LIFE AND MINISTRY OF THE CLERGY
1. If the Church strives to be constantly renewed, such renewal should begin with the life and ministry of the priests. History testifies to the fact that the life and growth of the Church depend heavily on the quality of her priests and the kind of leadership that they exercise. Hence, if the renewal of the Church is to be realized at all, the clergy’s life and ministry should be renewed first. The Second Vatican Council affirms this need: The Council is fully aware that the desired renewal of the whole Church depends in great part upon a priestly ministry animated by the spirit of Christ. The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines stresses the same point: In our cultural context, perhaps nothing on the human plane will influence both the shape of the Church and its impact on Philippine society as palpably as the leadership of its ordained ministers.
2. That the Second Synod of Lucena aims at renewing the diocese is enunciated in the circular of the Bishop of Lucena, We shall hold this diocesan synod to effect a renewal in the life of the Diocese of Lucena. This renewal forms an integral part of the Mission of the Second Diocesan Synod. It was in this spirit that the whole diocese prayed to God, asking him to renew our hearts and cleanse our thoughts and will so that…we may become a renewing community.
3. Entitled Life and Ministry of the Clergy, this document treats the seven aspects that constitute the ministry and life of the priests: (1) Life of Holiness, (2) Ongoing Formation, (3) Lifestyle, (4) Relationship with the Bishop, Fellow Priests, Religious, and the Laity, (5) Ministerial Life, (6) Commitment to the Diocese, and (7) General Welfare. It ends with a note on the Blessed Virgin Mary in relation to priestly renewal.
LIFE OF HOLINESS
4. The Second Vatican Council clearly stresses the vocation to holiness to which all priests are being called. Despite human weakness, they are obligated to [B]e perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. 5:48). Priests are bound by a special reason to acquire perfection. This refers to the holiness with which priests as servants of the Lord are to be recognized as servants of the Lord.
5. The same Council spells out the means by which priests can live holy lives. Priests will acquire holiness in their own distinctive way by exercising their functions sincerely and tirelessly in the Spirit of Christ. In order to grow in holiness, priests need to nurture the following elements: administration of the sacraments, prayer life, fidelity to priestly vows, and ministerial life.
6. Priestly holiness depends on the devout celebration of the Holy Eucharist and other sacraments. It is in the Holy Eucharist that the priest makes present, in a sacramental way, the one sacrifice of Christ. An intimate bond exists between the Priesthood and the Eucharist because on the night before he suffered and died, Christ instituted these two sacraments. The Priesthood cannot therefore be conceived apart from the Holy Eucharist, which is the summit of a priest’s life and source of his holiness. A Eucharistic spirituality fosters a priest’s awareness of himself as a sacrificial gift to God. Every commitment to holiness must draw strength from the Eucharistic mystery.
7. Faithful celebration of the sacraments reflects the holiness of the priest, who performs them in the name and person of Christ. From the various sacraments, the priest’s spiritual life receives certain features. As a necessary means to acquire perfection, prayer is indispensable in the life of a priest. Indeed, no priest can ever aspire to be holy unless he is deeply rooted in God through prayer. Holiness is intimacy with God. This intimate relationship with God is sustained by a personal devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Regular communion with Christ during holy hour strengthens the life of a priest. Faithful praying of the liturgy of the hours, where a priest sanctifies every hour of the day and prays in union with his brother-priests and the entire Church, is another source of holiness.
8. Marian devotion likewise enhances a priest’s relationship with Christ. The Rosary helps us to be conformed ever more closely to Christ until we attain true holiness. Devotion to the saints in heaven also helps insofar as their lives on earth and their examples of holiness inspire the priests to tread the same path to holiness and intimacy with Christ. In addition, devotion to the angels fosters priestly spirituality. Meditation and spiritual reading guide a priest in advancing in holiness, endurance of suffering, and growth in Christian virtues.
