A Synopsis of AslPA Research Project Report, Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, Philippines
Published in East Asian Pastoral Review, volume 48 (2011) Number 1-2
This synopsis presents the result of a joint project of Asian Integral Pastoral Approach, under the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (AsIPA – FABC) and the East Asian Pastoral, Institute (EAPI), reviewing the significant growth and impact of Small Christian Communities and or Basic Ecclesial Communities (SCCs/BECs) in Asian Churches.
This review which was based on Theological, Ecclesiological and Missiological perspectives, using the scientific method of survey-questionnaire, data interpretation and focus group discussion as way of validation. It was done in four Asian countries namely, Diocese of Jeju (Korea), Archdiocese of Kurunegala (Sri Lanka), Archdiocese of Thare – Nongsaeng (Thailand) and Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia (Philippines).
In his response to the Questionnaire for Bishops, Archbishop Ernesto A. Salgado of Nueva Segovia (Philippines) stated at the very outset that he initiated BEC process in the Parishes of Tagudin, Sinait, Cabugao, San Isidro and Magsingal “as a way of life and mission.” He emphasized that the element of mission be the reference point for “making firm stand on life issues.”
The dimension of mission must be the integrative factor in the qualitative evaluation of the BEC process. BEC must be seen as ‘communion in and for mission.’ This is the most significant finding of the research- review, the dominant feature that characterizes the BEC experience in the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, Philippines.
Significant Highlights of the Research – Review:
a) BEC as Vocation and Mission: Leaders in the above-mentioned Parishes who were directly involved in BEC process, regarded BEC as a ‘call from God’ (vocation) to participate in the liberating mission of the Church through the building of Christian Communities and the formation of the Laity as agents of integral evangelization. BEC is seen as a response to God’s call which is in union with the very Mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. Concretely, BEC has deepened the Faith and understanding of the Mission of the Church. Through BEC, families have lived up to the Mission of proclaiming the Good News of Salvation. BEC programs have developed equal relationships based on Dignity. BEC has initiated transformation of life especially in the field of politics and economics. BEC has been a vocation for and in the Mission of the Church, a response to Jesus’ invitation for discipleship.
b) Mission as the Inner Force that Sustained BECs: Having been involved in the BEC process since 2000 – 2010, Leaders who were consulted consider ‘sense of mission’ as the motivating force that inspired them to pursue BEC with zeal and dedication. They proclaimed that what BEC inspired them to do is a sharing/participation in the very Mission of Jesus Christ who proclaimed ‘the reign of God’s kingdom’ and the ‘liberation’ of the dispossessed and the marginalized.
c) BEC and its Missiological concerns: There were two foci in the BEC leaders’’ missiological concerns; first is the renewal of their faith-life. Second, their participation in the Church’s mission in the secular field. Leaders who were consulted admitted that BEC has renewed their spirituality and Faith-Life and has transformed their social consciousness, from the natural human way, to the dimension of faith in Jesus Christ, their model of servant leadership and the foundation of their community life. From the start of their involvement in BEC to their continuing participation, it is the element of transformation of consciousness that permeates through the entire process. BEC leaders and participants admitted that BEC has become effective channels of promoting integral transformation and development. Programs that led to collective action like ecological preservation, political consciousness raising and cultural reformation have become vehicles of social conscience formation. BEC likewise has enabled leaders and families to proactively tackle the questions related to dehumanizing poverty. BEC integrated in its vision-mission-goals activities that would lead families to organic farming and sustainable agriculture, preventive herbal medicine to promote healthy life, advocacy against magnetite mining, protest actions to curb collection of exorbitant fees in public elementary and secondary schools, and promotion of massive tree planting to restore forest cover which was depleted by indiscriminate cutting of logs due to tobacco industry. Following the mandate of the First Synod of Bishops on Justice in the World, BEC embraced social justice as constitutive of evangelization. The Church’s mission of integral evangelization is intrinsically related to the transformation of the political dimension of human life. The Church must put ‘God in the political realm.’ This radical mission orientation and focus is one of the OUTSTANDING features of the BEC in these Parishes in the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, Philippines. BECs participation in the evangelization and transformation of the political arena defines their unique identity and shared mission.
