In two weeks time the Diocese of Bacolod will hold its Second Pastoral Assembly, the first for the incumbent Bishop PatricioBuzon. This assembly has been planned since last year as it is usual for new bishops to hold a general consultation with the faithful. In the past this consultation was among a selected few but later expanded to include all the clergy and some chosen lay people. Now the leaders of the local Church collect information, feed backs and suggestion from the wider community of the faithful.
According to information, consultations with several groups had been going on for months and their ideas and suggestions are being collated to be the subject of discussion the general assembly. This process was also used in preparation for the Second Diocesan Synod in 2004-2005 when questions were distributed to the parishes and the responses collated.
In the coming Pastoral Assembly itself there will be four representatives from each parish and chaplaincy which will include the priests and the heads of the parish pastoral council, the finance committee and the Basic Ecclesial Community. I wonder, however what the representation will be in cases of large parishes where there is one parish priest and two vicars. Anyway, that is not important as the materials they will bring to the assembly but probably large parishes should have bigger representation.
The remarkable thing in this assembly is not so much what they will discuss as the openness that will be tolerated to allow the laity a greater opportunity for expression, that is if they are up to it.
There is a common mood in the parishes and chaplaincies. They say that things can happen or not happen “depending” on their pastor. The state of mind of most parish worker is “dependesapari”, “konanoluyagnipader”, “ambotkaypader” - an expression of acquiescence that does not help the priest but somehow tolerated and even encouraged.
This state of mind has long history dating to the early life of the Church in the Philippines where the priest was the sole decision maker and was not in need of outside advice. He was indeed a shepherd leading the flock and would tolerate no complaint or criticism. Disagreements therefore take the form of rumors.
Church law, however says that the faithful “have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence, and position, to manifest to the sacred pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church.” Silence in the face of a grave error, for instance, is not being obedient or faithful but negligence of one's duty - the sin of omission.
There are several major decrees of the Second Diocesan Synod that had not been implemented, foremost of these for the financial stability of the parish, is the adoption of the tithing system. While some have implemented it, others have not while others tried it and abandoned it.
I was council president in Gardenville when the synodal decrees took effect. We started the voluntary tithing and collection rose from P4,000 a month to over P20,000. We trained children to give even just a peso as their tithe. The reason for this significant increase is that even those who did not attend the Mass in our church had to send in their tithes. In effect the church fund was not dependent on the collection but steady financial support of the church as members.
The tithe allowed us to give the chaplain's allowance more than the living wage aside from taking care of all the parish expenses. Mass offerings also increased as the faithful realized their duty to their church and new structures were built. I am not aware if the tithing is still being implemented.
There is also the matter of fees for church services that should be “abolished” but this is dependent on the tithing which the synod defines as “mutuality and reciprocity. One supports the Church that renders him or her service that enables him or her to receive the fullness of life.” For tithing is “an act of faith and thanksgiving to a generous God who provides all that we have.”
There are many issues to address but we must pray because the Church faces a crisis.*
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