06/24/2017, 09.48
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Philippine Bishops: 2017 dedicated to the Parish, 'communion of communities'

by Santosh Digal

Focused activities to revitalize the base ecclesial communities as agents of communion, participation and mission. Religious marriages down by 20% in 10 years; Participation in Sunday Mass fell from 64 to 37%. Bishop Socrates C. Mesiona: "Renew the commitment of parishioners to counter secularism". Support programs for the faithful. Fr. Amodo L. Picardal: "Transforming the parish into a center of missionary paths".

Manila (AsiaNews) - The Episcopal Conference of the Philippines (Cbcp) has designated 2017 as the Year of the Parish. "In observance of the Year of the Parish, we keep discerning and celebrating the quality of faith in parishes. To highlight the event, the CBCP designated simultaneous-nationwide celebration in all parishes on June 11,” Father Reginald R. Malicdem, chancellor of Archdiocese of Manila.

In every parish across the nation, various activities are designed that will revitalize our Basic Ecclesiastical Communities (BEC) as agents of communion, participation and mission with the active participation of other faith communities, lay organizations, movements and associations. Each parish is urged to have a parish faith formation center for parish evangelization and catechetical programmes for children, youth, adult men and women, and Bible services and studying and reflecting the Word of God.

In recent times, the Church is facing many pressing challenges. A study released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows that in the last 10 years fewer Filipinos have married. Religious weddings decreased by 20.1% between 2005 and 2015, while civil marriages declined by 2.9% in 2014 compared to the previous year and by 3.6% in 2015.

In general, many parishes in the country are still alive and vibrant. Parishes in the Philippines are still full of people on Sundays and other public holidays. However, there are some signs of decline in attendance at ceremonies in many churches. Three years ago a Social Weather Station (SWS) survey revealed that the number of Filipino Catholics who go to church every Sunday dropped from 64 to 37%. Moreover, almost 1 in 10, or 9.2% of Catholics who are registered voters, "sometimes think leaving the Church."

Bishop Socrates C. Mesiona, MSP of Vicariate Apostolic of Puerto Princesa in Palawan province, Southern Philippines states: "The result of the survey is alarming and should be viewed as a red flag that has to be taken seriously; otherwise, we might wake up one day to be following the same path experienced by many churches in the West in which they have painfully confront the reality of closing parishes due to the reduced number of active parishioners."

“The theme of the Year of the Parish ‘the Parish as a Communion of Communities’ invites us to discern the quality of faith life in the parish; it includes the quality of fellowship, belongingness, and participation experienced by its members.. as we collectively reflect on the situation of the parish, ,” said Bishop Mesiona, who is also the national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of the Philippines and the executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Mission.

While many parishes in the country are still crowded during Sunday's masses, one can not underestimate the influence of secularism, which is gradually making inroads in the mind-set of Catholics. "We must counteract the effect by intensifying our efforts to open dialogue and evangelize, in particular, young people, non-believers and those on the margins," declares the bishop.

Within each program, every parish has to set up and activate a parish social action commission or Caritas office initiating programmes that would assist the members of the  parish and BECS address their concrete needs and concerns, including poverty alleviation, income generating programmes, livelihood, job placement, cooperatives, micro-finance, drug rehabilitation, human rights monitoring, environmental concerns (reforestation and anti-mining), disaster preparedness and management and programmes for good governance.

Other programs include the promotion of vocations to marriage, priesthood or religious life; Foster a reverent and active sacramental life in the parish; Support for a wide variety of interreligious activities and apostolic and charitable organizations serving the needy as part of social engagement; The invitation to members of the parish to explore the wisdom of the Church's social teachings; The formation of Bible study groups; Prayer meetings; Teams to visit sick people, elderly people, and homeless people.

Redemptorist Father Amodo L. Picardal, executive secretary of the Cbcp-Bec commission, states: "The most important thing is to transform the parish into a missionary center where every person and every BEC absorbs a spirit and a missionary dynamism to reach The periphery, the marginalized and the alienated. The effort to make the parish as communities of communities will continue to even beyond 2017."

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