d) BEC as Communion within the Church: The experience of the BECs as Communion is the second most significant finding of the research – review. Both questionnaire and focused-group- discussion draw out an operational definition of BEC among leaders and participants that center ‘communion.’ In these Parishes in the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, BEC AS MISSION is the first most significant impact. Second is, BEC AS COMMUNION. In BEC as Communion, BEC is experienced as ‘a way of being church’, not just a mere concept. It is ‘a way of being church’ that is inclusive, not exclusive like religious organizations and or movements. It touches all the aspects of Jesus’ mission, not merely prayer and devotion. BEC as Communion is committed to integral social transformation, not only fixated to projects and fund raising. BEC as Communion is focused on the liberation of the poor, not merely charity-dole out that perpetuates oppression of the dispossessed.
e) BECs Continuity and Sustenance: Through its built-in, coherent and comprehensive pastoral, roadmap, BEC could rest its continuity and sustenance on the formed and trained couple animators in the base communities. It could carry on the mission because of the families having imbibed sense of mission and spirit of communion. Activities in the base communities are done in regular and sustained schedules. The stability of the BECs relies on a various factors like clarity of vision-mission and goals, psycho-social relationships, holistic programs that correspond to the Church’s kingly, prophetic and priestly tasks.
f) BEC as Servant Leadership: BEC has evolved and developed ‘sense of servant leadership.’ Couple leaders in the base communities have embraced the challenge of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to deny self-aggrandizement, carry the cross and follow Jesus in His liberating kingdom mission. Such is the spirit of servanthood BEC has inculcated among leaders and participants.
g) BEC as Transformation of Culture: BEC has transformed the culture of families from being mere followers to active participation in the dynamics of life like analysis, discernment, decision making, action-planning, implementation and evaluation. BEC has shifted the culture of families from ‘culture of silence’ to raising the pertinent questions on social issues. BEC has revolutionized old age practices of dole out mentality and vote selling to becoming critical in political issues affecting social life. Families have transformed their way of celebration and relationships, from pomp and extravagance to simplicity and equality with sense of mission.
h) BEC as Process of Integral Renewal of the Church: Majority of the BEC leaders and participants have noticed significant changes in the Parish where such model of BEC has been implemented. In most events, all are served equally, unlike in the past where people are ‘served’ on the basis of educational attainment, social status and position. In the tasks of the Parish, all are given equal opportunity, contrast to the discriminating practice of giving special preference to the affluent and the powerful. Sacraments became venues of equality, solemnity and mission, eradicating the culture of ‘double standard’ where the rich are accorded with extra special accommodation while the poor are neglected like non-persons. Representation and participation were based on the spirit of mission, rather than organization and or connection. Kingdom Mission became the orientation, system and focus of the Parish where BEC process has been implemented. BEC re-imaged the Parish into Church of the Poor as ‘constitutive of the Church.’
i) BEC as Encountering Jesus: BEC has enabled the families to encounter Jesus. Regular BEC activities like Kararag-Tubay-Pamilia, Rambak-Kararag-Gimong, Tongtongan-Tubay-Konsensia, Tubay-Kananakem-Agtutubo, Tignay-Misyon have become effective tools of transforming the consciousness of the families in the BEC, initiating and motivating them to embrace and implement their kingly, priestly and prophetic tasks.
Confirmation and Affirmation:
Archbishop Ernesto Salagado’s description of BECs in the five Parishes (Tagudin, Sinait, San Isidro, Cabugao, Magsingal) of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia as ‘a way of life and mission’ has served the underlying framework of the research-review.
In the BEC experience of the five Parishes, there is an eloquent manifestation of the kingly, prophetic and priestly tasks being integrated in all the processes and activities. BECs are not merely focused on the devotional, liturgical and popular religiosity as expression of faith. They are not just engaged in the socio-economic, politico-cultural activities or closeted in the theological and catechetical faith- formation. Rather, the research-review manifests integration of all the tasks under the concept of the MISSION OF THE NEW EVANGELIZATION.
“BEC IS MISSION.” (Then) Archbishop Salgado stressed. BECs live as ‘believing’, ‘praying’ and ‘Ioving communities’ like the early Christians, not for themselves in isolation but for MISSION.
BEC is Communion in and for Mission. This is the unique quality of the BECs in the five Parishes in the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, Philippines. BECs in these five Parishes carry Theological, Missiological, Ecclesiological and Christological soundness and authenticity. Any attempt to understand the BEC process and experience will have to look at this big picture into which the BECs are integrated.