Monday, November 10, 2014

Climate Change: A Challenge to Our Mission as Redemptorists

Two days ago, the whole nation commemorated the first anniversary of the Typhoon Yolanda. On that day, the group that did the Climate Walk from Manila reached Tacloban. A month from now I will be starting my Solo 1,800 km Climate Bike Ride for Victims of Yolanda, Pablo and Sendong (from Manila to Iligan via Tacloban, Davao and Cagayan de Oro).

This month, Redemptorists are gathering in 3 places (Cebu, Bacolod and Davao) for the so-called pre-Chapter assemblies where we will be discussing (among others) the direction which our life and mission will take for the next four years. I was asked to prepare a working paper on Climate Change vis-a-vis our Mission:


Climate Change:  A Challenge to our Mission
A Working Paper  

Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR

Introduction

For the last three years, the Philippines  has been hit by three devastating super-typhoons: Typhoon Sendong in December 2011 which hit Cagayan de Oro and Iligan – including our former mission area in Hinaplanon, Iligan City. The flood reached our church in Tibanga, which made it impossible to hold the Misa de Gallo that day.

Typhoon Pablo hit Davao Oriental in 2012, several hundred kilometers  from our parish in Davao City. This was the first time that a typhoon has ever hit this area.  In 2013 Typhoon Yolanda  hit Samar, Leyte and parts of Cebu and Panay. Our parish in Tacloban was badly hit, and so many died and thousands of families became homeless. Our Church became a temporary evacuation center for three weeks.

 Will there be more super-typhoons coming? Undoubtedly, yes. It is the new normal. And besides super-typhoons, there also other disasters predicted. More flooding even from ordinary rain More long dry spell or drought. With the polar icecaps melting at an unprecedented rapid rate and the ocean rising gradually, a time will come when coastal towns and cities will experience more flooding and God forbid – will be submerged, hopefully not in our lifetime. All of these are manifestations of globa warming and climate change. And it will get worse in the years to come. According to PAG-ASA by 2020, there will be a rise in temperature of .09 to 1.1 degree Celsius and 1.8 to 2.2 C in 2050.

 
The Reality of Climate Change

 Almost 25 years ago, John Paul II warned about climate change in his World Day of Peace Message (1990):

The gradual depletion of the ozone layer and the related ‘greenhouse effect’ has now reached crisis proportions as a consequence of industrial growth, massive urban concentrations and vastly increased energy needs. Industrial waste, the burning of fossil fuels, unrestricted deforestation, the use of certain types of herbicides, coolants and propellants: all of these are known to harm the atmosphere and environment. The resulting meteorological and atmospheric changes range from damage to health to the possible future submersion of low-lying lands.

 Climate change is the effect of the destruction of the environment by humans.
The burning of fossil fuel – from factories, coal-fired power plants, cars, forest fires, etc. has released unprecedented volume of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere creating a green-house effect on our planet.  The forest –which is supposed to be the lungs of the earth that will absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen- is fast disappearing.With deforestation, there will be less trees to absorb rain fall, and thus, more floods.

Global warming is melting the polar ice-caps, raising the temperature of the oceans, changing  weather patterns, causing more water to precipitate into the atmosphere and creating more super-typhoons.

Thus, we can expect to experience the extremes of El Nino – long dry spell, and La Nina – long wet periods and super-typhoons.

The climate has become crazy and unpredictable. There is no more debate about the reality of climate change. And it is going to get worse. Many scientists would say that it is no longer a matter of preventing climate change but of mitigating its effects and preparing for the disasters that it brings. The more ambitious task is acting together to reverse climate change – which seems to be an impossible dream but which needs to be done.

The Vatican Academy of Science in 2011 came up with a report outlining the duty of the Church and all nations vis-à-vis climate change:

 Failure to mitigate climate change will violate our duty to the vulnerable of the Earth, including those dependent on the water supply of mountain glaciers, and those facing rising sea level and stronger storm surges. Our duty includes the duty to help vulnerable communities adapt to changes that cannot be mitigated. All nations must ensure that their actions are strong enough and prompt enough to address the increasing impacts and growing risk of climate change and to avoid catastrophic irreversible consequences.

The following are three measures to reduce the threat of climate change and its impacts:

1.“Reduce worldwide carbon dioxide emissions without delay, using all means possible to meet ambitious international global warming targets and ensure the long-term stability of the climate system.  All nations must focus on a rapid transition to renewable energy sources and other strategies to reduce CO2 emissions.  Nations should also avoid removal of carbon sinks by stopping deforestation, and should strengthen carbon sinks by reforestation of degraded lands.  They also need to develop and deploy technologies that draw down excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. These actions must be accomplished within a few decades.

2.“Reduce the concentrations of warming air pollutants (dark soot, methane, lower atmosphere ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons) by as much as 50%, to slow down climate change during this century while preventing millions of premature deaths from respiratory disease and millions of tons of crop damages every year.

3.“Prepare to adapt to the climatic changes, both chronic and abrupt, that society will be unable to mitigate.  In particular, we call for a global capacity building initiative to assess the natural and social impacts of climate change in mountain systems and related watersheds.”

 
The Challence of Climate Change for our Mission

What is our response as Redemptorists to climate change? How do we carry out our mission in view  of climate change and the disaster that it brings?

Besides coming up with protocols on how we should respond in case of disaster (emergency response) we also have to broaden our perspective in terms of disaster risk reduction, preparedness, management, relief and rehabilitation.

We already have accumulated experiences in disaster response and mission in our own parish in Tacloban and other parishes hit by Typhoon Yolanda. This provides a model of how to respond immediately to disaster in a coordinated manner and how to carry out our mission in areas hit by disaster.  Karl Gaspar’s paper has distilled some of the learnings and the protocols that we as a province can adopt in the future, especially in terms of disaster response, rehabilitation and rebuilding.  

However, there is more that we need to do. Our mission is not just for communities already affected or will be affected by disaster. It is also for those who may be vulnerable to disaster. The question we need to answer is: how do we prepare ourselves and the communities that we minister for the disaster that arise due to climate change.

How can we make people aware of climate change and the disasters that it cause? How do we help develop parishes and BECs into disaster-resilient communities? What are the protocols that must be put in place which can be adopted by us and the people in our parishes and mission areas in case of disaster? What kind of mentality and lifestyle do we promote that can help arrest or revert global warming?

