Tagged: church of the poor

The Case for Full Transparency

Our community is composed of members who are, according to government statistics and standards, relatively poor. The collections during masses say as much. During a Sunday mass, collections range from P3-5K. During weekday mass, range is from P150-300. A recent meeting and discussion with the Parish Finance Council revealed that our monthly collection evens out to around P20-25K. As pastor, I still do not get anything from the parish funds, instead I am fortunate to live on the kindness of the neighboring parish where I am currently staying, and from the diocesan subsidy if any.

Right now, after 9 months as a community, we were able to maintain 3 accounts, namely the parish funds, for the parish operations, which is currently around P150K, the construction fund amounting to P200K, and the scholarship fund, P220K, donated by friends to support around 30 college scholars and 50 vocational students.

Our parish provides the community, and anyone for that matter, a full report of our financial status. Donors are given official receipts. Audit and accounting procedures are followed.

It is observed that the more transparent the church is, the more generous people become. It can be that trust is gained. And that the needs of the church is seen. It can be both. And more.

What then if the community is so rich, that the church is overflowing with donations, with options to save and invest and even earn more on these investments? Will full transparency still work?

Yes.

The church is no different from a publicly traded company. She should uphold strict measures in order to ensure that the resources entrusted to her by the stakeholders are put to good use. The hierarchy must be such that the leaders can be trusted to protect the common good, which is not the survival of the institution per se, but the survival of the least, the last, the lost.

The church is not a private institution. She should not be clouded in secrecy. Instead, she should be a model of good stewardship. It is not the goal of the church to enrich herself. Her goal is to save souls. The moment she walks the road towards self-preservation will be the moment that she will walk the road towards destruction.

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Basic Ecclesial Communities: Way of Life towards Truth, Justice and Peace

Structures, institutions, have been instrumental in preventing the building up of the church of the poor. Oppressive, sinful structures. At times they have been carelessly set up because leaders do not know any better. Most of the times they have been set up in order to perpetuate the hold on power by the privileged few.

There have been attempts to remove these structures. More often these were bloody. These were met with resistance. Or tragically, the old structures were removed only to give way to more oppressive structures having disguised themselves in the name of good intentions. Power really corrupts.

There is an alternative way. The way that Christ has lived with his apostles. A way of life that has forsaken the lure of power. A way of life open to the will of the Father. A way of life that is poor in order to be free. Free to love, free to serve, free to do the bidding of God.

This is the way of the small caring group, the basic ecclesial communities. It is not a structure but a way of life from the underbelly of society. It is about the little children, the least, the last and the lost, who have given themselves the power and the dignity to be themselves, creatures of God, loved by God, no matter what.

In order for a way of life to flourish, there should be a common understanding of the foundations, pillars and directions to be taken by the members of the community. The Basic Ecclesial Community is built on the solid foundation of Christ crucified, Christ who is poor, and we who have chosen to enter into a loving relationship with Him. The 5 pillars are Koinonia, Leitourgia, Kerygma, Diakonia, Church of the Poor. The directions or stages of growth of each member and the whole BEC as well are Members, Disciples, Ministers, Missionaries, Prayer Leaders and Servant Leaders. These are taken from church documents and scriptures. These have been reflected upon in order for the church to be continually built up.

What about the input of the community? There is reciprocity. Spiral growth as it were. These concepts are enfleshed by the members through prayers, reflections, activities. They are deepened and given new realities as the community journeys and reflects with Christ who is poor.

We will be starting with 16 Basic Ecclesial Communities. This will be the main priority of the parish. All the activities, all the ministries and organisations will be in support of the creation, formation, strengthening of the base communities. All the formation programs, the liturgical celebrations will be geared towards the training and empowerment of the leaders of the base communities. Structures exist and will be made to exist in order to support these base communities. In short, structures are there to support a way of life. A life of justice, service and love.

The Inherent Dangers of Doing Theology

There are many ways to do theology. Many approaches, many ways to skin a cat, so to speak.

But if faithfulness to the word is to be followed, there is, in my opinion, only one way to go about doing theology. That is to do theology from the grassroots. From experience. From the world, its history and all the dirtiness that it entails.

