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Instrumentum Laboris on Diocesan Parish Reshuffle

 

Introduction:

Our priesthood is:

First, priestly life is exclusively a life for God and with God. Priests live with people. We work for them. We deal with them. We relate with them. But, at the end of our work and at the end of our day, we have no one and nothing to turn to, but God. People have to return to their family and retire to their home. People have to turn to their respective securities in life, whatever and wherever they are. People have to rely on their power and position. But we, priests, have nothing to rely except God. We, priests have nothing to rely on and no one to turn to except God.

Priestly life is always a turning to God, meeting God. After social and pastoral activities, from the comforts of our admiring and appreciative parishioners, priests have to be alone by themselves. But in their being alone, there is always our God to turn to. Priests have to go from their comfortable selves in order to meet God in the silence of their hearts, in the desert of their lives and in the daily struggles and demands of their priestly duties.

Should we not leave the maddening crowd so that we can listen clearly to God’s call? Should we not deny ourselves of the solicitous attention and consoling attachments from family and friends so that we can freely live in and work for God?

Two, priestly life is exclusively a life of grace. After many years we are still a priest. It is not because we are so good; but, because God has been so good to us. It is not because we are faithful; it is because God has so much faith in us. It is not because we are successful; it is because God picks us up whenever we fall and gives us chance after chance. Our many years in the priesthood are and will be because of God. It is because of His grace.

Thus, we realize that a priest must also be graceful. Priestly life is not to entertain, not to compromise, nor to be popular. A priestly life’s aim is not accumulate or to store up for future securities. Priestly life is not to get, nor to have, in order to be comfortable in old age. It is but to impart grace, since priestly life is a life of grace.

Third, a priestly life means to go on. God has sent us here for a purpose. God brought us here for a reason. Surely, my priestly assignment here is rough and rugged. But, God will surely make it safe and sound.

God waits for us in this place. God wants me to be here. God does not say, "Stay." God does not command, "Remain." But God always say, "Go." He calls us priests to move. It is move up or move out. And, wherever we go and whenever we are assigned, there are always works to accomplish, souls to save, and people to serve. God is always there in those assignments to meet us. He is always there ready to embrace us, accept us and accompany us.

Now, should there be any reason to be hesitant about going to another place and assume a new responsibility? Is there any reason to refuse to be assigned somewhere else? Is there any reason to reject an assignment to move out, to go and to vacate the present position and place? No! Because priestly life is a life of ‘going on’... to God and to His people. It is a life of going ...to God, in His time and on His terms.

Reshuffle:

"Let us go to nearby villages so that I may preach there too; for that is why I came"

(Mark 1,38).

Like Jesus we move, search and work with our flock. We are sent for people, go to our people. We are priests of God. We are priests of the Church. We are not priests for a certain group, nor priests for a particular place. We are not property which remain or stay and cannot be moved. We go forward, backward. We move up or out but not to reside. We don’t reason out like Saint Peter as he suggested to Jesus "master, it is good that we are here" (Matthew 17,4) but we just follow what Jesus commands "get up, let us go" (Matthew 26,46).

Why reshuffle?

It was mentioned during our June 17, 2010 general assembly at Bahay-Pari in Makati City as partial transfer begets rumors and suspicions among our people of the inefficiency and/or double life of their priests. As it was being done before, the clergy of Bataan was already very much aware of general reshuffle every six years. What are the concrete and specific advantages of general reshuffle of priests in our Diocese?

As for us priests, it is a visible proof and tangible manifestation of our fulfillment of the vow of obedience. We can truly practice letting go, letting God. With our transfer to different parish assignments, we can avoid material and personal attachments. We can get rid of securing communal comforts, searching for personal conveniences and creating personal followers. We can also deepen our sense of mission, that is, we can go around Bataan and work from different rural and urban parishes. Thus, we widen our pastoral ministry. Reshuffle avoids complacency resulting from a long period of stay in a particular parish assignment. And reshuffle enhances us to be pastorally creative, foster sense of renewal and imbibes us to update ourselves theologically and to deeply grow spiritually.

On the part of our parishioners, it is a pastoral catechesis to accept whoever is assigned to them, to welcome and collaborate with him as pastor duly sent for them. It is not to choose whom they want or to lobby whom they like most. Jesus said "whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes him who sent me" (Matthew 10,40). Accepting and working with their pastors, they become more open to the different aspect and traits of priesthood. Reshuffle also helps them avoid familiarity with priests and not prevents a sense of idolizing or placing the priests on the pedestal.

What is the procedure?

A form with the questionnaires such as past assignments with years and position, three preferred assignments, and preferred successor will be distributed to all priests. A team composed of the Bishop with the Vicar General, Chancellor, Treasurer, will see and speak to the priests especially the status of his parish, his answers to the questionnaires. The team will propose the assignments. The Bishop reviews and will make the final decisions. The announcement will be done during the Chrism Mass and transfer is set on June 6.

Whom to reshuffle?

It will be a general reshuffle as to avoid rumors and not create suspicions among our parishioners about the situation of our priests. Parochial vicars remain as to guide the incoming pastors. Once the pastors are settled they will also be reassigned. Directors of diocesan schools who are pastors are also included in the reshuffle. It is either they will be directors of schools only or they will be assigned with small parishes. It also goes with the priests with special ministries.

What are the foreseen difficulties?

We have three main concerns here. First is debt, or utang. If it is personal, priests are morally bound to pay the debt. If it the debt of the parish church, that is, from construction or renovations, the parish church must honor the debt and legally bound to pay. Second, is the ongoing construction in the parish. The incoming priests must continue the plans, programs of the parish church. Construction must be finished. No other or new construction will be initiated unless the existing construction will be fully finished. Third, is the lay personnel. For the security of tenure they should remain and be kept. They, we mean, parish secretary, cooks, janitors, gardener and sacristans. Regarding private secretary, a pastor can bring his private secretary but it does not mean the pastor has to replace the parish secretary. And the pastor must be the one to give salary to his private secretary. Rule for secretaries: they should not reside in the parish convents. Let us be prudent as not to bring our extended families to take up residency in the parish convents.

Prior to the reshuffles:

1. Parish assignment is for six years.

2. After the reshuffle, we will implement these rules: first, construction must have the nihil obstat of the Bishop. There is no need of approval of the Bishop for construction with a monetary cost below 500,000 thousand pesos. Second, no concrete budget, no construction.

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Diocese of Balanga
(Bataan, Philippines)