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ICTHUS Song

Sunday Mass for every Barangay!- Pastoral Directive for Barangay Empowerment

My dear brothers in the priesthood:

The faith of our people is vibrant and strong. The flock of the Lord is a blessing of infinite consolations for us their shepherds. Our parish churches and selected barangay chapels are filled with people on Sundays athirst for the Lord and seeking to express their love for God. While there is great reason to believe that the faith is alive and strong in our archdiocese, the truth must be told that there are still many more communities deprived of the Eucharist on Sundays, the day of the Lord, due to their distance from the pastoral centres and due to the lack of priests.

PASTORAL SHADOWS

This deprivation of the Eucharist is leading to an alarming spiritual malnutrition which on many occasions our people fill up by attending Sunday prayer fellowships of other sects. Attempting to reach out to the Catholic communities in far barangays, many priests have started the pastoral practice of celebrating Masses on weekdays to fill the thirst for Sunday Eucharist among the barangays. But the truth need be told that the Sunday Eucharist occupies a primordial place in our Catholic life.

PRIMACY OF SUNDAY MASS

It is true that, in itself, the Sunday Eucharist is no different from the Eucharist celebrated on other days, nor can it be separated from liturgical and sacramental life as a whole…But because of its special solemnity and the obligatory presence of the community, and because it is celebrated “on the day when Christ conquered death and gave us a share in his immortal life”, the Sunday Eucharist expresses with greater emphasis its inherent ecclesial dimension. It becomes the paradigm for other Eucharistic celebrations (Dies Domini, 34)

Among the many activities of a parish, “none is as vital or as community-forming as the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist” (Dies Domini, 35)

This light-and-shadow situation must be addressed so that the present thirst for the Sunday Eucharist may not worsen into a widespread spiritual desert. It can also result in the waning of appreciation for the primacy of Sunday in our Catholic life (cfr. Dies Domini, 5). Because nature abhors a vacuum, our absence in the barangays can result in unimaginable spiritual harm to the flock of the Lord which, if not remedied now, can take generations to reverse and heal.

SUNDAY MASS FOR EVERY BARANGAY

I am inviting my brother priests especially those in the ministry of Catholic education and members of team ministries to avail of the privilege granted by archdiocesan laws to celebrate two Masses on Saturday evenings and four Masses on Sundays. I admonish all priests to use this privilege fully by going to barangay communities and offering the distant poor the Body of the Lord on Saturday evenings and Sundays. It is considered liturgical abuse to use this privilege to accommodate special groups of the Catholic faithful in exchange for monetary gain.

The perennial complaint is that “the people are not coming to our Masses so we might as well not go”. It is time for us to be missionaries in spirit and disposition. We cannot just demand that the people be there when we are there. We have lost them by our long absence. The time has come for us to reach out patiently and recover their lost faith. The Sunday afternoons and evenings cannot be relaxed moments for a good pastor of souls. We must initiate a schedule of barangay Masses even on Sunday afternoons and evenings so that the poor, the marginalized and the distant may have an opportunity for Sunday Masses weekly. The children and the youth must be the favoured recipients of our pastoral presence in the barangays.

CREATION OF NEW PARISHES

By a unanimous vote of the Board of Consultors, all the vicars forane were mandated to prepare new clusters of barangays to become pastoral stations eventually to be created as parishes within the year. After consulting the priests and lay leaders in the vicariate, the vicar forane can recommend which cluster may take the priority pastoral attention. The primary criterion will be the openness of the Catholic faithful in the area to become a parish. The material sustenance of the priests may be provided by the Chancery for the first year of creation, in case the community lacks material resources. It is not necessary to have a big church as a pastoral centre. Modest living quarters for the priest to live within the mission community will be enough.

OUR VISION

The only goal is to strengthen the base communities. The strength of the parish is not in overflowing Sunday crowds; it is rather in the vibrant distant barangays where the life of the parish truly shows. If the barangays are weak and cold, the Church is sick and bleeding. The poor cannot afford to go to our centres. We cannot leave them in the periphery. The Sunday Mass must be brought to them every Sunday.

Big and expansive parishes do not help nurture the faith. Faith will be impersonal and pastoral care will only be token ministries. We must create new pastoral centres. Small is beautiful. Small is the way to greatness. Strengthening the small is the only way to survive and stay relevant as a Church.

I plead with you brother pastors to take this vision to heart and adopt it as yours. We cannot allow the times to reduce us to be functionaries and temporal administrators. We are pastors first and foremost. Let us regain the shepherd’s heart when we were ordained.

May Saint John Marie Vianney set our hearts on fire again!

Sincerely yours,

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

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