BECs in Pikit Parish, Cotabato

(Pikit Parish was built after the World war two under the leadership of the Oblates of Mary Fathers on 1939.  It has 60,000 residents with 70 % Muslims and 30 % Christians.  There are 100 Manobo families (indigenous people)).

The Mindanao Sulu Pastoral Conference (MSPC) was organized in 1970’s. The Pikit Parish responded to the need of organizing the BCC or “Gagmayng Kristohanong Katilingba.” Some communities started in 1971 and in spite of the Martial Law experience they continued to stand their rights and organized more communities in the different Chapels. The BCC reached to 60 to 80 families which happened in the Center of the parish. The organizers were called Center Team and underwent different formations. They were the volunteers to help out the Missionary fathers to spread the Good News. They continue organizing the BCC amidst the crises. Each member of Center team was entrusted to handle an area together with the Chapel leader. All Center team members meet every month with the BCC leaders to share their experiences and to help each other in solving the problems.

Series of formation sessions were given and the liturgy of the Word was celebrated weekly every community. There a healthy interaction was done by the members and open communication was established, including political, socio-economic issues. Snack was also served during the weekly meeting and the others were generous to give their love-offering for the expenses of the BCC activities. When one died, the members helped the bereaved family. Birthday celebrations, wedding and death anniversaries were given a communal attention by the members through the celebration of the Liturgy of the Word.

This was the dynamic of the Church until the year of 80’s and there was sudden shift to BEC. They believe that the BCC was not really that effective at that time and there was a call for paradigm shift. In their study and observations, many believed that the process of BEC was helpful in strengthening relationship in their community because the title “Christians” creates boundary, while the “Ecclesial” o Simbahan can be easily accepted by the other communities, since each community belongs to a church.

Another kind of organizing began at the Center and series of formations were given to the different Barrios. The leaders slept in the different Barrios just to give intensive formations to the people. The 60 –80 families were divided into groups of 12 to 15 families which was already called BEC. It look a long and gradual process to organize them with the topics of the new vision of the Church : the discipleships, Christian leadership, role of the laity, liturgy and spirituality of the laity.

The new structure and its new leader was established with the prayer leaders added to it. Every Chapel BEC leaders meet every Sunday for the liturgy of the Word headed by the “Kaabag” or lay minister. The neighboring Chapels were made into district and has a meeting every month and some meet once every three months, while the Parish once a year for its Assembly. There are four districts organized, 32 Chapels and 179 BEC. Other BEC built a Chapel for their Fiesta celebrations and meetings. Every BEC has a name and everybody is familiar even the children, some have inter-BEC sports for the youth.

There is a gradual strengthening of the BEC and the responsibilities continued to grow such as Family Life apostolate, Catechetics, Lay leadership formation, Youth, Health, social action, Bible apostolate, etc. The wedding, baptism and other sacramental celebrations must pass to their leader for the recommendation and certificate they signifies that they are an active BEC members.

The Parish Pastoral Council handles the pastoral and financial aspect of the parish, including the programs of the parish. The members of this Council are the coordinators of the different ministries : Liturgy, Education, Ways and Means and General Services. The PCP II was slowly implemented and the modified tithing system was adopted which is called “Mula sa Puso” since the collection of the Parish is not enough for the parish program. They are encouraged to share a little penny even the children and this is collected by their BEC treasurer. The collection is reflected in the ledger and this is shown in the bulleting board in order to develop the sense of “transparency.” The education lasted for eight months which is handled by the EDCOM team and parish priests and sisters.

Within four years the parish collected more than a million pesos so, the programs continue. The parish bought ½ hectare, organ, generator and other needed materials for the parish and renovated the parish altar. The council decided to delete the ff. : stipend : masses for the dead, baptism, wedding and blessing and the allotted budget for indigents. The program management is done by the Parish Council.

Year 2000 was the crisis in Mindanao that affected the Pikit Parish where the Camp of MILF was located. Out of 60,000 population, the 41,000 of them migrated to another place, they are the natives of Muslims and Christians. The church’s involvement was very significant in that war in Mindanao, they organized volunteers both Muslims and Christians. The parishioners were victims of that crisis for eight months together with Fr. Roberto Layson,OMI, who was the coordinator of the inter-religious dialogue Ministry of OMI. The crisis awakened the people and they were challenged. Another kind of communities emerged because of the need, the Inter-religious Dialogue Ministry, which strengthened the relationship among the Muslims, Christians and the Natives. The new vision-mission was formulated and they renewed their commitment in order to create the “Culture of Silence” and the Culture of Dialogue.

The officers are active to give formation seminar to Muslims, Christians and Natives about the Culture of Silence. The friendship between Muslims and Christians grew because of the conflict, they even dined together. Some of the Muslims brought their offering to the Church during the mass when it is their schedule of the Pikit Market Vendors Association.

After the war the Church was involved in rehabilitating the victims, supporting the NGOs. The Church was also instrumental in forming the “Space for Peace” communities, wherein the commitment of MILF Armies not to have the war in this place was established. In order to sustain their commitment, they created some programs like agriculture, livelihood programs, health, sanitation and others. These programs facilitate the “Space for Peace” in the communities and this becomes the model for peace-building of other communities.

The Parish is trying to sustain the program in the BEC level. The “Flores de Mayo” was done in every BEC and also the Marriage Renewal Seminar (MRS) was also launched in the BEC. The Family Team visits every Friday and Saturday to every BEC and they shared their experiences in the gathering. In the coming fiesta celebrations the BEC will sponsor the liturgy and have their homily during the novena.

The challenges of the Parish is to sustain the programs, particularly the continuous dialogue between the Muslims and Christians and the healing of woundedness that resulted the different prejudices and biases of the people who are victims of this conflict. Every experience of war in Mindanao, it triggers their pains and wounds, but in spite of this situation they are struggling to become the instruments of Peace and Reconciliation, especially for Muslims and Christians.

The story of Pikit Parish and their growth in the past years are the fruits of their faith and the efforts of the people and “Kolono” who arrived there in 1913 that come from Cebu and they continue with their children. In times of war and peace the Church in Pikit continues to journey together with their priests, sisters and laity in order to reach their dreams to become the Church of the Poor and the instruments of building up the Kingdom of God here on earth.