Christ who washed the feet of his disciples on the eve of his passion taught them that the leader is one who serves. Featured image: Washing of the Feet by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1260-1318) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Ongoing Formation Series (OGF) AY 2017-2018 Talk 2

What kind of leadership does the Church need today? Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo drew from the wisdom of Pope Francis and Evangelii Gaudium (EG) as he presented what governance in the Church requires in our time during the second installment of this academic year’s Ongoing Formation Series (OGF) in DBCS last September 11.

Speaking before an audience composed of priests, religious, seminarians, and laity, Bishop Pabillo began by pointing to the biblical understanding of leadership. In particular, he featured verses from the New Testament, especially the Gospel of Luke, emphasizing the importance of being stewards and servants (1 Cor 4) who do not expect to be commended but are grateful for the privilege of serving (Lk 17).

“Greatness is not in the position, title or honor,” said Bishop Pabillo. The greatest disciple is the least (Lk 9:48), the one who serves (Lk 22:26). “This is a very simple concept that many in the Church have not learned.”

Bishop Pabillo went on to explain that the kind of Church that we want — Church as communion, participatory Church, and Church in mission — requires a particular kind of leadership:

Missionary Mode

“We should move through a missionary ministry and not stay where we are (that is, conservation, maintenance mode),” he said. Missionary mode is needed (EG 15, 25)!

As Pope Francis pointed out, it is not enough to focus on administrative work, such as giving the sacraments (EG 63). Perhaps, Bishop Pabillo noted, this is understandable in cases where priests are very few. “But there are other church actors that can take up other works of evangelization.”

He noted that laity can also take up some key positions. And that lay people who compose the vast majority of the Church are the “sleeping giant” who “need to be heard, and need to be working” not so much within the parishes but more so in the world, since their direct responsibility is the secular, the temporal realm. It is here where they should be living and promoting the Gospel values. “We have been training — rightly or wrongly — that the laity are just followers. The laity needy to speak out themselves. They shouldn’t just wait for the bishops to lead them.” For example, Bishop Pabillo noted, they should speak out against the extra-judicial killings. They too have a sense of the faith.

Boldness and Creativity

Furthermore, it is not enough to do things as these have always been done. It is necessary to be bold and creative (EG 33). A very concrete example is the need to move away from the arancel (fixed donations for sacraments and sacramentals), which Bishop Pabillo said was already discussed way back in 1991 at the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II).

Church leaders should also not be prevented from acting by fear of the unknown. “It is rather being stuck within our structures that we must fear. This is why Pope Francis told the young people in Rio de Janeiro to ‘make a mess in Church.'”

“Sometimes we our discouraged that there are evils within the Church like sex and financial scandals, evils committed by young people, etc. But we should not be caught up in sterile pessimism as Pope Francis said.” Bishop Pabillo urged the audience not to be afraid, after all “victory is sure, because of the Resurrection!”

Listening to Your Bishop

During the open forum, several questions and issues were raised for the Bishop to address. Among them is the difficulty and confusion that Filipino Catholics encounter since bishops do not always do things the same way. For example, in some dioceses people are told to keep kneeling after the Consecration to the Doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer, but in others they are told to stand. Is there a national leader that people can look to so that confusion may be avoided?

Bishop Pabillo explained that there is “no intermediary between the bishop and Pope… the bishops’ conference has no mandate on the bishops.”

For example, he noted, there are Filipino bishops who do not support all of the natural family planning methods already approved by the CBCP. “CBCP tries to form a common mind, but in the end the bishops decide if they will support the conference’s pronouncements or not. So, should you kneel during the Eucharistic prayer? The answer: ultimately, it depends on your bishop!”
Maria Divina Solano, MRS, MATh is a graduate of Don Bosco Center of Studies. She is the Research Coordinator and a guest professor teaching Theology and Spirituality of the Laity.

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