BUKAL NG TIPAN PASTORAL CENTER AND ITS EXPERIENCE OF A PARTICIPATORY CHURCH
Estela P. Padilla, Ph.D.
History and General Description
Bukal ng Tipan – CICM (from here on will be designated as Bukal) started in 2001. It was initially composed of a team of pastoral workers coming from the Parish of St. Joseph in Las Pinas, together with Fr. Mark, CICM, who was our parish priest. Even as a parish, St. Joseph was a frequent place for immersion on Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) and Participatory Church praxis for Asian and Western pastoral ministers. Even then, parish pastoral workers dreamt of setting up a pastoral center. This dream became a reality when CICM turned over the parish to the diocese in 2000. Fr. Mark called on some of the fulltime pastoral workers in the parish (six of us) to concretize this dream. Thus Bukal was born. Our first task was to clarify our vision and our mission.
Bukal’s mission is to journey with peoples towards a participatory church in the world. From its parish experience of two decades where the pastoral workers became active agents of moving the parish from a priest-centered to a participatory church, Bukal’s main pastoral programs, tools, methods and processes were designed.
In the first few years, we thought Bukal programs should be given at the center, in Taytay Rizal. We invite people from the different dioceses for courses in Bukal. As we worked with dioceses, dioceses began to invite us to their places. From these initial visits to dioceses, we will learn the foremost principles of our pastoral center and our life as pastoral ministers – we need to be contextualized (not just wait for people to come to the center and attend a predesigned program), we need to build up local teams in the dioceses we work with (instead of them depending on us), we need to set up sustaining systems (so that the dioceses themselves are motivated and empowered to design their own processes and programs based on their own vision and mission).
We moved from the center to the local areas, and in doing so became context-based,responsive to specific needs and thus more mission-oriented. From giving pastoral courses, Bukal moved to facilitating processes of local church development. From pastoral consultants, we became more conscious that we are partners and co-disciples with the different teams we encounter.
We have three units – the BEC/Local Church Unit, the Youth Unit and Contemplative Spaces. Most of the programs of Bukal focus on pastoral skills training on moving towards a Participatory Church in the World. BEC and Local Church Unit has several courses on the following topics: BEC-Organizing, Leaders’ Training, Designing and Facilitating Awareness-raising (Conscientization) Programs, Designing and Facilitating Community Liturgies, Designing and Facilitating Retreats and Recollections, Setting Up Ministries in Neighborhood Settings. Youth Unit would have parallel courses but appropriated for the youth.
Working for a Participatory Church in the World
For us, to be a Participatory Church is to participate in the life of God – to experience the presence of God in our daily lives. Secondly, to participate in the life of the community: the call to be a Christian is a call to belong to a community of faith. Finally, to participate in the life of the world: engagement in public issues so as to witness to the reign of God’s justice and peace in our world
First and foremost, our experience of a Participatory Church is our own life as a Bukal community. We believe that we cannot give what we do not have. In Bukal, we are serious about living out our faith life as a community. Praying, bible-sharing, going on retreats as a team are integral parts of our lives. Our working style is also an experience of participation. Discerning, decision making, implementing of programs and processes are done together. We are very conscious of facilitating a spiritual process in promoting a Participatory Church in the world. This work is not just work for us but our way of living our discipleship. Our working style, the programs and processes that we design, our formation courses, pastoral planning and even regular meetings with groups should be experiences of discipleship, of following Jesus in community and mission.
When we work with dioceses, participation is what we promote. Our first step is always to request for a local team to partner with. We are outsiders to a diocese. We do not know the diocese and we are not there to give answers. From the very start we work with a local team so that we both learn together and seek answers together and design pastoral programs and processes together. We also want the diocesan team partners to experience that we are first and foremost a community of disciples. We are not just coworkers, but we are brothers and sisters and friends who share the same dream and mission of Jesus. For example, in our work with German dioceses, our first step was to partner with the local diocesan teams in Hildesheim, Limburg, Osnabruck and Paderborn.
A big work of Bukal is to facilitate the articulation and implementation of a diocesan vision. In the Philippines, most of the dioceses would have a diocesan vision and mission which become the basis of pastoral programs. However, most of the time, only the leaders of the parishes attend diocesan assemblies which design such vision-mission statements. When Bukal facilitates a visioning process, it involves not just the leaders, but people at grassroots level. We want to hear the opinion of the ordinary and regular members of the church, especially those baptized who are no longer actively practicing the faith. Our visioning process is communal and participatory from the very beginning. In the Diocese of Butuan in the southern part of the country, for example, it took us almost a year to consult households and neighborhoods, up to the parish level and diocesan level and back again to the neighborhoods for validation and feed backing. The diocesan assembly also decides on what would the pastoral priority of the diocese for the next 2-3 years.
In the implementation of the diocesan vision-mission, most of the time, each diocesan commission – e.g. catechetical commission, family life, youth, social action – work on their own. With Bukal, we also facilitate the networking of all diocesan commissions in implementing the diocesan vision-mission with common steps taken together. A good example of one diocese we worked on with integrated pastoral planning is the the Diocese of Gumaca in the northern part of the country.
Bukal believes in dialoguing with the world. The world shapes our being church. We are called to respond as Christians to the challenges of our world. We are called to network with governmental and civic organizations and peoples of other religious traditions in building a better world.
A first step in our work with dioceses therefore is culture and context research. We want to design pastoral programs that are culture-fit and context-responsive. We want to listen to the pulse of the local communities – what frustrates them, what bothers them, what energizes them. Our pastoral programs intend to bridge this wide gap between faith and daily life. We also believe that any pastoral program has an action component that affects the daily living of the people, not just to have better church involvement. A good example would be our work with the Archdiocese of Iloilo in the central part of the Philippines whose BECs are very much involved in environmental protection and social business enterprise.