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Caceres holds synodal consultation anew

By Sem. Ron Jason Basilio


The 2nd phase of the Synodal Consultation was held at the Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin Auditorium, Holy Rosary Major Seminary on March 9. Sixty-six (66) out of the ninety-three (93) parishes of the Archdiocese were represented. There were one hundred fifty-three (153) active participants composed of Parish Pastoral Council Chairs, Saradit na Kristyanong Komunidad (SKK) Coordinators or Parish Worship Ministry Heads or Lectors, and Parish Education Ministry Heads or Catechists. The activity was organized by the Archdiocesan Synod Team headed by Fr. Joey Gonzaga together with Fr. Philip Bersabe, Fr. Francis Tordilla, Julma Narvadez, and Geraldine Alvina.


In a brief interview, Irma G. Medrano, from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Tandaay, Nabua, expressed that joining the Synodal Consultation was a beautiful experience because she was able to hear and listen to the insights of other parishes. The experience was even more beautiful because she discovered that the good practices in their parish are also practiced in other parishes, she said.


The whole-day activity, commenced with the registration of participants which was followed by invoking the aid of the Triune God in the Opening Prayer. The participants were welcomed by Caceres Vicar General Fr. Wilfred Almoneda. The event was formally opened by Fr. Bersabe who explained the Synod on Synodality and its significance. Thereafter, Alvina acknowledged the parishes in attendance.


Fr. Joey Gonzaga handled the first session. He presented the Context and Purpose of Consultation. He discussed and emphasized 8 out of 20 priorities in the Synthesis Report of the 2023 Synod of Synodality in Rome.


Some of the participants were asked to share their insights about the session. Simeon Botor from St. Bartholomew Parish, Baao, shared that in the synodal process, seminary formation must be given emphasis to prepare the future priests to respond to the present and future needs of the Church. Pedro Oliver from St. John of the Cross Parish, Agdangan, Baao, affirmed that there are many good priests, yet some priests do not practice poverty and do not give importance to the poor despite the fact that a large number of parishioners are in poverty. Paul Vincent Espinola of the Holy Trinity Parish, Bato, shifted the perspective from the priests to the laity. He shared that Catechesis especially to the children, must be given focus, to educate them about the Catholic Faith and reduce the risk of being led to other beliefs and teachings which are prevalent in their place. The session ended with a short break with bountiful snacks.


Julma Narvadez facilitated the first workshop. Participants from two or three parishes of the same vicariate were grouped. They were asked to reflect on the questions and write their answers on the answer sheets given to them. Then, participants were asked to share what transpired in their small group. Oliver of the Vicariate of St. Bartholomew represented the parishes of St. John of the Cross, St. Bartholomew Parish, and St. Vincent Ferrer. He said the sharing in their group was easy because of the active participation of every member. Rosalinda Cadiz of the Vicariate of St. Clare spoke on behalf of St. Clare of Assisi and St. Catherine of Sienna Parishes. She said the commonalities within the group such as Catechesis and Lectio Divina were prioritized. Fe Valenzuela of the Vicariate of Our Lady of Perpetual Help shared for the parishes of Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Anthony Abbot, and Holy Family. She said the sharing within their group was smooth because of the oneness of ideas and common experiences.


In the afternoon, the activity continued through an animation to enliven the spirits of the participants. Then, Alvina took the floor for the second workshop where the parishes were grouped per vicariate to discuss their answers in Workshop 1 and come up with a vicarial report. One vicariate for every district was asked to report the result of their workshop. The reporters were: Vicariate of St. Anne for the Bay District; the Vicariate of Our Lady of Peñafrancia for the Central District; the Vicariate of St. Clare of Assisi for the Partido District; and the Vicariate of Holy Cross for the Rinconada District.


Some of the vicariates’ common answers were the need for financial transparency; the presence of generous parishioners; the prevalence of complicated marital issues; the desire to lessen division and to involve SKKs in the decision-making process through; for parishes to have more catechists, and for more men to get involved in the parish.


After the reports, Alvina asked if there were answers not mentioned. The Vicariate of St. Bartholomew added that there must be a holistic formation of the clergy and seminarians especially in understanding poverty; the Finance Council is important, and Parish Pastoral Councils must have Constitution and By-Laws. The Vicariate of St. John the Evangelist shared that there must be a deepening and contextualization of Synodality, making sacraments available, giving priority to the youth, and doing action as soon as possible.


To end the second session, Fr. Gonzaga gave some additional insights. He made clear that synodality emphasizes listening and that listening is both the means and an end. He also said that the Parish Pastoral Council is a consultative body, but the sad truth is that consultation does not always happen. Lastly, he emphasized that the consultations will be a continuing process. The participants were asked to evaluate the whole-day activity and to give suggestions for further activities.


The activity concluded with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist presided over by Fr. Gonzalo and Fr. Bersabe as concelebrant. In Fr. Gonzaga’s homily, he said genuine happiness is in accepting one’s cross, the sufferings. Thus, living a Christian life is living the way of Christ, the way of the cross. He ended by saying that Christians must not be afraid to embrace the cross as Jesus always accompanies his disciples.


After the Mass, there was a group picture taking and everyone went home carrying with them their learnings and ample snacks.

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