BECOMING CHURCH OF THE POOR 1 & 2

“What kind of a Church must we be to respond to the challenges of our Society as we journey into the third millennium?” (Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, 87)

1. BRIEF HISTORY:

Responding to the challenges of Faith posed by the prevailing social situation confronting the local Church in the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia (Philippines) then Archbishop and now Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, sent Fr. Albert R. Rabe to Bangkok, Thailand in November 1997 for exposure-study on the Asian Integral Pastoral Approach (AsIPA) of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC)

After a month of exposure-study of the AsIPA, then Archbishop Quevedo, BEC Chairman of Northern Luzon Philippines instituted the Northern Luzon BEC Lay Leadership Training (NL-BEC-LLT) with Fr. Albert R. Rabe as Consultant/Director, FABC-endorsed-Participatory Church was initiated in the Northern Luzon Church, following the orientation and focus of the New Way of Being Church.

When Archbishop Quevedo was transferred to another mission assignment, succeeding Bishops continued BEC implementation.

From the Regional level, the full roadmap of Participatory Church was implemented in St. Vincent Ferrer Parish (San Vicente) and St. Augustine Parish (Tagudin). Participatory Church envisioned by FABC and contextualized in the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) indeed reimaged the Faith of the Catholic Families in St. Vincent Ferrer Parish and St. Augustine Parish. Significantly, St. Augustine Parish was made as regular exposure area for other dioceses and became learning exposure of two (2) AsIPA courses by South East Asian countries held twice in Baguio City, Philippines.

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¹BEC Experience shared at the Myanmar National Workshop on BEC, Asian Integral Pastoral Approach of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (AsIPA-FABC) at Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar (CBCM), Yangon, Myanmar, April 6-11, 2015.

²Archbishop Marlo Peralta, DD, asked copies of the sharing of BEC Experience be distributed to all the Priests of Nueva Segovia at Clergy Assembly, April 21, 2015, Archbishop’s Residence Compound / Vigan City.

Participatory Church realized in the BEC, gained the support of the incumbent Bishop at that time prompting him to commission Fr. Albert R. Rabe and a Team of Priests to implement BEC in St. Mark Vicariate with 5 parishes (Sinait, Canugao, San Juan, Magsingal & San Isidro) as it was done in St. Augustine Parish. Participatory Church concretized in the BEC expanded and flourished.

But as expected, Participatory Church was resisted by culture of non-participation. Becoming Church of the Poor was threatened by “church of elitism”. Church in the base communities was rejected by church of exclusive organizations. Attempts to erode the New Way of Being Church were pervasive and aggressive. Both religious and civil authorities were unsettled and they reacted to water down and derail the liberating trend.

Despite aggressive resistance, Vision of Participatory Church concretized in the BEC has already been shared to and embraced by the Families in the base communities. Seed of the Kingdom Vision and Mission has already been implanted among the Families.

2. SOCIAL SITUATION AS CONTEXT:

From analysis and- discernment, there are three (3) social situations that challenge Faith to immerse into proactive and restorative responses. First, the appalling poverty of many people. Second, the cultural decadence that incapacitated people to differentiate righteousness and wickedness. Third, the oppressive political system that causes and aggravates the suffering of the people. This pyramidal societal situation has become a systemic social scandal. Most seriously, it has become a social sin crippling human dignity, liberty and right of every individual to share in the common good.

Politics of greed has put the majority poor at the margin s of society, excluding them not only from their share of the common good but from their participation on the dynamics of life such as public discussion, planning, decision making and implementation. Political system has reduced the poor into mendicants relying only on the crumbs being doled out by those in power. Politics of greed has seriously dragged the culture of people into its most destitute level that they are deactivated as productive civil citizens and as baptized Christians.

This intricate social situation is indeed sinful that it does not only require a simple developmental resolution but it necessitates Faith salvific intervention.

Such is the sinful situation in our area which prompted us to seek first the Kingdom of God and HIS righteousness…

3. BECUMINO A PARTICIPATORY CHURCH:

Let me share with you some basic principles that we followed in becoming a Participatory Church and or Church of the Poor:

a) Participatory Church must enjoin the Families in the base communities to Participate and become co-responsible in the life and mission of the Church.

Economic poverty has crippled the participation of the poor in the life and mission of the church. Church activities, decision making processes, planning and implementation were monopolized by mandated lay organizations selected and or appointed by church authorities. The poor in the villages were reduced to passivity. Worse, their needs and concerns were missed out, neglected and not responded to adequately.

If ever there was participation of the poor, such participation was simply limited to attending the Mass, sacraments and Lay organization. Life and Mission of the Church are put in the back seat and were not given due importance.

