The Kentex tragedy that resulted in the deaths of several of our countrymen has roused the nation to the reality of modern-day slavery in our country. Journalists’ reports have uncovered other sites of exploitation where Filipinos are worked to death under the most appalling of circumstances. We therefore ask our parish priests and our laity to constitute themselves into guardians of our brothers and sisters against modern-day slavery.
The warehouses and factories that are in fact sweat-shops for our countrymen eager to eke out a living should be subject to relentless inspection and monitoring and where it is found that they are in fact sites of exploitation, these should be closed. There is hardly anything more repugnant to the Gospel’s law of love than the heartless exploitation of the poor and to make capital from their want.
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGASArchbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan President, CBCP May 22, 2015
Decades ago, the Philippines was host to the “boat people”, hundreds if not thousands of Vietnamese fleeing their homeland, following the fall of what was then called Saigon. Our country then served as some kind of a way-station, because our Vietnamese guests soon found their way to other parts of the globe. One of them, in fact, rose through the ranks of ecclesiastical academe to become dean of theology at one of Rome’s Pontifical Universities. It was a glorious chapter in our history, and we thank God that many of our priests and religious received the privilege of serving them.
Once more, refugees in flimsy boats, are making their way to our shores, having endured appalling conditions aboard these vessels. Doubtlessly, many lost their lives in the attempt to find some haven. They navigate into our waters tired, famished, desperate — many of them carrying the dead bodies of their children in their arms.
It is however a saddening fact that some countries in our Southeast Asian region have turned these refugees away, refusing them the comfort of even just a temporary stay. Ironically, the countries that turn refugees away vie with each other for tourists and investors! In many instances, coast guard and naval patrol vessels tow these boats, brimming over with their load of our hungry, sick and desperate brothers and sisters back to the high seas, there to face the elements, and often, sadly, to perish!
The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” has passed on our moral obligation in respect to refugees:
Progress in the capacity to live together within the universal human family is closely linked to the growth of a mentality of hospitality. Any person in danger who appears at a frontier has a right to protection. In order to make it easier to determine why such people have abandoned their country, as well as to adopt lasting solutions, a renewed commitment is needed to produce internationally acceptable norms for territorial asylum.(9) Such an attitude facilitates the search for common solutions and undercuts the validity of certain positions, sometimes put forward, that would limit acceptance and the granting of the right of asylum to the sole criterion of national interest. (n. 10)
While it may be true that there is no legal obligation on the part of the Republic of the Philippines or that of any other country to grant asylum to every refugee or displaced person, there is a moral obligation to protect them from the harm they flee from. There is a legal obligation not to forcibly repatriate them. And by all precepts of morality and decency, there is an obligation not to leave them to the mercilessness of the elements on the high seas.
In the Old Testament one of the sternest commands God gave his people was to treat the stranger with mercy and compassion because, God reminded his people, “you too were once strangers in the Land of Egypt.” If anything at all, the plight of displaced persons and refugees makes clear to us how the artificial boundaries that we establish between ourselves — principally geographical and political boundaries — can in fact become barriers to that hospitality towards the other that makes us human, that marks us out as sons and daughters of an ever-welcoming Father.
We laud our government for its attitude of hospitality towards refugees, even as we urge other nations in the region, in the name of our common humanity and the common Father we recognize, to allow these refugees succor and assistance. For while our own economic resources may not allow us to to welcome every migrant as a permanent resident of our country, still there is always room for the weary and burdened to rest on our shores before they continue on their journey.
Once, our land was resplendent not only because of tourist spots and destinations, but because we welcomed refugees with the hospitality that has made us famous the world over. God gives us this chance once more to bind the wounds of body and spirit, warm the hearts and embrace in solidarity our brothers and sisters who come to us from troubled lands. Let the Philippines be a place where they can dream of a future of promise, possibly in other lands and where helping hands and generous hearts may make their dreams come true.
+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
19 May 2015
May 13, 2015
Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima
RE: Impostor Priest
My dear people of God:
Please be informed that we have sought the assistance of the Philippine National Police in Mangaldan to apprehend a certain Right Reverend Eduardo Roxas who has been going around the barangays of Mangaldan and Manaoag offering to celebrate Masses in private homes.
You are kindly requested to warn our Catholic faithful about this impostor priest and report to the Chancery in case he is seen presenting himself as a Catholic priest.
His photo is enclosed herewith for your further appreciation.
Please be assured of my pastoral concern.
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Pastoral Letter on Stewardship
We have taken great strides together as a presbyterium in particular and as an archdiocese in general in pursuing Church renewal through the path of the stewardship spirituality which we have inculturated in Pangasinan as Pananabangan. I want to commend many parishes that have adopted the Pananabangan formation seminars as their primary parish formation program. I trust that the handful who are still planning to start will be inspired by the success of those who have started Pananabangan three years ago and are now reaping the rich harvest of the spirituality of Pananabangan.
