PASTORAL INSTRUCTION ON THE ROLE OF RELIGIOUS SISTERS

 

INTRODUCTION


            1. The First Synod of the Diocese of Lucena gratefully acknowledges the immeasurable contribution of the Religious Sisters to the building up of the local Church in the Diocese. Theirs certainly is a vocation that deserves the highest appreciation of the laity as well as of the clergy.

            2. The Diocese of Lucena is blest with the following congregation of religious sisters: the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in Sariaya, the Religious of the Virgin Mary in Gumaca, the Daughters of Charityin Sacred Heart College, the Dominican Sisters in Unisan and Luzonian University, and Agustinian Recollects in Candelaria. The Missionary Catechists of St. Therese of the infant Jesus, at first established as diocesan religious congregation by the former Bishop of Lucena and now a Pontifical religious order, have mission house in eleven parishes. The Poor Clares in Sariaya as well as the Carmelite Nuns in Lucena support the apostolate of the Church with their life of prayer and contemplation within the confines of their missionaries.

 

CHAPTER I

THE APOSTOLATE OF THE RELIGIOUS SISTERS
IN THE DIOCESE OF LUCENA

 

            3. His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, expressly recognized the role of the religious in the Church when he started: “You are a very important force within the Church and within the society itself, spread in innumerable sectors such as the schools and colleges, the clinics and hospitals, the field of charity and welfare, parish works, catechesis, the groups of apostolate, and so many others. You belong to different religious families, but with the same ideal within different charisms: to follow Christ, to be living witnesses to his everlasting message.” 1

            4. This statement of the Holy Father is a confirmation of the principle of the Second Vatican Council which is enunciated thus: “All institutes should share in the life of the Church. They should make their own and should foster to the best of their ability, in a manner consonant with their own natures, its initiatives and undertakings in biblical, liturgical dogmatic, pastoral, ecumenical, missionary, and social matters.” 2

            5. As a general rule when a person embrace the religious life, it is because they desire to consecrate themselves to God, working for His glory and their own sanctification. The religious orders to which they attach themselves are formally accepted by the Church and, therefore, each member of such religious orders is also accepted by the Church, of which they become an integral part in a special each individual who claims to be a members of that Church must also serve that same purpose. Vatican II confirm this in the following statement: “Since this gift of themselves has been accepted by the Church, they should be aware that they are dedicated to its service also.” 3

                6. For the religious communities to help their constituents accomplish this, Vatican II exhorts them in this way: “Institutes should see to it that their members have a proper understanding of men, of the conditions of the times and of the needs of the Church, this to the end that, making wise judgment about the contemporary world in the light of faith, and burning with apostolic zeal, they may be able to help men more effectively. “ 4

            7. In order to serve through and with the Church, the religious must be fully aware of the Church’s mission in the world. In his apostolic exhortation on Evangelization, the late Holy Father Paul VI described the mission of religious in the light of evangelization. “It is with joy consolation that at the end of the great Assembly of 1974 we heard these illuminating words: ‘We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church’. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exist in order to evangelize that is to say in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of his death and glorious Resurrection.” 5

            8. It is very clear from what has been cited above that as members of the Church, religious have that most important mission of evangelization. This is done formally through education and catechetical work, but it can also be accomplished informally through almost every and any of their works. The pre-synodal survey of the apostolate of religious sisters shows that common to many religious congregations are the following specific task: a) In Education: i) Administering schools; ii) Teaching and supervising; b) In Social Work: i) Home Visitation, ii) Attending to the corporal and spiritual needs of the poor and the aged; c) In Health Service: i) Taking care of the sick in hospitals, ii) Visiting patient in their homes; d) In Pastoral Work: i) Teaching catechism, ii) Assisting the parish priests in their work.

            The religious can serve in many other various ways but another very important role must not be forgotten. Emerson, a famous writer clearly puts it this way: “What you are speaks so loudly – I cannot hear what you say.”

