50 years after Vatican II, PH BECs still a ‘work in progress’ – priest

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Representatives of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) from 75 arch/dioceses in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao are in Metro Manila from Nov. 11 until Nov. 14 to mark 50 years since the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II). (Photo: Roy Lagarde)

MANILA, Nov. 13, 2015 – Fifty years after the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) ushered in an era of renewal, a priest admits the country’s Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) continue to face challenges as members heed the call for a “new way of being Church.”

‘Ongoing journey’

“They have already emerged in most dioceses and parishes, but the realization of the vision of a Renewed Church in Vatican II and PCP II in the BECs remains an ongoing journey,” bemoans Fr. Amado L. Picardal, C.Ss.R, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’s Episcopal Committee on BECs, in his paper “Basic Ecclesial Communities Today.”

Representatives of BECs from 75 arch/dioceses in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao are in Metro Manila from Nov. 11 until Nov. 14 for the 3rd National BEC Assembly in Paco, Manila, where they celebrate together the half-century since the closing of Vatican II.

“We gather here today BECs from all over the country to rejoice in our ‘being-in-one-ness.’ This event further encourages all of us to celebrate the renewal that has been happening within the Church for 50 years ago since Vatican II ended,” shared Picardal in an interview.

Already … but not yet

In the same study, the Redemptorist missionary goes on to point out that various shapes and forms of BECs have arisen nationwide, mostly in chapel-centered rural communities with 30 to 200 families, bemoaning, however, that they are a “not yet-yet-already reality.”

While a growing number have social action component like programs for sustainable agriculture, livelihood projects, peace advocacy, environmental protection, micro-finance, community-based health program, skills training, and good governance, among others, he laments that the majority (around 74%) have yet to integrate social action dimension in their activities.

Unsupportive clergy

Picardal also expresses concern that many of the clergy seem to lack interest in BECs, considering that BECs thrive where priests actively promote them.

“In response to this concern, some seminaries and formation programs all over the Philippines have incorporated the BEC thrust. The structures of some seminaries and houses of formation are patterned after the BEC cells. They do not only talk about BECs but live it as a way of life among themselves,” he says.

“Some dioceses are also integrating BEC formation for the newly-ordained deacons or priests. Some have also incorporated this in the ongoing formation program for the clergy. Seminars and retreats about priestly ministry and BECs have been given,” he adds.

Fr. Amado L. Picardal, C.Ss.R, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’s Episcopal Committee on BECs

BEC problems

Other areas of concern Picardal points out are as follows:

  • Lack of effective means for forming and sustaining BECs
  • The vision of BECs, as promoted by PCP II, is not fully understood and owned.
  • BECs are considered as simply activities (Bible-sharing) instead of a culture or a way of life
  • BEC is reduced to a handful of people/cell or Family Groupings composed of 6 – 10 people who gather for Gospel-sharing.
  • There is a tendency to regard the BEC cell/neighborhood grouping as the BEC instead of being part of the local community. This is a misunderstanding of BEC. Consequently, it is difficult to determine how many BECs there are because the number of cells are counted rather than the actual BECs.
  • Very few men and youth are actively involved in BECs are women.
  • The poorest of the poor (especially in urban areas) are not involved in BECs
  • Many BECs remain prayer/bible-sharing groups without social concern.
  • Many BEC social action programs are not sustainable or lacking in effectiveness and do not lead to social transformation or poverty alleviation.
  • Some BECs on maintenance mode are slowly stagnating.
  • Many BEC formation program lack systematic and sustainable evangelizing component.
  • Some dioceses and parishes rely on sanctions policy to coerce people to participate in BEC activities (certification). Inactive members are not allowed to have their children baptized, married in Church, or given no funeral Mass.

Vatican II @ 50

According to the Picardal, what Catholics know today as BECs is actually a fruit of the said Ecumenical Council that convened at various times between 1962 and 1965.

He defined BECs as small communities of Catholic Christians within the parish who come together to pray, to listen to the word of God, and to discuss ideas for social action.

“So it’s a way of getting more members of the Church involved in the life and mission of the Church. In their community meetings, there is always an ongoing evangelization that takes place,” he added.

To read the complete study, visit: http://www.cbcpnews.com/cbcpnews/?p=67527. (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)

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