9. A priest is a Minister of the Word. To him is entrusted the task of proclaiming the Good News to the community of believers. It is therefore imperative that a priest carefully reads and assiduously meditates on the Word of God before proclaiming and preaching it through homily and other forms of the Ministry of the Word. For this reason, the priest himself ought to develop a great familiarity with the word of God. Empty will this preaching of the priest be if it is not drawn from a profound meditation on the Sacred Scriptures and not born of deep prayer. Effective preaching is another fruit of personal prayer.
10. The priest’s holiness is also measured by his faithful living out of his promises made on the day of ordination. A priest must lead a chaste and celibate life as a sign of his total dedication to the Kingdom of God. He must likewise practice a life of poverty, with a firm conviction that God alone is the source of everything and that one must rely only on him. A priest ought to be obedient and respectful to his bishop whom he should consider his father. That priestly obedience, inspired through and through by the spirit of cooperation, is based on that sharing of the episcopal ministry. Every priest has to bear in mind that he is merely sharing in the priesthood and ministry of his bishop.
11. Finally, a priest can live out holiness in his service to the community, otherwise called pastoral life. A priest’s holiness is mirrored in the way he deals with the people whom he serves. A priest is expected to serve his community wholeheartedly with joy, humility, calmness, equality and, above all, love. He must be an image of Christ the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep and lays down his life for them. The very holiness of the priest is of the greatest benefit for the fruitful fulfillment of their ministry. The faithful, in turn, should pray for their priests that they may increase even more greatly in the life of holiness.
12. Ongoing formation is a constituent part of the renewal of the clergy. Contrary to popular opinion, formation does not end in the seminary but continues beyond ordination day. Pastores Dabo Vobis stresses the necessity of the clergy’s ongoing formation. This document dwells on the different aspects of formation―human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral.
13. The priests’ ongoing formation is biblically founded. In his First Letter to Timothy, St. Paul exhorts those who were commissioned through the laying on of hands. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of the elders. Put those things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching, continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Tim. 4:14-16). The words “progress” and “continue” may be interpreted as implying the expected growth in the life of the ordained ministers or, in other words, the need for ongoing formation.
14. Since the priests’ ongoing formation follows the formal seminary formation, the same aspects of formation for seminarians apply to the priests, namely, human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. These areas, however, are not to be compartmentalized since each contributes to the integral growth of a priest. No aspect must be neglected because its absence is detrimental to the integral formation of the priest as a human person and minister of the Church.
15. Because the priest lives with the community, he ought to know and understand the life, struggle, feeling, and thinking of the people whom he encounters. It is therefore imperative that he grows as a person so that he can attend to the human needs of the people entrusted to his care. The priest needs to develop and sharpen his human sensitivity so as to understand more clearly their needs, respond to their demands, perceive their unvoiced questions and share the hopes and expectations, the joys and burdens which are part of their life. In sharing in the very struggles of the people― struggles that have diverse faces and forms―the priest cultivates his own humanity and deepens his love for the people for whose sake he offers his life and service.
16. The priest’s growth as a person finds its expression in his progress in holiness in the spirit of Christ and the Gospel. St Paul exhorts the Ephesians:… until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). A priest has to grow in his prayer life. The priest continues to grow in holiness not merely through faithful praying of the breviary but foremost through a genuine personal encounter with Jesus, a trusting dialogue with the Father and a deep experience of the Spirit. The saints exhort the priests to meditate on the sacraments that they celebrate in order that these may become a source of spiritual strength instead of being empty words and meaningless gestures.
17. Undeniably, the priest is a Teacher of the Word of God. While he fulfills his duty of preaching the Word of God, the priest must grow in the knowledge of Sacred Scriptures. He needs to meditate on the Word and live by it before preaching it to the community. He must know Christ and make others know him. Continuing theological study is necessary if the priest is to faithfully carry out the Ministry of the Word, proclaiming it clearly and without ambiguity, distinguishing it from mere human opinions. With constant theological study, the priest is in a position to correct those erring in faith and to prevent possible rejection of the Church’s true teaching.
18. Ongoing formation in pastoral aspect is reflected in the words of St. Peter. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received (1 Pt. 4:10). It is the duty of the priest to exercise his ministry for the welfare of the flock entrusted to him. In doing so, he manifests the pastoral charity of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. This pastoral charity will urge the priest to further understand the situation of the people whom he serves and to discern the call of the Holy Spirit in the concrete historical circumstances and signs of the times. It also helps a priest in ensuring that his pastoral life is relevant, credible and effective.
