Since a synod s an ecclesial event in the life of the Church or of a portion of the Church, it can be marked as occurring within a pontificate and/or within the incumbency of a bishop. Bishop Jose T. Sanchez had planned the SYNOD OF LUCENA, the first in the Diocese of Lucena, to take place in the beginning of his administration in order that it may serve as springboard and foundation of the pastoral programs of the Diocese within the next ten years or till the next synod. The preparation, development and convocation of this First Diocesan Synod of Lucena surprisingly occurred during three Pontificates.
The synod proper was held last April 24-27, fortunately the first year of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, and the third year of Bishop Jose T. Sanchez as Residential Bishop of Lucena. The idea of holding a diocesan synod was formally hatched in the east class-room of St. Alphonsus School of Theology where Bishop Sanchez met with three professors of theology to discuss the broad schema of the synod. It was April 12, 1976. It was in embryonic stage for one year. The Bishop believed that the success of the Synod of Lucena would depend on the seriousness and length of the period of preparation. It was not until March 6, 1977 that the Bishop officially announced his intention to convoke the First Diocesan Synod of Committee or Coordinating Commission of the Synod.Being the first Synod to be held in the Philippines after the Second Vatican Council, the period of preparation, study, research and collation of reports took more than two years. For neither those who prepared it nor those who participated in it ever attended a diocesan synod. But the more important reason is the magnitude and importance of the work which required frequent and lengthy discussions both in the diocesan and in the parochial levels.
The pastoral objectives of the Synod required the willing cooperation of a host of Catholic lay readers and religious sisters all over the diocese. The participation of the laity and of religious sisters together with the diocesan clergy, before and during the Synod, makes this Synod and probably all subsequent synods, different from those of yesteryears. The Second Vatican Council itself encourages such an arrangement. And so, from the very beginning the Bishop has instructed the Pastors to establish the PARISH SYNODAL COMMITTEES in their respective parishes in order to ensure the widest participation of all diocesans in the different sectors of the Christians communities.
The members of the Steering Communities which met every-month in the Bishop’s Residence to discuss the progress of the preparation, together with some resource persons from the Diocese, were divided into seven PREPARATORY COMMISSIONS. Each Commission prepared the doctrinal portion of its assigned subject matter together with the appropriate questionnaire. Detail, which is necessary for analysis and synthesis, characterizes in general the questionnaires. These were sent by the Secretary General of the Synod to all Parish Synodal Committees which were allowed four months to study and answer the questionnaires under the guidance of the Parish Priests taking into account the doctrinal portion of the study drafts sent to them. The response from the parishes may be conservatively marked as eighty percent. The collated reports became then the basis of all drafts, recommendation and proposals presented by the commissions for the deliberation of the Synodal Assembly.
THE SYNODAL DOCUMENTS
Declaration on the building up of the Local Church. The Commission that prepared this document was the last to be formed. The document itself was inspired by the suggestions of the priests of the Vicariate of St. Peter (Lucena City). It contains the theological foundations, unifying principles, the manifestations and areas of concern of the local church which is the Diocese of Lucena. It was intended I the beginning to be only an introductory chapter; but the Synod decided to regard it as a separate and independent document.
Decree on the Presbyteral Community. Bishop Sanchez had always spoken of the unity and solidarity required of the priests in the Diocese. This document is a fitting response of the Clergy of Lucena not only to the Bishop’s prayer but also to the call of Christ in the Last Supper, “That they may be one. . . “Among other things this documents stresses the deepening of priestly spirituality as a necessary condition for the apostolic ministry. The deliberation on this particular decree was significantly ended with the whole assembly singing the suppliant prayer “Ama Namin.”Pastoral Instruction on the Role of Religious Sisters. The document with its proposals was presented to the Assembly by the Superior of the Daughters of Charity in Lucena. The main feature of the document is the resolution to establish an association of all religious sisters in the Diocese of Lucena which will coordinate the on-going formation of the sisters as well as their respective apostolates in the Diocese.Pastoral Instruction on the Apostolate of the Laity. There is no one perfect program of the apostolate of the laity which can be the model of all other programs. This document fittingly is a very general instruction on the localization and organization of the three areas of apostolate, namely, Worship, Formation and Service, under the Parish Pastoral Council, so necessary for the formation of christian communities. The subsequent documents may be regarded as amplification of the three areas of apostolate.
