A SEMINAR ON CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHINGS
By Fr. André SEMENI
The National Clergy Discernment Group (henceforth, NCDG) in collaboration with John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues (JJCICSI) is organizing a seminar on Catholic Social Teachings (CST) to be held at the CBCP Nassa BEC Development Center in Tagaytay on January 16-20, 2012. A number of bishops and archbishops, including Chito TAGLE (Newly named archbishop of manila), Gerado ALMINAZA (Auxiliary bishop of Jaro), Jose PALMA (Archbishop of Cebu and Incoming CBCP President) are expected to grace the event with their presence and support, as well as providing inputs and imparting their wisdom to aid the discernment of the priests. Other resource persons for inputs and activities other than those conducted by the bishops and archbishops will include Msgr. Manuel GABRIEL, Fr. Wilfredo DULAY, Fr. Jose DIZON, and the JJCICSI Staff.
The NCDG is a gathering of Catholic priests from all over the Philippines. It is one of the “Circles of Discernment” that came into being after the bishops’ exhortations since 2005. In fact, in the waves of the various political upheavals besetting the Arroyo’s administration, the CBCP encouraged the members of the Catholic Church to carefully consider the political issues at hand and prayerfully discern their response to the situation (Cf. CBCP Online, “Restoring Trust: A Plea for Moral Values in Philippine Politics,” 9 July 2005). In another Pastoral Exhortation, the Bishops affirmed: “We urge our people… to come and pray together, reason, decide and act together always to the end that the will of God prevail in the political order… First, to evaluate what they are presently doing to build character, capacity and community; and secondly, to pray and discern over what more we can do to promote a ‘civilization of love’” (CBCP Online, “Building a Civilization of Love: A Pastoral Exhortation on the Year of Social Concerns” of 11 May, 2006). Challenged by the strong public clamor to take a stand regarding the ZTE-NBN scandal involving the President of the Philippines, the bishops en bloc called for the establishment of “Circles of Discernment” among all the sectors of the faithful via the CBCP Pastoral Statement entitled “Seeking the Truth, Restoring Integrity” of February 26, 2008.
In September 2008, a group of priests and bishops heeded the call and gathered for discernment on their collective response to the “crisis of truth” and “cancer of corruption” affecting the Philippines as a whole. However, the so-called Clergy Discernment Group had its first important gathering on October 14-17, 2009. It was the First National Clergy Discernment gathering with more than two hundred fifty priests and bishops and archbishops from all over the Philippines attending the event.
As the result of this First National Clergy Discernment gathering, the NCDG was formed and the subsequent organizations of the Religious Discernment Group, the Lay Discernment Group, and the Ephphata Forum emerged. The Visayas Discernment of Priests on their prophetic role was also convened in November 2010. The NCDG aims at reinforcing the desire and conviction to respond earnestly to the call of the Catholic Bishops, and in so doing to respond to the “signs of the times.” To put it clearly, “One of our foremost goals has always been to “inspire one another toward prophecy.” In doing so, we realize that the pressing challenge for us as clergy is to respond with “prophetic solidarity” to the deepest needs and aspirations of our people.” The NCDG realized that its response toward prophetic solidarity presupposes an ongoing process of formation, because “while ongoing psycho-spiritual formation is crucial for our vocation, ongoing socio-political formation is also essential.”
Thus, it is within this context of ongoing formation of the clergy at the national level that the seminar on CST is to be understood. By the end of the five-day seminar, the over two hundred priests-participants “should have a firm grasp of the underlying methodology and the foundational principles of Catholic Social Teaching. The participants should also gain experience in applying this methodology and the basic principles to specific, hypothetical situations relevant to the Philippine Society, family life, and priestly ministry.”