19. The priest’s life of holiness is rooted in his fidelity to the evangelical counsels―obedience, chastity, and poverty. The priest is called to live these counsels in accordance with those ways and more specifically, those goals and the basic meaning which derive from and express his own priestly identity. The concrete living out of these counsels by the priest is indicative of his way of life or lifestyle, which directly affects the life and faith of the people whom he serves and comes in contact with.
20. I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me (Jn. 5:30; Cf. 6:38). These very words of Jesus encapsulate the obedience expected of a priest. There are three aspects that constitute priestly obedience―apostolic, communal and pastoral. First, obedience has an apostolic dimension insofar as it recognizes the hierarchical structure of the Church. One of the four marks of the Church is its apostolicity or its being rooted in the apostles. A priest must be in communion with the Supreme Pontiff and the College of Bishops. Obedience makes possible the preservation of the Church’s doctrine in its pristine purity and the union with the apostles and their successors.
21. Secondly, obedience has a community dimension. Priestly obedience is not merely a personal relationship with the bishop but with the members of the presbyteral community as well. When a priest obeys his bishop, the unity of the whole apostolic Church is realized and the bond that unites the presbyterium is manifested, and here is expressed oneness with the one spirit, one dream and goal, and one vision for the diocese. A priest’s disobedience hampers not only his relationship with his bishop but the entire life of the diocesan community.
22. Finally, obedience has a pastoral aspect. Through the priest’s obedience to the call of his duty, he sacrifices himself in order to respond to the needs of the community. The life of a priest is an endless response to people’s hunger for faith, hope, and love of God and for his mystery. By his obedience, the priest becomes a shepherd leading his flock and bringing them to a good pasture.
23. The Second Vatican Council stresses that towering among the evangelical counsels is the precious gift of grace given to some by the Father (Mt. 19:11) to be anxious about the affairs of the Lord, to please him, and to devote themselves to God alone awith an undivided heart (1 Cor. 7:32-34). Celibacy has always been held in high esteem by the Church as a sign of heavenly love and a source of spiritual fertility. It is the personal gift of the priest to Jesus Christ and his Church. It also prefigures the eschatological marriage of Christ with the Church.
24. The Council also seeks to clarify the Catholic Church’s law and discipline regarding celibacy and the reasons behind this centuries-old tradition. Priesthood can be conferred only on those men who have received from God the gift of vocation to celibate chastity. The discipline of celibacy is willingly and freely chosen and embraced by the priest for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In order to do away with the negative view on the celibate life, it must be presented and explained in light of its biblical, theological, and spiritual richness. By means of celibate life, a priest must love the Church as Christ loves the Church, his Spouse.
25. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9). These words of St. Paul become, as it were, the basis of priestly poverty. By living a poor life, the priest imitates Christ who was born, who lived and died as a poor man. Poverty is the subjection of all goods to the supreme good of all―God and his Kingdom. Only the person who contemplates the mystery of God as supreme good can understand and practice poverty.
26. The priest must realize that he is only a steward of the goods that he shall not consider his personal property but belonging to the community. Hence, he is expected to show transparency regarding these things. The priest must likewise be ready to share these goods with his brother-priests and the community, particularly the poor. If a priest lives a simple life and is not enslaved by material riches, he can readily understand the situation of the poor and make himself available to them. Simplicity in the priest’s clothing, transportation, and belongings inspires the community of believers.
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE BISHOP, FELLOW PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS AND LAITY
27. By his very nature and in view of his ministry, a priest is called to relate with others. In the spirit of collegiality, he must foster relationship with his bishop, brother-priests, the religious, and the laity. The quality of a priest’s dealings with these people reveals his own spirituality.
28. Undeniably, there is an intimate bond that exists between a priest and his bishop. This stems from the fact that a priest participates in the ministry of the bishop by virtue of sacred ordination. Priests for their part should keep in mind the fullness of the sacrament of Order which bishops enjoy and should reverence in their persons the authority of Christ the Supreme Pastor. A priest must be attached to his bishop with sincere charity and obedience.
