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FABC General Conference: Finding new Pathways for Formation, Worship and Family

FABC General Conference Session on Pastoral care of Families

On the third day of discussions on ‘Emerging realities in Asia’, FABC general Conference talked about ‘finding new pathways for formation, worship, and digital ministry in the post-pandemic era’.

Different theologians and lay leaders spoke on the pastoral significance of faith-rich encounters, digital media in ministry, the need for paradigm shifts in the formation of clergy, and the importance of pastoral care of families

Pastoral Significance of Faith-rich Encounters

The need for constructing a reality which includes faith-rich encounters was highlighted by Pablito Baybado Jr, a theology professor at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, and Executive Secretary of the FABC Office on Education and Faith Formation. Using the ‘stop, pray, and go’ analogy of the motorcyclists who passed by his local Church on their way to work, and anecdotes from his family life, Prof. Baybado stressed the importance of formation that values family integrity, and the need for formators who are gardeners, engineers and builders, who are sensitive to current realities and capable of accompanying the people.

Digital Media in Ministry

Speaking on Digital media, Mr Alexander Lopez, Regional Manager of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), explained how using technology has become the norm, and questioned whether the Church was subject to censorship, manipulation, and big tech companies controlling the narrative. Advocating for the need to build and operate secure platforms for the Church, Mr Lopez addressed the gathered representatives, saying, ‘You are the influencers. You can provide real answers, not promises.’

The need for Paradigm shifts in the Formation of Clergy

Stressing the importance of pastoral training in social communications and digital media, along with the explicit need for the clergy to be part of the online social network, Brinston Carvalho, a full-time member of the Media Ministry in the Archdiocese of Bombay, mentioned ‘the ‘sheep’ are on social media, the shepherds ought to be, too.’ Carvalho, further, emphasized the effective use of Creative Catechesis in digital ministry - to help spread the mandate of the Gospel and the love of Christ.

Bishop Sebastian Francis, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, voicing how there must be a paradigm shift in worship and formation, to one that is creative, inclusive and bridge-building, emphasized the need for clergy, religious and laity who are disciples, and the value of engaging in a dialogue of joy, mercy and hope, with all.

Pastoral care of Families

The next session was focused on ‘the challenges of the family today, and how the Church in Asia can respond creatively for the pastoral care of families’.

Daniel and Shelley Ee, members of the Worldwide Marriage Encounter Leadership Team and the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, speaking about the values of family life, its challenges, and the married couple as the heart of the family, proposed steps to improve the pastoral care of families; including enhancing formation and training, structural changes that allow couples to serve together, and activities that celebrate and enhance family life.

Michael Phichit and Lucia Achara Sukeewat, National Presidents of Christian Family Movement in Thailand, speaking about the many challenges families face, the social biases, the degradation of relationships between generations, and the myriad challenges of financial insecurity, stressed the importance of the Church recognizing the interconnect between these challenges, and added ‘as a Church and family, we have to admit that we need healing, before we can improve’.

Speaking on ‘the opportunities that Amoris Laetitia offers the Church in Asia for effective ministry,’ Bishop John Baptist Lee Keh-mien of Hsinchu, President of the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference, led a reflection on the encyclical ‘Amoris Laetitia: A Call to Love’. Underlining the real and ever-changing challenges to marriage, Bishop Lee, emphasized the importance of pre-marital formation and the goals of Amoris Laetitia, adding context through the encyclical.

Emphasizing the importance of pastoral care for married couples, Vimal Tirimanna CSsR (Sri Lanka), professor at the Accademia Alfonsiana in Rome and member of the Theological Commission of the General Secretariat for the Synod 2021-2023, illustrated diverse cases of marriage and family as opportunities for witness and formation. Highlighting the aspects and differences of Amoris Laetitia, Father Tirimmanna showed how family and marriage have been a great preoccupation of the Church

Each session ended with question-and-answer sessions with the speakers, and group discussions and reflections on the insight gained.

- With inputs from the FABC Press release


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