VOCATION AND APOSTOLATE OF THE LAITY
1. A major part of the Church consists of the laity. The term “laity” is here understood to mean all the faithful except those in Holy Orders and those who belong to a religious state approved by the Church.1 The documents of the Church have time and again stressed that the laity are those who are incorporated into Christ through Baptism; are established among the People of God; in their own way share in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ; and to the best of their ability carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.2
2. One of the most significant fruits of the Second Vatican Council is lay empowerment, which has consequently paved the way for the continuous growth of the laity’s involvement in the life and pastoral work of the Church. This is made manifest not only in the breadth of their participation but also in the magnitude of their work in the Church. It is therefore an imprudent deviation, if not an outright error, when the laity are not given their due place in any undertaking or decision-making that concerns the life and ministry of the Church, such as the convening of a diocesan synod, where the laypeople should play their important role right on the foreground.3
3. This document, entitled Vocation and Apostolate of the Laity, contains the following topics: (1) Vocation of the Laity, and (2) Apostolate of the Laity.
VOCATION OF THE LAITY
Life of Holiness of the Laity
4. The Second Vatican Council stresses the important role of the laity in the life of the Church. In carrying out the mission of proclaiming the Good News, each baptized person shares in Christ’s priestly, prophetic, and kingly functions.4 In light of this truth, every believer has the obligation to accomplish the mission entrusted by the Lord: Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey all that I command you (Mt. 28: 19-20).
5. By means of profound reflection and sound teaching, the Second Vatican Council clarified the state of those Christians who are considered the “laity.” By reason of their special vocation, it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.5 It logically follows that each Christian should lead a life of faith, hope, and love. In obedience to the command of Jesus, the work of proclaiming the Gospel should not be dissociated by the laity from their secular activities.
6. In this noble task, it is imperative that every baptized person should have an intimate relation with Christ, on whom the salvific mission of the Church is founded. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit for you cannot do anything apart from me (Jn. 15:9). Thus, the laity’s missionary work can only bear fruit if they are united to Christ in their prayer-life. Christ, sent by the Father, is the source of the Church’s whole apostolate. Clearly then, the fruitfulness of the apostolate of lay people depends on their living union with Christ.
7. First and foremost, the holiness of the laity is mirrored in their personal commitment to and profound love of God and the Church, and also in their reverence to priests, who are ordained to the sacred ministry. Above all, the sanctification of the laity requires their adherence to the Word of God for in him we live and move, and have our being (Cf. Acts 17:28).
8. The spirituality of the laity also covers fidelity to their families and the apostolate for the family. Moreover, the holiness of the laity is manifested in a particular way in their fidelity to the teachings of the Church and their acts of charity towards others, especially the poor and the needy. They should also hold in high esteem professional competence, family and civic sense, and the virtues related to social behavior such as honesty, sense of justice, sincerity, courtesy, moral courage; without them there is no true Christian life.7
9. The sacraments are the primary channels of the sanctification and salvation of all. From the sacraments flows the life-giving grace of God. The Second Vatican Council clearly teaches that the purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the Body of Christ, and finally to give worship to God.8 The Canon Law of the Church stresses that the sacraments of the New Testament were instituted by Christ for the sanctification of humankind.
Therefore, the frequent reception of the sacraments must be numbered among the primary elements of the laity’s life of holiness.
Continuing Formation of the Laity
10. While carrying out the mission entrusted by Jesus to each of the baptized, the laity must be diligent in cultivating and developing their knowledge of the faith in order to become more effective and credible in preaching the Gospel. Formation and training are therefore indispensable if the apostolate is to attain full efficacy.
11. In its desire to stress the crucial role of the laity in the mission of the Church, the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines demands that [E]ducation for effective lay participation should be ongoing. It should be integrated, related to one’s life situation and based on the teachings of the Church.12 A training program designed for the laity is required by their continuing holistic formation in the Christian faith.
12. The [L]ay faithful and particularly lay leaders should acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to defend and explain the faith to others.
