MISSION TO THE NATIONS
1. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Mt. 28:19-20). This command of the Lord continues to challenge all the baptized to carry out faithfully the mission of preaching the Gospel to all nations. Undeniably, a great number of today’s peoples constitutes those who have never, or barely, heard of the Gospel message, and thus do not believe in Christ as the Lord and Savior. As Pope John Paul II says, The mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion. As the second millennium after Christ’s coming draws to an end…this mission is still only beginning. It is in this light that the Holy Father enjoins the whole Church to unite and direct her efforts towards a renewed evangelization, which calls for adopting a new methodology suitable to our times, coupled with a renewed fervor in proclaiming the one message, which is no other than Jesus Christ himself. The Church, in obedience to the command of its founder, has an obligation to fulfill this mission.
2. This view on the mission of the Church has always been in the awareness of the Diocese of Lucena even though in the First Synod of Lucena in 1979, matters pertaining to the missionary activity were not singled out since at that time the diocese was still outlining her structures. After having reached her 50th year, the diocese is now resolute in responding to the call to renewal as envisioned by the Synod II. It is on this occasion that the diocese’s perspective on Mission to the Nations is shaped because this diocese, which has been existing for many years already, must manifest growth in her faith-life by carrying out the mission not only within but even beyond her territorial boundaries.
3. This document entitled Mission to the Nations contains three topics: (1) Sharing the Filipino Faith in Asia, (2) Missionary Formation for Seminarians and Priests, and (3) Missionary Work of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and Care for Their Families. The theological and pastoral foundations of the said topics will be laid down, and recommendations (Call to Action) will be given at the end.
SHARING THE FILIPINO FAITH IN ASIA
4. The Church on earth is by its very nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, it has its origin from the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit. As the Father has sent Christ, so has Christ sent the Church to become witness of the salvation that God has wrought through Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6). Endowed with a missionary nature, the Church has the primary duty of proclaiming the Good News to the People of God. The mission of the Lord Jesus Christ must be continued by the Church by means of witnessing to the deeds and words of the Lord. Hence, if the Church fails to share the faith by preaching the Word of God, its existence in this world will be futile.
5. Asia is the world’s largest continent. It includes the countries of China and India, whose combined populations cover almost half of the world’s total population. It is the cradle of the world’s ancient religions like Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity. Truly, then, this continent abounds in cultures, traditions, and beliefs. The challenge, however, for a new evangelization in this continent is so immense that it behooves the believers to rediscover the mission that they have received by virtue of Baptism.
6. It is a fact that the incarnated Christ was an Asian as he was born, he lived, died, and rose in the Holy Land in the western part of Asia. Yet Pope John Paul II laments that [T]he Savior of the world, born in Asia, has until now remained largely unknown to the people of the continent. It is also a fact that in the large continent of Asia, the Philippines is one of the countries that acknowledge Christ as the Lord and Savior. This is the great challenge to the Philippines: that she should become a missionary to the other countries, particularly in Asia, by sharing the faith she has received. In his address to the Philippine bishops Pope John Paul II stressed, The Philippines has a special missionary vocation to proclaim the Good News, to carry the light of Christ to the nations. While it is true that the Church has a mission towards Philippine society, it has also a very definite mission to the other peoples of Asia.
7. As part of the Universal Church, the particular Church in Lucena is ready to respond to the call to share the faith in Asia since she is mindful that doing so is a vivid sign of a Church in constant renewal. A particular Church will not grow in faith if she does not go out to do missionary work. Pope John Paul II clearly stated that each particular Church must be generous and open to the needs of the other Churches. In this light, the particular Church in Lucena is preparing itself to be able to send priests, religious, and laity to foreign lands for missionary work. This gesture is in line with the statement of the bishops of Latin America, Certainly we have needs for missionaries ourselves, nevertheless, we must give from our own poverty. Given the situation of the diocese today, we cannot deny the role being played by the laity in their involvement in the activities of the Church. Inasmuch as the laity have become aware of the fact that by virtue of Baptism they share in the priestly, kingly, and prophetic functions of Christ, they now understand that the call to mission is not reserved to the priests and religious.
