DUMAGUETE CITY, Oct. 18, 2014 – Church leaders from the different archdioceses and dioceses across the Visayas have identified rehabilitation after recent natural disasters and evangelization as their top pastoral priorities in the coming years.
“It is with joy in and gratitude to the Lord that again, we redefine our pastoral priorities and our programs as we invoke the intercession of our Blessed Mother, Queen of the Visayas, that the Lord of harvest may bless our endeavours with fruits thirty, sixty and hundredfold”, Archbishop Jose S. Palma of the Archdiocese of Cebu, the assembly convenor, said.
A guide to future pastoral plans of actions of the four archdioceses and 14 dioceses in the Visayas region was drafted and approved Thursday in a common pastoral statement at the conclusion of the three-day 9th Visayas Region Pastoral Assembly (VRPA) held in Dumaguete City.
Recognizing the needs of the survivors of two major 2013 disasters in the Visayas region – the magnitude 72 earthquake that damaged Bohol and the super storm Yolanda that ravaged Leyte – the assembly in their statement focused on moving forward towards rehabilitation with God in the midst of such tribulations.
“Yet, in the depth of our sadness and grief, as we pray for the repose of the souls of those who perished in the said natural calamities, we once again renew and affirm our faith in the Lord of history and our loving God whose faithfulness bids us to arise (“bangon” in Cebuano) and continue our journey of faith,” read the Pastoral Statement on Rehabilitation and Our Task of Evangelization, focusing on the Biblical passage “Arise and eat, for the journey may yet be far” (1Kgs 19:7), which was signed by Palma.
The statement speaks of the common desire of the participants to focus on being “one body, one spirit in Christ”.
Palma also stressed the need to encourage and inspire the Church leaders in the region to rise above the agony, suffering and trials brought about by disasters that had devastated the Visayas in the past year.
Plans of action
The church and lay leaders of the Visayas Region Pastoral Assembly also expressed optimism for a “better tomorrow because our future (is) in the hands of the Lord”.
Meanwhile, pondering on the calamities, the archbishops, bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders of the Visayas region made a commitment to undertake common programs and plans to realize the task of evangelization, as well as to to “revisit, evaluate and assess” the implementation of the pastoral plans made in the last VRPA.
These include integral faith formation with emphasis on the training of committed lay leaders; formation of faith communities and implementation of the Basic Ecclesial Communities centered on the parish; and the renewal of the clergy.
They also acknowledged specific issues and concerns such as evangelization (reflective understanding and committed participation); Basic Ecclesial Communities (common understanding of the BEC); renewal of the clergy (commitment and way of life); Year of the Church of the Poor (206/address the situation of the economically poor); and the Year of the Eucharist and the Family (understanding the Eucharist).
On pastoral plans of action, the assembly committed to carry out the faith and moral integrative formation for clergy and the lay; creation of a regional coordinating body for the BECs; formation of a committee on the renewal of the clergy; organization of communities, religious organizations and agencies for the work of the poor; concrete programs for the upliftment of the poor and a commitment to the preparation of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress. (Judy Flores Partlow)