Homily for the Missio Canonica
St. Andrew Cathedral
30 June 2011
The general reshuffle of parish assignments has been an experience of renewal for the whole diocese: for the priests… for the laity… yes, even for your bishop.
I consider myself privileged and blessed to witness how my beloved priests realize and actualize what was called “the mystery of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s prayer”:
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us. No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
Almost everyone felt that he was in the middle of something. My brother priests had to entrust their projects to their successors and make an act of faith in their lay leaders.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
I and my brother priests had to renew our faith in God’s goodness who never leaves his people without the graces, charisms and ministries necessary to fulfill their mission. We simply have to recognize them and bring them together into a harmonious pastoral program!
After this Mass, I want every new parish priest to report to your new parish by tonight so that you can celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart with the people the Lord is entrusting to your pastoral care. There will be no exceptions.
All outgoing and incoming parish priests are to execute the endorsement sheet and give a copy to the Chancery. I am tasking the new vicars forane to make sure that this happens.
My dear new vicars forane:
1. Meet your vicariate lay coordinators and the vicariate commission heads regularly. Let them orient you as to the vicariate pastoral programs and policies. Inform me of your schedules. I want to be present, too, and journey with you. I consider you my worthy generals.
2. In keeping with Statute 5.2, you may assign a priest to work with each vicariate lay commission head as adviser of that commission. In order to give you a freer hand, however, you are hereby dispensed from said Statute until further notice and work directly with the vicariate lay commission heads.
My dear new parish priests:
1. Each of you will be given the current boundaries of your new parish – and proposed changes, if there are. Verify the boundaries and proposed modifications in the process. I expect your comments by 30 September 2011.
2. With the help of your lay leaders, explore your parish. Go and meet the people you are sent to serve. Get to know your flock, appreciate their culture and respect their gifts.
3. Always consult and listen to your Parish Transition Team. Each Parish Transition Team is tasked to make sure of three things:
a. that the gains of the parish under the outgoing parish priest are preserved and consolidated,
b. that the worthy projects are continued and finished, and
c. that the incoming parish priest is welcomed and oriented into the life of the parish.
Therefore, my dear brother priests, for the next six to twelve months, no member of the current Parish Transition Team and Parish Pastoral Council may be replaced, no existing program may be abrogated, and no new construction or major repair may be undertaken without my express permission.
Not all of you are assigned to lead parishes. Some of you are being entrusted with special missions to realize difficult aspects of our 2011 Integrated Pastoral Thrust and Program. I want you to dream with me, blaze bold trails for your brother priests to follow later, and give our young people greater reason to hope for a brighter future in friendship with Jesus Christ.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.
Lord, we ask you to bless the leaders of your church in a special way, help us see through their works to what they really are: living signs of your presence among us. Above all, help us work with them and through them for the spread of your kingdom throughout the world. (Cf. Fr. Benjamin Sim SJ, Dare to share: a compilation of weekly Sunday homilies (year C), p. 116).
Mga kapatid, halina’t mamalakaya!
+ JESSE E. MERCADO, D.D.
Bishop of Parañaque