Having completed Phase I – “Assess” of the Pastoral Planning, the clergy, religious sisters, parish councils, community members and various catholic organizations and ministries gathered on May 18, 2017, at San Antonio Parish Social Hall to begin the next phase of the pastoral planning: Design. This forum aims to provide the framework of the pastoral plan and focuses in developing its Vision and Mission Statement.
The day started with a Prayer Service led by Bishop Ryan P. Jimenez inside the San Antonio Church. Attendees then proceeded to the Social Hall, where Dr. Lita Sablan, Chairwoman of the Pastoral Planning Committee, gave an overview of the pastoral planning. She discussed the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) that exist in the diocese and shared other key findings from the assessment stage.
One of the guest speakers was Rev. Fr. Fran Hezel, S.J., Parochial Vicar of Santa Barbara Church in Guam and author of several books on the history of Micronesia. Fr. Fran prepared three modules, followed with sharing and reflection, to help the participants in discerning the vision and mission statement. His first topic focused in the General Mission of the Church.
He said that, “The essential mission of the church is to reveal the fullness of God’s love for us through Jesus. These are encapsulated in three words: 1) Kerygma – the good news that the church is to proclaim, 2) Koinonia – the fellowship and community spirit that church members are to live, and 3) Diakonia – the service to others that should distinguish the church.” His question for reflection was, “What would we like to proclaim about the church on the banner that we carry?”
Before moving on to Module 2, the forum was graced by the presence of His Excellency, Archbishop Michael Byrnes, whose flight was delayed, hence, the schedule was adjusted. Tapping from personal experience, Archbishop Byrnes shared how easier it would be to swim if one does not move against the current, on how important it is to “go in one direction.” He mentioned Pope Francis’ call for pastoral conversion.
“This,” he said, “calls for a change on how we, the Church, do our pastoral ministry.” In essence, this seeks to transform and renew structures suitably channeled for evangelization of today’s world and make it more inclusive. The archbishop left after his talk to fly back to Guam for his other schedules.
Fr. Fran facilitated the entire session in the afternoon and Module 2 focused on the Mission of the Church to Believers. He emphasized that, “The mission of the church is to become an instrument of growth in holiness for its members, to help them deepen their faith and assist them in linking faith and life, to lead them to a fuller life in Christ and make them true disciples who are also apostles.” He explained that the church must help the faithful in nurturing the love and trust for the Lord – individually and together as a community.
Module 3 is about the Mission of the Church to the World. That mission is to offer a “sign of hope” for the needy, the poor, the outcasts in the society. The prophetic function is an important aspect of the church’s mission yet often gets forgotten. “The church, like Christ, has a message to proclaim to all people, believers and unbelievers alike, to attempt to reach those who do not live their faith, those who have found other faiths, and those who have no faith at all, “ Fr. Fran pointed out. This can be achieved by words, and most importantly, by deeds. He challenged everyone in the forum to come up with the most effective way to say, “God loves you” to people who may not believe in God.
It was a day well-spent for everyone who attended. Bishop Ryan thanked Fr. Fran Hezel for facilitating the forum to guide the diocese as it moves forward with the planning process, and also thanked everyone who participated as they continue the work for collective discernment as a people of God. The day ended with a closing prayer delivered by Bishop Ryan.
There is still so much work to do but the committee is positive that they will come up with a pastoral plan that meets God’s will for the diocese and the entire community.
The timeline for Final Report submission of Pastoral Planning Phase II – Design to the Bishop for Vision/Mission/ Core Values is on June 2017.