Augustinian friars, lay collaborators and youth leaders successfully convened the Third Augustinian Pastoral Congress with the theme, “Revisiting Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC) Towards a more Effective Augustinian Pastoral Parish Ministry (with Special Emphasis on Youth Empowerment),” on August 7 and 9, 2019 at the Sto. Nino Spirituality Center, Brgy. Tolotolo, Consolacion, Cebu.
Steadfastly treading the path towards a “renewal of community life for new evangelization”, the Congress reaffirmed and strengthened resolutions and recommendations enacted in the First and Second Augustinian Pastoral Congresses as foundation of its trajectory in realizing the pastoral agenda by 2020 and the establishment of the Revitalized Basic Ecclesial Communities in the immediate. It reiterated the need to enliven a more dynamic pastoral ministry in the Augustinian parishes through the BEC wherein a pastoral plan integrates evangelization, liturgy and service as core areas in the Augustinian parish life. To do this, the participants renewed their appreciation of the substantial aspects of the BEC. In the process, they reviewed implementation of past programs and identified gaps and challenges along the way. Finally, they drew up concrete and doable parish pastoral plans for a more well-coordinated BEC.
A joint initiative of the Commission on Parish Lay and Youth Ministry and the Commission on Justice and Peace through its social development arm Santo Nino de Cebu Augustinian Social Development Foundation, Inc. (SNAF), the event put the youth at the helm. This took off from the topic “Understading the Youth of Today” in which synodality requires that a sense of belogingness accompanies each inter-generational strides and learning processes.
In response, the young lay collaborators shared vibrant and vivid testimonies that bespoke of the pivotal role of the youth as future of the Church. Be it through their engagement in the Creative Arts Ministry of the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, the Augustinian Vocation Promoters, or the Kan-anan ni Nino Program of SNAF, the youth exemplified the nurturing spirit of volunteerism as aptly marked this year as the Year of the Youth. To channel this youthful vivacity towards pastoral works in Augustinian parishes, Msgr. Manuel G. Gabriel, STD, elaborated on the topic “BEC in the Philippines: A Shared, Unified Vision of BEC in the Augustinian Pastoral Ministry”.
As Executive Secretary of the CBCP-BEC, Gabriel emphasized on the importance of engaging the ‘local’ in this era of global mergers, supermalls, and digital communication. He underlined the challenge posed by Pope Francis to make the identity of the local visible and resist being gobbled up by world giants. He also discussed the challenges of modernity and their impact on the youth, even as he called on the adults to embrace this interaction and on the young priests to be in touched with the youth.
The event served to assess the level of growth of pastoral approach in the Augustinian parishes and, at the same time, to renew its appreciation by Augustinian pastors, lay collaborators and the youth. It also rekindled the youthful enthusiasm of all participants in their role in the parish pastoral ministry in light of BEC as an approach.
In the end, the Congress set action plans responsive to the situation of each Augustinian community. These “Ways Forward” can be categorized into benchmarking, information-sharing platform, and resource sharing. These could include parish visits, monthly in-service training, establishment of online information-sharing platform, and sharing of best practices, and resources of parishes.
They are aligned with the Augustinian mission “to respond to the needs of the Church”, and in inculcating an ecclesial movement that fosters the “vision of the Church as communion, participation and mission…, the Church as priestly, prophetic and kingly people, and a Church of the poor, that is a renewed Church” (PCP II 137).