Revisiting the long-forgotten Conciliar Document of the Acts and Decrees of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (1991) yielded much wisdom about parishes and serving parishes. This Church document was written twenty-two years ago here in our country. These excerpts can still serve as a standard against which we may measure our collective selves.

The PARISH

Par 598. The second community that needs renewal but is at the same time a very important means and venue of Church renewal is the parish. It is here where the full ministry and life of the Church is experienced by the faithful on a regular basis. In the diocese the parish “continues to be the customary place where the faithful gather to grow in holiness, to participate in the mission of the Church and to live out their ecclesial communion.”

Par 600. … A parish should be a dynamic Eucharistic and evangelizing community of communities, a center which energizes movements, Basic Ecclesial Communities and other apostolic groups and is in turn nourished by them.

Par 601. Pastors therefore have to devise new and effective ways of shepherding the faithful, so that the faithful will feel that they are part of the parish family where each one is important, each one is needed, each one is served and called to serve. We wish to encourage the development of community life and team ministry among priests, so that in a spirit of brotherhood and solidarity they not only live together and pray in common but also divide the pastoral ministry among themselves and work as a team.

Further, pastoral planning together with the lay faithful should be a normal feature in all parishes and dioceses, so that parochial and diocesan activities do not depend only on the inclination and personal preferences of the incumbent pastors. This planning should include coordinated formation and renewal programs both on the parochial and diocesan levels.

Par 602. Priests should not monopolize the ministry. Lay participation is a right and its activation should be encouraged and welcomed. The 1987 Synod’s exhortation bears repeating:

‘We exhort all the lay faithful to enter intensely into the life of their parishes by the reading of the Word of God, the celebration of the Lord’s Day, serving in parish councils and by participating in the various forms and activities of the apostolate.’

We wish to add these words of the Synod the need to foster in parishes the emergence of lay leaders who will assist, guide, support and remind their fellow parishioners in the requirments of Christian community living. Many lay movements and communities are already fruitfully doing this.



On LAY MINSTERS of the WORD and of the EUCHARIST

Par 607. We look forward with confidence to the time when our Lay Ministers of the Word and of the Eucharist will help lead the thorough-going renewal of Christian life in all our parishes. Such renewal will bring parishioners to renewed and renewing celebrations of God’s Word and God’s Love in a worshiping as well as caring community centered on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word Made Flesh who continues to dwell among us.



On CATHOLIC ACTION and TRADITIONAL CHURCH ASSOCIATIONS

Par 608. Catholic action and traditional Church organizations have been doing a tremendous work of evangelization. They continue to be needed. They respond to the need of the lay faithful to belong to a group supportive of Christian aspirations. They provide an environment and support apostolic endeavors. Basic Ecclesial Communities do not necessarily make such associations superfluous, for these latter usually have a wider scope of service and draw their membership from the whole parish.

Par 609. But such associations must not degenerate into elitist religious clubs. They should become schools of sanctification, and reach out to the unchurched and the poor. While they should continue to foster national and international ties with their mother organizations, their members should be encouraged to be involved in BEC’s and their parochial activities should be in accord and in coordination with parish pastoral priorities and programs.



On MOVEMENTS of RENEWAL

Par 610. The Cursillos de Cristiandad, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, lay covenant communities, the Neo Catechumenal Way, the Christian Family Movement, Marriage Encounter, Focolare, the Movement for a Better World, the Parish Renewal Experience (PREX) and other similar movements have helped greatly in the renewal of the local Church. They are able to impart to their members Catholic teaching, a sense of fraternal belonging, a love of the Word of God, and a love of prayer. They are instruments of genuine conversion, venues of life-changing encounters with the Lord. They are schools of evangelistic zeal.

Par 611. Members of such renewal groups should realize the Spirit has raised them up to renew the local Church. Movements of renewal are not only for their members but for the whole Church. Movements of renewal with similar charisms should network for stronger impact locally, nationally and globally. However, when they develop loyalty to their leader or group loyalty stronger than their loyalty to the wider Church, they become sects.

Par 612. Priests should welcome, encourage and support these renewal movements, whenever they could be led into the mainstream of parish and diocesan pastoral priorities and programs. When properly guided they draw attention to the continuing presence, power and activity of the Spirit in the Church and in the world. They foster an intense Christian and apostolic life, move passive Catholics by their witnessing, and prevent the lapse of many Catholics into other Christian groups. They are at present, in certain areas, the most effective in countering the attraction exerted on Catholics by fundamental groups.

Par 613. Catholic action, traditional Church associations and movements of renewal have been drawn to cohesive collaboration with each other, and have been linked more closely to the members of the hierarchy in a spirit of partnership through the Council of the Laity of the Philippines. This Council, headed and run by lay persons with the guidance of the hierarchy, has inspired greater participation of a great number of Filipino lay faithful in the apostolate of the Church. It is itself a very good example of lay participation and of clergy-laity collaboration.

This reference book is a compilation of documents as a result of a month-long conference in 1991 with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We urge all to read this classic, important Philippine-produced Church document. The excerpts were taken from: Acts and and Decrees of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines 20 January – 17 February 1991. Copyright 1992 Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. Published by Paulines Publishing House.

Hallelujah!

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