We should avoid the mentality that we are the messiah – that our primary role is to save or rescue helpless victims. We are not humanitarian aid workers but religious with a mission.

 We should operate on the principle of community participation in disaster risk reduction and management. We should avoid fostering a dependent-victim mentality.

In our preaching, evangelization & catechetical programs, and formation of BECs, we need to integrate the message of climate change, the responsibility of human beings as stewards of creation to care for the earth and protocols for disaster preparedness and management.

In order to do this, there is therefore a need to come up with resources -  modules and training manuals. These are the possible content:

  1. Our earth – global warming and climate change – causes and dangerous consequence. Disasters are not acts of God (due to God’s will) but due to human carelessness, sinfulness - selfishness and greed.
  2. Human beings as stewards of God’s creation – the responsibility to care for the earth. The practical implications of this in terms of lifestyle, plan of action to protect further environmental destruction and contribute to the reduction of carbon/GHG emissions, etc.
  3. Protocols for parish/community-based DRRM (Disaster Risk Reduction and Management).
Possible topics for community-based DRRM protocols/systems:

  1. Disaster risk-vulnerability assessment (discerning the kind of disaster the community is vulnerable to).
  2. Risk reduction and mitigation (what the community can do ASAP to reduce the risk or mitigate damage even before the disaster)
  3. Standard Operational Procedure in case of impending and actual disaster (warning, safety measures, evacuation, rescue, etc.)
  4. Initial Damage/Casualty/Needs assessment
  5. First Aid/Emergency Relief operations (how the community can help in orderly and efficient ways of doing this)
  6. Rehabilitation/Rebuilding (participatory/ holistic approach that includes material, psycho-spiritual dimensions)
The role of our apostolic units/mission teams is to facilitate this process and to help train the parish and BECs into becoming disaster-resilient communities.

In carrying this out, there is a need to coordinate with social action centers/commissions (national, diocesan, parish levels), NGO and LGU’s, government agencies (especially NDRRM and local counterparts).

In case of disaster, we do not have the expertise of humanitarian aid groups and first responders. Our role as Redemptorists  is very limited once disaster strikes.

Our significant contribution should be  in disaster preparedness and in the rehabilitation/rebuilding phase.  The victims and survivors do not only need material relief. They also need psycho-spiritual processing and community-rebuilding. This is where we can respond more effectively.

As Redemptorists we too should answer these questions: what can our own communities and apostolic units contribute to stop global warming? How can we help reduce the GHG/CO2 emissions? How will this affect the way we build or renovate our houses, monasteries and Churches?  How will this affect our use of vehicles and the type of vehicles we acquire?

 We, too, are vulnerable to the disasters that may be caused by climate change. We also need to go through the process of disaster risk assessment and reduction and adopt our own protocols for disaster management .

 To sum up, these are the urgent tasks in our mission:

  1. To make people aware of  climate change, its causes and effects and the human responsibility as stewards of God’s creation to care for the earth.
  2. To help mitigate the effects of climate change an promote disaster risk reduction, preparedness and management. This means helping build disaster-resilient communities (parishes, BECs).
  3. To foster a green lifestyle and search for ways that can contribute to reduction of green house gas.
We have to come up with mission modules and manuals on climate change and disaster risk reduction and management that can be used in our mission and parish apostolate.

 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Becoming a senior citizen

I turned 60 more than two weeks ago, after coming back from Bangkok, Thailand, where I attended a conference on "Small Christian Communities and New Evangelization." After being back in Baclaran for a day, I immediately left for Iligan on October 4. The last time I celebrated my birthday in my hometown was in 1988 - 26 years ago - before I left for higher studies. As I reach 60, I decided to celebrate it with my siblings. I also wanted to visit the grave of my parents to thank them.

So, at 3 pm on October 6 after celebrating Mass in the chapel, I started my 60 km birthday run/walk - from the Redemptorist house in Tibanga to Naawan and back, dropping by the memorial park where I lit a candle at my parents' grave on my way back to Iligan. In took me over twelve hours. In the evening, we had a birthday party in my sister, Inday's house, attended by my siblings and cousins.

Very early the following morning, I took the bus for Butuan. I was scheduled to give a talk on "The Church of the Poor and BECs" to the National Social Action General Assembly. I was back in Manila on October 8. After a couple of days, I left for Dumaguete to attend the Visayas Region Pastoral Assembly - a gathering of 18 dioceses from the Visayas  -where I was a guest speaker.

So now, I am finally back in Manila for  couple of weeks. I just got my senior citizen's ID which I was able to use last night for the belated birthday celebration with Edgar & Tina Valenzuela and their children - Eric and Myra - in an Italian Restaurant.

I may be a senior citizen but I really don't feel that old. I have started training for a 1,800 km Solo Bike Ride for Climate and for the Victims of Typhoon Yolanda, Pablo and Sendong (Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao) in December. I am also thinking of doing a run/walk adventure along the Aguinaldo Trail (West to East Luzon Traverse). sometime next year.




Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Conducting the Clergy Retreat of the Archdiocese of Manila



Several months ago, Cardinal Tagle asked me to conduct the annual preached retreat for his priests. Since the top priority of the archdiocese of Manila is the promotion and formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities, he saw it fit that I would be the one to facilitate the retreat.
So last week from July 21-25, the retreat was held in St. Paul Center of Renewal in Alfonso, Cavite. The theme of the retreat: "The Ordained Ministry vis-a-vis The BECs: A New Way of Being Priest for a New Way of Being Church." This was an opportunity for the clergy to reflect on their own life and ministry, based on the Vatican II and PCP II vision of the priesthood and on the priority of the Philippine Church, which is the formation of BECs.
This is the ninth retreat that I have given to priests so far. Last year, around this time, I was conducting the retreat for the clergy of Romblon. I expect to be giving more clergy retreat in the years to come. I feel happy and honored to be doing this. I am fulfilling my life's special mission: promoting the growth of BEC all over the country and at the same time, assisting in the renewal of the clergy. I am convinced that the renewal of the Church as promoted by Vatican II and PCP II can only become a reality with the spread of BECs and with the renewal of the clergy. This, I believe, is my contribution to the Church in the Philippines. This is what energizes me and what gives my life meaning and purpose. I don't mind doing this for the rest of my life - for as long as I am still physically and mentally fit to do this.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Report to the 109th CBCP Plenary Assembly

Last Sunday (July 6), I gave an oral report to the bishops during their plenary assembly held at the Pius XII Center, Manila. Here's the text:









Annual Report of the CBCP-BEC Committee
to the 109th CBCP Plenary Assembly
(July 2013- June 2014)

Meetings of CBCP-BEC Committee and National BEC Team
The Committee met on July 8, 2013 at the Pius XII center in Manila. This was attended by Bishop George Rimando, Bishop Julius Tonel, Bishop Gabriel Reyes, Bishop Jesse Mercado, Bishop Antonieto Cabajog, Bishop Pablo David and Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR. The committee fixed the schedule of the regular meeting and also discussed the concerns and questions that need to be addressed by the committee.

