From the Year of the Parish as Communion of Communities to the Year of the Clergy and Religious: A Continuing Journey
THE Year of the Parish as Communion of Communities is about to end and we are about to begin the Year of the Clergy and Religious. The focus of this year has been the building up of the parish into a communion of small communities – of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs). There have been efforts to form BECs as agents of communion, participation, and mission. This should continue even beyond 2017. The Greek word “paroikia” from which “parish” is derived is associated with “sojourner”—journeying together. Thus, the parish and the BECs within it may be regarded as a “journeying community”—a pilgrim community. Thus, the journey towards a new way of being Church continues.
Focusing on the Clergy and Religious in 2018 does not mean forgetting the themes of the previous years: the parish and BECs, the family and Eucharist, the poor, the laity, integral faith formation. All of these are interrelated and should be linked with the clergy and religious.
The sub-theme for 2018 is the “Renewed Servant-Leaders of New Evangelization.” This is apparently drawn from PCP II where the discussion on the clergy and religious is placed in part IV—Workers of Renewal which flow from part II—the Vision of the Church Renewed and part III—Renewed Integral Evangelization.
The section on the clergy in PCP II provides a holistic vision of the ordained ministry based on Vatican II: the clergy are servant-leaders of the Christian community which by nature and mission are:
– Prophetic and Evangelizing Communities
– Priestly and Eucharistic Communities
– Kingly Servant Communities.
This can be correlated with part III of the PCP II document which affirms that renewed integral evangelization has three components: renewed catechesis, renewed worship, and renewed social apostolate.
The vision of the ordained ministry, based on the ecclesiology of Vatican II and PCP II, has five constitutive dimensions:
- A ministry of pastoral leadership and communion (forming the parish as communion of communities & BECs)
- A prophetic ministry – a ministry of evangelization, integral faith formation, of denunciation of evil and formation of conscience
- A liturgical/sacramental ministry – presiding over the priestly, worshipping community, promoting active participation in liturgical celebrations
- A ministry of service, of social action – working for integral development and liberation, justice and peace, promotion of human rights, environmental advocacy.
- A ministry to the poor in the Church of the Poor
- The five dimensions may be applied to the religious, consecrated life to a certain degree.
Pope John Paul I , in Vita Consecrata, affirms that religious life has often been the bearer of the communion model of the Church and that religious are experts of communion and should be engaged in the promotion of communion.
The apostolic, missionary character of religious life should be constantly emphasized. Religious communities are called to be prophetic communities and must take the lead in the work of evangelization, integral faith formation, formation of conscience, of denouncing and resisting evil in society.
Religious should lead in promoting active participation in liturgical celebrations, and in prayer and contemplation as an integral part of the Christian life.
Religious should also take the lead in social action—in works of charity, development, in justice and peace, in the defense of the environment, and in the promotion of human rights.
Religious must lead in making the Church of the Poor a reality as they embrace evangelical poverty and a simple lifestyle, in the their love and option for the poor and in enabling the poor to actively participate in the Church’s liberating mission.
As the clergy and religious exercise their role as servant leaders in the Church that is called to be a community of missionary disciples, they must do this in active collaboration with the lay faithful who also share in the Church’s mission by virtue of their baptism.
The coming year 2018, provides an opportunity for the clergy and religious to reflect on their life and ministry and assess how they have lived up to the holistic and mission-oriented vision of the ordained ministry and of religious life provided by Vatican II and PCP II.
It is high time to go beyond a narrow, cultic, and exclusively spiritualistic view of the ordained ministry and religious life, lacking in missionary dynamism and characterized by a maintenance mode.
A renewed Church that lives in communion and participates in the prophetic, priestly servant mission and as a Church of the Poor requires the servant-leadership of the clergy and religious who have gone through the process of renewal.