APOSTOLATE OF THE LAITY
13. Any activity that realizes the mission of the Church goes by the name of “apostolate.” Throughout the Church’s history, the term “apostolate” has consistently referred to work accomplished on the Lord’s behalf, applied in a very specific sense to the work carried out by the non-ordained.14 According to the Second Vatican Council, “apostolate” is the term used in referring to the undertakings that the Church continually pursues to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth for the glory of God the Father; to make all peoples partakers in redemption and salvation; and to establish the right relationship of the entire world to Christ.
14. Most importantly, the laity are apostles in the fulfillment of their roles in a life led in the midst of the world and secular affairs. This implies the breadth of their apostolate. In fact, the entire community of the world is the wide arena of the life of the laity and the principal place of the exercise of their apostolate.16 This synod sheds light on the most fundamental aspects of the lay apostolate in the synod desires to respond to the present and pressing needs of the diocese and the parishes, particularly in the realization of the diocese’s vision-mission with respect to the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs).
The Family in God’s Plan
15. In its traditional sense, a family consists of a father and a mother who are united in the sacrament of Matrimony, together with their children. When God created the world (Cf. Gen. 2:18-24), it was part of his design to establish the family as the foremost institution in the world.
16. As the original foundation of social life,18 the couple, bound together by God, has the obligation to forward the welfare of the People of God through the formation of a Christian family,19 which is the first school of evangelization where all members must learn to share the grace and light of Christ with others. It is but proper that the family should be the place where the Gospel is first learned and shared as its members mature in their faith-life.
17. In line with the declaration of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, the Christian family has the following objectives: (a) to adhere to the ends of marriage through procreation and education of children;21 (b) to form a community of persons;22 (c) to contribute towards social transformation; and (d) to share in the mission of the Church. These tasks are truly difficult to fulfill without God’s grace.
18. In order to fulfill the said objectives, the home must be a place where people learn how to live as a true family in accordance with God’s plan.
19. The father has to realize that his role is much more than that of a breadwinner. Being the leader in the family, he mirrors Christ, who sacrificed his own life for the love of the Church. As the heart and light of the home, the mother, on the other hand, is the father’s partner in safeguarding and ensuring the faith-life of the family. More than anything else, parents can become more credible and effective in teaching their children if they themselves live first what they teach.
20. Children are the supreme gifts in marriage and family life.24 The Sacred Scriptures and Tradition teach that children are signs of God’s blessings and of the parents’ generous acceptance of and docile respect to his will.25 Parents, therefore, must regard their children not as burdens but as gifts that reflect the fruitfulness of their married love.
21. The Decalogues’s fourth commandment, which states, Honor your father and mother (Ex. 20:12), promises long life when it is observed. This commandment comes first in the order of the commandments on the second half of the stone tablet, as if impling that honoring one’s parents is the foundation of the other commands. It is true that if one cannot give due respect to parents or elders or those in authority,26 he can despise anybody else.
22. The programs initiated and pursued by the laypeople themselves in spurring the development and growth of family life are truly worth noting. These groups include the Couples for Christ, Handmaids of the Lord (for widows or those whose spouses work abroad), Marriage Encounter, and Family Encounter. No one could better come to the assistance of troubled married couples and families than their fellow couples or families who, like them, have courageously faced and are continuously confronting the trials that are part and parcel of family life.
23. Nevertheless, it is the life of holiness that serves as the very foundation of a solid family life. In the words of the late Father Patrick Peyton, [T]he family that prays together stays together.
The Youth in Social Transformation
24. The Second Vatican Council recognizes the ability of the youth to influence our changing society. This can be seen in the circumstances of their life, their habits of thought, and their relation to their families, the society, and the Church.
25. In our country, the youth constitutes the biggest percentage of the population. The Second Plenary Council of Philippines, however, asserts that one of the ironies in our present society, which prides itself on its high esteem for the family, is the fact that we neglect the youth or we lack proper concern for their welfare.
