By: Frank Padilla
The pastoral thrust of the Catholic Church in many different countries is the establishment of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs). The basic goal of BECs is to support, strengthen and deepen the Christian faith of the people of God.
Current models for BECs have certain shortcomings. Some of these are:
1. Lack of true individual conversion to Christ.
2. Lack of ongoing formation.
3. Unsustained participation of individuals.
4. Lack of leadership development.
5. Lack of understanding of the call to evangelization.
6. Lack of vision for being Church.
7. Dependence on the initiative and ongoing support of parish priests.
The above shortcomings need to be overcome. There has to be a practical, sustainable and systematic way by which the needed elements for true renewal can become part of the structure of BEC. The effectiveness of BECs must not just be dependent on having capable, available and committed parish priests and parish lay leaders, but must become part of the very methodology of BEC.
The Live Christ, Share Christ (LCSC) movement can become an empowering partner for BECs. LCSC is a lay response to the call to the New Evangelization, and aims to mainstream Catholic lay evangelization. Its vision is for every Catholic, especially those in the peripheries, to meet, live and share Christ. LCSC is for, of and by the parish, and is not a separate group or community. As such, all its work is for the benefit of the parish.
The basic offering of LCSC is the Life in Christ Seminar (LCS),² which is an effective way of bringing nominal Catholics back to God and back to the Church. The LCS reintroduces Catholics to Jesus and allows them to enter into a personal relationship with him. It expounds on what it means to live Christ, and gets seminar participants started on a vocation of sharing Christ with others. It is easily replicable, and parish workers can be easily trained to conduct LCSs on an ongoing and sustained way, until every Catholic is reached with the gospel message. It is geared towards rapid and massive evangelization.
The LCS is mounted by the parish itself, and all lay ministries and groups in the parish can participate in mounting the LCS. It then becomes a concerted, parish-based initiative to proclaim the gospel, all the way to the grassroots. In so doing, it can be a point of unity among parish ministries and organizations. While these ministries and organizations continue with their particular life and services, they collaborate in the basic work of proclaiming the gospel, which is often the missing first step in the work of the parish.
¹Also known by other names.
²There are two variations. One is a 9-session LCS. The other is a 5-session LCS, ideal for situations where the time given by pastors is not as much as is needed to have the regular program.
Ideally, the BECs, in continuing to evangelize their particular neighborhoods or areas, can utilize the LCS as its primary way of drawing Catholics into an active life in the Church.
In addition, LCSC offers its Servant Leaders Formation (SeLF) program, an ongoing program of formation for parishioners in general and for parish leaders in particular. Containing various modules on important topics of spirituality, it is intended to deepen the spiritual lives of parishioners.
Further, LCSC offers its four pillars. These are:
1. Live Pure. This is a formation program focused on chastity for the youth. The anti-life and anti-family forces are directly targeting our young children with the humanist view of sexuality, and we must rise in defense of our youth.
2. Live the Word. This is a particular methodology of getting into the Bible, called the Liturgical Bible Study (LBS). Most Catholics unfortunately are unfamiliar with the Bible. But as St Jerome says, ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ. The LBS provides a way by which ordinary lay Catholics, busy with their secular pursuits, can get into the Bible in a regular, systematic and effective way.
3. Live Life. This is pro-life advocacy. Given the passage of the reproductive health law, and the current proposals for divorce and even same-sex marriage, there is an ongoing and sustained assault on faith, family and life by anti-life, anti-family, homosexualist forces. Our laypeople need to be educated and provided tools by which they can fight these diabolical forces.
4. Live Full. This is our work with the poor, done through the No One in Need (NONe) movement. This is an integrated and holistic way of building the Church of the Poor, involving faith formation, children’s education, livelihood training, health promotion, and shelter development.
With the LCS, the SeLF and the four pillars, this would be one powerful way of revitalizing and strengthening the parish. With its focus not just on maintenance of those who are already actively involved in the parish but on bringing back the lost sheep, LCSC would be the way to renewal and revival of the people of God.
How in particular does LCSC provide or supplement what is now lacking in BECs? The work of LCSC hopes to result in the following:
1. Massive evangelization. 99 of the 100 sheep are lost, and unfortunately we are losing Catholics by the day. How do we bring them back and keep them securely in the sheepfold? How do we reach them all in a relatively short period of time? LCSC is one effective way.
2. True conversion. Most Catholics are non-practicing, and even those who still go to church are somewhat nominal and worldly. They need to experience personal conversion in Christ. They need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
3. Ongoing formation and renewal. Catholics need to realize the call to holiness and true discipleship, even to Christian perfection.
4. Participation in the work of evangelization. Catholics do not know how to share the gospel, unlike the sects and cults, that in effect are able to draw Catholics to their fold. In LCSC, Catholics are formed not only to live Christ, but provided with a vision for sharing Christ, in the normal day-to-day circumstances of their lives.
5. Raising of leaders and parish workers. Much of parish service is done by a core group of parishioners. Thus there is a limit to what they can do. There are not enough catechists, or Bible teachers, or youth workers, or those engaged in social action. LCSC expands the core of committed church workers.
6. Building the parish as community. Oftentimes the different parish ministries and organizations attend to their own life and mission, at times even looking to turf and engendering conflict and disunity. LCSC, not being another group or community but rather a parish-based movement, is something all parish ministries and organizations can be involved in, being not a threat to their own respective life and mission. LCSC can be one way of uniting the whole parish in mind and heart.
7. Lay empowerment. For massive evangelization and renewal to happen, the whole people of God need to be involved. This is particularly true of the laity, who make up over 99.9% of the Church. The life and work of the Church cannot be dependent on the availability and capability of parish priests or a few lay workers alone. LCSC engages all parishioners to be part of the work.
8. Family renewal. The family is under vicious attack. Contraception, divorce, cohabitation, abortion, same-sex unions. There is a dire need not just to strengthen individuals in their faith, but to renew and strengthen families. This need is very urgent.
9. Work with the youth. Given the concerted assault by reproductive health and gender ideologies, the youth are particularly under threat. We are losing a lot of our young people to the secular humanist world. They need to be given a vision for a life of chastity and commitment to Christ, and provided a support environment to help sustain them.
10. Work with the poor. We are called to help build the Church of the Poor. LCSC through NONe provides a systematic way for parishes to do this. This is not just by way of the usual feeding programs or catechism for the youth or collecting funds and goods for calamities, but involves building physical communities, developing cooperatives, responding creatively to natural calamities, doing renewal work in prisons, and so on.
All the above are the most important areas in the life of the people of God. When implemented systematically, BECs will become powerful instruments of renewal for the whole Church.
(note from Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR: Diocesan BEC Directors/Coordinators who wish to invite the CFC-FFL/LCSC to assist them in their efforts to evangelize their local communities/BECs, please send e-mail message to Frank Padilla firstname.lastname@example.org)