September 19-22, 2005 Lahug, Cebu City
The birth and growth of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) in the Philippines has opened the forty years (40) of the Second Vatican Council’s efforts to share humanity’s joys and hopes, pains and anxieties. Inspired by the Council Fathers’ call for Aggiornamento, BECs mushroomed in different parts of the country, seeking to make the Universal Church truly local, veering away from a Church popularly conceived as a physical or hierarchical structure, to one that is incarnated in the concrete life – settings of grassroots communities. BECs could not but thank Vatican II’s grace of inner renewal. They are indeed children of the Spirit’s workings of rebirth in our land.
Looking back these past 40 years, we —- the number of significant attempts to collectively understand the nature and set up of BECs and to discern the challenges they pose to the bigger Philippine Church. We do recall the BEC consultations spearheaded by the Lay Formation Institute (1982), the Bishops’ Businessmen’s Conference (1985), the BCC-CO National Assemblies, the Layko (1989), NASSA (1997) and the Bukal ng Tipan (2002). Their initiatives to support the promotion of BECs truly bespeak BECs’ thrusts of growth from below, renewal from within and strength in collaboration.
But what makes this National Assembly, held from Sept. 19 to 22, 2005 at Cebu City quite unique and truly historical is not merely the fact that it is thus far the best-attended gathering of BEC practitioners. There are 232 delegates and observers from 66 dioceses in the Philippines (11 bishops, 109 lay people, 88 priests, 16 religious sisters and brothers including 7 observers from Korea and 1 from India). Equally worth noting is the fact that this is the first time our beloved bishops in the Philippines through the CBCP – BEC desk have formally embraced the initiatives of such concerned institutions to undertake a nationwide BEC consultation. We thank CBCP for this significant step in the BECs’ journey in faith.
We commence our Assembly deeply aware of the latest and updated profile of the BECs in the country. Most dioceses have BECs and have designated commissions to monitor and supervise their process of growth. We recognize the Parish priests’ most critical role in nurturing their development or in weakening their participation.
The events BECs consider significant to their sustainability refer to the increase in their participation in the Church and their being considered a priority pastoral agenda of the Parish and Diocese.
Paradoxically, the most difficult value to practice in BECs are the same values that sustain them, namely, sense of community, faith activities, community service and action and sustained participation.
The operative values that weaken BECs are, at the same time, those that make it difficult to sustain community action: indifference, competition, factionalism, pride, leaders’ failures, “ningas cogon.”
Lastly, the environmental factors of politics, poverty, vices and corruption are what militate against community action.
Faced with these realities, affecting not merely the birth and promotion of BECs but more importantly their sustainability, all of us participants in this National Assembly have discerned the underlying convictions – we need to make vis-à-vis Philippine Culture and BECs, Church Culture and BECs and Social Transformation and BECs.
These are our convictions:
With John Paul II, we affirm that “a faith that does not become culture is a faith not fully accepted, not entirely thought out, not faithfully lived.” The Gospel message of salvation has to be announced within the cultural contexts of every people and generations. It is precisely in the life-situation of the communities, their way of life – their culture – that BECs are meant to grow and flourish. It is in the interplay between Church and culture, through the Word and Sacrament, that faith becomes culture. WHEN THIS TAKES PLACE CULTURE ITSELF BECOMES THE SUSTAINING FORCE FOR THE BEC AS A NEW WAY OF BEING CHURCH.
To be communion and participatory, the Church has to foster the “Spirituality of Communion” among the priests and the laity, among various sectors of the laity, among the clergy and religious themselves and with the Bishop. As a family where equality in dignity and diversity of functions are promoted and respected, where co-responsibility for the one mission of the Church is recognized, the BECs can be guided to develop new paradigm and contexts of relating to each other and to the bigger, more diverse community of believers. BECs have to be really a community where diverse gifts and functions fully participate in the building up the family of God. WHEN THIS TAKES PLACE IN THE BEC, COMMUNION AND PARTICIPATION BECOME A FUNDAMENTAL AND POWERFUL FORCE IN SUSTAINING ITS CULTURE.
To be a sign of the Kingdom of God, the Church’s task of social transformation must be seen as constitutive of her mission to evangelize and be evangelized. The local Churches, in particular, at the levels of the Diocese, Parish and BECs, must embrace the plight of the poor and the disadvantaged in their midst, and through their prophetic ministry and social action apostolate, travel with them on the road of justice, peace and integral development. WHEN THE BECs TAKE ON THIS TRANSFORMATIVE MISSION AND IS FAITHFUL TO IT, ITS ACTIVITIES AND MINISTRIES BECOME INTEGRAL PARTS OF ITS SUSTAINING CULTURE.
To be truly the Sacrament of salvation, the Church as God’s people has to be sustained in its mission through the Word and its living Tradition, and the Eucharist and the Sacraments. In this year of the Eucharist, we take special note that with the Word, we the BECs are born of the Eucharist, the living legacy of our Good Shepherd among us. We are to become a “Eucharistic” community; loving, sharing, serving and sacrificing.
WHEN THESE DIVINE TREASURES OF THE CHURCH, THE WORD AND THE EUCHARIST, BECOME THE SUSTAINING FORCE OF BECs, THEN OUR SHARED MISSION WILL FIND FULL REALIZATION AROUND THE TABLE OF THE DIVINE MASTER HIMSELF.
In the light of the above convictions, we return our respective dioceses and BECs with the following renewed commitments
Confronted by the challenges of the MEGAtrends affecting the Philippine culture, bringing about dislocations among the poor, families and youth and creating alienation and spiritual hunger among our communities, we have to review the thrust, priorities and methodologies we have identified in the light of the “evangelization of the culture and cultures.”
We also have to implement systematically the task of inculturation.
To foster a “spirituality of communion,” we seek to create a culture that promotes “unity in diversity”, a proper “contextual reading” of issues affecting interpersonal relationship, participation and co-responsibility in pursuing the one mission of new Evangelization.
To intensely pursue the thrust of social transformation, we seek to mobilize our human and logistical resources to accompany the impoverished and marginalized, the unevangelized and oppressed, along the road of integral, renewed evangelization and human development.
To further strengthen the development of BECs in our respective Dioceses, taking into account the cultural settings, needs and problems and levels of BEC development that they have achieved.
To ensure that the CBCP – BEC National Office is an effective partner in our efforts to renew our Church through BEC building.
Aware of our weaknesses and failures as ecclesial communities, we believe that on-going conversion is a requirement of our being disciples of the Lord as well as of sustaining our BECs. We placed all these convictions and commitments humbly and prayerfully in the hands of the Lord. In the final analysis, it is the Lord who builds his house, we are but his co-workers. In the journey toward a new ways of being Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary, “the Woman of the Eucharist” remains, as she does throughout history, our companion, intercessor and Mother.