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Building Basic Ecclesial Communities
A Strategic Framework

Pre-Requisites for Building Basic Ecclesial Communities

1. Building BECs as Pastoral Program of the Parish & Diocese
Since the BECs is a new way of being Church, its formation must eventually be adopted by the diocese and parish as a pastoral program.
The diocese, through a Diocesan Pastoral Assembly or Synod must officially endorse the building of BECs as a pastoral priority.
The parish, through a Parish Assembly, must also adopt the BECs as a parish program

Why is it Necessary to be a Pastoral Program of the Diocese and Parish?
To emphasize that it is the project of the local Church and not the external agents/organizers.
To ensure stability and continuity of BECs that are formed.
 To get the support of the pastors (Bishops and priests) and the lay leaders
To facilitate the acceptance of the lay people, especially those who are resistant to change.

2. The BEC Formation Team
A Parish Formation Team (PFT) is necessary to build the BECs in the parish.
This team must be formed, supported and coordinated by the parish priest. The composition of the team: lay pastoral workers (full-time & part-time), religious sisters, etc.
There should be a regular meeting of the PFT for planning, reporting, evaluation and ongoing staff development. These meeting should be attended by the parish priest.

Role of the Parish Formation Team
Implement the parish pastoral program and help develop a parish pastoral plan
Help in gathering data about the parish and the local communities and make a strategic plan
Assist in Evangelizing the local communities
Organize the BECs and help train leaders
Help mobilize BECs for social transformation
Monitor the development and growth of BECs.

"The Diocesan Formation Team may..."
The Diocesan Formation Team may be formed to support the formation of the Parish formation team. Their function is not organizing but training and providing material necessary for BECs formation
External Pastoral Agents (e.g. RMT) can also help form the PFT and provide technical support. They can help the PFT carry out its function of evangelizing, organizing and mobilizing the BECs. Since they are transitory by nature, the external agents should ensure that the PFT become self-sustaining.

3. Environmental Analysis
To build BECs, the PFT must know the place and the people. This means knowing the local geography, history, political terrain, culture and religious situation.
The context will influence the kind of BECs that will be formed, the appropriate strategy or approaches that will be used in building them, the context or message of evangelization, etc.
There are many ways of data-gathering: survey, interviews, observation, participatory research, focus group discussion.

Data-Gathering/Analysis
Geographical. The terrain of the parish. Is it in the plain, mountains, coastline?
Demography. The population of the parish. Age distribution. Population density.
 Social Organization. What kind of communities? Rural or Urban communities. Where are they located? What are the size and dynamics of the communities? Patterns & level of interaction? How does family & kinship dynamics affect community life?

"Social Organization."
Social Organization. What kind of communities? Rural or Urban communities. Where are they located? What are the size and dynamics of the communities? Patterns & level of interaction? How does family & kinship dynamics affect community life?
Economic. Source of living and income (farming, fishing, manufacturing, services, etc.) Who owns and control the means of production? Extent of poverty. Patterns of exploitation and injustice? Major economic problems & issues.

"Political."
Political. Who wields authority and power? How is authority exercised? What are the competing political forces? What are the major political problems and issues.
 Culture. What is the ethnic & linguistic composition? The dominant worldview, values, patterns of thought & behavior, symbols & forms of communication? How dominant are the traditional values? What is the extent of the influence of globalization/western values?

"Religion."
Religion. What are the various religions and denominations in the locality? How many percent are Catholics? What is the state of the parish? How many are active and practicing? What are the religious groups & movements? What are the major problems & challenges?
Rhythm of Life. How do the people live their day to day life? When do they wake up, work, rest and re-create, play, gather together, celebrate, etc? How can their pattern of life affect the work of building BECs?

"History & Story of the..."
History & Story of the place and the people. When and how did the parish/communities start? What has happened to the place and the people over the years? The peak moments and the crisis periods. What are the achievements that the people can be proud of?

Strategic Planning
The parish priest together with the parish formation team (and mission team) and other lay leaders should undertake strategic planning.
The strategic plan should be based on the results of the environmental analysis and the vision-mission of the parish, the thrust of the diocese.
The PCP II vision of a Renewed Church and the BECs can be adopted by the parish.
The goals and objectives can be set, the means can be determined, and initial programming be done.

"The team will have to..."
The team will have to decide what is the most viable approach:
Pilot areas? Selecting two to four communities for experimentation. Develop these communities as model BECs. Replication can be done afterwards.
Simultaneous? All the communities are developed at the same time. Top to bottom approach. Selecting leaders from each community, orient & train them, send them back to their communities for organizing.