8. To respond to the call to mission is a vocation. Through the Church, God calls all the baptized to proclaim the Good News of salvation to all the nations. Pope Paul VI clarifies that [T]he work of evangelization is not an individual activity; it is essentially ecclesial. The work of mission is not merely a private endeavor inasmuch as it falls under the competent authority of the Church to whom Christ has entrusted the duty of doing mission.
9. The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission. Preachers who live by what they teach are more credible since their witnessing testifies to their teaching. Pope Paul VI averred, The men of our day are more impressed by witnesses than by teachers, and if they listen to these it is because they also bear witness. The fundament of witnessing consists in a deep prayer-life. One cannot possibly keep apart the life of prayer from the life of witnessing since the latter mirrors one’s intimate relationship with the person of Christ. Therefore, a missionary who has no deep experience of God in prayer and contemplation will have little spiritual influence or missionary success. The apostles, who were the first missionaries, were carefully trained by Christ to have a deep intimacy with him. Jesus showed his intimacy with them at the last supper when he said, Do this in remembrance of me (1 Cor. 11:24). A missionary derives strength from the Holy Eucharist since his life is centered on it. The success of a missionary does not merely depend on his personal ability or eloquence in speaking but above all in the profundity of his love of and faith in God. This is witnessing.
MISSIONARY FORMATION FOR SEMINARIANS AND PRIESTS
10. The mission entrusted by Christ when he said, Go to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to all peoples (Mk. 6:15), is continued by the Church today through the priests. Without priests the Church would not be able to live that fundamental obedience which is at the very heart of her existence and her mission in history, an obedience in response to the command of Christ: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.
11. The vocation to the priesthood is a vocation that is essentially missionary. All priests are ordained for the mission of Christ and his Church. Because of their deep relationship with Christ through the ordination that they have received, the priests are servants of the proclamation of the Gospel to every people. This is a most universal and an all-embracing mission of salvation to the end of the earth.
12. The fulfillment of this command depends on the missionary vitality of the priests. By means of missionary formation, it is expected that the attitude of self-giving will be formed in them so that they can effectively respond to the call of the Lord for mission. They must so organize the program of their pastoral work that it gives way to the spread of the Good News towards the non-Christians; that it awakens in the faithful an awareness of the evangelization of the world through catechesis and preaching; that it inculcates in the minds of Christian families the importance of awakening in their children an interest in the mission; that it nurtures missionary fervor among the youth in the schools and associations; and that it teaches the faithful to pray for the mission. These forms of missionary activities have to be taught to the seminarians while they are taking philosophical and theological studies.
13. Hence, in the formation of seminarians, the truth that to be a priest is a mission for the spread of the Kingdom of God must be instilled in their mind and heart. They are formed to value, love, and meditate on the Word of God; moreover, they are trained to possess not only devotion to the Holy Eucharist but also an understanding to proclaim and become witnesses to the Word of God and live the true spirit of service.
14. The aforesaid matters concerning the formation of seminarians clarify what Ad Gentes Divinit us wants to say whenever it exhorts professors in the seminaries and universities that in their teaching of the dogmatic, biblical, moral and historical branches, they should focus attention on the missionary elements therein contained.
15. The missionary formation of priests has been discussed in numerous documents of the Church. These underline the significance and urgency of giving a missionary view to the treatises covered by philosophy and theology, particularly Christology, Ecclesiology, study of the Sacred Scriptures, and History of the Church. Another discipline is added, that of Theology of Mission, which aims at explaining the missionary nature and life of the Church. This missionary formation must not only remain in the intellectual or academic level but must be manifested in their lives. The priests must be living witnesses and preachers of the Good News.