The National BEC Team composed of Bishop George Rimando, Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR, Mgr. Manuel Gabriel, Mgr. Joemarie Delgado and Dr. Estela Padilla, met four times during this period for planning and evaluation, especially in relation to the National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors and Coordinators and preparation for the 2015 National BEC Assembly.

National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors and Lay Coordinators
The most significant event during this period was the National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors and Lay Coordinators. This was held at the Holy Family on September 16-18, 2013. Some 129 diocesan BEC directors and coordinators coming from 64 dioceses  in the Philippines attended this gathering. The objectives of the gathering were the following:
  1. To review recommendations made in previous Gathering of October 2011;
  2. To update participants on the national BEC profile;
  3. To identify concerns, challenges and aspirations in view of their own experiences and in the light of New Evangelization; and
  4. To brainstorm ideas for the BEC National Assembly, slated sometime in 2015 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.
The gathering started at 4:30 pm on September  16, 2013 with welcome remarks by Bishop George Rimando – the chairman of the CBCP-BEC Committee and overall facilitator of this event. This was followed by a roll call and the opening activity. At 5:15 pm Fr. Amado Picardal gave the background and orientation. At 6:15 pm – the opening liturgy facilitated by Mgr Joemarie Delgado and Dr. Estela Padilla. This was followed by dinner
The following morning at six, Archbishop Jose Palma presided at the opening Eucharist. He also gave the keynote message. After breakfast, there were two presentations: Fr. Picardal on “The National BEC Profile (8:30-9:30 am) and Mgr. Manny Gabriel on “New Evangelization and BECs” (10:30 – 11:30 am). During the open forum, Bishop Varquez of Borongan shared his own experience of BECs in his diocese. In the afternoon after lunch-break, the delegates were divided into small groups where they shared their own experiences of how BECs are becoming evangelized and evangelizing communities. This was followed by reporting in plenum. The day culminated with an evening liturgy followed by dinner and socials.
On September 18, the whole morning was spent in brainstorming and planning by regional groupings. There were two questions that the groups answered: (1) their expectations and suggestions for the 2015 BEC National Assembly (theme, process, resource persons, possible venue and dates), (2) how they can enhance their regional networking and cooperation. After lunch break, the delegates gathered for reporting in plenum. After the reporting, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao shared what happened during the Synod of Bishops which he attended and how BECs was discussed.  Before the end of the session, Fr. Carmelo Diola of Dilaab was given time to explain the printed material that he was giving to the delegates for the coming barangay elections. The closing Eucharist was presided by Archbishop Valles at 5:15 pm.

Regional Networking and Cooperation
The executive secretary attended the following regional level gatherings:

1. Northern Luzon BEC Exchange - held on February 27-March 1, 2014 in Dagupan City. This was attended by 152 BEC promoters and leaders from various dioceses of Northern Luzon. The following dioceses were represented: Alaminos, Lingayen-Dagupan, Urdaneta, San Fernando (La Union), Nueva Segovia, Baguio, Bontok-Lagawe, Tabuk, Tuguegarao, Ilagan, Bayombong, San Jose (Nueve Ecija).

2. National Capital Region BEC Big Day, held on February 15, 2014 at the St. Paul University, Quezon City. This was attended by over  700 BEC formators and leaders from the archdiocese of Manila and the dioceses of Paranaque, Kalookan, Cubao, Pasig, Novaliches and Antipolo.

3. The Meeting of Diocesan BEC directors and coordinators of Central Visayas Region (from Cebu, Maasin, Dumaguete and Tagbilaran). The meeting was held on February 4, 2014 in Tagbilaran, Bohol.


Diocesan/District/Vicariate  BEC Assemblies


The executive secretary was the guest speaker or resource person of the gathering of the following dioceses, districts and vicariates:

1. Mactan Vicariate BEC Assembly held in Maragondon, Cebu on August 6, 2013
2. Palawan South District BEC Assembly  in Narra, Palawan on October 3, 2013.
3. Marbel Diocesan GKK (BEC) Assembly  in Koronadal City on November 30, 2013.
4. Ipil Diocesan  Kriska Leaders' Convention in Buug, Zamboanga Sibugay on Jan. 20-22, 2014.
5. Maasin Diocesan BEC Assembly, in Bato, Leyte on April 8-9, 2014.
6. Gumaca 25th Diocesan MSK Convention in Mulanay, Quezon Province on April 26, 2014.
7. Davao Archdiocesan GKK Gathering  in Davao City on May 26-28, 2014.

 Clergy BEC Workshops/Retreats
1. The executive secretary facilitated the clergy retreat of the Romblon Clergy which was held in Zamboanga City on July 22-25, 2013. The focus of the retreat was ministry and BECs.
2. The chairman (Bishop George Rimando) and executive secretary facilitated the Calbayog Clergy BEC Assessment which was held in Cebu on August 7-9, 2013.
3.  On October 1, 2013, the executive secretary conducted a BEC symposium for the clergy and religious assigned in the South District of the Apostolic Vicariate of Palawan.
4.  On July 20-24, 2014, the executive secretary will conduct a retreat on "Ministry and BECs" for the clergy of the archdiocese of Manila.

