In today’s Philippine situation, even with the development scheme of Industrialization and Globalization, 85% of the poor, as well as Mother Nature, are sacrifices in the name of development. The roots of these conditions are primarily caused by unjust systems, oppressive structures and human weaknesses.
The Church in the Philippines is called to respond to this situation and fight against all forms of human weaknesses and evil. It carries out this mission by its efforts to continue the work of Christ to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth. This has been concretely in the recent 2nd Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCPII) in 1991 that envisions the establishment of the church of the poor in this country.
The Redemptorist Congregation shares in this mission of the Church, as its members seek “to follow the example of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, by preaching the Word of God to the poor, by responding with missionary thrust to the pressing needs of the most abandoned – the Poor, Deprived and Exploited” (Constitutions and Statutes No. 1). The Redemptorist Province of Cebu is assisted in carrying out this task by Lay Cooperators who share fully the purpose, goals and objectives of the Congregation, while contributing their own specific gifts as lay members of the church.
The Lay Cooperators realize that their Christian vocation is the source of their apostolic involvement and commitment. The life of the lay person is lived in the midst of the world and of the secular affairs. So, the lay cooperators are called by God to make their apostolate, through the vigor of Christian spirit, a leaven in the world. They exercise their apostolate by the activities directed to the evangelization and sanctification of the world and to penetrating the temporal order with the spirit of the gospel. The PCP II has emphasized this great role of the laity in renewing the church in the Philippines.
The lay workers play a vital role in the apostolate in the Redemptorist Province of Cebu. “Their vocation is a gift to the Congregation. They are called to become partners and sharers in the missionary work of the Province” (Prov’l Statutes, chapter 1, sec. 4, D 11). In order that they may be able to carry out their mission effectively, they must share in the spirit in which the professed Redemptorist is expected to exercise his apostolate.
Mission to the people, especially to the most abandoned in rural and urban areas, have priority among the Redemptorist apostolates. Redemptorist missions are geared principally to fundamental conversion to Christ on the personal level and reconciliation among the people on social level. Hence, the missions of the Redemptorists help in the formation and/or renewal of Basic Ecclesial Communities that are Christ-centers, people-oriented and that witness to the Gospel values (Prov’l Statutes, chapter 1, sec. 2). These communities have the following characteristic:
- They small communities whose members live in fellowship or communion with one another and their pastors;
- They are prophetic communities that are evangelized and evangelizing-that proclaim the Gospel by their word and witness of life;
- They are worshipping communities whose members actively participate in the celebration of their faith and life;
- They are servant communities working for social transformation and struggling for justice, peace and integrity of creation;
- They emerge mostly among the poor at the grassroots. (End note to the Statutes on Basic Ecclesial Communities)
For the lay cooperators to fully share the above spirit, it is therefore of utmost importance that they develop and possess the qualities, capabilities, attitudes, values and lifestyle required for them to be effective and committed apostolic co-workers of the Redemptorists. Hence, the following general principles are drawn to guide the Redemptorist Lay Cooperators in their spirituality, apostolate, community life, academic life and affective life.
As true followers of Christ, the Redemptorist Lay Cooperators sincerely aim to develop and interiorize spirituality proper to their association.
Thus, spirituality is express through relationships and activities among themselves, as well as through their work and involvement with people in their respective areas of their apostolate. Personal and community reflections on their faith in the light of the Words, their regular morning and evening praises, criticism-self-criticism (CSC) and recollections, as well as retreats, are therefore to be encouraged. The Eucharistic celebration with the people, the novenas and bible reflections with them are also occasions for strengthening their commitment to Christ.
The spirituality of the lay cooperators takes its particular character from their state of life (married or family life, celibate life, widowhood), from their state of health, from their professional and social activity, and above all, from their missionary involvement.
It is the mission of the Church to continue the work of Christ to lead people to a radical choice for a total conversion and for social transformation. The lay cooperators, as members of the Church, aim to enable people to share in the saving redemption of Christ, and eventually to bring the whole world into a relationship with Him. They have the vocation and mission to proclaim the gospel and are called to heal and transform society by liberational and redemptive thrust.
The Lay Cooperators of the C.Ss.R’s, in line with their option, commits themselves to the service of the most abandoned and under-privileged majority. They see that it is their role in the church to reach out to the lowest and most deprived sectors of society. They aim to learn from, relate with and get involved in the faith and life of the poor by evangelization and being evangelized by the poor. They try to lead a lifestyle that would help them to face the challenges arising from working with the poor and to share their time, talent, treasure and resources with them and if need to be, to sacrifice their lives for their cause and aspirations for total human liberation.
Formation, necessary as it is for every human being, is much more so for the Redemptorist Lay Cooperators. In order to sustain the maximum and meaningful participation from the lay, “there is a need to affirm and develop their potential and abilities through an on-going formation program” (Prov’l Statutes, Chapter 1, sec 4). This will provide them with opportunities to understand and imbibe, in their lay vocation, the spirit and charism of the Congregation.
This program, while aiming at an integrated development of the total Christian and human person, pays particular attention to the development of the lay cooperator’s gifts necessary in the various areas of his/her life and activity as a Redemptorist Lay Cooperators.
a.) Spiritual Formation
The lay cooperators are to be thoroughly trained how to seek Christ the Redeemer through constant reflection on the Word of God especially the gospels, through prayer and through the celebration of the sacred liturgy. Absorbing the spirit of the evangelical counsels and beatitudes, and drawn to their practice, they will follow Christ with ardent love. They mudt be penetrated with a sense of the mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the other Saints especially St. Alphonsus who founded the C.Ss.R.
Whatever their circumstances, they are all endowed with gifts and talents from the Holy Spirit that should be cultivated for spiritual growth.
b.) Academic Formation
It is not enough that one acquires knowledge through experience alone, however important that may be. It is also necessary to go into more systematic and scientific investigation of realities and theories in order to acquire a more complete academic formation.
Therefore, our lay cooperators are encouraged to give time to formal study in order to acquire knowledge and skills more directly related to their work in the Redemptorist apostolate.
The present practice in some apostolic units of doing group study and meetings and the existing lay cooperators’ formation at the province level are highly recommended and should be continued.
The Redemptorist lay cooperators are well aware that in the process of living with the people and communicating to them the word of God, they in turn also learn from, and are strengthened by the faith of the people they try to serve. In the process of planning, implementing and evaluating the various apostolic activities, both the people and the lay cooperators learn and grow towards greater maturity in faith.
Every Redemptorist lay member:
- Has the willingness to work with others in a spirit of teamwork.
- Has the readiness to express herself/himself over emotions, feelings, needs, aspirations and strive for a mastery over them.
- Has the openness to criticize herself/himself and to accept criticism from others
- Has respect for the opinions of others.
- Has the concern for the needs of others.
- Has the ability to share talents and initiatives freely.
- Has to deepen on one another and has carry the other’s burdens.
“Community life is base on the call to discipleship” (PCP II par.21, nos.45-47).
The lay cooperators strive to be a community where each member is fully accepted and appreciated, and where each one is accountable to the group. The welfare of the community must be every member’s concern. Hence, in times of crisis, such as those arising from personal misunderstanding or differences, the parties involved will be processed accordingly. Community is not something that happens from the mere fact of people living together. It is the fruit of positive effort at building a common spirit by genuine sharing on both human and spiritual levels, at learning and growing together towards Christian and human maturity.
The basic activities in promoting community life is the coming together of members, the sharing of ideas and experiences and the discussion of vital issues in meetings and study.