New Pastoral Center Promotes Participatory Church In Asia

taken from Archieve http://www.ucanews.com/ 15 November 2000

A new pastoral center in the Philippines is offering courses and exchange program for Asian pastoral workers in need of “practical skills” for their work with Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs).

The “Bukal ng Tipan” (wellspring of covenants) center offers basic and advanced courses on BECs, leadership training, inculturation methods, designing and facilitating modules on BECs, Estella Padilla, a resource person at the center told a recent gathering of Asian pastoral workers here.

The center also arranges exposure trips for Asian pastoral workers and hosts socio-pastoral exchanges, Padilla told the Second AsIPA (Asian Integral Pastoral Approach) General Assembly, held Oct. 12-21 in Thailand.

She explained that while a lot of Church institutions offer courses on ecclesiology and exegesis, “very few offer practical, experiential learning.” The first program on BECs will be held Jan. 22-26 next year, she added.

She said the center, run by the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM), was inaugurated to respond to the thrust for greater lay participation in Church life as envisioned by Asian bishops and affirmed in the apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Asia” (Church in Asia).

The center, started in September in Taytay, north of Manila, also offers programs on family life, ecology and youth, in addition to courses on AsIPA, which promotes a participatory Church through Christ-centered and Gospel-based communities.

Padilla, who has been working for 14 years as a full-time pastoral worker in Las Pinas, south of Manila, also travels to various Asian countries to conduct AsIPA training programs for the Federation of Asian Bishops´ Conferences Office of Laity (FABC-OL)

Other resource persons include Tessie Nitorreda, who co-founded the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Quezon City, and Cora Mateo, currently head of the FABC-OL AsIPA desk.

During the AsIPA assembly, participants stressed the importance of a forum to upgrade their knowledge and skills, especially since the AsIPA general assembly is held only once every three years.

Father Gilbert J. Engan of Malaysia told UCA News Oct. 21 that “The AsIPA team from Las Pinas has a concrete manual in running BECs. Though we already formed BECs, we are always looking for concrete materials to help us in maintaining them.”

Bethlehem Father Ernst Gassner from Taiwan said “a variety of approaches gave me a push to see there are several paths to the same goal.”

Vergie P. Saniel from the Philippines told UCA News that she learned a lot from Indian and Malaysian delegates on how to encourage lay ministries to play a more active role in organizing BECs.

“We have so many lay movements in the Philippines, a number of which are exclusivist and do their own thing,” she said.

However, Padilla stressed that BECs are not lay movements in the way Couples for Christ or Legion of Mary are. “BEC is a way of life,” she said, stressing the need for priests to build a “culture of community.”

“If nothing happens at the neighborhood level, the Mass will be like a performance,” she told UCA News.

Divine Word Father Eugene Schmitz, a member of the Indonesia AsIPA team, told UCA News that the sharing sessions gave him insights on how to make Gospel sharing interesting and meaningful for the poor or uneducated.

Father Pius Iruthayathas from Jaffna, Sri Lanka, added that he learned new skills to attract people to attend Gospel sharing sessions. He noted, however that the war prevents him from running the program on a regular basis.

Claretian Father Rene Manubag who represented East Timor said he gained a lot from Sri Lankan delegates who shared about using BECs to promote peace and reconciliation.

Abraham Kang Jong-Ku, a Korean layman based in Taiwan, said, “It is reassuring to know that other people´s problems are my problems too.”

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