Pastoral Instruction on Christian Life Celebration. This is the longest of all the documents of the First Synod of Lucena. The resolutions and instructions have in view the meaningful as well as fruitful celebration of the liturgy towards the formation of a truly Worshipping Community. It likewise contains instruction on the strengthening of the Lucena Diocesan Worship Commission and the establishment of Parish Worship Committees.Pastoral Instruction on the Ministry of the Word. This document contains resolutions and instructions on sacred preaching, lay ministries, catechesis, family life apostolate, and media of social communication. The establishment of the Diocesan Commission on Formation makes it imperative that the parishes have the corresponding Parish Formation Committees.
Pastoral Instruction on the Ministry in the Word. The last to be deliberated upon in the Assembly Hall, this document contains resolutions and recommendations for the formation of a local church that has a strong attraction for Christian Charity and Social Justice. The youth apostolate, among others, is given special attention even in the deliberation of the synodal assembly.
Diocesan Administrative Structure. This document was deliberated upon after the first document. Originally it was given the first place in the arrangement of topics or subject matters. After prolonged discussion by the Steering Committee, it was decided that this appear towards the end of the final documentation. One of the reasons given is the very nature of the present synod: it was convoked not primarily to discuss the administrative officers in the diocese but to see how best to apply the principles and insights of the Second Vatican Council on the particular situation of the Diocese of Lucena.Constitution and By-Laws of the Presbyteral Council of the Diocese of Lucena. This together with the last document was presented to the Assembly at the closing ceremonies in the Cathedral. The last documents contains Statutes of the Diocesan Pastoral Council of the Laity in the Diocese of Lucena.Bishop Jose T. Sanchez before every meeting of the Steering Committee had always recommended the work of the Synod to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It becomes, therefore, the Spirit’s affair in the Diocese. It is, likewise, man’s. The General Rules Principles and Procedures promulgated by the Bishop at the first phase of the period of preparation facilitated the activities of the entire event. The assistance of lawyers regarding parliamentary rules and procedures and the employment of two Floor Leaders, one priest and another, an eminent lawyer, expedited the deliberation of the Synodal Assembly. To the surprise probably of many, a great number of the participants got acquainted with parliamentary rules and procedures only during the deliberations. For them it was a double experience and an enriching one at that. It is different when the Holy Spirit works.
Another unique circumstance of the Diocese Synod of Lucena is this: while the Synod proper solemly started and ended in the Cathedral Church of St. Ferdinand, all its sessions were held in a hotel, the conference hall of Fresh Air Hotel where all the delegates were lodged for the entire duration of the Synod. The opening ceremonies at the Cathedral was graced by the presence of Archbishop Ricardo Vidal of Lipa, Bishop Rafael Lim of Boac, Bishop Cirilo Almario of Malolos, and of Monsignor Thomas Woods, the Representative of the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Bruno Torpigliani. There were all in all 162 participants: 91 priests, 10 religious sisters and 61 laymen and laywomen. There were only 14 sessions with an average of two hours each. Some of the sessions had to be extended up to three hours. The Bishop was present in all of the sessions. The members of the Council of Presidents took turns in presiding, two for each session.
The two hundred and eighty four (284) Resolutions and all the other Acts of the Synod of Lucena are the fruit of the spirited deliberations of the Synodal Assembly. They are also the product of PRAYER. From the very beginning Panalangin Para sa Sinodo, composed by the Bishop in English and then translated into Tagalog, was being prayed throughout the Diocese. Special prayers, vigils, holy hours and sacrifices by people all over the Diocese were being offered before and during the Synod. And so under the lead of the befriending Spirit the resolutions contained in the different synodal documents will not be the basis of renewal of Christian life in the Diocese of Lucena.
The Decree of Bishop Jose T. Sanchez confirming the Acts and Resolutions of the First Diocesan Synod of Lucena fittingly concludes the work of two years. Fittingly he opens his decree with the words “With joy and thanksgiving we conclude this First Synod of Lucena.” Joy and thanksging.But this is not the end.it is just the beginning, the beginning of the realization of a common vision for the local church, the Diocese of Lucena. These pages are now a part of what has started to grow.
Father ANGEL N. LAGDAMEOSt. Alphonsus School of TheolgyLucena City