Disaster Response

On December 4, 2013, the chairman sent Fr. Picardal to Cebu to attend the meeting of the Eastern Visayas bishops and the various international  Catholic relief services (CRS, Caritas International, etc). The meeting was organized by NASSA to coordinate relief and rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda.
After the meeting, Fr. Picardal came up with a concept paper "The Active Participation of BECs in Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation."  This was published in his column in CBCP Monitor. He also drafted a  bible-sharing method for the use of BECs in disaster affected areas which would help in psycho-spiritual integration and healing process of the people who have gone through traumatic experience and whose faith may have been shaken. This method, as well as the concept paper, was shared with the BEC directors of Palo, Naval, Calbayog and Borongan when he visited them before Christmas.  He also visited the resettlement areas of Typhoon Sendong victims in Iligan to conduct case studies on the efforts of the diocese to integrate the formation of BECs as part of the relief and rehabilitation process. Their experience would be valuable in coming up with best practices that would be helpful other disaster affected areas.
There are modules drafted by the CBCP-BEC office, which can be used in parishes and BECs affected by disasters. These modules can be helpful in the healing process, strengthening of their faith and enabling them to actively participate in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of their communities.

With the climate change and the prevalence of disasters that affect our country, including the BECs, there is a need to come up with protocols and manuals that can help BECs in disaster preparedness, relief and rehabilitation. On May 7-9, 2014, the executive secretary attended the executive course on disaster management held in Miriam College to get ideas for a disaster management manual for BECs.

National BEC Profile

A National BEC profile based on the diocesan BEC profile submitted by 61 dioceses (out of 84 dioceses) was presented to the National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors and Coordinators. A summary of the National Profile and the respective diocesan BEC profiles have been uploaded in our website: www.cbcpbec.com.

Ongoing Projects
We continue conduct case studies on BECs in some urban areas (upper-class subdivision & condominium and urban poor communities).
Seminar-workshop modules for BECs are still being drafted and will be published next year.

Preparation for the 2015 National BEC Assembly
Between the middle of 2014 and the last quarter of 2015, the focus will be the preparation for the National BEC Assembly.
 
Initial Plan for the BEC National Assembly
1.      The 2015 BEC National Assembly will be held in Manila/NCR
2.      Tentative date: November 11-14, 2015
3.      Attendance: maximum of 15 official delegates including the bishops
4.      Accommodation (including supper & breakfast) for Delegates) : Foster parishes/BECs /families within archdiocese of  Manila & nearby NCR dioceses
5.      Tentative Venue for Plenary & General Assembly : La Salle Greenhills
6.      The host archdiocese of Manila and NCR dioceses will be asked to take care of the meals and snacks in the venue of general assembly (from donations raised from their parishes & BECs)
7.      All members of BECs in NCR and neighboring dioceses will be invited to attend the final day culmination liturgy and program (bring your own provision)
8.      Main Speakers: Cardinal Tagle and Cardinal Quevedo
9.      Suggested theme should highlight the link between BEC and Vatican II
 
(final plan and details of program and accommodation will be announced later)





Saturday, June 21, 2014

Applying to the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board

Over forty years ago, on the first anniversary of Martial Law,  I was arrested, tortured and subsequently detained for seven months for distributing leaflets that  denounced the dictatorial rule of President Ferdinand Marcos. It was a traumatic experience and after four decades I am still occasionally haunted by a recurring nightmare that brings back the feeling of helplessness and terror.   Perhaps, this is a symptom of the so-called post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). During those times, there was no such thing as stress debriefing or psycho-social first aid. But even without the help of psychiatrists, I have tried to get over what happened in my own way and by God’s grace.

Last year, congress passed the Republic Act 10368 that will grant recognition and compensation for the victims of human rights violation during the Martial Law years. There is a six-month period for application (May 12, 2014 – November 1, 2014). So last Thursday I went to the office of the Human Rights Victims’  Claim Board at Virata Hall (University of the Philippines-Diliman Campus) to submit my application. I brought along my sworn statement, birth certificate, supporting documents, etc. There were around 20 applicants at that time - among them former senator Orly Mercado. I had to go to the second floor to have my sworn statement signed before a lawyer. After that I was interviewed by a staff member and my supporting documents checked. Then my filled application form was encoded and my picture taken. It took one hour to go through the process. At the end I was given the Receipt which I am posting below. Meanwhile, I will just wait for the Board to go through my application and make their approval. The waiting could take two years.

 After all these years, I never thought that this day will come. A few weeks ago, while I was at Starbucks drinking capuccino and preparing my sworn statement which narrated what happened forty years ago, my eyes were filled with tears. It was an overwhelming experience having to recall the traumatic incident. The recognition from the HRVCB and is part of the closure and healing process. I do not see myself as just a victim but a survivor.
 
 

 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thank God, a Peace Agreement at Last between the Philippine Government and the MILF

Today the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will sign the peace agreement in Malacanang Palace. I am filled with joy and thanksgiving. Muslims and Christians can live in peace in Mindanao now and in the years to come. I offered a Thanksgiving Mass for this occasion. I am grateful to God and, of course, the peace panels of the government and the MILF and their principals for making this possible.  I am very happy and there are tears of joy in my eyes - this is a fulfillment of a dream and my advocacy.

I don't have any significant contribution to the peace process, but in my own little way I tried to do my own part as a priest, a cyclist and ultra-runner. I believed that the peace process can prosper with the support of ordinary people like you and me and no matter how small and insignificant our contribution it will be very helpful in the end. In 2000, I biked alone for peace across the Philippines (from Davao to Pagudpud) as President Estrada was starting his total-war policy. A couple of years later I helped organize the Panaw sa Kalinaw (Journey for Peace), a peace caravan consisting of Muslim and Christians from Davao to Cotabato in the midst of the armed clashes between the Philippine Army and the MILF. I joined the Fasting for Peace. I helped organize peace rallies in Davao. I joined the Silsilah Christian-Muslim Dialogue Movement. I joined the IPPF (Imam-Priests-Pastors Forum) and participated in various meetings, dialogue and consultations. I organized the annual bike for peace in Davao during the Mindanao Week of Peace (for nine consecutive years). I biked for peace around Central Mindanao in 2003, around Mindanao in 2006, and around the Philippines in 2008 (Davao-Aparri-Davao). I ran and walked for peace and the environment across Mindanao (400 km Davao to Iligan) in 2010 and on the Camino de Santiago from the French Pyrenees across the North of Spain. In 2011, I ran-walked for life and peace across the Philippines from Davao to Aparri. Today, with this peace agreement, all my efforts - no matter how insignificant- were not in vain. As we celebrate the peace agreement, we need to remember that the journey to peace continues. The basic law of the Bangsa Moro has still to be drafted. This will have to be approved by congress and submitted to a plebiscite. Thus, the support of the citizenry continues to be vital.