Adopting a Strategic Framework
Evangelization of communities
Organizing the communities into BECs
Mobilizing BECs for social transformation

Integration
The first thing a team member can do is to integrate – this means getting to know the people and becoming close to them. This requires a dialogue of life with the people.
Means: house to house visitation (accompanied by a local guide/ leader), table-fellowship, sleeping in the homes of the people, going to where people usually gather, joining people in their work (go to their farms, join fishing, etc)

Approaches in building BECs
Diocesan Level
Simultaneous (all parishes at the same time)
Piloting (select pilot/priority parishes, replicate later)
Parish Level
Simultaneous (all communities at the same time)
Piloting (select pilot/priority communities, replicate later)

Initial Evangelization
The potential leaders and members of the BECs are evangelized
Expected outcome: They deepen their relationship with Christ, experience conversion, make a commitment to live out their discipleship in community. They own and internalize the vision of new way of being Church – the BEC.
Means: Evangelization seminar, bible-sharing, family evangelization (visita familia), men’s fellowship.

Organizing BECs
Goal: to set up sustainable structures, activities & ministries that will facilitate the growth of BECs as Community of Disciples
This means concretizing what it means
To live in communion
To be a prophetic, priestly and servant communities
To be a Church of the Poor

Forming a Core Group/Nucleus
The task of organizing BECs is not only the work of the PFT
It needs the active participation of a core group within a community
This core group is composed of committed people and potential leaders that have emerged during the evangelization stage.
We follow Jesus’ method who called an initial core group of disciples and apostles whom he trained

Function of the Core Group/Nucleus
The Core Group is like leaven, light & yeast in the midst of the community
Filled with missionary dynamism they continue the process of evangelization
They expand the BEC, set up structures & activities that enable the BEC to grow
The leaders of the BECs will come from among them

The Early Shape of the BEC

Later Development of BEC

Sustainable Activities/Structures
Prophetic Communities: bible-sharing, visita-familia, men’s fellowship, ongoing catechesis, occasional seminars  (Education Committee)
Priestly Communities: Celebration of the Word (bible-service), Regular mass (monthly or bi-monthly), Seasonal liturgies, etc. (Worship/Liturgy committee).
 Servant Communities: Regular meeting & assembly to discuss problems, action planning & evaluation (Social Action/Service Committee)

Emergence & Training of Leaders
During the organizing stage, the potential leaders that emerged or spotted will be tested, trained and formalized
During the early stage of organizing an informal/adhoc leadership is more desirable to allow the emergence, testing and training of new breed of leaders.
 The formal election of leaders take place later after the BECs have become mature.

Emergence & Training of Leaders
Leadership Training seminars should be conducted
Emphasize servant leadership
Participative/Collegial Leadership – Council of Leaders, teamwork, regular meeting (planning, evaluation)
Term of Office (3 years, subject to recall & reelection)

Structure of Developed BEC

Parish Organizational Structure

Mobilizing BECs for Social Transformation

"The Evangelization and Organization of..."
The Evangelization and Organization of BECs should ultimately lead to mobilization for social transformation
The BECs are instruments for renewing the Church and transforming society
BECs should not be inward looking communities but has social responsibility.
Mobilizing BECs for social transformation is part of the mission of BECs as prophetic and servant communities.
BECs are called to participate in the struggle for development, liberation, justice, peace and the integrity of creation

BECs as part of Civil Society
The Civil Society paradigm is appropriate for BECs
BECs as part of civil society (including NGOs, Pos, etc) transforming society from below
Areas of engagement: Socio-economic, political, environment.

Socio-Economic
BECs may be mobilized to engage in socio-economic projects that can transform the socio-economic terrain. (IGP, coops, livelihood projects)
 Should be done only after evangelization and organizing phase
Participatory research & planning
Linking up with parish/diocesan social action program
Networking with NGOs
The need for close monitoring and system of check and balance

Political
BECs can be mobilized to empower people to participate in the decision making process
During elections, BECs can become part of the local network of PPCRV or NAMFREL
BECs can become fiscalizers in the LGU
BECs may be mobilized against government policies that are contrary to common good
BECs will be part of the peace constituency – advocating for peace & building zones for peace
BECs can monitor human rights violations

Ecology
BECs may be mobilized to protect the environment and maintain ecological balance
This may mean struggling against companies that destroy the environment (logging, mining, pollution, etc)
(ex: San Fernando, Bukidnon)

Concluding Remarks
Building BECs is an ongoing process.
It is aimed at renewing the Church and transforming Philippine society
Like the kingdom of God, it is an “already-not-yet” reality.
The strategic framework is a road-map that can help us find our way towards reaching our goal
As the BECs grow, the role of the PFT & the Mission Team diminishes. Echoing John the Baptist, “they must increase & we must decrease.”