              9. The role being referred to is that of being witness. The personal aspect of the religious vocation must not be neglected however. Again the late Pope Paul VI exhorted thus: “Dear religious, according to the different ways in which the call of God makes demands upon your spiritual families, you must give you full attention to the needs of men, their problems and their searching’s; you must give witness in their midst, through prayer and action, to the Good News of love, justice and peace.” 6 Pope John Paul II gives this advice: “Beloved Sisters: Never forget that to maintain a clear concept of the value of your consecrated life you need a deep vision of faith which is nourished and preserved with prayer.” 7

            10. Not to be minimized, is the place of the contemplative orders in the service of God and the People of God. From the time of Christ the primacy of prayer over action has been emphasized when to Martha He said: “Mary has chosen the better part which shall not be removed from her.” (Lk 10:42)

            11. With regards religious of the active orders, it is imperative that action be preceded by preparation. Thus Vatican II states: “Lest the adaptation of the religious life to the needs of our time be merely external and let those whose rule assigns them to the active ministry should prove unequal to the task, they should be properly instructed- each according to his intellectual caliber and personal bent – concerning the behavior – patterns, the emotional attitudes, and the thought processes of modern society.” 8

 

 

CHAPTER II
RESOLUTIONS

A. Organization

RESOLUTION – 1. The Bishop of Lucena shall organize the different religious congregations in the diocese into an association. Each religious community shall be represented by the local superior of each House on her representative.

            R-2. The Association shall serve as a coordinating body and a clearing house of the sisters’ apostolate. It shall establish an information system to aid the sisters in getting informed about the apostolate and matters in the diocese pertinent to them.

            R-3. In parishes where there are several congregations, chapters of the association shall be organized to take care of activities and their common local problems and interest. In the local chapter the parish priest shall represent the Bishop. The local chapter shall submit an annual report of its performance and problems to the Bishop and to the mother association.

            R-4. The Bishop shall convene the Association annually and periodically as the need arises.

B. Formation

            R-5. Whenever possible, the sisters of all congregations shall be provided with an on-going formation program in common both for their personal (human and spiritual) growth and for greater efficiency in their apostolate. Emphasis shall be placed on their training and in-service education for religious instruction in the Diocese, for which a regular forum shall be held, with the Bishop or his representative presiding.

            R-6. Seminars, conferences, etc. and/or formal courses shall be offered to the sisters for their on-going formation.

            R-7. Spiritual renewal programs shall be provided them for their spiritual growth, and gathering among themselves, for their social development.

C. Apostolate

            R-8. The different fields of the apostolate shall be identified by the sisters in coordination with the Bishop and/or his representative. Through, participative decision-making process, the congregations shall arrive at the field of concentration for each group to avoid overlapping on the one hand and gaps on the other hand. This plan, which should be within he Diocesan Pastoral Plan, shall be submitted to the Bishop for approval.

            R-9. Periodic assessment of the needs of clients in the apostolate shall be made to update sisters’ works to help meet the most possible.

            R-10. The parish priest shall represent the Bishop in his parish coordinating the different apostolic works of the congregations.

            R-11. As much as possible, the sisters shall participate with and support he apostolate of the laity and shall be involved in lay association not as officers but as collaborators and/or advisers, especially where they have expertise.

            R-12. The religious sisters shall be represented in both the diocesan and parish pastoral councils.

            R-13. It is highly recommended that the parish priest or his priest delegate be a member of the policy-making body of the catholic schools, to participate on matters relating to their pastoral involvement.

           

 

CONCLUSION

            In acknowledging the wonderful work of the sisters both in the contemplative and active orders, this Synod assiduously exhorts the sisters to be faithful to the charism of their respective orders in the execution of their different ecclesial commitments. May their solidarity among themselves and with the entire Church grow. May they come closer and closer to the poor, who should be given priority of attention. 9 May they live more and more for Christ and for his Body, the Church.

            The Synod, likewise, exhorts all concerned to faithfully follow the Decree Perfectae Caritatis together with the post-conciliar implementing decrees and norms, always keeping I mind that appropriate and effective renewal of the Church must start with oneself.

_________________

Notes:

1 Address of Pope John II to The Religious Sister of Mexico, 27 January 1979. Cf. Journey to Puebla: The Speeches of John Paul II, by Fr. P.S. Achutegui, SJ., editor, p.31.

2 Vatican II, Decree on the Up-To-Date Renewal of Religious life: Perfectae Caritatus (Henceforth, P.C.). Documents of Vatican II, edited by Austin Flannery, O.P.,no 2c.

3 P.C., no. 5.

4 P.C., no. 2d.

5 Evangelii Nutiandi, n. 13.

6 E.N., p. 48.

7 Journey to Puebla, p.32.

8 P.C., no. 18.

9 Journey to Puebla, p.32.

   

 

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