As we rejoice that a peace agreement has been signed, we have to remember that our peace advocacy continues. There cannot be a lasting peace in Mindanao and in various parts of the country for as long as the armed conflict between the Government and the CPP/NDF/NPA continues. Twenty-seven years ago, the peace talks with the NDF began and up to now little has been achieved. There is an impasse. The arrest of the top leaders of the CPP (Benito and Wilma Tiamzon) recently have led some to believe that the prospects for peace have dimmed. But we do not lose hope. Today's historic event is an inspiration and a challenge that a lasting peace is possible not only in Mindanao but the whole country. There is much to learn from the MILF-GPh peace process.

The CPP/NDF/NPA can adopt the pragmatism of the MILF and the other revolutionary movements all over the world. They should accept the reality that the prospect for military victory and seizure of state power is very remote, if not impossible. Their guerrilla force and mass base support have been significantly reduced. Their leaders are aging and many have been captured. On the other hand, the military cannot totally eradicate them. The NPA are still capable of mounting tactical offensives but without strategic value. The senseless killings will continue, there will be no victors - only victims.  The only realistic alternative is a negotiated peace settlement that will address the roots of the armed conflict - especially poverty.

I continue praying and hoping that the peace process between the Government and the NDF continues and I dream that someday soon, there will be another signing of a peace agreement in Malacanang. This time, Louie Jalandoni and Joma Sison will be there shaking hands with the president. For this to happen, the support and pressure coming from ordinary citizens, of various groups and movements, of the Catholic Church and other churches is necessary.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pre-Christmas Motorcycle Tour to Typhoon Devastated areas in Leyte and Samar






The other night, I arrived back in Baclaran after a long journey - not by bicycle or on foot as I did many years ago but on a Honda CB110. Last week after celebrating the first Simbang Gabi in Baclaran, I went on 2,450 km motorcycle tour to Samar and Leyte. I wanted to see for myself the devastation brought about by Super-Typhoon Yolanda and to attend a meeting of Redemptorists to discuss and plan the type of mission to be carried out in parishes affected by the typhoon. I also visited some of the diocesan BEC directors of Naval, Palo, Calbayog and Borongan and talked about the role of affected BECs in disaster relief and rehabilitation.

It was heart-wrenching for me to see the sight of places and people affected by the strongest typhoon that ever hit the country. One of the unforgettable sight was seeing people on both sides on the street with lighted candles in memory of those who perished 40 days earlier. They were still in grief. Some were huddled on the side of the street sharing with one another their painful stories.

This reminded me that in the aftermath of a disaster the members of the community do not only need food, shelter and clothing. Stress debriefing or psychological first aid can help but these also not enough. The people have undergone fear, helplessness, hopelessness, grief. Their faith has been shaken. They need spiritual solace and healing. They need a venue to share their stories, experiences, feelings, doubts and also the experience of grace. Thus, liturgical celebration and bible-sharing is very important. Below is a method that I designed and shared with the BEC directors and the Redemptorists who will be engaged in parish missions in the months to come.

Bible-Sharing Method for BECs Affected by Disaster

1. Opening Hymn (optional)

2. Opening Prayer/Invocation

3. Psalm (cf  booklet “Paglaom Taliwala sa Trahedya ex: Psalm 25:14-21, )

4. Silence/Individual Reflection (recall the disaster you have recently experienced – what happened? What were your questions? What were your experience of God’s presence or grace?)

5. Sharing of Experiences/Stories

6. Scripture Reading (choose appropriate texts: e.g. 2 Cor 4:6-17 or Rom 8:35-37 or Luke 8:22-25 or  any other Gospel or Old/New Testament passages that reflect their experience and give them consolation)

7. Silent Reflection

8. Sharing of reflection/deepening (by any member who would like to share and especially by the leaders and facilitator)

9. Shared Prayer of Thanksgiving (recall the graces & blessings you have received during this experience)

10. Shared Prayer of Petition (pray for what you and your community need)

11. Concluding Prayer

12. Final Hymn (optional)

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

59 km Run-Walk on my 59th Birthday




The other day, I celebrated my 59th birthday by running-walking 59 km from Baclaran to Antipolo and back. It took 10 hours and 53 minutes. What was strange was I wasn't exhausted, in fact I felt energized even after finishing. The last time I did an ultra-run/walk was over two years ago when I journeyed on foot across the Philippines. Last month after asking myself how I would like to celebrate my birthday, the crazy idea entered my mind that I should run-walk the equivalent of my age in km. I only had over three weeks of serious training. Last week after running/walking 32 km, I felt that I was ready for this. So last Sunday, I was able to prove to myself that even as I grow older I can still do this. Next year, I plan to this again - run/walk for 60 kilometers to celebrate my dual citizenship - Filipino and senior citizen. How long can I keep this up? I hope another 30 to 40 years. Perhaps, more walking and less running as I reach 90 years old.

What I did was a reminder that my life is a journey and I am a pilgrim. I try to overcome the limitations of ageing.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Promoting Basic Ecclesial Communities all over the Philippines

Over a week ago, I came back from Cebu after facilitating the National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors and Coordinators. Over 130 delegates from 64 dioceses attended the gathering. I did most of the organizing as part of my work as executive secretary of the CBCP-BEC Committee. I also presented the National BEC Profile which provided a picture of the state of development of BECs all over the country. After a week of rest I am off again tomorrow - this time to Palawan to give a series talks on BEC to the clergy and religious and also to lay pastoral workers and leaders involved in forming BECs. I will be back at the end of the week then I have two weeks here in Manila before leaving for Butuan to attend the annual conference of the Catholic Theological Society of the Philippines where I will be delivering a paper on "The Reception of Vatican II Ecclesiology in the BECs in the Philippines." From there I will fly to Cebu to attend the Visayas Pastoral Assembly where I will be the guest speaker on October 22. This is a gathering of bishops, priests, sisters and laypeople from the 18 dioceses of Visayas. I was invited to give a talk on BEC: Lay Formation and Church of the Poor. I was supposed to fly to Zamboanga on October 23 to attend the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference where I was invited to give the synthesis of the reports but this was postponed due to the recent attack of the MNLF fighters and the military operations conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. I still have two more speaking engagements in Marbel and in Leyte before the end of the year.
Although I find the travel tiring, I enjoy my work going to various places all over the country, helping promote the growth of BECs.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Confronting a Corrupt Political System: March Against Pork Barrel




Last Monday, August 26, I ran from Baclaran to Luneta to join the March Against Pork Barrel. There were over a hundred thousand people who joined the rally organized by netizens on the social media. I met some of the ultrarunners, led by Retired General Jovie Narcise (aka Bald Runner) who ran to Luneta. I later joined the group from Baclaran Church who walked part of the way.

