BECs to be the leaven in the midst of enormous dough

The 4th General Assembly from November 8-15, 2006 brought together laity, religious, priests and bishops, from 14 countries.

Aug 10, 2018

The 4th General Assembly from November 8-15, 2006 brought together laity, religious, priests and bishops, from 14 countries.

The theme was BECs towards a Church of Communion with the following objectives:

(i) deepening our ecclesiology of communion,
(ii) reviewing the implications of integral and pastoral approach through BECs
(iii) discovering existing and innovative structures to initiate and nurture BECs, and
(iv) planning for exchange and sharing of resources.

Insights obtained
The Assembly affirmed that the Church is a Communion of Communities which is strengthened by the sacraments and nourished by the Eucharist. The Trinitarian God of communion is the source of the Church, a living organism that undergoes a constant transformation. Of course, in the course of her pilgrim journey through history towards realisation of her full identity as a communion of communities, she is challenged by the world and its rapidly changing value systems. The Second Vatican Council has re-projected the image of the Church as a communion of communities which can be achieved through the establishment of many neighbourhood communities in each parish. Since they comprise all Catholics of a given area, they are not just private groups, but they are the most local incarnation of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are “A New Way of Being Church” as affirmed by the bishops of Asia.

The Church is the expression of the continued presence of Christ in the world which is realised in the celebration of the sacraments, which are expressions of the faith of the community. These celebrations are transformed when the members of the BEC live out their sacramental life by forgiving one another, by caring for the sick, by building and strengthening the domestic Church, by using their gifts for service and by exercising a liberating leadership and working towards the coming of the Kingdom of God. Hence, living in BECs, the sacraments themselves are renewed and the communitarian and liberating dimension is focused upon in very concrete ways. The Basic Ecclesial Community is nourished by the Word of God and enriched by the various ministries and it becomes Church in the neighbourhood according to the mind and heart of Jesus Christ. The community experiences the Risen Lord in the breaking of the word and this experience reaches its culmination in the breaking of the bread which is expressed in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed to build a more compassionate and just society.

The General Assembly shared the efforts of BECs in the journey towards a communion of communities. It mentioned the following efforts in the Church:

There is a gradual change in leadership structure of the parish pastoral council as well as in leadership style. Priests have experienced a transformation towards non-dominating leadership. There are an increasing number of religious sisters getting involved in the BECs. The participation of women in BECs has helped towards their empowerment and is bringing in gradual change towards equal partnership. It has facilitated women’s participation in local government in some cases. Men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds have been enabled to participate in local elections through their involvement in BECs. The gospel sharing experiences are extremely positive in helping people live out their Christian life and mission. There is a growing shift towards social change, e.g. actions taken to organise coop credit, protection of the environment and attempts at interreligious outreach.

Areas of challenges
The Assembly indicated areas of challenges for the development and growth of BECs in Asia. First, it mentioned the challenges for the bishops and priests. All faithful share in the common responsibility in building a community of communion, a participatory co-responsible Church, where the bishops are the chief promoters and all play a complementary role.

Since BECs are the most localised expression of being Church, BECs should be the clear priority in the diocesan pastoral vision.

Hence, the bishop has to motivate the priests who are their direct collaborators in shouldering this responsibility at the parish level. The bishops and priests need to take an active interest in the growth and flourishing of communities through BECs. For this, a non-dominating and enabling style of leadership is crucial in the building of BECs. The priest enables the leaders in the community and inspires them to work relentlessly to build and sustain small communities. Therefore, seminary formation should necessarily include an orientation to and training on BECs and several opportunities for reflective and guided learning through immersion in BECs.

Secondly, religious congregations of men and women are called to put their charisms and energies at the service of the Church because they are also important partners in building BECs. The religious sisters have contributed significantly towards growth of BECs. The religious men need to contribute greatly to enhance the promotion of BECs.

Thirdly, lay leaders have to take their rightful place in decision-making bodies in the parish and diocese. Hence, there is a need for a paradigm shift in the understanding of leadership and structure on the part of church leaders to accept and acknowledge the potential and charism of the laity, especially of women, towards a more collaborative ministry. Continuous training programmes at the diocesan, deanery, parish and BECs levels are very important to sustain BECs. The bishops, priests, religious and lay animators should aim at “A New Way of Being Church” in their own personal relationship with others and their associates.

Conclusion
As the Church in Asia enters into a new phase of her existence, the ecclesial community in Asia has to be a leaven in the midst of an enormous mass of dough. Therefore, every Christian becomes a person enlightened by the Gospel, empowered by the sacraments especially the Eucharist, and emboldened to proclaim the good news. To achieve this dream, the Assembly recommended the following:

-- On-going contextualised formation and training for all sectors of the parish community in order to enable them to share and own the common vision.
-- The use of AsIPA texts for deepening the understanding and spirituality of a participatory Church.
--More sustained efforts to be fostered and encouraged in building inter-religious understanding, harmony and ecumenism.
-- Opportunities to be provided for bishops and priests to live and learn as a community.

The BEC team in the parishes has to make conscious efforts to integrate men, children and youth into the mainstream of the BECs. Ensure emerging and rotating leadership and teamwork in BECs and other Church structures to bring about qualitative growth held in Maria Rani Centre, Trivandrum, India. Source: Basic Ecclesial Communities and Parish Pastoral Care -- An Empirical Study in Pastoral Theology by Fr Ramesh Lakshmanan

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