‘New ways of being Church’
Thousands of candles lit up at Sunday’s closing Mass of the three-day Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE4) held July 28-30 at the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion. More than 6,000 Catholic participants from all over the country came to reflect on the many “new ways of being Church.” Now on its fourth year, the PCNE is hosted by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle. This year’s theme is “One Heart and Soul.”
There was a tempest named Gorio on Friday, the first day of the conference, but the online announcement said the conference was going to proceed. Despite rain, wind and flood, thousands of participants came. As in previous PCNEs, some of the most inspiring were the stories from the ground shared by those close to the ground.
While this joyous gathering of hearts and souls was going on, a monsignor from the Antipolo diocese (and reportedly with a degree in moral theology from a university in Rome) was arrested and detained for allegedly paying a pimp and taking a minor to a motel.
Ecce, behold this wounded Church.
First, the “imported” speakers: Archbishop Salvatore Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council on Promoting New Evangelization, delivered a keynote message on “Being Christian in the Age of Indifference.” In his homily on the last day of the PCNE he told the crowd that there was one must-see for him—a giant mall by the sea where thousands of Filipinos flock on Sundays. And he did learn — that it is in malls that many now attend Sunday Mass.
The permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, spoke on “The Role of the Church among Community of Nations.” Auza, a Filipino, was the apostolic nuncio in Haiti when the killer earthquake struck the Caribbean nation in 2010 and left more than 150,000 dead. I interviewed him via email that time for a front-page story.
Every day, in different venues, there were 10 tracks or sessions going on simultaneously, among them on the environment, new media and evangelization, ecumenism, social justice, the youth.
(May I note that there was much to be desired in terms of information in the PCNE4 media kit. Also, too late I found out that there was a complete and glossy program/brochure—something I needed—but it was for paying participants only, not for the media.)
Close to home was Bishop Pablo Virgilio “Ambo” David of Caloocan Diocese (younger brother of professor and Inquirer columnist Randy David) who spoke on “Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: The Church as Communion” for the session on parishes and basic ecclesial communities. “Parochial” (relating to parish) has acquired a negative connotation, he stressed—that of narrow-mindedness. Are our parishes really communities? he asked.
One could see that Bishop Ambo has quite a following, as his session had to be held in the plenary hall. So was Jesuit Fr. Albert Alejo’s session on the last day. “Pareng Bert,” as he wants to be known, is an anthropologist and poet of “Sanayan Lang ang Pagpatay” (you get accustomed to murdering) fame.
One recalls that Pareng Bert had helped bring out witnesses of extrajudicial killings in Mindanao but, as a consequence, false accusations were thrown at him. But his talk was not tinged with blood. With joy he spoke about “Kapwa and Loob: The Filipino Concept of Communion and Solidarity” and livened his sharing with songs and bird sounds.
Also close to the ground were “people who long for communion and who work for communion,” in “Heart to Heart with the Cardinal” in a plenary session. Three from show biz: Dimples Romana, Dingdong Dantes and Alden Richards.
Medical mission nun Mary Jane Castillo shared the essence of her work and life—endangered, I must say—in solidarity with Bukidnon’s lumad who protest aggressive intrusion into their ancestral domain. Robito Mahinay of Zamboanga grew up with vengeance in his heart and later came face to face with his father’s killer, and in sacred space at that. What happened next—if it were a movie—was a four-hankie scene.
Behold a Church finding new ways of being Church in a fast-changing world. I have a gold pendant with hollowed-out letters and a question mark: WWJD? As in: What would Jesus do?
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