How to spot a ‘true community’

How to spot a ‘true community’
Fr. Amado Picardal during an CBCP News Conversations interview with host Chrixy Paguirigan

MANILA – What’s the essence of community? Is it merely proximity or a shared schedule? During a recent CBCP News Conversations episode, CBCP-Episcopal Committee on Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) executive secretary Fr. Amado Picardal gave several identifiers of a healthy Basic Ecclesial Community.

According to him, this is what a true community looks like:

  • Neighborhood-based

Picardal defined Basic Ecclesial Communities as “local communities of Catholic faithful within parishes where Catholic members are close to each other and foster relationships.” Every parish is a communal community, he noted, and within that are smaller, tighter knit groups among the neighbors. The priest clarified that while it is easy to confuse ministry with community, it is not quite so. Being active in parochial or even diocesan service is different from building relations with your neighbors.

He said that a community could be a group of 7 neighbors. In BECs, it is never about the quantity but about the quality of community life.

  • Training ground

These communities then become a platform to train lay leaders. Individually, they are called to serve God, and as a community, they answer the call of God together, explained Picardal. They become accountable to each other in ensuring their “vigorous service and continuous growth in faith,” he said. CBCP-BEC even launched formation programs for clergy and religious leaders to educate them further on their role in forming communities within the parish.

  • Social action

While BECs are usually found in smaller communities, Picardal said, their impact is often on a larger scale. According to Picardal, because evangelization happens at the grass-roots level, BECs are available to develop the conscience of society. Especially now that extra-judicial killings (EJK) and violence are rampant, it is the BEC that reminds people to stay true to the faith and reject all forms of sin, he added. A BEC does not remain quiet, rather, it begins change and evangelizes at the lowest levels, ensuring that the Word of God reaches everyone.

  • Support

The community also provides support to recovering individuals. It is not just an organization but “a community of friends,” noted Picardal. He also shared that the message behind the “Stop The Killing, Start the Healing” campaign is “Communion is the antidote to addiction.” Right now, it is important that every individual has access to a supportive group where he is encouraged in his recovery, stressed the priest. It also provides comfort and assistance to grieving families, especially those left behind by EJK victims.

  • Family

Ultimately, a BEC is an extended family. “We cannot continue being isolated,” emphasized Picardal. An active BEC is the Church’s answer against the “me, myself, and I” mentality. It aims to destroy a “Church of Strangers,” he said, and build a true community that grows together. Every region has its own uniqueness. Every community is diverse, but all work towards a common objective of building a community where belongingness is palpable and participation is active, concluded the priest. Mariz Ponti/CBCPNews