Church Renewal: An Ongoing Imperative
THE Philippine Bishops have launched a nine-year program for the renewal of our local Church in preparation for the fifth centenary of the arrival of Christianity on our shores (1521-2021). Through a series of nine “novena-years” with designated themes, we are asked to make a spiritual journey of renewal and deepened faith.
Our pilgrimage has already passed the half-way mark. Recall the past five years and their particular themes: 2013 (Integral Faith Formation); 2014 (Laity); 2015 (The Poor); 2016 (Eucharist and Family); and, 2017 (Parish as Communion of Communities). Now in 2018 we focus on the Clergy and Consecrated Persons. The final three years will see an emphasis on Youth (2019), Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue (2020) and Missio ad gentes (2021).
Note that our current theme is “Clergy and Consecrated Persons”; it has the sub-theme “Renewed Servant-leaders for the New Evangelization.” To explore this topic well, it is necessary to examine its roots in the Second Vatican Council. Recall the insightful statement of Pope Benedict XVI (September 20, 2012): “We can say that the new evangelization started precisely with the Council, which Blessed John XXIII saw as a new Pentecost.”
Vatican II on the Clergy and Religious. The Spirit-inspired Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) sought a profound renewal of the Church, both in its interior life (ad intra) and its external dimensions (ad extra). Three of the sixteen Council documents are devoted to our 2018 reflection theme: clergy and religious.
Two documents deal with matters relating to clergy and priests. Presbyterorum Ordinis [Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests] focuses on the pastoral mission of priests. The decree reminds us that priests are drawn from the people and are called to multi-faceted service.
Optatam Totius [Decree on the Training of Priests] notes that “the desired renewal of the whole church depends to a great extent on the ministry of its priests” (1). The document emphatically asserts the critical importance of adequate priestly training.
Perfectae Caritatis [Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life] foresees the renewal of all religious orders and societies in the Church. This effort should be based on key sources: sacred scripture, the spirit of their founders, and the needs of the contemporary world. In a word, profound Church renewal was an overall pivotal theme of the Second Vatican Council.
Renewal of Religious Life. Let us take a deeper look at the Vatican II decree on Religious Life (Perfectae Caritatis).This document discusses many matters, such as the theology of the vows (poverty, chastity, and obedience), the role of contemplatives, the place of the apostolate, and the spirituality of the active life.
Vatican II foresaw that all religious orders of men and women would be renewed in the spirit of the Council; this entails a return to the original spirit of the founders and an adaptation to the changed conditions of the world and the needs of the Church.
Religious life is a special vocation in the Church; it should be esteemed and promoted. We members of the Church are sincerely grateful for the wide variety of services (e.g. hospitals, schools, clinics, orphanages, radio stations, publications, prison ministry, etc.) rendered by women and men religious for Church and society today.