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It’s complicated…

Should a young Filipino Catholic Priest ministering in the American Church, be seriously affected and overly concerned by the Vatican decision to welcome Traditional Anglicans including Priests and Bishops into full communion with the Catholic Church and what not?
For a simple, ordinary and average priest like me engaged in the daily business and operation of listening and forgiving troubled people who wanted to get on with their lives, maybe, yes. Constantly aware of the rapidly declining number of churchgoers, increasingly disengaged for reasons known to them, maybe, I should. And as someone who has seen and heard members joining churches that exhibit contemporary style of worship and losing interest in mainstream religion and thereupon, choose to be unaffiliated, probably. Well, this is undoubtedly an overriding concern which presents a matter of serious consideration more than the Anglicans, I suppose.

In a recent conversation with a Retired Priest about the Vatican sanction and the limited number of the church’s workforce especially, the much in-demand yet low in supply vocations to the Priesthood, I was told not to be too preoccupied with the opening of doors to ‘disaffected’ traditional Anglicans because the people involved in making such kind of decisions knew what’s best for the church at the present moment, that is, reconciliation. I agree. Further, he stressed, we don’t own it. It’s Christ’s church. We’re simply followers. Great idea but I beg to differ. Aren’t we the hands, the feet and the mouthpiece of Jesus as Paul wrote? Isn’t God relying heavily on us to do his work and advance his purposes? He added, it’s about time to take the separated brethren back into the fold.

It dawned on me that if married Anglican priests and bishops be allowed to exercise ministerial priesthood in their own rite as part of the decree, I envisioned that ordination of Catholic married men be included in the wish list while retaining the discipline of celibacy as central, ideal, practical and as the most sensible priestly way of life.

Due to the shortage of priests, some churches, mostly in remote areas, in quite a number of American Dioceses, do not only have resident priests but also deprived of the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. If  there’s no Mass (the source and summit of ecclesial), faithful Preaching and Priesthood, building of Christian communities is highly improbable. If we claim that the church is the symbol of Christ’s presence, should we adopt to the changing circumstances of our times?

Catholicism is often described as a Global religion and as the largest institution and network in the world, it is the only branch of Christianity that does not divide and collapse even amidst horrible abuse scandals and huge spiritual crisis. However, when it comes to small groups/basic ecclesial communities, either in a parish or other setting, generally, it’s weak on the basis of support system and supervision compared to other well established churches. I’d like to say, there isn’t really a lot of manpower to meet the overwhelming need for spiritual growth and interaction on a personal level. Church membership and Catholic life as a whole have become and been reduced to the notion of consumerism, a practice which claims that what matters most in religion and faith is what you can get something out of the church and not what you can contribute.

The challenges, daunting as they are, may be to welcome Catholics back home and invite new members. Religious experience, follow-up and solid small group support system are critical components in any renewal program. Weekly meetings must be a top priority for spiritual quest and not simply an academic exercise. At the core of each gathering is reflection on the Word of God which will provide tremendous opportunities for spiritual growth. To make this happen, Catholic reawakening across the board is immensely vital. I don’t think we need to wait another prophet to tell us yet another spectacular teaching. We have it written and experienced in our tradition. We just have to check it out more often than we can possibly imagine.

In hindsight, maybe, I shouldn’t be too concerned about this stuff because it’s too complicated. Should I just do my best and leave God the rest? Absolutely, yes.

This entry was posted in: Parish


A Filipino Catholic Priest, born and raised in Virac, Catanduanes, Philippines, ordained for the Diocese of Tucson, AZ, eleven years in ministry and counting, Pastor of St. Christopher Catholic Parish, Marana, AZ.

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