29. How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity (Ps. 133:1). In it is this spirit that must bind the priests of the Lord. In the rites of priestly ordination, priests are invited to lay their hands on the ordinandus and afterwards to give the kiss of peace to the new priest. The bond of brotherhood and unity among clerics stems from the sacrament of Holy Orders.
30. Imbued with a fraternal spirit, priests must help and support one another. The differences with respect to talents, abilities, and skills call for fraternal sharing. Notwithstanding differences in vision and methodology, older priests must accept and support their younger brothers in the presbyterate. The latter, in turn, must respect the older ones and recognize their wisdom and experience. They should consult them concerning the care of souls.
31. As collaborators in the Lord’s vineyard and sharers in a special ministry to the Church, the religious must be supported by the priests according to the needs of the former’s apostolate in their place of assignment. The spirit of unity and cooperation must be fostered in the apostolic endeavor. Priests must acknowledge that the women religious are gifted with special charisms necessary for the edification of the Church. In this regard, the priests must make sure that the vocation to the religious life is promoted. Even ordinary preaching should deal more frequently with the evangelical counsels and with choosing the religious state.
32. Priests occupy their position of leadership in the Christian community. They should be the source of unity of the baptized. Priests ought to discover and recognize the talents and skills of the laity. In the transforming Church, the role of the laity is valued more and more. By virtue of the Baptismal Priesthood, laypeople share in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ. That the laypeople play a significant role in the formation, maintenance, and strengthening of Basic Ecclesial Communities must be duly acknowledged.
33. By virtue of Sacred Orders, priests share in the prophetic, priestly and kingly office of Christ. They are called to preach the Word of God, to sanctify the people through the administration of the sacraments, and to govern the community in the spirit of service.
34. The first duty of a priest is to proclaim the Good News. Through this he fulfills the Lord’s command to go to all nations and preach the Gospel. Priests owe it to everybody to share with them the truth of the Gospel. They should meditate on the Word of God and preach its message in light of the signs of the times.
35. As an ordained minister, the priest shares in the priesthood of Christ and, hence, in the work of sanctification through the celebration of the Eucharist and other sacraments, prayer life, and works of piety.
36. The priest also shares in the kingly role of Christ by leading the Lord’s flock. Acting in the name of the bishop, he gathers the community foremost through the celebration of the Eucharist and governs the people in matters involving faith and morals. Although the priest is for the whole community, he must take a preferential option for the poor whom he holds special in his heart and to whom he gives proper care, honor, and recognition.
COMMITMENT TO THE DIOCESE
37. The Church so wills that a priest should part of a particular portion of the People of God that is canonically called “diocese” or its equivalent, which is a community of believers entrusted to the leadership of a diocesan bishop. Here a priest concretely exercises his ministry and accomplishes his mission, according to canonical provisions of the Church.
38. Upon ordination to the Diaconate, a seminarian enters the clerical state and consequently becomes part of the clergy and diocese through the process called incardination. Incardination carries rights and responsibilities proper to a cleric.
39. The diocese must enact laws and policies regarding a priest’s incardination, excardination, term of assignment, whether it is parochial or institutional, and vacation or sabbatical leave.
40. As a human person with various needs, a priest deserves material, physical, psychological and spiritual support both during his active ministry and even retirement. Since a priest offers his life and service to the Church, he has the right to a proper and decent way of living. The laborer deserves to be paid (Lk. 10:7). To achieve this, laypeole must see to it that priests are provided with a decent way of life. It is the responsibility of the bishop to remind the people about this obligation.
41. After long years of ministry, a priest deserves a decent living during the time of his retirement. He must be provided with a home where he may take a good rest, pray, and enjoy a pleasant life. His health must be taken into consideration so that financial support can be ensured in times of sickness.