26. The youth have always been enjoined to partake in the mission and social apostolate of the Church. It is necessary that they be provided with a holistic formation that includes their relationship with their families, fellow youth in their social milieu, and the community at large, as well as their commitment to the Church and to Christ, the Lord and Savior, who is the center of their Christian life and apostolate. Moreover, a proper line of action must be adopted in order to organize, train, and mobilize the youth so that they can actively and creatively participate in the life of the diocese/parish as proclaimers of the Gospel to their fellow youth. A systematic and comprehensive program must be established for this purpose.
27. Almost all of the parishes in the diocese have programs for the youth, though there seems to be a lack of awareness of such programs among the Catholic faithful. The said programs must likewise give particular attention to issues like pre-marital sex, abortion, drugs, alcoholism, and misuse of modern technology like the internet, computer, video games, and others.
Religious Organizations: Schools of Holiness
28. The Church recognizes religious organizations composed of the laity for the promotion of apostolate and evangelization.30 The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines declares that they continue to be needed.31 These organizations can truly contribute to the enrichment of Christian sanctification by witnessing in word and deed.32 While the same Council stresses that such organizations must not degenerate into elitist religious clubs, it strictly advises that these organizations should be schools of holiness that reach even the unchurched and the poor.33 That is why “religious organization” is the usual nomenclature for them.
29. In the Diocese of Lucena, only a little percentage of the laity belongs to religious organizations in the various parishes. Moreover, a great number of their members belongs to the upper echelon of society, lives in the urban areas, and consists mostly of women. Among the common reasons for their membership in such organizations are as follows: to be regarded as a “Church-person,” to serve God and their neighbor, to atone for their sins, and to attain conversion and renewal of life. Nevertheless, these organizations have become the path for many members to acquire an in-depth understanding of the faith, which is made manifest in their relations with one another, the Church, their families, and their neighbors.
30. A number of shortcomings, however, are observed among these organizations. Many of their members fail to attend their regular meetings. Moreover, they do not coordinate with the Parish Pastoral Council, and they do not extend their full cooperation to the programs of the parish. Conflicts and intrigues are also seemingly widespread among their members. Consequently, this becomes an obstacle to the continuous growth of the parish. Only a few organizations are truly involved in and concerned with the poor and are authentically living the spirit of poverty according to the Gospel.
Movements for the Renewal of Christian Life
31. After a careful analysis and research, the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines recognized the Christian Renewal Movements as instruments of genuine conversion, venues of life-changing encounters with the Lord, and schools of evangelistic zeal.34
32. The greater part of the diocese has seen the rapid growth of Couples for Christ, the movement that has until now served as an effective means of leading Christian couples towards active participation in the life and apostolate of the Church, particularly in the are of family life. In not a few parishes various movements such as the El Shaddai, Cursillo, and Catholic Charismatic Renewal, are also laudable in their earnestness in their celebration of the Word of God and effort to renew the Christian life. In some parishes, Marriage Encounter has become a significant means of reinvigorating the love of married couples. It is also noticeable that from these renewal movements often come reliable and committed lay leaders.
33. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that in some instances these movements stop short of throwing their full collaboration in the programs and activities of the parish. A significant cause of this seems to lie in the exaggerated individualism and a kind of ghetto mentality among such movements. There are instances of enviousness and intrigues. Their leaders are perceived to be lacking in involvement with the poor. Oftentimes there are conflicts between the movements’ activities and the scheduled activities of the parish. There is a papable dearth of involvement and participation in the Basic Ecclesial Communities on the part of the said movements.
Parish Pastoral Council and Pastoral Council for Economic Affairs:
Partners of Priests in the Life and Pastoral Work of the Parish
34. The Parish Pastoral Council and the Parish Council on Economic Affairs are two main structures that support the parish priest in the fulfillment of his duties. The said structures refer to the two fundamental aspects of the life of the parish: (a) pastoral aspect, which is the care of souls, and (b) economic aspect, which covers material resources.35 The First Synod of Lucena resolved that chapters of the Parish Pastoral Council be created in the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs).36
35. The existence of active and well-organized Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Council for Economic Affairs in many parishes of the diocese is indeed a bountiful blessing. This is for the most part owed to parish priests who exemplify good rapport with the members of the parish community and are able to adopt systematic governance of parish affairs. Lay leaders, on the other hand, ought to give their personal commitment and fidelity to the Church and to acquire moral integrity and competent skills in pastoral leadership. Parishes with a proper and organized line of action are better equipped in fostering the growth of the faith-life of the community. The formation of lay leaders in the life of holiness, which strengthens them in bearing witness to their faith, must never be neglected.