Let us allow the Pastoral Letter on Stewardship issued by the bishops of the United States to guide us: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pt 4:10).
What identifies a steward? Safeguarding material and human resources and using them responsibly are one answer; so is generous giving of time, talent, and treasure. But being a Christian steward means more. As Christian stewards, we receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.
Pananabangan as has been repeatedly said is NOT about money. It is NOT a fund raising scheme. It is a way of life lived with gratitude, lived responsibly and shared generously.
The enemies of Church renewal are indifference, cowardice and loss of the sense of the sacred. The globalization of indifference must be fought with the compassion of Pananabangan. The cowardice and timidity so prevalent in crisis must be won over by the culture of courageous giving. We show our true colour when we are put in hot water. The loss of the sense of the sacred must end with the culture of communion and active social engagement.
Pananabangan helps us to face our “dragons” and conquer them. This spiritual program helps our people to get involved and come out from our sheltered piety. It helps us to understand that the parish office is not a venue for business transactions for the sacraments and sacramental but an encounter between fellow stewards. Pananabangan gives us courage to commit to the Lord and live by this commitment to love like Jesus without the fear of ever lacking. This spiritual program will open our hearts to the reality that everything is holy because everything is grace. The Beatitudes are our magna carta for Pananabangan. The life example of Jesus, the primary steward of the mercies of God, is our only model to follow.
The Word of God upon which we must always base our homilies during the liturgy has abundant references to stewardship. I encourage you our brother priests to look at the Word of God with the eyes of Pananabangan, to constantly “flavour” the homily with Pananabangan tones and repeat the three fold message of gratitude, responsibility and generosity (GRG) as the hallmarks of the stewardship spirituality. Without resorting to judgmental moralizing, let us prophetically speak against indifference, cowardice and the loss of the sense of the sacred.
The Pananabangan envelopes that we have made available to parishes and schools may be filled up also with commitments to give time and talents beyond the customary money pledges. I encourage our school directors to regularly talk to our academic communities on the spirituality of stewardship during school convocations, retreats and seminars. The Pananabangan manual of formation is ready and available for this purpose.
In the context of prayer and from your pastoral sensitivity, the Pananabangan formation may be adopted as an extended formation series. Candidly, if the Pananabangan module is reduced to a crashed half a day seminar, it will most likely not achieve its desired effect of becoming a lifestyle for Christ’s disciples. It needs time for patient assimilation and pondered reflection. It needs to simmer and take roots. Haste is waste.
Although Pananabangan is NOT about money, it is the perennial issue about money that becomes the test if Pananabangan has indeed been taken to heart. One of the clear signs of our Pananabangan spirit is our fidelity to the abolition of the arancel or the fixed rates for the sacraments and sacramentals in the Church. It is our archdiocesan policy as indicated in the computerized parish accounting system that the parish office should not require the parishioners to make “fixed donations” for the services of the Church. The so called “fixed donations” violate the spirit with which we slowly abolished the arancel system of Church sustenance. It smacks of bad taste and intellectual dishonesty to say that we have no fixed rates for the sacraments and church services on one hand and yet insinuate softly later a certain amount to be “offered”.
The Church will not get poorer with Pananabangan. The Church will become more credible, more prophetic and more Christ like with Pananabangan. The arancel system is both a painful scourge on the long suffering people and a shameful stain in the vestments of the Church’s ministers. The arancel imprints an invisible and foul price tag on our priestly stole. It has been tolerated but in the beginning it was not so.
Giving to the Church must become a regular habit with or without the sacraments. It is certainly true that the sacraments and blessings of the Church are not a reward for a virtue nor a prize for being good. In the same way, the blessings and sacraments of the Church must not appear as religious services rendered in exchange for fees. It is the duty of the priest to offer them. It is the duty of every child of the Church to sustain their Mother diligently and generously.
Every parish and Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan must have a permanent Pananabangan Team composed of three to five persons with the capacity to conduct formation programs regularly and continuously. They may come from the pool of catechists, liturgical lay ministers or BEC coordinators. Their commitment to live Pananabangan is their first lesson for the other members of the community. They must possess the qualities of a good communicator so that they can facilitate formation seminars.
The Archdiocesan Director for Pananabangan should have a general archdiocesan listing of the Pananabangan Team for every school and parish. The Parish Pananabangan Team must also receive commissioning in the principal parish Mass on Pentecost Sunday, May 24, 2015.
All the material offerings from the Pananabangan must be administered by the Parish Board of Temporalities chaired by the parish priest together with some trusted lay leaders in the parish. In the case of schools, the material offerings that may be generated from the school community must be administered by the School Board of Temporalities composed of students, teachers and the school director.
