Pastoral Letter on Stewardship
WE have taken great strides together as a presbyterium in particular and as an archdiocese in general in pursuing Church renewal through the path of the stewardship spirituality which we have inculturated in Pangasinan as Pananabangan. I want to commend many parishes that have adopted the Pananabangan formation seminars as their primary parish formation program. I trust that the handful who are still planning to start will be inspired by the success of those who have started Pananabangan three years ago and are now reaping the rich harvest of the spirituality of Pananabangan.
Let us allow the Pastoral Letter on Stewardship issued by the bishops of the United States to guide us: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pt 4:10).
What identifies a steward? Safeguarding material and human resources and using them responsibly are one answer; so is generous giving of time, talent, and treasure. But being a Christian steward means more. As Christian stewards, we receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.
Pananabangan as has been repeatedly said is NOT about money. It is NOT a fund raising scheme. It is a way of life lived with gratitude, lived responsibly and shared generously.
The enemies of Church renewal are indifference, cowardice and loss of the sense of the sacred. The globalization of indifference must be fought with the compassion of Pananabangan. The cowardice and timidity so prevalent in crisis must be won over by the culture of courageous giving. We show our true colour when we are put in hot water. The loss of the sense of the sacred must end with the culture of communion and active social engagement.
Pananabangan helps us to face our “dragons” and conquer them. This spiritual program helps our people to get involved and come out from our sheltered piety. It helps us to understand that the parish office is not a venue for business transactions for the sacraments and sacramental but an encounter between fellow stewards. Pananabangan gives us courage to commit to the Lord and live by this commitment to love like Jesus without the fear of ever lacking. This spiritual program will open our hearts to the reality that everything is holy because everything is grace. The Beatitudes are our magna carta for Pananabangan. The life example of Jesus, the primary steward of the mercies of God, is our only model to follow.
The Word of God upon which we must always base our homilies during the liturgy has abundant references to stewardship. I encourage you our brother priests to look at the Word of God with the eyes of Pananabangan, to constantly “flavour” the homily with Pananabangan tones and repeat the three fold message of gratitude, responsibility and generosity (GRG) as the hallmarks of the stewardship spirituality. Without resorting to judgmental moralizing, let us prophetically speak against indifference, cowardice and the loss of the sense of the sacred.
The Pananabangan envelopes that we have made available to parishes and schools may be filled up also with commitments to give time and talents beyond the customary money pledges. I encourage our school directors to regularly talk to our academic communities on the spirituality of stewardship during school convocations, retreats and seminars. The Pananabangan manual of formation is ready and available for this purpose.
In the context of prayer and from your pastoral sensitivity, the Pananabangan formation may be adopted as an extended formation series. Candidly, if the Pananabangan module is reduced to a crashed half a day seminar, it will most likely not achieve its desired effect of becoming a lifestyle for Christ’s disciples. It needs time for patient assimilation and pondered reflection. It needs to simmer and take roots. Haste is waste.
Although Pananabangan is NOT about money, it is the perennial issue about money that becomes the test if Pananabangan has indeed been taken to heart. One of the clear signs of our Pananabangan spirit is our fidelity to the abolition of the arancel or the fixed rates for the sacraments and sacramentals in the Church. It is our archdiocesan policy as indicated in the computerized parish accounting system that the parish office should not require the parishioners to make “fixed donations” for the services of the Church. The so called “fixed donations” violate the spirit with which we slowly abolished the arancel system of Church sustenance. It smacks of bad taste and intellectual dishonesty to say that we have no fixed rates for the sacraments and church services on one hand and yet insinuate softly later a certain amount to be “offered”.
The Church will not get poorer with Pananabangan. The Church will become more credible, more prophetic and more Christ like with Pananabangan. The arancel system is both a painful scourge on the long suffering people and a shameful stain in the vestments of the Church’s ministers. The arancel imprints an invisible and foul price tag on our priestly stole. It has been tolerated but in the beginning it was not so.
Giving to the Church must become a regular habit with or without the sacraments. It is certainly true that the sacraments and blessings of the Church are not a reward for a virtue nor a prize for being good. In the same way, the blessings and sacraments of the Church must not appear as religious services rendered in exchange for fees. It is the duty of the priest to offer them. It is the duty of every child of the Church to sustain their Mother diligently and generously.
Every parish and Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan must have a permanent Pananabangan Team composed of three to five persons with the capacity to conduct formation programs regularly and continuously. They may come from the pool of catechists, liturgical lay ministers or BEC coordinators. Their commitment to live Pananabangan is their first lesson for the other members of the community. They must possess the qualities of a good communicator so that they can facilitate formation seminars.
The Archdiocesan Director for Pananabangan should have a general archdiocesan listing of the Pananabangan Team for every school and parish. The Parish Pananabangan Team must also receive commissioning in the principal parish Mass on Pentecost Sunday, May 24, 2015.
All the material offerings from the Pananabangan must be administered by the Parish Board of Temporalities chaired by the parish priest together with some trusted lay leaders in the parish. In the case of schools, the material offerings that may be generated from the school community must be administered by the School Board of Temporalities composed of students, teachers and the school director.
The Parish Pananabangan Team must not handle the material offerings from the Pananabangan program.
DO NOT FEAR PANANABANGAN…
We are at the threshold of seeing a Church renewed. Expectedly, there will be birth pains. We might be tempted to return to the fleshpots of our Egypt. The old system of Church sustenance is familiar and feels secure but that is the security of Egypt not the hope of the Promised Land. The arancel can give us better security but that that is the security of slaves not freemen. I know a few of us grumble and complain secretly wishing to return to the familiar and secure instead of the adventure of a new Church. Complainers end up defeated. When we allow our fears to guide our actions we lose our vision and get imprisoned by our griping.
God wants us all to have a vision, to pursue our vision. Our vision is ICTHUS—integration of faith and life, catechesis, thanksgiving, unity and service. It does not matter if we do not completely achieve it fast; what matters is we keep moving on, pushing forward to our Promised Land. Griping and complaining and worshipping idols in the desert were the greatest sins of the chosen people. Complainers are losers and they pull us backwards.
I plead with you. We have begun the journey of Pananabangan. There must be no turning back now. It might take our whole lifetime to achieve but let us not allow the generations following us to say later that we had a chance to change the destiny of Lingayen Dagupan but we did not do our duty when the challenge faced us. Many generations of Catholics will be grateful to us for the zeal that we show today.
Let us renew our commitment to Stewardship. Let us proclaim together.
I believe in the God of love,
the owner of everything who possesses everyone.
I believe in the God of mercies who has chosen me
to be a steward of Mother Nature and Mother Church,
in spite of who I am and what I have done,
and in spite of the infidelities He knows I will still commit.
I believe in the power of giving
and in the power of loving like Jesus;
because love is the only way to holiness;
giving is the best proof of loving;
and perfect renunciation leads to unlimited fruitfulness.
I believe that in freely giving my time,
in humbly sharing my talents,
and in generously sacrificing my treasures,
the Lord will always provide.
He will take care of all my needs,
and bless me with infinite reward on earth and in heaven.
I will be the first to give.
I will not wait for the others.
I will keep on giving even if others do not give.
I will not be afraid to have none.
I believe that the best time to share is now, not tomorrow,
for tomorrow is an excuse of the greedy.
I will keep my needs and wants simple and few,
for I believe that in reducing my selfishness,
I will grow in happiness and holiness.
I am a steward of the Lord.
I will return all these to Him with abundant yield!
Much is asked of me because much has been given to me
I praise the Lord for His kindness to me
Now and forever.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, May 1, 2015
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
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