MARY IN THE PRIESTS’ RENEWAL
42. In their aspiration for holiness, the priests must draw inspiration from the life and example of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Having communed with God at the annunciation (Lk. 1:26-38), she proceeded with haste to her cousin Elizabeth (Lk. 1:39-45). Her action was a fruit of her contemplative experience. Mary shines as the model disciple who heard the Word of God and acted upon it. She who joyfully submitted herself to the will of God enjoins all priests, Do whatever he tells you (Jn. 2:5).
CALL TO ACTION
In light of the foregoing discussions, the following Call to Action (CTA) have been approved by the synodal assembly.
I. LIFE OF HOLINESS
CTA-1. Foremost attention should be given to the holiness of the clergy. The priests shall see to it that they resolutely perform their duties of celebrating the Holy Eucharist and the other sacraments. They must intensify their life of prayer and other spiritual exercises, which can further deepen their spirituality. It shall, however, be borne in mind that holiness, far from being confined to the walls of interior life, also includes their external works inasmuch as genuine holiness requires the sanctification of their total being.
CTA-2. In spurring their personal sanctification, priests are strongly encouraged to reserve time for daily Holy Hour before the Most Blessed Sacrament, reflection, meditation, spiritual reading, regular confession and spiritual counseling with the bishop and elder priests. Discipline, eradication of the roots of sin, and self-renunciation that entails openness to sacrifices, are important ingredients of priestly holiness as well.
CTA-3. Priests are enjoined to prepare their homilies conscientiously and prayerfully, base them on Sacred Scriptures, and make them timely, clear, and easily comprehensible. It is good, however, to constantly remember that witnessing best guarantees effectivity in preaching.
II. ONGOING FORMATION
CTA-4. Attendance and active participation in congresses, seminars, symposia and updating, in addition to continuous study of Theology and constant reading, can contribute to the ministry of priests. They shall also acquire knowledge of and competence in the fields of social communications, arts and church architecture, ecological issues, and others. Similarly, priests tasked with the directorship of institutions and diocesan commissions shall have ongoing formation in their respective fields of ministry.
CTA-5. Priests must undergo a program of psycho-spiritual-emotional formation if they are to attain holistic development. They are also encouraged to participate in other formation programs and training that are related and with great significance to their life and ministry. Newly ordained priests shall have a program of ongoing formation.
CTA-6. A priest must be worthy of respect and irreproachable in his conduct, dealing with others, and even his clothing.
CTA-7. It is strongly recommended that priests use clothing suitable to the occasion. During Eucharistic celebrations, they are expected to be in their cassock or albs, chasuble, with formal pants, shoes or sandals. They are encouraged to wear clerical shirt at least when hearing confessions, officiating blessings, visiting the sick, attending formal gatherings of the clergy or laity, or performing other duties related to their ministry. On other occasions, they are expected to dress in a way that is appropriate to their state.
CTA-8. This Synod recognizes the importance of owning private vehicles if priests are to efficiently attend to the many needs of the People of God, provided that such cars are not in any way luxurious and owning them is not self-indulging. The priests, however, shall always be ready to take public transportation.
CTA-9. Priests are also in need of recreation such as sports, concerts, movies and television but they are not to recreate in nightspots and videoke bars. In addition to this, gambling, personal business, and excessive drinking have no place in the life of priests. Frequent foreign trips for purposes not related to their ministry are also discouraged as they are incongruent with the simple lifestyle expected of priests.
CTA-10. In order to preserve the chaste and celibate life of priests, the protocol published by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines with respect to the moral life of priests shall be noted and followed.
CTA-11. Priests shall not live luxuriously. In this way, they can avoid spending too much or falling into the temptation of encroaching into the Church’s funds for their personal gain. Financial transparency in the management of Church resources is necessary.
IV. RELATIONSHIP WITH THE BISHOP, FELLOW PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS, AND THE LAITY
CTA-12. It is primarily expected of the bishop to show fatherly concern and understanding towards the clergy. Where it is feasible and needed, he is to visit the priests in their place of assignment. The priests, on the other hand, shall regularly report to the bishop the condition of their priestly ministry as well as the status of the parishes or institutions that they serve. This colloquium will further enhance the bond between the bishop and the clergy.