MISSIONARY WORK OF OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS (OFWs) AND CARE FOR THEIR FAMILIES
16. The baptized are called for a special mission. It is just proper therefore to regard them as salt and light of the world (Cf. Mt. 5:13-14). As our Lord said, Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house (Mt. 5:15). Hence, as Christians, those who work in foreign countries are also chosen to face the trials in the mission and in this way to shine and give flavor to the life of the people they encounter. This point, in fact, has been observed by Pope John Paul II. He stated, On the eve of the Third Millennium, the voice of the Risen Christ echoes anew in the heart of every Christian: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
17. In addition to this, many have already given attention to the spiritual renewal being wrought by our countrymen abroad. According to them, A growing awareness of the missionary potential of Filipino migrant workers abroad has also dawned upon us. For economic reasons, wave after wave of Filipinos has sought for work in other countries. There they witness through their religiosity and piety whenever this is possible for them. Many are the stories of the positive effects of their faith witness on others. In fact, in the year 1987, the Holy Father told the Filipino workers abroad that (I)ndeed in Europe you are called to be the new and youthful witness of that very faith which your country received from Europe many generations ago.
18. This is the reason why the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines called for a concrete action in order to make the Filipino migrant workers’ witnessing strengthened through various ways such as an appropriate catechesis before they go forth to other lands. We have also need to provide pastoral and social care for them and their families. In that way their spiritual and material welfare is served, their rights protected and their faith strengthened.
19. Many of our overseas workers, however, are experiencing various forms of abuse by their employers. This is very much felt by women. Aside from this problem, there are still other difficulties such as: emotional and psychological problems like loneliness; anxiety, fear, and homesickness; lack of benefits, low salary, and fake recruiters; pretentious interaction with their employers; lack of moral and spiritual knowledge, which compels them to join other sects; lack of religious freedom, especially in Muslim countries; problems in expressing their culture and language; lack of support from fellow workers; illicit relationships and lack of communication.
20. With regard to the families left behind by these overseas workers, they have also their own problems like: feeling like orphans due to the absence of their loved ones; being responsible for the family left behind; losing the right direction and meaning in life, which causes broken families; loss of proper guidance to children; payment for the borrowed money that was used by the overseas worker; neglect and improper use of money received from their loved ones working overseas; laziness and complete dependence on the help given by those who are working overseas; quarrel or strife over the benefits being received.
21. Due to the aforesaid problems the OFWs and their families are confronted with, the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines asks that particular attention be given to such situations. At the first National Mission Congress held in Cebu in the year 2000, the establishment of a Diocesan Migration Desk in each diocese was suggested. According to the said congress, there is a need for a thorough study of what is happening to our Filipinos working abroad and their families left behind in our midst.
22. Truly, there is a lot to be done so that the aim of our Lord to spread his reign to all nations can be realized. This challenge is even greater for the continent of Asia, and it seems that a more vibrant witnessing of the Filipinos is needed if this dream is to find fulfillment. Their efforts are probably not yet enough to carry out faithfully the mission entrusted to them. Indeed, there is a need for an intensive formation for the missionary activity of the Church. Nevertheless, the People of God can rely on the grace that comes from him. He who sends his disciples is also the one who gives them the necessary strength and capability: As the Father has sent me, even so I send you (Jn. 20:21).
MARY AS THE FIRST MISSIONARY
23. The Church continues to entrust herself to the help and intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the model of all who follow Christ and serves as the shining Star of Evangelization. She is the model of being a missionary because she received and wholeheartedly accepted the invitation of God to be the Mother of the Savior. It was a tremendous mission to carry in her womb the Redeemer of the world. She reared and took good care of the Son of the Most High and even up to the cross she guarded him. Mary knows that the mission of the baptized is to bring Christ to the people since it was she who first brought Christ to them. She is the star that guides the People of God and brings them to a fuller knowledge of Christ so that they who acknowledge him can share this knowledge with others. Like Mary, may the whole Church also faithfully respond to the missionary task entrusted to her by God. With the help and prayers of Mary, may everyone also say, Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word (Lk. 1:38).
CALL TO ACTION
Based on the aforementioned reflections and discussions on Mission to the Nations, this synod recommends the following Call ToAction (CTA).
CTA-1. It shall be stressed that all the baptized are missionaries by virtue of the Baptism that they received and through it they share in the priestly, kingly, and prophetic office of Christ.
CTA-2. Active involvement in the missionary activity of the Church shall be inculcated in the laity. In like manner, they are enjoined to become lay missionaries in the particular Church they belong to.