To arrest this situation, WE designed pastoral program that must facilitate the poor to implement their Baptismal vows to reject evil and follow Jesus in His Kingdom Mission.

b) Participatory Church must be radical discipleship, prophetic and missionary.

Following the Baptismal vows, WE implemented pastoral roadmap that must facilitate sense of co-responsibility of the baptized faithful to become disciples of Jesus denouncing whatever is evil and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom and dedicating their life into the Mission of the Kingdom. In this sense, the poor families in the small communities should have vast venue of participation in the processes of social dynamics where the transformation of life is a paramount concern.

4. BECOMING A CHURCH OF THE POOR:

c) Church of the Poor must include the poor to equally partake in the common good.

The situation of poverty, has excluded the poor. Poverty does not only exclude the poor from partaking in the common good, poverty has reduced the poor into mendicants who are merely depending on the crumbs being doing doled out by church foundations and or patrons/benefactors.

Challenged by this situation, WE crafted pastoral activities that promote a kind of Faith that facilitates the poor to be included into the equal sharing of God’s abundance. This is restoring the Dignity of the Human Person.

d) Church of the Poor must facilitate the poor to become analytical of their oppressive situation.

The situation of poverty under oppressive political system has snatched “way the fundamental liberty of the poor. The poor had been reduced into destitute relying and depending on the mercy of others. Their freedom as human individual is crippled. Their voices are not heard.

Responding to this, WE formulated pastoral activities that would hasten the capacity of the poor to discover the root causes of their exploitative situation.

e) Church of the Poor should empower the poor in the base communities.

Due to appalling poverty, the poor are perpetually excluded from social processes such as discussions, decision making, planning and implementation. Thus their basic needs and concerns are not adequately responded to.

In response, WE designed pastoral activities where the poor families in the base communities are formed and trained of analysis, participatory discussion, decision making, planning and collective mobilization to enable them respond to their identified needs and concerns.

f) Church of the Poor is a liberating paradigm, a renewed Faith.

Baptized faithful are fixated on the ‘old way of being church’. As response, WE re-established pastoral activities such as liturgical celebrations, sacraments, meetings, formation and training seminars that inculcate liberating paradigm geared at renewing the Faith of the families in the base communities.

g) Church of the Poor restores Dignity, Liberty and Fullness of Life.

From dependency to religious and civil authorities that enslave the poor, WE formulated pastoral roadmap contextualized in the social situation affecting the life of the poor and challenging them to respond proactively to transform their situation. Their Faith Action being re-invented and re-focused now becomes a Faith that restores their Dignity, Liberty and Fullness of Life, befitting the Kingdom Way of Life.

5. FAMILIES IN THE SMALL COMMUNITIES AS CO-WORKERS IN THE KINGDOM MISSION:

In Participatory Church and or Church of the Poor, families in the small communities become the primary agents renewing life and beneficiaries of the liberating grace of God.

In the ‘old way of being church’, parish or diocesan teams work for the small Christian communities thereby creating dependency and therefore impeding empowerment of the families.

In the “new way of being church”, the Families are part of the designing and implementation of the pastoral activities. Pastoral activities are designed and implemented by the families and for the families in the small Christian communities. Although the families in the small communities assume the responsibilities of designing and implementing the pastoral roadmap, the Vision Mission of Church of the Poor and Participatory Church remain interconnected to the Universal Church through the Eucharist and Mission.

6. STRATEGIES OF REALIZING CHURCH OF THE POOR AND PARTICIPATORY CHURCH:

a) Focusing on the Families in the base communities

We have learned from the mistakes of the past where church activities were always at the monopoly by those in the ‘center’ and those members of various lay organizations. Activities simply revolved and gravitated among organizations and or ministries. When the priest is transferred, activities are likewise transferred.

To resolve this perennial problem, Church of the Poor/Participatory Church must be focused immediately on the Families in the Base Communities. So that participation in the life and mission of the Church should be founded on the fundamental element originating the mandate of Jesus derived through the Sacrament of Baptism. Families will participate in the life and mission of the Church by virtue of their baptismal vows not ‘because of their loyalty and membership with any religious groups, organizations and loyalty to priests.

b) Identifying, tapping and developing couple leaders to animate the life and mission of the Church in the Base Communities.

As in the past, leadership is owned and controlled by those educated elite in the center and or rotating among the members of lay mandated organizations. It is the same situation wherein the poor in the remote villages are not tapped for the leadership tasks.

In the Church of the Poor and Participatory Church, Couple Leaders are tapped, formed and trained with the basic skills to assume the leadership roles. Liberating brand of leadership is bequeathed to the married couples. This will ensure participation of the families in the base communities rather than maintaining ‘old style’ of mandated lay organization.