CTA-13. Besides attending the monthly recollection and annual retreat, the priests are also enjoined to gather on special occasions such as town fiestas, birthdays, anniversaries, sportsfest and others. The regular gathering of priests in the vicarial level is beneficial.
CTA-14. If possible, religious women are to be assigned in parishes where their services are sought and needed. The particular apostolate expected of them shall nevertheless be clarified. They shall collaborate with the priests in the activities and projects of the parish. A regular meeting of the priest and religious will help foster a harmonious working relationship.
CTA-15. In order to contribute to the growth of the parish, the priests and the laity must assist one another. Their relationship is to be characterized by mutual understanding, respect, and concern. The people have the right to be served by the priests in matters pertaining to their salvation. In their needs, on the other hand, priests deserve to be supported by the people.
V. MINISTERIAL LIFE
CTA-16. Priests shall carefully prepare before celebrating the Holy Eucharist and other sacraments. Tardiness in scheduled liturgical celebrations shall be avoided. These shall not be done in a hurry.
CTA-17. Priests shall regularly hear confession and explain the Sacred Scriptures and the doctrines of the Church.
CTA-18. As shepherd of the flock, a priest is expected to spend most of his time at the place of his assignment, visiting the faithful entrusted to him, and listening to their needs and aspirations. In like manner, preferential concern for the sick and the less fortunate people of God must never be foregone.
CTA-19. The priestly ministry shall be convergent to the mission of the diocese in regard to the formation, intensification, and continual growth of the Basic Ecclesial Communities the realization of which shall require clear vision and structure, skills and life of witnessing.
CTA-20. It is opportune that priests today should strive even harder to lead the community of the faithful towards being a genuine Church of the Poor. It does not suffice for the People of God to be served by the priests in their spiritual needs. In addition, they shall be molded in such a manner that they too become agents of evangelization. In this regard, priests shall have concrete involvement with the poor by such means as conducting home visitation.
CTA-21. Greater attention shall be given to catechesis. In line with this, the priests shall give the catechists spiritual, moral, and financial support.
CTA-22. As leader of the community, the priest shall listen and attend to the needs of his parishioners in the spirit of humility. In like manner, he is expected to be open to the observations and suggestions of laypeople. He must respect them, understand their weaknesses and shortcomings, and deal with all people equally.
CTA-23. The ministry of a priest requires his active awareness of and judicious involvement in socio-political issues. Moreover, he is to consider matters concerning the rights, as well as the livelihood, of all those under his care. In other words, he shall take into account their total human development.
VI. COMMITMENT TO THE DIOCESE
CTA-24. A priest may be allowed to take sabbatical leave. He shall be given a yearly vacation for a period not exceeding thirty (30) days, continuous or otherwise.
CTA-25. In preparation for the general reshuffle of the clergy, the traditional consultation with the priests and the laity shall be maintained.
CTA-26. It is expected of a priest to continue the projects initiated by his predecessor in a parish or any other assignment.
CTA-27. While the primary focus of the ministry of the priest is his diocese, he shall also be open to undertake missionary work in other territories and countries. He must likewise be open to establishing association with both the baptized non-Catholics in the spirit of ecumenism and the non-baptized.
VII. GENERAL WELFARE
CTA-28. The needs of priests with regard to remuneration, medical assistance, and ongoing studies shall be adequately provided for. Their basic necessities, from the day of their ordination until the time of their natural death, shall be covered by the Clergy’s Welfare Program. A special commission shall be created in order to study and implement the said recommendations.
CTA-29. A separate commission to be composed of select members of the clergy shall undertake an in-depth study and thereafter determine a just and balanced standard regarding the remuneration of priests. The matter concerning the remuneration of priests shall also be covered by the Clergy’s Welfare Program.
CTA-30. A home for the retired priests shall be established where they will receive not only pension benefits but also adequate and proper nutrition and medical assistance. In this regard, competent caregivers shall be employed to attend to their needs.
CTA-31. Inasmuch as seminarians undergoing priestly formation shall become part of the clergy of the diocese in the future, a thorough understanding of and familiarity with everything contained in this document on the Life and Ministry of the Clergy shall be expected of them.