They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their gifts . . . and they departed for their country by another way. – Matthew 2:11b-12
We, the 275 delegates to the 17th Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference- lay faithful, consecrated men and women, priests and bishops- have reflected on the theme: The Gift of Faith and New Evangelization as a Synodal Church. Like the Magi, we have come from various particular Churches in Mindanao-Sulu, bringing our own gifts (concrete experiences of faith). We raise our hearts and voices in thanksgiving to the Triune God who “always leads the Church” “along the paths of time” as “she makes her pilgrim journey in the world.” (Synodal Eucharistic Prayer). And we go back home by “another way.”
Braving the challenge of Covid-19 pandemic, our coming together on Nov. 7 – 11, 2022 in Cagayan de Oro, the “City of Golden Friendship,” has been a grateful celebration and a joyful witnessing-sharing of the gift of faith, and a hopeful moving forward in the synodal path of the Church in Mindanao-Sulu. We would like to share some of the fruits of our spiritual conversation and communal discernment:
1. For the Church to remain faithful to her identity and relevant as synodal Church in our time, we must grow in our missionary zeal which flows from the genuine encounter with God in prayer that sharpens our sensitivity and capacity to discern God’s working in our present realities. In such encounter, God enflames our hearts as He made the hearts of the disciples on the road to Emmaus “burn within them.” (Luke 24:32). He transforms us into joyful missionaries (EG 1) and helps us to remain courageous, unwavering and uncompromising in bringing the Gospel message to all through the ministry of presence. We are thus enabled to facilitate genuine encounter and establish partnership with all corporate, public and private institutions and individuals who share the Gospel principles and values.
2. To fully embrace realistically “the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties . . .” (GS 1) of this age and to effectively respond to the present needs, our work in evangelization and mission must be grounded on solid empirical data; thus, we have felt the need to institutionalize the Ministry of Research and Studies (MRS).
3. With profound gratitude to God for the early missionaries whose zeal and audacity planted the seed of faith in our land, we continually commit ourselves, through the witness of our lives and the use of new and creative tools of evangelization (radio, television, print and social media), to venture into new missionary frontiers (politics, culture, education, recreation, economics, etc.), to nurture and propagate the gift of faith with the same intensity and sense of purpose in the family especially those “in difficult situations.” (cf. Familiaris Consortio).
4. As faithful and fruitful stewards of this gift of faith, we continually commit ourselves to open the ears of our hearts to the voices that are often ignored, especially the poor and the marginalized, other sectors of society (LGBTQ+, PWD, OFW, etc.), the silent and even the discordant voices, so that our journey of faith will truly be inclusive and synodal.
5. The Synodal Church looks at the youth with love as Jesus did. (Mark 10:21). She recognizes the youth as “street walkers of the faith” (cf. Christus Vivit) and promoters of dialogue and communion; they are indeed peer evangelizers of the faith and catalysts of change. (PCP II). Hence, we continually commit ourselves to listen to their voices, acknowledge their significant contribution and engage them as active collaborators and agents in the life and mission of the Church. We must harness their energy and creativity as we mold and accompany them as co-journeyers.
6. The BECs and other faith communities in their diverse and creative forms are expressions of the one synodal Church where the Vatican II principles of communion, participation and mission are lived out; these communities are truly “other ways” of being Church. Moving beyond the “maintenance mode,” BECs, nourished by the Word and the Eucharist, should be continually formed, organized and mobilized to become truly ecological and steward communities and agents of social transformation.
7. In the spirit of communion and stewardship, we place our gifts (time, talent and treasure) at the service of the mission of the Church; we need to strengthen transparency and accountability, to set up the standard living allowance of the clergy and the just remuneration of Church workers, and finally to abolish the arancel system.
8. The challenge to become a genuinely synodal Church impels us anew to overcome our prejudices and biases and to strengthen our commitment to ecumenism and interreligious dialogue based on mutual respect and understanding, human fraternity (cf. Fratelli Tutti) and reconciliation. The missionary fire drives us to go and proclaim the Gospel; it is the same love of God that urges us (2 Corinthians 5:14) to work for the healing of wounds and for the breaking down of the walls of hatred and division, thus, creating a safe space where diverse cultures and living faith traditions are inclusively and harmoniously celebrated and lived.
9. Mother Earth greatly groans and suffers from exploitation, degradation and destruction because of the paradigm of tyrannical and distorted anthropocentricism (LS 68-69), that is, the outlook that regards the human being as the center of everything. The “red light alarm of global climate emergency” (UN Assessment of Global Ecological Situation) urgently challenges us to adopt a theocentric paradigm. We have to live out our seamless connectedness and interdependence with the rest of creation for her preservation and sustainability. We realized the urgency to institutionalize the Integral Ecology Ministry (IEM) as a priority pastoral concern, not merely an appendage to Social Action.
As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of MSPC, we recall the visionary initiative of our shepherds and collaborators who established and promoted the triennial pastoral forum for the local Church of Mindanao-Sulu. We are in their debt. Likewise, we remember with gratitude the arch/dioceses that had generously hosted the past MSPCs. Lastly, we thank the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro and the suffragan Dioceses of CABUSTAM for hosting MSPC XVII in this significant year of its existence. We entrust ourselves to the Divine Mercy that He may form us to be a people of mercy with the intercession of our Blessed Mother, the Star of Evangelization.
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