To prepare the Couple Leaders in their task of animating the life and mission of the church in the small communities, the couple leaders underwent basic training on facilitating participative learning patterned from the methodology of Asian Integral Pastoral Approach (AsIPA).

It must be noted that ‘mandated lay organization’ are not driven away from the life and mission of the church. They are only given new orientation and are required to get involved into the new way of being church.

c) Initiating the/amities into regular activities.

Having owned the new paradigm of church of the poor and or participatory church, families in the base communities will start to implement consistently and regularly the designed pastoral activities which enhance the Worship; Prophetic and Apostolate functions of Baptized Christians.

On the fourth Sunday of the month, families in the base communities will gather together to plan and implement proactive actions responding to needs and concerns. Families are trained to implement sustainable agriculture for food security and economic independence, community based herbal preventive medicine, lobbying to pressure for good governance and collective action against environmental aggression. This is the Apostolate function of the Families in the Church of the Poor.

On the third Sunday of the month, families in the Base Communities shall gather together to Worship God. Trained Lectors, Commentators, Lay Ministers, Music ministry facilitate this with the Families in the Small Communities participating together. This is the Worship function of the Families.

On the second Sunday of the month, Families in the base communities gather together for Awareness Sessions. This is facilitated by trained Couple Animators. This will hasten the analysis skills of the families as basis of their prophetic role to denounce sinful structures and proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.

On the second Saturday of the month, youths in the base communities are formed and trained by trained Couple Youth Animators. This is the Prophetic function of the families. Worship, Prophetic and Apostolate functions are not isolated and or compartmentalized. In the principles of Church of the Poor and or Participatory Church, these three-fold functions are integrated with one another.

d) Monitoring the growth of Church of the Poor in the Base Communities.

To monitor the growth/development of Church of the Poor in the Base Communities, a built in system is in place. Every quarter of the Year, all the Couple leaders of the Small Communities will gather together for a focus group discussion aimed at sharing of experiences, assessing experiences and re-focusing of activities should need necessitates it.

e) Deepening and sustaining.

To deepen and sustain Church of the Poor, Couple leaders of all the base communities are invited to come to the Parish Center to share and evaluate mission experiences. This venue will provide opportunities for the Couple Leaders for continuous formation and training to deepen their consciousness and upgrade their skills. This happens twice a year.

7. IMPACT OF IMPLEMENTING CHURCH OF THE POOR AND PARTICIPATORY CHURCH:

After implementing the Vision Mission of Church of the Poor and Participatory Church, the families in the Base Communities have transformed consciousness. Testament to this, the families became more analytical of their situation. They now start to ask questions pertinent to their social situation. They now are comfortable with denouncing oppressive systems and structures adversely affecting their dignity and freedom.

The implementation of Church of the Poor and Participatory Church has implanted a new and liberating paradigm unto the Families in the Base Communities. Their Faith has been leveled up from mere devotion and religiosity to a Faith that is transformative and liberating.

From a dominating style of leadership, Couple leaders now exercise liberating style of leadership that putting more emphasis on the Kingdom Mission as anchor and focus of leadership. Not leadership for merits, citations and fame.

Because of the principles and formation activities consistently being implemented by and for the families in the base communities, relationship based on equal dignity has become a standard.

Church of the Poor has inspired the families in the base communities to extricating themselves from oppressive systems, connections and organizations. Families in the base communities now see the evil designs and effects of being subservient to political lords.

To denounce malpractices in governance has become a standard practice of the families in the Small Communities. In fact, they now are comfortable in protesting against prostitution, illegal mining, election frauds, criminality, proliferation of illegal drugs and gambling.

Church of the Poor has re-imaged the Faith of the Families in the “base communities. From devotional faith to a faith that is committed to the Kingdom Mission.

8. ROLE OF TIE PARISH PRIEST:

The Parish Priest ANIMATES the Families in the Small Communities. As Animator, the Parish Priest inspires the Families to live their Baptismal vows to reject evil and follow Jesus in His Kingdom Mission.

The Parish Priests EMPOWERS the Families in the Small Communities. The Parish Priest DOES NOT DO things for the Families. He facilitates the Families to assume their responsibilities. He does not develop dependency and personal loyalty.

The Parish Priest LISTENS to and DEEPENS the mission experiences of the Families in the Small Communities. He guides them but not impose activities. He allows the Families to exercise their decision making capabilities and let the Families learn and grow from their mission experiences. The Parish Priest encourages the Families to go into Faith discussion, discernment and action.

The Parish Priest exemplifies the compassion of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He exercises humble service as it was done by Jesus when He ‘washed the feet of His disciples’ and ‘gave up His life on the Cross’.

The Parish Priest exemplifies ‘Church of the Poor’ and therefore must live in extravagance and pomp. Must live the examples of a Participatory Church, therefore should not impose and dominate.

