26 March 2016

Do we need a Parish Pastoral Database?

The presentation of the highlights of the 2014 Diocesan Pastoral Database at the Clergy General Assembly and at a meeting of the Diocesan Council of the Laity last February revealed some interesting features of the current state of our Local Church life and ministries.

Since it is already 2016, some explanation is in order as to why we are still talking about 2014 data. In January last year, we sent parishes an updated questionnaire which if accomplished would compose their respective Parish Pastoral Database for 2014. While a number of them readily responded, the majority took a long time in sending their reports. As of December 31 last year, a total of 35 out of 47 parishes sent their 2014 pastoral reports. We hope we could do better with the response time this year.

The following are some of those highlights and insights:

1.   We noticed a slight downward trend in the number of baptisms and confirmations. From 17,147 in 2012, baptisms were down to 16,912 in 2014; from 5,753 in 2012, the number of confirmands dropped a bit to 4,760 in 2014. Is this proportional to the decreasing population growth rate in the country? Maybe. On the positive side there is an incremental increase in the number of church weddings – from 1,820 church weddings in the diocese in 2012, that number grew to 2,005 in 2014. Does it mean that we are slowly gaining ground in our campaign for more couples to avail of the sacrament of matrimony?

2.   Among Church organizations, Marian groups recorded the most number of devotees: Miraculous Medal (3,142 members), Visita Domicilaria (1,582), and Legion of Mary (1,023). However there were also some that lost significant membership over the years, these include older groups like Adoracion Nocturna Filipina and the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, and even relatively recent ones like the Adorers of the Holy Trinity and Alliance of Two Hearts. We haven’t asked yet the lay leaders and clergy spiritual directors of concerned organizations as to how they have been responding to the issue of their dwindling membership.

3.   The Legazpi Catechetical Ministry (LCM) serves a commendably wide outreach. The parish with the most number of students in catechism classes was Guinobatan (28,980), next the parishes of: Libon (15,239), Tiwi (13,500), Panal (12,180), and Pioduran (11,590). The ranking may still vary as some parishes with traditionally strong catechetical programs such Legazpi Port, Albay Cathedral, and Daraga failed to send in their report.

4.   For the diocese’s flagship anti-poverty program, TADA (Tanganing an Dukha Atamanon), the parishes with the biggest collection during its first three years of implementation (2012-2014) were the following: Libon (Php 121,461.00), Bigaa (Php 29,496.00), Guinobatan (Php 29,235.00), Cabasan (Php27,961.25), and Camalig (13,942.50). All of them were centro or urban parishes, except Cabasan, a parish in Cagraray Island, Bacacay. If a small island parish could be counted among the top five in terms of amount raised for pro-poor projects, what would keep other parishes from doing the same or better?

5.   Sadly a number of parishes still failed to meet the standards for salary and other benefits for their personnel. While almost all parishes have functioning Pastoral Councils, majority of parishes are yet to organize their Finance Council.

6.   Twelve parishes have achieved a complete barangay to BPC (Barangay Pastoral Council) ratio. By order of number of BPCs organized, these were: Ligao, Camalig, Malinao, Mauraro, Tabaco, Cabasan, Rapu-Rapu, Cotmon, Lidong, Badian, Bigaa, and Balogo. BPC organizing is essential in completing the diocese’s “structures of communion”, a network of aligned support structure for sustaining SAKOPs (Saradit na Komunidad nin Pagtubod), our model of basic ecclesial communities.

7.   The Diocesan Commission on Family and Life made it their priority to organize down to the level of barangays to better deliver their programs and services such as Natural Family Planning, Pre-Cana Seminars, and Marriage Counseling. In 2014, they have achieved a total of 273 BCFLs (Barangay Commissions on Family and Life) out of 720 barangays in the diocese.

8.   The parishes with the most number of youth ministry members were the following: Tiwi, Sto. Domingo, Tabaco, Ligao, Malabog, Cotmon, Fatima, Camalig, Malinao, and Bigaa.

9.   The parishes with the most number of vocations (seminarians) for the diocese in 2014 were the following: Ligao, Malilipot, Rapu-Rapu, Panal, Libon, and Guinobatan. Again, the ranking may still vary as some parishes with observably large number of seminarians, like Bacacay, Tabaco, and Oas, failed to send in their report. The diocese expects to hit the mark of having “100 living Bacacayano priests” sometime this year.

For our 2015 Diocesan Pastoral Database, we hope to improve further in identifying our outreach, i.e., the number of people served by our ministries, defining the depth of participation of lay collaborators, and instituting transparency and accountability in managing resources. The processes leading to the Second Diocesan Pastoral Assembly (DPA2) that include validation, feedback-giving, and evaluation will give us a sharper and more nuanced understanding of our diocese’s pastoral situation in the last four years in view of our strategic planning for the next five years.

But do we also need a comprehensive Pastoral Database for each parish? The same rationale that justifies a diocesan-level database applies as well to parishes: evidence-based pastoral decision and policy-making. The numbers may not tell us the whole story but they do tell a significant portion of it. Keeping an eye on the numbers, ears on the ground for feedback from parishioners, and a nose for opportunities for collaboration and sharing of resources with other parishes and organizations – will enable parishes to understand better what needs to be done and hopefully creatively craft effective responses to their respective pastoral needs.

As we continue our mission of building a renewed Local Church, we are guided by the light of the Truth who is Christ and the truth of our pastoral realities.

The Second Diocesan Pastoral Assembly

The first Diocesan Pastoral Assembly (DPA) in the diocese was held in 2011. It was a year-long process of study, consultation, and planning – involving clergy and religious, and lay leaders in all parishes and other Church organizations and institutions. The end result was a five-year Diocesan Pastoral Plan. This year, the fifth year of the plan, we embark on yet another year-long diocesan-wide planning process: the DPA 2.

As we start this wide-ranging processes, several questions come to mind: Have we reached out enough to the peripheries? Did the situation of the poor, families, and the youth improve over the last 4 years? Have we achieved the ministry goals we set out to do? Should we open up new parishes? Shoud we break-up or set-up new commissions? How could we capture the lessons learned and effectively apply them? What skills, knowledge and mindsets do we – clergy, religious, and laity – still need to possess? Do we have enough resources to support our vision? Are they properly allocated to support our priority pastoral programs?

We would like to answer most, if not all, of these questions. That is why we have designed DPA 2 to achieve these objectives: (1) study present and future needs in pursuing renewed integral evangelization, learning from the experience of the implementation of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan after the First Diocesan Pastoral Assembly in 2011; (2) craft a comprehensive manual of policies after a review of the Acts and Decrees of the Diocesan Synod in 2000 and other pastoral and administrative guidelines and policies existing in the diocese; and (3) set the pastoral direction and priorities of the diocese for the period of 2017-2021, drawing inspiration from the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

At the end of these processes, we hope to produce two important documents: the Diocesan Pastoral Manual, a compendium of synodal decrees and approved pastoral, administrative, and finance policies in the diocese; and the Diocesan Pastoral Plan 2021, a strategic pastoral plan of the diocese involving every pastoral commission, vicariate, parish, and other relevant bodies for the period 2017-2021.

If we successfully conduct these processes and come up with the projected output, will these ensure already that our vision of a renewed Local Church become reality? The answer lies in how much DPA 2 has raised the level of awareness, collaboration, and commitment of every faithful in the diocese. At the end of the day, policies and plans are but support mechanisms to what is already there at the heart of the Church: the mission to follow Christ and preach the good news. And in the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we hope to spread the Gospel of Mercy to every aspect of our Church life.

Simbahan na maheherakon, padagos an misyon!