The Sta. Teresita community is a neighborhood community in an urban area. All the Catholic families within the neighborhood are considered by the parish as members of the basic ecclesial community (BEC). There are over 150 Catholic families in the neighborhood but in reality there are only around 50 who are actively involved in the regular community activities (i.e. the Kasaulogan sa Pulong which is held weekly). The rest can be considered as occasional or nominal members. Their attendance in the weekly activity is not constant. They come when the Eucharist is celebrated or during special occasions (like the Fiesta celebration, the Novena-Aguinaldo, etc).
Of the 50 persons who are considered as active members, there are 35 women and 15 men. The youngest is 20 and the eldest is around 65. Most would be in their 40s.
The active members feel it their responsibility to reach out to the
occasional or nominal members. Thus, they see themselves as the leaven,
light or salt within the bigger neighborhood community.
Most of the members belong to the lower class. There are some who work as carpenters, construction workers, drivers, salesgirls, etc. Most of the women are housewives. Some are engaged in small business. With their minimum income, they would be considered are living below the poverty line. But compared to the poorest of the poor who do not have regular jobs, homes or land, the members of the community would be well-off. There are some BECs in the parish that would be poorer.
There are regular weekly gatherings: the Kasaulogan sa Pulong (Celebration of the Word) which takes place in the community chapel every Saturday evening, the Visita Familia (family visitation) which takes place in the homes of the families every Wednesday and Friday evenings.
The Eucharist is celebrated every three months in the community chapel.
There are the annual/seasonal activities:
During the season of Advent there is the Novena Aguinaldo which takes place from Dec. 16-24 at 4:00 in the morning. The annual community Christmas party on Dec. 25.
During the season of Lent there is the via crucis or way of the cross around the neighborhood community every Friday afternoon.
They also gather to celebrate their annual fiesta around the first week
of October. Nine nights before the fiesta, they gather in the community
chapel for the Novena to St. Therese.
The Pangulo sa Katilingban is considered as the over-all leaders of the BEC. He or she is elected by the members of the community and has a term of office of three years. He/she can be re-elected for another term.
The Pangulo sa Liturhiya leads the Kasaulogan sa Pulong (Celebration of the Word). He is chosen by the members and trained in the parish. There is not term limit but every year he has to renew his commitment and the people can recall him if they are not satisfied with his behavior.
There are also other officers such as the secretary and treasurer whose term of office is also three years.
There are three committees: the Education committee, the Liturgy Committee and the Social Service Committee.
The Council of Leaders is composed of the Pangulo sa Katilingban, Pangulo sa Liturhiya, secretary, treasurer and the heads of the three committees. The Council regularly meets once a month. Because of the visita familia which the conduct they actually come together more frequently (once a week).
There is a collegial and participative type of leadership in the
BEC. While the Pangulo sa Katilingban has the responsibility
to animate and coordinate the Council of Leaders, all the leaders actively
participate in the decision-making process and in the implementation of
the decisions. What is emphasized is team work among the leaders. If there
are major decisions affecting the entire community, a general assembly
is called so that all the members can participate in making the decision.
There is a member of the parish staff who is assigned to monitor the activities and development of the BEC in Sta. Teresita and other communities.
The Pangulo sa Katilingban attends the monthly gathering of all the leaders of the communities in the parish. The Pangulo sa Liturhiya also attends the monthly gathering of all the lay liturgical leaders in the parish.
There are also regular monthly meetings of the heads of the various committees (education, liturgy, and social service) in the parish.
The community takes part in the sponsoring of the Sunday Eucharist in the parish. All the 35 BECs take turns in the mass-sponsorhip.
The BEC of Sta. Teresita is also represented in the parish general assembly which is held every three years to assess the state of the parish and the BECs and to set the goals, objectives and policies for the coming three years.
A Letter from the BEC of Sta. Teresita
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
We are a basic ecclesial commuity located in the urban district of Buhangin, Davao City, Southern Philippines. We belong to the Mother of Perpetual Help parish. Our community is named after St. Therese of the child Jesus, who is our patron saint.
Most of our members originally belonged to the BEC of San Nicolas. This community which had a membership of over a hundred families was organized in the mid 1970s. It was one of the pilot areas of the Basic Christian Community-Community Organizing program (BCC-CO) which was initiated by the Redemptorists in their parish. At that time, Buhangin was a squatters’ area. We were living in a land owned by a huge corporation. Our homes were constantly threatened with demolition. So most of us actively participated in the struggle to own the land we were living in. We joined the barricades to protect our homes from the demolition team. We also joined mobilizations to the city hall to ask the mayor to stop the demolition and allow us to own the land. In 1986 the new Aquino government, which took over from the Marcos dictatorial regime, finally granted our demands.
In 1987 the new parish of St. Mary was carved out from the Mother of Perpetual Help parish. The BEC of San Nicolas, which was between the boundary of the two parishes, was split into two. The chapel of San Nicolas and most of the members came under the jurisdiction of the new parish. Since we were living across the road, which was part of the Mother of Perpetual Help parish, we decided to separate from the BEC of San Nicolas and form our own community. We named our community in honor of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. We started building our community chapel and asked the parish priest of the Mother of Perpetual Help parish to recognize our community. We elected our Pangulo sa Katilingban or PSK (the leader of the small Christian community) and other leaders including the Pangulo sa Liturhiya or PSL (lay liturgical leader).