CTA-3. It is recommended that seminars on the Church’s mission be conducted in Basic Ecclesial Communities in order to cultivate in the community’s awareness the need to share the faith with other nations, particularly those in Asia.
CTA-4. Missionary activity will succeed if it is rooted in prayer, especially in the Holy Eucharist, from which a missionary derives personal strength. Prayers for missionary vocations are likewise beneficial.
CTA-5. It should be borne in mind that an effective preacher of the Good News is the one who lives by and bears witness to it.
CTA-6. Although it is clear that the vitality and success of the mission do not depend on money, the importance of financial support for missionary work cannot be ignored. A definite portion of the Church’s funds must therefore be dedicated to this purpose.
CTA-7. Seminarians shall be given a holistic formation, which includes an effective program that prepares them for the mission. Their study on missionary life has to be furthered through, among others, a course on mission or missiology.
CTA-8. Seminary programs designed to foster the missionary spirit among seminarians shall be carried out in concrete and practical ways by initiating activities such as summer apostolate and community immersion, particularly in unfrequented areas. Seminarians are enjoined to undertake a comprehensive study and reflection on the Word of God and to develop a profound devotion to the Holy Eucharist.
CTA-9. Ongoing formation is most necessary so that priests can faithfully carry out the mission of the Church. Attendance in seminars, symposia, and training will help them respond effectively to the demands of the times and discern their signs.
CTA-10. Witnessing to what he teaches is an essential component of a priest’s ministry. His interaction with all levels of society is beneficial. Moreover, he is expected to pay attention to the problems the Basic Ecclesial Communities are confronted with.
CTA-11. The priests shall be bearers of the light of the Gospel, exemplars of a genuine Christian life, and witnesses to the teachings of Christ. Their lives should manifest that they are for all people in their dealings with others. They are expected to treat the laity, particularly the Church workers, affectionately.
MISSIONARY WORK OF THE OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS (OFWs) AND CARE FOR THEIR FAMILIES
CTA-12. Overseas Filipino Workers shall be encouraged to be actively involved in the life of the Church in order that they may be aware of their mission of proclaiming the Good News.
CTA-13. OFWs shall be provided with the appropriate training requisite to the formation of Lay Ministers. The parish priest, thereafter, shall issue a certificate testifying that the concerned OFWs have successfully completed the said training.
CTA-14. A thorough study of catechism prior to working abroad will enhance an OFW’s capability to teach the truths of the faith in foreign lands. Seminar modules proper to such kind of training must be made.
CTA-15. A foremost requirement of any missionary work is the life of witnessing. Frequent reception of the sacraments and active involvement in religious organizations are then of great importance if an OFW is to succeed in sharing the light of faith with the people he encounters abroad.
CTA-16. While on vacation in the country―although this seldom happens― OFWs shall be helped in deepening their knowledge of the faith, served properly through counseling, and persuaded to be involved in the activities and life of the Church.
CTA-17. To further nurture the OFWs participation in the missionary activity of the Church, it is recommended that a Diocesan Migrants’ Day be held. As a prelude to its observance in the diocesan level, a special day for migrants may be organized in the parishes.
CTA.-18. The Mission Month (October) shall be expended as a distinct occasion to give the students lectures on mission.
CTA-19. The Church shall provide assistance not only to the OFWs but also to their families left behind in the country. The Church fulfills this by praying for them, encouraging them to be involved in Church activities, and showing concern for them through visitation, counseling, and spiritual direction.
CTA-20. Organizing associations of families of OFWs can greatly help in providing a support system to these families. Regular meetings are necessary if such organizations are to last.
CTA-21. Programs for the benefit of the families of OFWs shall be organized and entrusted to the supervision of the Family and Life Apostolate. Recollections or retreats and continuous catechetical instruction may be included in the said programs.
CTA-22. A newsletter (similar to BoletinLucentino) shall be published and sent to the OFWs in order that they may feel oneness with the Church. This synod recommends that a website for BoletinLucentino be created so that OFWs around the world can easily read it.
CTA-23. Efforts shall be made to collaborate with OFWs who are willing and able to contribute financial assistance to the Church’s missionary activity.
CTA-24. A Migration Desk must be established in the diocese.