Political Involvement of the Laity
36. Politics is one of the fundamental aspects of man’s social life. Its scope covers almost everything that concerns human existence. But politics, herein referred to, is different from “partisan politics.” The clear distinction between these two must therefore be seen if we are to elimate the confusion of many people whenever the Church gets involved in political matters.
37. Due to the nature of the their vocation and mission, it is through the laity that the Church is directly involved in politics.
38. Yet, the participation of Catholics in political life must be guided by the following truths: (a) that the basic standard for participation be the pursuit of the common good; (b) that participation be characterized by a defense and promotion of justice; (c) that participation be inspired and guided by the spirit of service; (d) that participation be imbued with a love of preference for the poor; and (e) that empowering people be carried out both as a process and a goal of political activity.
MARY, THE PERFECT MODEL OF APOSTOLIC
39. The sanctification of the laity largely depends on their intimacy with Jesus and their obedience to God’s will. The (P)erfect model of this apostolic spiritual life is the Blessed Virgin Mary... While on earth, her life was like that of any other, filled with labors and the cares of the home; always, however, she remained intimately united to her Son and cooperated in an entirely unique way in the Savior’s work. A genuine devotion to the Blessed Mother enhances the laity’s life of holiness and inspires them to carry out their task of renewing the entire community.
CALL TO ACTION
In light of the discussions and reflections on the Vocation and Apostolate of the Laity, this synod recommends the following Call To Action (CTA) to reinvigorate and ensure the growth of the laity’s participation in the life and mission of the Church.
I. VOCATION OF THE LAITY
Life of Holiness of the Laity
CTA –1. In order to ensure the maturity of the faith-life of the community, the Parish Pastoral Council shall take charge of reinvigorating the formation and spread of the Eucharistic Family by means of activities such as the family’s attendance in the Mass every Sunday and holy days of obligation, frequent reception of Holy
Communion, membership in religious organizations like the Adoracion Nocturna Filipina, and daily vigil before the Most Blessed Sacrament in the parishes.
CTA-2. The Parish Pastoral Council shall take charge of preparing and organizing a General Confession to which all the faithful shall be invited to participate. This shall be done at least twice a year, preferrably during the Advent and Lenten seasons, or more frequently at any time of the liturgical year, as the parish priest may deem necessary and practical. In like manner, the first Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus shall be promoted in each parish, with particular emphasis on the importance of the sacrament of Penance. In relation to this, the parish priest shall see to it that he is available for hearing Confession regularly and anytime laypeople need this sacrament.
CTA-3. The laity’s active involvement in various Church movements and organizations provides them with the opportunity to renew their Christian lives, deepen their life of holiness, learn more about the teachings of the Church, and carry out their mission of proclaiming the Gospel, which they received by virtue of Baptism. Hence, religious movements and organizations shall strive to be persistent in recruiting new members from the different sectors of society.
CTA-4. Through the Committee on Worship, every parish shall adopt a proper program line of action in order to promote and further invigorate devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary by reviving activities such as the block rosary, visita domiciliaria, family rosary, praying of the Angelus, and other similar activities.
CTA-5. The modern generation urgently needs and earnestly searches for examplars of genuine holiness who can provide inspiration and guidance as they live in path in this chaotic world. It is in this light that a proper and sincere devotion to holy Filipinos like Saint Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila, Blessed Pedro
Calungsod, and other saintly Filipino laity, such as Hermana Fausta Labrador, shall be promoted. Their lives bear witness to the sanctity that every Christian must attain.
CTA-6. The Diocesan Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education must lay out a special module on Values Education that will treat the value of the family, ecology, society, personal commitment, good manners and right conduct, Filipino culture, and the “culture of life.” These shall be included in the lectures to be given by catechists to their students, particularly those in the public schools.