It's been a long time since I joined a protest march and rally. I thought I have retired from this but I got angry due to the latest expose of  pork barrel scam which involved Janet Napoles and some senators and congressmen. Like many ordinary citizens I was appalled at the extent of corruption engendered by the pork barrel system which perpetuates the patronage politics. I join the cry of Filipinos from all over the country: Abolish Pork Barrel! Hold those involved in the scam accountable.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Training for the Triathlon

I've  been doing a lot of traveling as usual. Over a week ago I went to Cebu to be the guest speaker the 9th BEC anniversary attended by around two thousand delegates coming from six parishes of the Mactan Vicariate. I also helped facilitate a 3-day gathering of priests from Calbayog which was held at the Redemptorist Retreat House in Cebu.

My plane landed at the Mactan airport at 10:15 in the morning of August 4. I was surprised that there were no taxi outside. No problem - I just ran/walked - carrying my heavy backpack (with clothes, laptop computer and LCD projector inside). When I reached the highway I found why there were no taxis. The Cobra Ironman 70.3 was on! The bridge was close to traffic - so I just continued on foot across the bridge up to Mandaue. I watched the triathletes on their bikes go by - and I was filled with envy and admiration. I told myself: someday, I will be there as participant rather than a fan or spectator.

Several years ago, I made a bucket list - things I would like to do before I die. There were many things to do on the list. Among these were: Bike around the Philippines - check. Run/walk across Mindanao - check. Run/walk barefoot on the Camino de Santiago - check. Run/walk across the Philippines (Davao to Aparri) - check. Join the triathlon before or when I turn 60 years old - not yet. Next year I will be a senior citizen. So I have started training for the Triathlon.

I already bought a road bike (carbon-fiber frameset) and I use it for long-distance cycling. I bike to the office and back three times a week. I run/walk to the office twice a week. And I swim for over an hour once a week at a nearby public pool.

I have no problem biking and running long-distance. My weakness is long-distance swimming. I have difficulty even swimming 25 meters - how much more 1.9 km!  I already bought a book on Total Immersion swimming method and I also downloaded video-instructions. I wanted to take up formal swimming lessons but my schedule is so irregular and erratic, I decided to coach myself.

I plan to join the DurianMan Triathlon in April 2014 in Davao City and hopefully, the Cobra Ironman 70.3 in August 2014 in Cebu. Perhaps, I can do the full Ironman Triathlon before I reach 65 years old. I haven't heard about a "Triathlon Priest" so far - I might be the first to claim that title.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Conducting a Holy Retreat for Priests



I arrived from Zamboanga the other day after conducting a retreat for 37 priests belonging to the diocese of Romblon. The retreat which was held at the seaside hotel of Lantaka near the old fort of Pilar started on Monday afternoon and ended Wednesday evening.

This is the seventh clergy retreat that I have given so far. I have given 3 retreats for priests from 3 Mindanao dioceses (Tandag, Pagadian, Dipolog), 1 Visayas diocese (Borongan) and 3 Luzon dioceses (Infanta, Baguio and Romblon).

As usual, the focus of the retreat was their life and ministry as priests with special emphasis on building and leading the parish as a network of Basic Ecclesial Communities. The framework that I used is based on the Vatican II and PCP II vision of the ordained ministry: the ministry of communion (koinonia) and pastoral leadership, the prophetic ministry, the liturgical/sacramental ministry and the social ministry. I also added the last topic: facing the darkside and the call to conversion.

Each session has a three-fold component: a) a talk/conference by the retreat director (that's my part), b) a period of individual reflection/meditation, c) a time for small group sharing (by vicariate).

The aim of the retreat is to make the priests aware that a Renewed Church requires a Renewed Clergy, and that a New Way of Being Church (BECs) requires a New Way of Being Priest.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

BEC Committee Report to the CBCP Plenary Assembly


This has been a very busy week for me. The Catholic bishops of the Philippines gathered for their plenary assembly and I had to prepare and deliver orally the report of the Committee on Basic Ecclesial Communities to over 80 assembled bishops last Sunday. A couple of days before that, I also gave a short briefing to the Mindanao bishops who were having their meeting. Yesterday, I attended the lunch-meeting of the bishops who compose the Committee on BEC and this was followed by a meeting of the National BEC team. During the plenary assembly, I met Archbishop Palma who gave me a letter of invitation to be a guest speaker of the Visayas Regional Pastoral assembly which will be held in Cebu this coming October 2013. I also received invitation from the host of the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference to make a synthesis of the conference also during the last week of October.
This is the content of my report to the bishops:


CBCP_BEC Committee Report to the CBCP 107th Plenary Assembly

(July 2012- June 2013)

 The National BEC Team (composed of  the CBCP-BEC Committee chairman Bishop George Rimando, executive secretary Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR, and the three consultants - Msgr. Manny Gabriel, Msgr. Joemarie Delgado and Dr. Estela Padilla) met 3 times during this period for assessment  and  planning.

 The team monitored the progress of the implementation of the 2008 National BEC Assembly recommendations and plans which were crafted by the regions during the 2011 National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors.

 Regional Networking and Cooperation

 1. National Capital Region Conference.  Delegates from 6 dioceses of the metropolitan province of Manila and the dioceses of Malolos and Antipolo gathered on September 29, 2012 in Pasig to share their experiences on forming BECs in the urban areas - "BECs in the City." The executive secretary attended the event as  guest speaker. He also participated in the gathering.

 2. Mindanao-wide BEC Gathering.  Delegates from 21 Arch/dioceses in Mindanao gathered in Tagum on November 20-23, 2012. Both the chairman and the executive secretary were present.  The sub-regions shared their experiences of forming and sustaining their BECs. The executive secretary gave a talk on the state of BECs in the Philippines, presenting it region by region and its challenges they are facing.