The Parish Priest does NOT get the credit all to himself.

9. IMPORTANCE OF MSSION ANIMATION TEAM

Church of the Poor/Participatory Church entails Teamwork. Thus, a Mission Animation Team is important to serve as support to the leadership in the base communities. It facilitates formation seminars and skills training for Couple Leaders in the Base Communities.

It helps design pastoral activities responsive to the needs and concerns of the families in the base communities. It empowers Couple Leaders in the Base Communities to slowly know the technique of designing pastoral activities responsive to the actual situation and needs of the Families in the Small Communities.

It monitors the growth of Faith of the Families where Church of the Poor/Participatory Church is implemented. Make assessment on the growth and development of Church of the Poor in the Base Communities. Design pastoral activities based on the identified needs of Couple Leaders in the Base Communities.

10. EMERGED PASTORAL CHALLENGES:

The Vision Mission of Church of the Poor and Participatory Church requires liberating leadership by Couple Animators. Leadership remains the key to the full realization of the Vision Mission. Leadership will facilitate the regularity and consistency of activities in the base communities. However, leadership should empower the families. It must produce more leaders rather than followers. It must facilitate the implanting of liberating consciousness among the families.

In this situation, we are challenged to invest more of our resources (time, finances, and personnel) on tapping and developing dedicated Couple Leaders in the base communities.

• Implementing the Vision Mission of Church of the Poor and Participatory Church is indeed a countering the age old enslaving culture of people. Oftentimes, new paradigm is met with resistance especially if the activities do not suit the interests of the target participants.

In this situation, we are challenged to design pastoral activities that will catch the interests and passion of the families in the base communities, these activities must respond to the needs and concerns of the families in the communities. It must have visible and liberating impact in the life of the families.

• Ingrained culture of dependency to authorities has always been a factor to deal with. Families often have the tendency to go back to their fixated mindset of relying on ‘person to do things for them’ rather than take the responsibility to act on their concerns. In this situation, we are challenged to form and train more deeply the families aiming at empowering them so that the new paradigm shall remain even with the reshuffling and transfer of priests.

• Vision Mission of the Church of the Poor and Participatory Church will surely unsettle religious and civil authorities because their position and comfort zones are put to question. This will extract resistance from ‘authorities’ and they use their power to censure growing awareness of people.

In this situation, we are challenged to implant a Faith on the Families that could withstand pressure from ‘authorities’ and could dare to continue with the Vision Mission in their own way of life, in their small communities with the Holy Spirit guiding them and with the God of Exodus as source of strength.

11. BRIEF SUMMARY:

Church of the Poor/Participatory Church implemented by and for the Families m the Small Christian Communities is a proactive Faith response to the sinful situation of chronic poverty dehumanizing the majority poor. Chronic poverty is caused and aggravated by exploitative political system. Under the situation of appalling poverty, the culture of people has been adversely damaged. In this sinful pyramidal situation, Church of the Poor/Participatory Church is imperative.

Clarity of Vision-Mission-Goals based on analysis of the social situation is fundamental in implementing Church of the Poor/Participatory Church. Pastoral activities must be designed as tools and strategies to achieve the Vision-Mission-Goals. New Brand of Leadership must be emerged and developed. Church of the Poor must be anchored on the Families in the Small Christian Communities. Church of the Poor must transform Life pursuant to the Kingdom of God.

Designing and implementing Church of the Poor/Participatory Church is an Exodus experience of the Families in the Small Christian Communities. It is an experience of restoring Dignity, Liberty and Fullness of Life as features of the Kingdom of God. Church of the Poor/Participatory Church has implanted the seed of the Kingdom unto the Families in the Small Christian Communities of St. Augustine Parish and in the Vicariate of St. Mark in the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia (Philippines).

 

 

 

 

REV. FR. ALBERT R. RABE

Church of the Poor Mission Experience Sharing at Myanmar National Workshop

April 7-11, 2015

“Go Tell Everyone”


1. God’s spirit is in my heart,

He has called me and set me apart.

This is what I have to do

What I have to do.

 

Chorus:

He sent me to give the good news to the poor

Tell prisoners that they are prisoners no more,

Tell blind people that they can see.

And set the downtrodden free.

And go tell everyone the news

That the Kingdom of God has come.

And go tell everyone the news

That God’s Kingdom has come.


2. Just as the Father sent me

So I’m sending you out to be

My witness throughout the world,

The whole of the world. (chorus)


3. Don’t carry a load on your back,

You don’t need two shirts to your back,

A workman can earn his own keep,

Can earn his own keep. (chorus)


4. Don’t worry what you have to say,

Don’t worry because on that day

God’s spirit will speak in your heart

Will speak in your heart. (chorus)

 

 

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