In this Year of the Laity, Catholics are called to become “heroes” responsible for transforming and sanctifying God’s people.
CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas urged the laity to take part in the mission of evangelization sorely needed by the country, in the pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) for the 2014 Year of the Laity released last Dec. 1.
“You have, as your particular mission, the sanctification and transformation of the world from within. In fact, many of you are called by the Lord to do service in the Church,” said Villegas, who heads the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan.
The Catechism defines the word “laity” as all the faithful, other than the clergy, chosen to share Christian doctrines and life in the social, political and economic affairs of society.
Choosetobebrave.org, CBCP’s official website for the Year of the Laity, said the dedication of 2014 to lay people aims to inform the faithful of their task to reach out to different sectors of the society, especially to non-practicing Catholics who need encouragement and help.
“You will bear witness to the non-practicing Catholics about the love of Christ. Through you, as evangelizers, the Church will be able to create opportunities for encounters with perceived non-practicing Catholics, even non-Catholics, and inter-faith encounters,” Villegas said.
In preparation for the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines in 2021, the Philippine Church has planned nine years of evangelization efforts with a theme for each year.
CBCP declared this year the “Year of Laity” as suggested by the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines. The theme is: “Filipino Catholic Laity: Called to be saints… Sent forth as heroes.”
The transformation of the Philippines into a united country will be possible if the laity remain in “faith, hope, and love with Christ” and are willing to share this experience with others, especially to those who have yet to know Christ, Parañaque Bishop Jesse Mercado, chairman of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Lay Apostolate, said.
“It is not an accident that God chose us and the Philippines is the biggest Christian country in Asia. But the thing is, sometimes we do not appreciate that,” Mercado told the Varsitarian. “We need to change. You have your role and that role is a very special role.”
Mercado said the laity must be grateful of being baptized as Catholics, considering that it is during baptism that their role as “the Church’s force” in evangelization starts.
“This Year of the Laity, we want to remind the laikos that the call to holiness is not reserved to the priests and the religious, but to everyone. It is a universal call, addressing all of the laity,” Mercado said.
According to the Catholic Directory of the Philippines, the ratio of priests in the Philippines to the laity is 1:8,200, significantly larger than the ideal ratio 1:2,000.
“Ninety-nine percent of God’s people consists of the laity. They are the force that makes the Christian community alive. They should know their mission,” Mercado said.
Echoing Pope Francis, Villegas said the mission of the Filipino faithful is to make a difference and to bring Christ into the world of family, business, economics, politics, education, and social communications.
“The laity must stand out for Christ not only in the religious activities, but also at home, school, in your places of work, while you are with the poor and the needy, and even with those who have strayed away from the faith,” Villegas said. “You are called to be saints, you are sent forth as heroes. Take courage. Do not be afraid to be Catholics. Be brave.”