The Parish Pananabangan Team must not handle the material offerings from the Pananabangan program.
DO NOT FEAR PANANABANGAN…
We are at the threshold of seeing a Church renewed. Expectedly, there will be birth pains. We might be tempted to return to the fleshpots of our Egypt. The old system of Church sustenance is familiar and feels secure but that is the security of Egypt not the hope of the Promised Land. The arancel can give us better security but that that is the security of slaves not freemen. I know a few of us grumble and complain secretly wishing to return to the familiar and secure instead of the adventure of a new Church. Complainers end up defeated. When we allow our fears to guide our actions we lose our vision and get imprisoned by our griping.
God wants us all to have a vision, to pursue our vision. Our vision is ICTHUS—integration of faith and life, catechesis, thanksgiving, unity and service. It does not matter if we do not completely achieve it fast; what matters is we keep moving on, pushing forward to our Promised Land. Griping and complaining and worshipping idols in the desert were the greatest sins of the chosen people. Complainers are losers and they pull us backwards.
I plead with you. We have begun the journey of Pananabangan. There must be no turning back now. It might take our whole lifetime to achieve but let us not allow the generations following us to say later that we had a chance to change the destiny of Lingayen Dagupan but we did not do our duty when the challenge faced us. Many generations of Catholics will be grateful to us for the zeal that we show today.
Let us renew our commitment to Stewardship. Let us proclaim together.
I believe in the God of love,
the owner of everything who possesses everyone.
I believe in the God of mercies who has chosen me
to be a steward of Mother Nature and Mother Church,
in spite of who I am and what I have done,
and in spite of the infidelities He knows I will still commit.
I believe in the power of giving
and in the power of loving like Jesus;
because love is the only way to holiness;
giving is the best proof of loving;
and perfect renunciation leads to unlimited fruitfulness.
I believe that in freely giving my time,
in humbly sharing my talents,
and in generously sacrificing my treasures,
the Lord will always provide.
He will take care of all my needs,
and bless me with infinite reward on earth and in heaven.
I will be the first to give.
I will not wait for the others.
I will keep on giving even if others do not give.
I will not be afraid to have none.
I believe that the best time to share is now, not tomorrow,
for tomorrow is an excuse of the greedy.
I will keep my needs and wants simple and few,
for I believe that in reducing my selfishness,
I will grow in happiness and holiness.
I am a steward of the Lord.
I will return all these to Him with abundant yield!
Much is asked of me because much has been given to me
I praise the Lord for His kindness to me
Now and forever.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, May 1, 2015
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
May 1, 2015
Memorial of St. Joseph, the Worker
Circular Letter 2015-9
RE: OBLIGATORY PRAYER against CALAMITIES
Dear brothers in the priestly ministry, men and women in consecrated life, brothers and sisters in Christ:
At all times we must pray and invoke the protection of God against every evil and against all troubles. We have been forewarned by experts and scientists that the rest of the year 2015 may be challenging months for the country bringing exceptionally strong typhoons, rains and winds or extensive droughts in some areas. Let us turn to prayer and beg the Lord for deliverance and protection.
Invoking my authority as head pastor and primary intercessor of the Church in Lingayen Dagupan, I am obliging everyone in our archdiocese to pray the enclosed prayer against calamities and disasters starting May 15, 2015, Memorial of San Isidro Labrador until September 29, 2015, the Feast of the Archangels, in all Masses before the Post Communion Prayer, after the Liturgy of the Hours and before the first class period in all our Catholic schools.
Lat year, we invoked God’s protection and Pangasinan was spared from disastrous acts of nature.
We cannot control the wrath of nature but we believe that God has power over all creation. Even now, we claim from the hands of Our Lady of Manaoag her motherly protection for her children in Pangasinan.
I enjoin everyone concerned to observe this mandate to pray.
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan
In the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan to be prayed BEFORE the Post Communion Prayer in all Masses from May 15, 2015, Memorial of San Isidro until September 29, 2015, Feast of the Archangels.
Almighty God, Lord of the universe, Creator of everything, we come to you seeking your divine protection as we face our fears and confront the threats that cause us anxiety.
After every invocation let us say: DELIVER YOUR PEOPLE LORD.
From strong typhoons
From relentless rains
From destructive earthquakes
From drought and pests
From deadly floods and storm surges
From red tides and fish kills
From deadly lighting
From violence and wars
From corruption and sin
From criminality and terrorism
From selfishness and indifference
Divine Jesus, you calmed the storms and walked over the waters. Give us fine weather. Shield us from distress. Drive away from our land all calamities and disasters of nature. We entrust ourselves to you now and forever.
Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, pray for us.