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My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

The Year 2014 is the Year of the Laity.

In the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan, we will bring to a ceremonial closing on February 17 our golden jubilee year as a metropolitan archdiocese. On February 11 this year, we will also remember the sixtieth anniversary of the renaming of our Church as Diocese of Lingayen Dagupan. God willing, we also hope to bless our new theology seminary building and chapel.

Who is the lay person? The lay person is someone who belongs to the people of God on account of baptism and shares in common priesthood of life. The priesthood of life bestowed on us by baptism defines  the identity, mission, dignity, vocation and spirituality of all Christians.

It is important to observe 2014 as the Year of the Laity and avail of this occasion of grace to attend to two pastoral concerns that need conversion. First, we need to bring the laity out of the situation of passivity; at the same time, it imperative that our priests be more open and willing to share 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.

Let us reflect on the challenging message of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium:

Lay people are, put simply, the vast majority of the People of God. The minority – ordained ministers – are at their service. There has been a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the laity in the Church. We can count on many lay persons, although still not nearly enough, who have a deeply-rooted sense of community and great fidelity to the tasks of charity, catechesis and the celebration of the faith. At the same time, a clear awareness of this responsibility of the laity, grounded in their baptism and confirmation, does not appear in the same way in all places. In some cases, it is because lay persons have not been given the formation needed to take on important responsibilities.

In others, it is because in their particular Churches room has not been made for them to speak and to act, due to an excessive clericalism which keeps them away from decision-making. Even if many are now involved in the lay ministries, this involvement is not reflected in a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors. It often remains tied to tasks within the Church, without a real commitment to applying the Gospel to the transformation of society. (EG, 102)

I am inviting our parish communities, chaplaincies and pastoral stations to look for these three signs of a healthy Church life in our communities this year. When the year 2014 ends, let us look for these fruits:

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.

Every year, there is at least one young man who will enter the seminary and answer the call to be a priest.

There is a remarkable interest among our lay faithful to be ministers at the altar but there is a high degree of hesitation to speak about the Catholic faith as catechists or work among the poor members of the parish as social action ministers. There is a bit of glamour and prestige at being seen at the altar. The lay faithful are primarily called for social engagement outside the church building. Our laity is staying too long inside the church doing work inside the church presuming that God is pleased. This must be corrected. There must be more laity working for God in society than at the altar.

If the family is a little church, the mother and father of the family are the “priests” of that church. It is not enough to pray in the parish church or barangay chapel. We must bring the prayer outside the church building. The rosary must be prayed in every home. We can organize barangay block rosaries, coros of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal or Divine Mercy clusters. A parish without family prayer at home is sick. 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.

A vocation to the priesthood and religious life is a sign that the family has raised its children in the faith. The priest is called from among the laity in order to help the laity grow in their friendship with the Lord. The priest serves the laity; it is not the other way around. Every vocation to the priesthood is a great grace for the family. Every family must pray for a vocation at home. The priest and the laity depend on each other.

There is much work to be done. 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.

Let us bravely pursue this mission and challenge priests and laity together.

Sincerely yours,

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

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