We need to take ownership for community building

The Church of Our Lady of Fatima, Brickfields, held its Parish Pastoral Assembly on Sunday November 30.

Dec 18, 2014

By Francis Magimay
The Church of Our Lady of Fatima, Brickfields, held its Parish Pastoral Assembly on Sunday November 30.

Fr Clarence Devadass, the Director of the Archdiocese Pastoral Institute stated that we should focus on three words: Community, Conversion and Mission. The three words summarize the essence of the BEC. He said that BECs, started in 1976 — 38 years ago — were built on strong foundations, otherwise they would have collapsed by now. The basic objective was building communities, slowly and steadily. The thrust was getting to know each other within our small groups, but small numbers at meetings should not discourage us.

Currently in the Archdiocese, we have 1,200 BECs, with an average of ten persons in each BEC attending regularly every month, without compulsion. In May and October, the rosary months, the attendance increases. However, we should see the big picture and not become discouraged or disappointed when attendance falls. Perhaps, we should ask why. Was it due to transport, family commitments, illness, the elderly or boring meetings? Bringing up a family is hard work, similarly with community building. We need commitment, perseverance and effort.

Fr Clarence said that we should do a reality check and ask ourselves whether we get weighed down by challenges rather than uplifted by them. Do we send the wrong signal by saying, “My BEC is OK lah.” “Ok lah” could mean that the BEC is boring or a waste of time with elderly attendees. Our body language could send the wrong message; so, we do not attract new people into the BEC. We fail to capture the awareness of what happens at the meetings — the insightful sharing of the Word of God that touches our lives; the dynamics that take place; a member’s cry for help, support, friendship or a listening ear; and the convivial fellowship. Rather than blame the leader or the coordinator, we need to take ownership for community building and take responsibility to make it happen.

Secondly, Fr Clarence suggested a conversion of mindset. Instead of thinking of BEC as a meeting, we could think of it as a gathering, and then explore the possibilities. Instead of looking at those who are absent, we could look at those who are present. Success comes not from numbers but from participation and communion with one another.

Thirdly, Fr Clarence touched on Mission, about the poor, the marginalized and the migrants. We give money as our contribution and then walk away. We should get away from this old model and develop an awareness of participation in the missionary dimension of the Church. As an example, we could meet five new people after Mass and express genuine care and concern for them. We could promote communion and focus on evangelization. If they do not come to BEC meetings, could it be because of us?

Fr Clarence said that His Holiness Pope Francis has drawn the Church’s attention to gossiping, which drives people away from churches and BECs. He has instructed us to stop gossiping. People who gossip are terrorists in the Church!

We should view the BEC not as a burden, but as an opportunity. We could start as a community and fellowship with the people in our neighbourhood. Doing so, we could transform our BEC and Parish into a missionary community. We should ask what we can do; what can I do; our words, care, concern and action will bring about the changes.

The Assembly adjourned for twenty minutes for group discussion, followed by a tea break. Fr Clarence called on three groups to volunteer their findings.

Summarizing, Fr Clarence said that the joy of the BEC was already happening. We should share with others to bring them into our small groups. He added that a good product does not need advertising; it promotes itself by people highlighting its good qualities, this will draw new members to come, see and stay in the BEC. Thus, BEC growth depends on personal relationships, genuine care and concern for other people. With the help of the Holy Spirit, our BECs can turn into vibrant, valuable, life-giving communities.

Archbishop Julian Leow shared his personal experiences as a student, in 1984, at the Asian Catholic Community (RACC) of Ranwick, a suburb of Sydney. He still keeps in touch with some members who very recently hosted a fellowship for him in Melaka.

At RACC, they came together, united in Christ, broke the Word, prayed, shared, reflected and concluded with supper. The members welcomed everyone from ages sixteen to eighty, and cared for all without a generation gap. They came dressed as they were in their professional garb, whether doctor, worker or maid. He noticed that the Filipinos treated each other as long lost family friends, facing the same hardships. When we show the same care and concern for everybody, we, in fact, treat them as our family.

With the slogan Malaysia Boleh, the Archbishop urged us to be a welcoming community to the least, the last, the lost, and Leow, (the pun was intended). He added that all of us have a place in this country. So we should care, gather, welcome and share.

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