 So far, 3 regions have already gathered: Northern Luzon (February 2012), National Capital Region (September 2012) and Mindanao region (November 2012). We are still waiting for the other regions to implement their plans. The Southern Tagalog Region and the Bicol Region were planning to have their assemblies sometime in 2013. So far there is no given definite schedule. The Visayas region has scheduled a regional pastoral assembly in Cebu this coming October 2013.

 Diocesan/District/Vicariate  BEC Assemblies

 The executive secretary was the guest speaker of the gathering of the following dioceses, districts and vicariates:

 1. Isabel (Leyte) BEC assembly and silver jubilee celebration - August 18, 2012
2. Malolos diocesan BEC assembly - September 1, 2012
3. Digos Diocesan BEC Congress and 25th anniversary - October 20, 2012
4. Kalookan Diocesan BEC Assembly - October 27, 2012
5. Daet Diocesan BEC Assembly - November 6, 2012
6. Cebu South Disctrict (II) BEC Assembly - December 15, 2012
7. Cebu South-East District BEC Assembly - December 19, 2012
8. Palo Archdiocesan Assembly of Lay Organizations Movements and Associations (their role in the formation of BECs) - January 26, 2013
9. Butuan Diocesan BEC Assembly - February 8, 2013
10. Tuguegarao Vicariate BEC Assembly - February - February 16, 2013
11. Romblon Diocesan BEC Assembly - April 30, 2013
12. Malaybalay Diocesan BEC Congress - May 27-29, 2013
13. Pasig BEC Assembly - June 1, 2013
14. Antipolo Diocesan BEC Big Day - June 25, 2013

 
Collaboration with other CBCP Commissions

1.  The office was represented in the National Formators' Institute on October 22-25, 2012 in Cebu City which was organized by the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Seminaries. The executive secretary presented a paper on "BEC and Seminary Formation." He included in his presentation the findings of a survey he conducted about how far the major seminaries and college seminaries have integrated BEC in seminary formation. The findings are very positive. To the question whether BECs are part of seminary formation, 20 out of 25 college seminaries who responded answered yes (80%) and 13 out 13 major seminaries who responded answered yes (100%). 19 out 25 college seminaries are structured as BEC cells, and 12 out 13 major seminaries have adopted the BEC cell structure. 19 out of 25 college seminaries have BEC exposure/immersion program, while 12 out of 13 major seminaries have their own BEC exposure/immersion.

2. Upon the invitation of the executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Canon Law (Msgr. Tulabing), the CBCP-BEC Committee executive secretary attended the meeting of the ad hoc committee on BEC Guidelines of the Canon Law Society of the Philippines which was held in Cebu City on June 10, 2013. The final draft will be submitted to the CBCP for approval. The guidelines address the issue of the canonical status of BECs.  It also questions the so-called “sanctions-policy” adopted by some dioceses whereby active membership in BECs is a requirement for the reception of the sacraments (baptism, matrimony, funeral mass). Such policy is considered discriminatory and violates the rights of the faithful. This is the same position of the BEC office. Active membership in BECs should be the fruit of new evangelization and personal conversion, rather than a product of coercive policies. Perhaps what maybe helpful is a more systematic and effective program of new evangelization and catechesis. The guidelines on BECs from a canonical perspective can form part of a broader BEC guidelines which our office wishes to develop.

Collaboration with other Institutes

1. The office collaborated with the Socio-Pastoral Institute (SPI) in conducting a seminar on the Spirituality of Stewardship to the bishops during the CBCP Assembly in January 22-23, 2013. The executive secretary gave a talk on "Spirituality of Stewardship in BECs."

2. In a seminar-workshop on "Pastoral Perspective on New Evangelization" organized by the Bukal ng Tipan on April 8-12, 2013 in Taytay, Rizal,  the executive secretary conducted a workshop on "BECs and New Evangelization."  On April 22-26, 2013,  Msgr. Jomarie Delgado conducted a seminar on "BEC and New Evangelization" in Bacolod, also organized by Bukal ng Tipan.

3.  The members of the national BEC team also collaborated with the Asian Social Institute (ASI) in their program of accompaniment for 5 dioceses in the Bicol Region. On March 18-21, 2013, Mgr. Manny Gabriel conducted a seminar on Pastoral Management to the diocesan pastoral workers, including priests and religious, coming from 5 dioceses in the region. On May 20-23, 2013, the executive secretary conducted a seminar-workshop to the same group on "BECs and New Evangelization."

Case Studies on BECs
The executive secretary and two staff members have started conducting case studies on specific BECs in some parishes of Paranaque, Manila, Cubao and Cebu. The following are the areas of interest: BECs and livelihood programs and their engagement with government agencies, BECs and Cooperatives, BECs in depressed areas, BECs in upper class areas (condominium and gated subdivisions), etc. We will expand the areas of coverage to the other parts of the country in the near future. Video-documentaries on exceptional BECs will be done later. 
We are also gathering case studies and write-ups on BECs that have already been done by others. We are also encouraging dioceses to conduct their own studies and documentation on best practices in the formation of BECs. These studies will be made available in our office library and will be posted in the website (www.cbcpbec.com).

Diocesan/National BEC Profile & Assessment

            We are in the process of coming up with a national BEC profile and assessment. We have come up with questionnaires and tools of assessment which can be used by the dioceses and parishes. We have already sent the questionnaires to the diocesan BEC directors (or in-charge) for an initial diocesan BEC profile as part of the preparation for the National Gathering of Diocesan BEC directors and coordinators. A more detailed assessment can later be carried out. We hope that we will be able to come up with a data-base which can provide a more accurate picture of the BECs in the Philippines.

National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors and Coordinators

            A National Gathering of Diocesan BEC Directors and Coordinators will be held this coming September 16-19, 2013, at the Holy Family Retreat House in Cebu City. Last May 2013, a communication was already sent to the bishops and to the diocesan BEC directors. For this gathering, we are inviting two delegates from each arch/diocese, namely the priest-in-charge/diocesan BEC director and a lay or religious BEC coordinator. The arch/dioceses are expected to shoulder the travel expenses as well as registration fee for board and lodging.  Please take note of the following:

  • Registration fee is  2,200.00 per delegate for three days.
  • Arrival:  September 16, 2013 with afternoon merienda (no lunch served).
  • Departure:  September 19, 2013 after breakfast.

