Villegas calls for dynamism among lay people in the Year of Laity

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A group of Catholic laity in one of the protest rallies held against the pork barrel scam.

MANILA, Jan. 1, 2014—Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas urged for a greater involvement from lay people even as he called on priests to be more open in sharing church responsibilities with the laity.

“We need to cultivate in our archdiocese a fresh sense of co-responsibility in the Church and to explore all possibilities for priests and laity to work together with mutual respect and fraternal charity,” the Archbishop said in a pastoral letter to the Dagupan faithful on January 1.

As the Catholic Church observes 2014 as Year of the Laity, Villegas, who is also president of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said it is important to use this “occasion of grace to attend to two pastoral concerns that need conversion.”

He noted the necessity “to bring the laity out of the situation of passivity” and for the clergy to be “more open and willing to share church responsibilities” with the lay faithful.

Villegas said that the laity, by virtue of their baptism, share “in common priesthood of life [which] defines the identity, mission, dignity, vocation and spirituality of all Christians.”

He encouraged his flock to take heed of what Pope Francis said in Evangelii Gaudium regarding the role of the laity.

The Pope in his pastoral exhortation noted that many lay persons have not been given proper formation that would facilitate their taking important responsibilities in the Church, and even if they are involved in church ministries, their commitment is just limited in doing church duties, and does not reflect “in a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors.” (EG, 102)

Healthy signs

Addressing parish communities, chaplaincies and pastoral stations, Villegas invited them to look for three signs of a healthy Church life in their communities at the end of 2014.

He said the fruits should be “more catechists and more social action ministers than liturgical lay ministers; the rosary is prayed at home in more families with the parents and children praying together; and every year, there is at least one young man who will enter the seminary and answer the call to be a priest.”

The prelate noted of a high interest among lay people to serve as ministers at the altar but there is little attraction to teach as Catechists or work among the poor as social action ministers.

“There is a bit of glamour and prestige at being seen at the altar,” Villegas said. But he also pointed out, that “our laity is staying too long inside the church doing work inside the church presuming that God is pleased.”

“This must be corrected,” he said, adding: “The lay faithful are primarily called for social engagement outside the church building. There must be more laity working for God in society than at the altar.”

The prelate also stressed the importance of praying the rosary at home calling as sick “a parish without family prayer at home.”

He encouraged parishioners to “organize barangay block rosaries, coros of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal or Divine Mercy clusters.”

“The best contribution we can make for society is indeed prayer but prayer must be brought out of church premises and brought at home, at work, in the plaza, in the streets, in the market and grocery stores; indeed everywhere,” Villegas said.

He also asked every family to pray for a vocation at home, noting that a family which has raised its children in the faith usually is a seedbed of vocation to the priesthood and consecrated life.

“The priest is called from among the laity in order to help the laity grow in their friendship with the Lord,” Villegas said.

He emphasized that the priest serves the laity and not the other around.

“I hope the priests will be more trusting and open with the involvement of the laity. We pray that our laity will wake up from passivity, be fired by the Spirit and dare to change the world for Christ,” Villegas said. (PB/CBCPNews)

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