CTA-7. Parish priests shall see to it that spiritual excercises, such as Advent or Lenten recollection, spiritual fora, and other activities, are carefully organized and regularly held in their parishes. All the faithful in the parishes shall be ardently encouraged to participate in the said activities.
CTA-8. The Diocesan Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education must be likewise tasked with the responsibility of conducting seminar-workshops on developing and implementing effective means of facilitating spiritual trainings for laypeople who are willing and able to assist the priests in these activities.
CTA-9. A Diocesan Media Center must be established and put under the supervision of the Commission on Social Communications. Its functions include giving lectures and trainings on the know-how and proper use of the modern means of communications (internet, cellphone, TV, radio, etc.) in accordance with the teachings of the Church. It is also its duty to monitor and determine the probable effects of modern technologies on the habits of thought and way of life of the people.
II. APOSTOLATE OF THE LAITY
CTA-10. It is necessary that a Catholic Center for Responsible Parenthood be established in every parish and that Christian couples be trained on matters pertinent to life and family.
CTA-11. The bishop and the clergy are expected to extend their support to organizations for married couples such as the Couples for Christ, Handmaids of the Lord (for widows and women whose spouses work abroad), Marriage Encounter, and others. These organizations undoubtedly help in strengthening married life. Should there be questions concerning the programs of any of the aforementioned organizations, it is strongly advised that an earnest dialogue on the issues raised be conducted without prejudice to any party.
CTA-12. In each parish, Christian couples who are willing and able to serve must be trained and thereafter commissioned to give marriage counseling and professional guidance to troubled couples and families. There are many couples and families who do not know where to seek help when they are confronted with problems. Married couples need an intensive formation so that they can acquire an adequate knowledge of family life, including the approved methods of family planning.
CTA-13. Due to the great influence of mass media on the family, appropriate measures shall be taken to ensure that only positive and worthwhile reading materials and television programs are able to penetrate the home.
CTA-14. In order to coordinate what is taught in the home and what is taught in the Church, parents must see to it that they send their children to schools whose curriculum includes Christian Living. It is then of great advantage if parents can afford to have their children educated at Catholic schools.
CTA-15. The structure of both the Diocesan Youth Commission and the Parish Youth Committees shall be organized and intensified. They shall be tasked to spearhead worthwhile activities for the out-of-school youth and to implement programs against drug addiction, fraternities, pre-marital sex, abortion, alcoholism, and misuse of the modern technologies such as the internet, computer/video games, and others.
CTA-16. Lay Advisers who will guide the works of the apostolate for the youth shall be trained and designated in each parish.
CTA-17. The Student Catholic Action of the Philippines (SCAP) shall be revived and strengthened in all schools, both private and public, that are under the jurisdiction of the parishes in the diocese. The parish priest, or any other priest he may designate for this purpose, shall supervise the organization’s activities.
CTA-18. Regular training on Youth Leadership and Speakers’ Bureau shall be held every summer vacation in order to prepare a select group of young people to become members of the staff of the Diocesan Youth Commission and future leaders of the Parish Youth Committee.
CTA-19. Activities such as Bible study, catechetical instruction, recollection, and seminar shall be included in the ongoing formation of the youth.
CTA-20. The parish priest, through the Parish Youth Committee, shall see to it that parents are properly informed of and given orientation on the parish programs for the youth.
CTA-21. The diocese shall set adequate funds that will be apportioned among the various programs for the youth, the staff of the Diocesan Youth Commission, and the operational expenses of its office.
CTA-22. A Diocesan Youth Center that will serve as office of the Diocesan Youth Commission and venue of retreats, recollections, and trainings for the youth, shall be established.
CTA-23. The continued existence of the Diocesan Youth Foundation, initiated and until now managed by the staff of the Diocesan Youth Commission, shall be ensured.
CTA-24. Religious organizations shall direct their vision, life of holiness, and activities to the service of the Basic Ecclesial Communities by means of their active involvement in the apostolate for the BECs.
CTA-25. As a basic requisite for a religious organization to be recognized and accepted as one, each member, especially the leaders of the said organization, should first become an active member of the BECs.