Objectives of the gathering:

1. To review decisions made in October 2011 Gathering; 
2. To update the participants of diocesan BEC profile;
3. To identify concerns, challenges and aspirations in view of their own experiences and in the light of New Evangelization;
4. And lastly, to brainstorm ideas in preparation for the BEC National Assembl,y slated sometime on 2015 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.


BEC Resources/Materials

            We continue to gather books and other resource materials on BECs, some of which are in our office book-shelves. They are also posted in our website. Books that are out of print will be scanned and stored as pdf file that can be downloaded.  We are also gathering and developing modules  and manuals on BECs, on new evangelization as well as related topics that can be used by BEC animators and formation teams. These will be posted in the website and will be published later.
         

Prepared by:

Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR
Executive Secretary

 
Noted by:

+ George B. Rimando, DD

Chairman
CBCP-BEC Committee

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Hermit of Busay









Here I am once again in my sacred space - in my "hermitage" up in the mountain of Busay. I came up here a week ago. I actually arrived in Cebu on March 8, but I had to go first to Marigondon to interview the parish priest, the parish BEC coordinators and some BEC leaders for the case study on the BECs in the parish.
As usual, I am here for four weeks - spending time in solitude, silence, prayer, reflect, reading and writing. I am doing a lot of running and walking on the mountain trails around here. For the first two weeks, I will be fasting during the day and have a light dinner (just salad). Then, on the third week - Holy Week - I will have an absolute fast (no food - only water and a cleansing liquid drink) from Palm to Easter Vigil.. Then back to one meal a day on Easter week.
I've been especially praying for the cardinals gathered in Rome for the papal conclave to choose the successor of Benedict XVI. I was glad to hear that they elected Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who took the name Pope Francis. Now, I am praying for him as he begins his ministry of shepherding the universal Church.
Staying here for a month each year has become part of the rhythm of my life - a habit which I have been doing since becoming a priest 31 years ago. I intend to continue doing this for the rest of my life. I've spend longer periods here before - 3 months in 1989, 5 months in 2005 and 3 months in 2010. Perhaps, I will have another longer period during my next sabbatical in 2016. When I reach 75 years old, this is where I will spend my retirement.
This is such a beautiful place. I love it here.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Benedict XVI's "Creative Minorities"

Today, Pope Benedict XVI will formally step down as  pope. One of his most fascinating ideas is the Church  becoming a creative minority which I believe can be appropriated for Basic Ecclesial Communities. I would like to share this article which I wrote for my regular column in the CBCP monitor, published this week:
 
BECs as Creative Minorities


Before he was elected pope, Benedict XVI already envisioned a Church that would act as creative minority, appropriating the idea of the historian Arnold Toynbee:

“Here we must agree with Toynbee that the fate of a society always depends on its creative minorities. Christian believers should look upon themselves as just such a creative minority, and help Europe to reclaim what is best in its heritage and to thereby place itself at the service of all humankind.” (Ratzinger & Pera, Without Roots).

This idea was already present in his book (Faith and the Future,1971), when he chose the image of a mustard seed for the Church: “Perhaps the time has come to say farewell to the idea of traditionally Catholic cultures. Maybe we are facing a new and different kind of epoch in the Church’s history, where Christianity will again be characterized more by the mustard seed, where it will exist in small, insignificant groups that nonetheless live an intensive struggle against evil and bring the good into the world – that let God in.”

He again referred to this term during an interview as he was on his way to Prague in 2009 for a papal visit:  “it is the creative minorities that determine the future, and in this sense the Catholic Church must understand itself as a creative minority that has a heritage of values that are not things of the past, but a very living and relevant reality. The Church must actualize, be present in the public debate, in our struggle for a true concept of liberty and peace.”

The pope used this term as a prognosis for how the Church whose membership has become a minority in Europe should act in face of secularism and de-Christianization. The clergy, lay organizations and renewal movements would have an important role in this.

In his broad historical study of major civilizations, Arnold Toynbee observed that the growth and transformation of many societies depend on creative minorities whom the majority eventually follow. This is similar to Vilfredo Pareto’s 20-80 principle or the law of the vital few: the 20 percent of any group or institution account for 80 percent of the effect. Thus, 80 percent of our efforts should be focused on the 20 percent that can make a difference.

This is how the Church should function according to Benedict XVI. While this can be applied for the Church in Europe, is this also applicable for the Philippines where Catholics make up the majority?

I believe that the concept of “Creative Minorities” is relevant in our country. Although 81 percent of the population are Catholics, the majority are either nominal or seasonal Catholics. There is a tiny minority – around 15 percent – that are active.

There is no need to despair as long as the small percent of those who are active act as “creative minorities.” This means that they live as genuine disciples of Christ in community. Having undergone conversion and filled with dynamism they actively participate in the Church’s prophetic, evangelizing mission, in the work for justice, peace and social transformation, and give witness by their holiness of life.

The lay organizations, renewal movements and Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) have a vital role to play as creative minorities in the midst of a Christian majority who are mostly nominal and who need to be evangelized.

Since, 1991, the PCP II and the CBCP have promoted the growth of BECs all over the Philippines. In most of the dioceses and parishes in the country, there are already BECs. The parishes are becoming  networks of small Christian communities or BECs. The percentage of Catholics actively involved in the BECs are still small but they function as creative minorities – as light, leaven and salt, or as the mustard seed. In them, the ordinary lay-faithful, including the poor members actively participate in the life and mission of the Church.

Over the decades the BECs have made a difference in making the Church fully alive and contributing to the transformation of society. These communities have been engaged in renewed evangelization in the neighborhood communities and villages. Many of these have introduced programs to alleviate poverty (sustainable agriculture, livelihood projects, cooperatives, micro-finance, etc.). In response to the armed conflict, there have been BECs  involved in peace advocacy -- in the establishment of peace zones or spaces for peace. There are BECs that have defended the environment  through their efforts to stop logging, mining and coal-fired power-plants. There are also BECs involved in campaign for good-governance and political education. Other BECs are involved in pro-life campaign and introducing Natural Family Planning methods and responsible parenthood. Their numbers may not be significant yet but they are growing and  are already making a difference. Thus, in the BECs, Benedict XVI's vision of the Church as a creative minority is being realized at the grassroots, in the neighborhood and the barangay. As we say good-bye to our beloved pope, we will remember his ecclesial vision of the creative minority as one of his legacies.