on responsible parenthood, including the topic on natural family planning, shall be assiduously given to the members of the BECs. Corollary to this, it will be beneficial if priests are able to give counselling to troubled families.
CTA-16. It is strongly recommended that widespread instruction on the programs and activities of the parishes and the diocese in relation to the Basic Ecclesial Communities be done in order to lead all the faithful towards an informed awareness of the actual condition and pressing needs of the particular Church. It is expected that this step will help motivate them to actively participate in the life and mission of the Church.
CTA-17. Christian couples in the BECs shall be encouraged to join religious organizations for married couples. It is expected that this step will further strengthen their married love.
CTA-18. Particular attention shall be given to the condition and needs of the youth, especially the out-of-school-youth. Programs aimed at developing their self-worth, such as leadership training, seminars, sports development programs, recollections, and retreats, shall be organized. They shall also be encouraged to join youth organizations like the Knights of the Altar, Youth for Christ, Singles for Christ, Tarcisians, and others that are under the supervision of the Parish Youth Committee.
CTA-19. This synod also recommends the establishment of a cooperative that will respond to the various needs, be they livelihood or health-related concerns, of the members of the BECs. In this way, the spirit of charity and benevolence can be fostered among the members.
CTA-20. The launching of livelihood training programs for the purpose of uplifting the economic condition of the members of the BECs will be of inestimable value. The Social Action Center of the diocese can contribute to the realization of this objective.
CTA-21. The community of the faithful shall be led towards a greater consciousness of their duties as members of society. Programs aimed at motivating the people to be actively involved in socio-political issues shall be organized. The proper caring for the environment and responsible citizenship shall likewise be given attention.
IV. THE CHURCH OF THE POOR
CTA-22. The church can better live by and bear witness to the spirit of poverty if the priests are truly aware of and open to the sentiments, conditions, needs, and aspirations of the poor. This largely depends on the clergy’s simple lifestyle and willful renunciation of material wealth.
CTA-23. The poor can truly feel that they are part of the Church if they are constantly enjoined to actively involve and participate in the activities and programs of the parish or diocese. Frequent and regular visitations of priests, religious sisters, or pastoral lay workers in their homes and places will be of inestimable value.
CTA-24. Efforts to recruit and train more pastoral lay workers shall be reinvigorated so that the Church can reach out to more of her many members who are in need. The members of the different religious organizations shall collaborate in this undertaking.
CTA-25. Concrete programs with the following aspects shall be organized and implemented in the parishes: (a) livelihood, so as to help the poor better their living condition, (b) social life, in order to enliven the spirit of communion and sense of responsibility within the community, and (c) health, for the purpose of ensuring their bodily health, which is a significant component of their being.
CTA-26. So that the Church can truly manifest her special concern and preferential love for the poor, it is strongly recommended that, whenever feasible, the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Matrimony, including the Mass for the dead and funeral rites, be administered to the poor free of any dues.
V. THE BASIC ECCLESIAL COMMUNITIES IN THE DIOCESE OF LUCENA
CTA-27. Any new approach in the work of evangelization shall be brought to and accepted by the parishes with openness so that they can learn to appreciate the importance of these modern tools.
CTA-28. In the parish level, there shall be pastoral workers who shall be trained and serve in their respective parishes. Along this line, each parish is admonished to have its own full-time pastoral lay workers, aside from the Parish Pastoral Mission Team.
CTA-29. The Pastoral Lay Workers of the diocese shall be tasked to supervise the formation of prospective Pastoral Lay workers in the parish level. Full-time Pastoral Lay Workers shall mainly discharge the duty of building up BECs, while it is expected that the Parish Pastoral Mission Team shall assist in the sustaining activities in the BECs.