Academic theology (and I am not disparaging in any way, shape or form the scholarly theologians who are continuously doing us that great service of educating us, I am rather referring to doing theology from above and I am clumsily coming up with a convenient summative word) is distilling the experience so that the underlying principles, methodologies and whatnots can be had.

Doing theology is the continuous reflection on experience, one deepening the other, always an active contemplation on history and the God working within history.

That is why this kind of theologising is full of dangers. This travelling along the stormy seas of history is filled with the perils of being run aground, hitting hidden rocks and even becoming lost along the way.

A good thing to keep in mind when doing theology – it is Christ who comes to us when the waves become too high and dangerous, when the storms not even of our making threaten to sink us. It is He who calms the storms after all.

The Church of the Poor and the National Elections

One writer from one of the national news network rightly observed that the Philippines, a tropical country, has four seasons. The dry and wet season, Christmas season. And the election season.

When election time comes, the satirical, if not painful spectacle becomes even grander when seen in the setting of the poor community. There are a lot of votes to be had, if for only a few pieces of silver, and the politicians think, they not only have the votes of the poor in their grasps, but their very souls as well.

But there is hope. The poor are getting back, if such words can be taken to be good. Credit is due not only to social media, not only to the good intentions of news networks and NGO’s to educate the voting population, but most of all, to good old fashioned community inter-action where ideas, opinions and observations are being exchanged, re-fashioned and even corrected based on common sense, conscience and faith. The poor have been abused too many times, they have grown tired of the empty promises and the endless plundering. The poor are in search of people whom they can trust, citizens whom they can work with and politicans who are, for a change, really willing to listen to them and work for them. In society, most of the times, the poor do not have the voice and the power. That is what the election gives them. An opportunity to cast their lots with those who really care. It would be good then for the candidates to take heed, yes, the poor we will always have with us, that is why, it is never wise to underestimate them, for when they allow the Spirit of God to work in their midst, they will be the ones to renew the face of the earth.

On Becoming Church of the Poor: Spirituality

It is important to reflect on what makes a church, a church of the poor. There are, in my opinion, various elements. The most important is Spirituality. With the capital S. Without it, the move to become a church of the poor would be reduced to mere activism and ideology. A Marxist labeling would not be considered unfair. That is why a way of life that is grounded, centered and leading to Christ is important and must be driven home to the members of the community, from the priest, to the religious, lay volunteers and the newly baptized. This invitation to an intimate and loving relationship with Christ crucified must be the core of the kerygma of the Church. Because of this, the foundation of the community will be strong, no matter how strong the quakes, storms or waves that will come its way.

Teaching Series

If transformation is to be desired by a community, one of the key factors to bring about change is awareness (teachings, catechism, etc).

5 minute basic catechism before the mass has been implemented. (Teachings on the life of San Pedro Calungsod, on the sacrament of confession, on the Eucharist…)

A theology series is currently being taught by Bro. Christian Manaloto, a friend and classmate, currently teaching in Miriam College.

A financial literacy series will be taught by Bro. Chris Cantal, from Ascension Parish.

A leadership series is currently being taught by Fr. Didoy Molina.

Wounded Healers

There is, and will always be, stratification in society. It is an inescapable reality. It is built-in within any community. Put people together and realities of inequalities will soon be brought to light. It can be a good thing, those who have more will care for those who have less. The alphas will dominate, it is a fact of life, but leadership can corrupt. Put up a table for a feast and there will be a mad scramble for the best seats. Not just for the sake of having the best food but the prestige that comes with it.

A sadder reality of stratification was brought to the fore in one of our informal sharing. An outsider made tasteless comments about the community, its poverty and status. If looking down on people is an art, that person would be a committed practitioner. Such incidents bring blessings though. Personal issues and wounds are brought to the fore, and our ways of dealing with such incidents call us, invite us, challenge us to examine more of ourselves, not on those who are trying to inflict wounds. We have too many wounds already, to forgive and move on is the only way to go about it. Fighting back to inflict wounds on others will in the end, pain and wound us more than the other person. By accepting who we are, no matter how wounded or scarred, we are people who are loved and created with dignity, we become co-pilgrims of Christ, wounded, carrying the cross, and crucified. And we know that whoever looks upon Him receives healing and salvation.