CTA-26. The diocese shall make it a matter of policy that before any layperson is granted membership in any religious organization, he/she must first be actively involved in the BEC to which he/she belongs.
CTA-27. Any program, project or work of apostolate for the service of the poor and the needy that is to be carried out by any religious organization must be primarily directed to the BECs within the parish.
CTA-28. All ecclesial movements shall be given a broader and deeper orientation and formation regarding the Basic Ecclesial Communities through the preaching of priests, prayer meetings, seminars, and other gatherings.
CTA-29. The topics concerning the BECs shall be included in the seminars like Life in the Spirit Seminar (LSS), Christian Life Program (CLP), Marriage Encounter Weekend, and others that are given to the new members of renewal movements.
CTA-30. Members of renewal movements, particularly the Couples for Christ, Marriage Encounter, and others, must be enjoined to become active members of the Diocesan Commission and Parish Committees on Family and Life.
CTA-31. The diocese shall henceforth forbid the existence in any part of her territorial jurisdiction of those ecclesial movements that do not cooperate in the programs and activities of the diocese and parish and refuse to submit themselves to the authority of the community’s duly appointed priest.
Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Council for Economic Affairs:
CTA-32. The bishop shall form a Diocesan Pastoral Council in accordance with the provisions set by the First Synod of Lucena. The duty of formulating a diocesan pastoral plan based on the vision, mission, and mission-statement of the Second Synod of Lucena shall be entrusted to this council. The said pastoral plan shall thereafter serve as the primary basis of all the pastoral activities in the parishes. The Diocesan Pastoral Council shall likewise regularly monitor and evaluate the implementation of this pastoral plan.
CTA-33. After a thorough study and analysis, the Diocesan Council of the Laity, particularly its different commissions, shall be restructured so as to avoid the overlapping of functions and to efficiently respond to the present pastoral needs of the parishes and diocese. This task shall be entrusted to the Diocesan Pastoral Council hereafter to be established.
CTA-34. With the Diocesan Council of the Laity at the helm, the regular holding of a diocesan Seminar-Workshop on systematic planning and Christian leadership for the Parish Pastoral Council and Pastoral Council for Economic Affairs shall be given due priority in the pastoral undertakings of the diocese. Priests or laypeople who are competent on this matter shall facilitate this seminar.
CTA-35. Priests, seminarians, and laypeople who possess the propensity and particular disposition for the life and apostolate of the laity shall be encouraged to undertake further studies on this field, be it in local or foreign institutions of learning, so that they shall thereafter take charge of the systematic and fitting formation of the laity. The diocese shall finance their studies.
CTA-36. A Formation Center for the ongoing training of lay leaders in their spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral life shall be established in the diocese. It shall be sustained by adequate funding and supervised by priests and laypeople who possess the required experience and competence in this field.
CTA-37. The act or process of selecting leaders is a crucial part of the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities. Hence, lay coordinators, who will organize the various works of apostolate that will respond to the pressing needs of the Basic Ecclesial Communities such as formation, worship, service, and others, shall be selected and designated. As a whole, they shall be the chapters of the Parish Pastoral Council in the BECs.
CTA-38. The restructuring of the Social Action Center, the primary arm that implements the diocesan programs related to social issues and works of service, shall include the establishment of a special desk that will address political concerns such as ongoing voters’ education, organizing and supervising candidates’ fora, poll watching, and operation vote count in order to ensure clean, honest, and credible elections. This desk shall also assume the task of monitoring elected officials, evaluating their performance in office vis-à-vis the promises they made to the people, and other related concerns. The parishes are also encouraged to establish this desk.
CTA-39. Lay leaders who possess remarkable intellectual capacity and outstanding moral integrity, as well as financial capability and particular inclination to politics, must be encouraged to seek any public office.
CTA-40. The laity must openly throw their support to any candidate who advocates political programs that are consonant with the teachings of the Church.
CTA-41. With the guidance and example of St. Thomas More, a request addressed to the bishop shall henceforth be made to declare the 30th of June, the traditional date of the oath-taking of newly elected public officials, as a Diocesan Day of Prayer and Sacrifice.