Saturday, September 10, 2011

Place Called Home

The busy chore in the parish which includes among others the looking after the spiritual needs of the people entrusted to his care, the setting up of the organizational systems and needed structures, the building up of BECs and taking care of faith communities and other movements, teaching the children and forming the youth, giving guidance counseling to married young couples and troubled families, the keeping up of the physical plant of the community, all these programs and activities could engage the parish priest so much that he forgets that time is not always his. Before he realizes it, weakness is getting a hold of him and the advancing age is slowing him down. And there he is alone and, perhaps, untended.

The Church true mother that she is cannot suffer to see that kind of scene to happen to her priests. She knows very well the all out dedication of her priests in the ministry, their heroism in giving up their own personal life, their dreams and ambition for the sake of Kingdom. For she cannot forget that she too came from an origin that is poor. She started as a small community in Jerusalem and yet with pooled resources could support each other as well as take care of the poor and the needy ( cf. Acts 4: 32): for “they held everything in common” and “distribution was made to each according to need” (Acts 4:35). It is on this account that she comes out strongly with this stipulation in law: “Provision must also be made so that they (clerics) possess that social assistance which provides for their needs suitably if they suffer from illness, incapacity, or old age” (Canon 281, §2). This law is actually a juridical formulation of the desideratum expressed by Vatican II which states: “In countries where social security has not yet been adequately organized for the benefit of clergy, Episcopal Conferences are to make provision…for the setting up of diocesan organizations…for the proper support of priests who suffer from ill health, disability or old age” (PO 21). The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines specified more this provision of the Code and in terse language stated: “When…priests retire from years of service in the Ministry, the Church should see to it that their respective Dioceses continue to support them…. “ (PCP-II, Acts, 561).

The dioceses in the Philippines are enjoined to dig deep into their own resourcefulness and creative selves to devise workable system that would meet squarely the plight of her ailing heroes. The task at hand is not at all easy. Most of the dioceses are poor and have to depend on the love offerings and contributions of the faithful. Other dioceses have to contend with old financial systems that may have incorporated the social security of their members, but somehow have been failing to meet the needs of the aging priests.

The Diocese of Tagbilaran understood well its responsibility to its aging and sickly priests. It boldly assumed the task at hand, discussed the matter seriously among its elder priests and lay faithful, and finally decided to put up social security scheme for its ailing priests as essential part of the whole financial system of the diocese. The visible offshoot of this decision is the setting up of some rooms in the Cathedral Rectory to accommodate the sick priests with a permanent residence. This provides them a decent place to live in, a residence which gives them ready accessibility to the bishop, the other priests and the lay faithful, an urban place where hospitals and other medical facilities are within reach. Needless to say this decision was based in the principle enunciated by the Second Vatican Council (PO 20 that said: “Completely devoted as they are to the service of God in the fulfillment of the office entrusted to them, priests are entitled to receive a just remuneration. For ‘the laborer deserves his wages’ (Lk 10:7), and (1 Cor 9:10) ‘the Lord commanded that they who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel’ (1 Cor 9:10). Just remuneration needless to say includes provision for the social security of the priests who have reached the age of retirement or those who are cut off from the pastoral work due to disability.


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