Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR, SThD

Along the Way

FROM October 7 to October 28, 2012,  bishops (together with invited experts) coming from various parts of the world gathered in Rome for the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of Synod Bishops which focused on the theme of “New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”

A committee came up with 58 propositions arising from the lineamenta, the interventions and discussions during the synod that will be presented to Pope Benedict XVI as a basis for a post-synodal apostolic exhortation. Sifting through the various propositions, one might ask: “which of these have relevance vis-à-vis the efforts to form or revitalize Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs), especially here in the Philippines?”

At the outset, the propositions do not use the term “Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC)” commonly used in the Philippines and the Latin American countries. Rather, the propositions use the term popularized by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference and the other countries in Africa and North America: “Small Christian Communities (SCC).”

There are 5 propositions where there are references to BECs (SCCs). The first one is found in proposition 11: “New Evangelization and the Prayerful Reading of Sacred Scriptures”

“In consideration of the necessity of familiarity with the Word of God for the New Evangelization and for the spiritual growth of the faithful, the Synod encourages dioceses, parishes, small Christian communities to continue serious study of the Bible and Lectio Divina, the—the prayerful reading of the Scriptures.”

The study of the bible and the use of Lectio Divina is to be carried in three levels: the diocese, the parish and the small Christian communities. The diocese is made up of parishes, the parish is made up of small Christian communities. This implies that concretely, the BECs are the venues where lay faithful at the grassroots can study the bible and do the lectio divina.

Proposition 22 focuses on the theme of conversion:

“The New Evangelization requires personal and communal conversion, new methods of evangelization and renewal of the pastoral structures, to be able to move from a pastoral strategy of maintenance to a pastoral position that is truly missionary.”

Although there is no explicit reference to SCC (BEC), the mention of “personal and communal conversion” is appropriate to the emphasis that membership in BECs is the fruit of evangelization that leads to personal and communal conversion. Conversion has both personal and communitarian dimensions. Although, conversion is primarily personal, it takes place in the context of the community and it leads to active involvement in the life and mission of the community—the Basic Ecclesial Community. This is a reminder to the parish priests, pastoral workers and BEC leaders: membership in BECs is the fruit of evangelization and conversion—not coercion or making use of sanction policies if they are not active in their BECs.

This proposition stresses the need for new methods of evangelization and renewal of pastoral structures. It calls for a more missionary strategy rather than continue a pastoral strategy of maintenance. When applied to parishes with BECs, it calls for new methods of evangelization which are essential in forming new BECs or for revitalizing old BECs that have reached a maintenance mode and are becoming stagnant.

Proposition 25: (Urban Scenarios for New Evangelization).

“Putting in practice an urban pastoral plan, the Church wants to identify and understand those experiences, languages and styles of life, that are typical of urban societies. She intends to render her liturgical celebrations, her experiences of communitarian life, and her exercise of charity, relevant to the urban context, in order to incarnate the Gospel in the life of all citizens.”

Most of the earliest BECs were formed in the rural areas. There were impressions that BECs are only suitable for rural areas and will not thrive in urban areas. This proposition affirms the need to make the Church’s “experience of communitarian life” relevant to the urban context. “Communitarian life” may refer to the BECs that need to be formed in the urban context. But the forms of BECs and the methods of forming these should be suited to the urban context. This means avoiding methods and forms that may be suitable for the rural areas but not in the urban areas.

In Proposition 26 (Parishes and other ecclesial realities), the parish and small communities (SCCs/BECs) are called to be “living cells” for “personal and communitarian encounter with Christ.” The various aspects of the life of the parish and BECs are mentioned: liturgy, initial and permanent Christian formation, fraternity and charity especially towards the poor.

Proposition 42 (Integrated Pastoral Activity) affirms the primary role of the particular church—the diocese—as a missionary community. The SCCs (BECs) are mentioned as components of the particular church—including the parishes, educational communities, religious communities, lay organizations and renewal movements—that need to engage in dialogue and cooperation to carry out the missionary project of new evangelization.

Thus, these propositions show that in the formation and revitalization of BECs, new evangelization is indeed necessary. At the same time, BECs are agents of new evangelization.

Back to: Year of Faith (2012-2013)