The leaders of the community compose the Council of Leaders. This is usually composed of the Pangulo sa Katilingban (the over-all leader of the community), the secretary, treasurer, the Pangulo sa Liturhiya (lay liturgical leaders), the head of the education committee, the head of the service committee, and the leader of the youth organization. The Council of Leaders meet regularly on the first Sunday of each month. They also have emergency meetings when the need arise.
Since our new community was organized we have been coming together every Saturday evening at 8:00 in our community chapel for the Kasaulogan sa Pulong or KSP (Celebration of the Word). We spend this time in listening to the word of God, reflecting on it and sharing our reflections. We usually use the Sunday readings. This is also a time to pray for our needs and those of others. There is a lively singing led by two guitarists. There are usually over fifty members who regularly attend this gathering. This is presided by the Pangulo sa Liturhiya or PSL (lay liturgical leader). There are two PSL in our community trained by the parish team. They take turns in presiding over the liturgical service.
We have a program of family evangelization called visita familia (family visitation). For two evenings every week (usually Wednesdays and Fridays), around eight people who compose the Council of Leaders split into two teams and visit the homes of the families in the neighborhood community. The team together with the members of the family come together after supper to listen to the Word of God, reflect on the reading and their experiences, share their reflections and pray together. Everyone can share more intimately since this is a smaller group. Most often, the members of the family share their problems and how they have experienced God’s grace in their life. This is also the chance for the leaders to encourage the family to be more actively involved in the activities of the small Christian community. This is also the opportunity to reach out to those who have been marginalized from the Church and the Christian community. The Visita Familia has awakened the missionary dynamism of the leaders of the BEC and has brought us closer to one another.
Every three months, the parish priest or his assistant celebrate the Eucharist with us. It is usually celebrated in the evening in our community chapel. A week before the mass, the members of the liturgy committee come together to prepare the liturgy. They reflect on the readings and select the theme of the liturgy. They also compose the introduction to the liturgy and the prayers of the faithful. Then they assign people for various tasks: the one who gives the introduction, the readers, those who will recite the prayers of the faithful, those who will bring the offerings and the gifts and those who will prepare the food. Thus, even if we cannot celebrate the Eucharist that often, when we do celebrate it, it becomes truly a festive celebration where there if full and active participation of the members of the community. The Eucharist becomes truly a celebration of our unity and fellowship as a BEC.
The 6:00 am and 4:30 pm masses in our parish church are usually sponsored by the various BECs in the parish. Whenever the time comes for our community to sponsor the mass, we gather a week before to prepare the liturgy. We go through the same process in preparing for our community mass. The mass sponsoring promotes our contact with the parish and makes us aware that we are part of the parish. The liturgies that are sponsored by the BECs in the parish church are very lively and participative.
During the Advent season, we have the Novena Aguinaldo. This is the nine days novena in preparation for the celebration of Christmas. From December 16 to 24 at 4:00 every morning while it is still dark, the community gathers in the chapel for bible-service. On Christmas day we also gather in the chapel to celebrate the birth of our Lord as a community. We have a big party and a program with singing and dancing.
Every Friday afternoon during the season of Lent, we do the Via Crucis or the station of the cross around the neighborhood community.
During the whole month of May, we celebrate the flores de mayo. During this month, the members of the education committee conduct catechism to the children who come to the chapel every afternoon.
We celebrate our community fiesta in honor of St. Therese on the first week of October. We have the novena nine nights before the fiesta. We gather in the chapel as a community for bible-service. We reflect on the virtues of St. Therese and we also recite the novena prayers. On the bisperas (eve) of the fiesta, the parish priest celebrates the Eucharist with us. On the fiesta day itself, we have the procession early in the morning and this is followed by the festive meal and community games the rest of the day.
Being members of the BEC has brought all of us closer together. It has created a bond that links our families together. We no longer feel isolated. In our moments of difficulty we are able to help each other and support one another.
The members of our community belong to the lower class of society. Most of us are employees receiving the minimum wage. The common problem that we all faced is poverty. We have always tried to address this problem since we started forming our BEC. In 1988, we started a "mortuary aid" program for our members. We were able to pool together a common fund from which the members of the community could borrow whenever they got sick or whenever members of the family died. In 1992 we started a community consumer cooperative. This was the time when the Mother of Perpetual Help parish initiated Income Generating Projects (IGPs) for the Small Christian Communities in the parish. There were 15 members who started the cooperative and we were able to raise P3,000.00 as starting capital and we borrowed an added capital of P5,000.00 from the parish. Later we borrowed another P10,000.00 to buy a refrigerator for the cooperative. The cooperative gradually grew in members and in assets. In 1995, we joined the mortuary aid and the consumer cooperative to form a multi-purpose cooperative. Thus, the cooperative was able to sell basic commodities to the members and to the neighborhood community at a lower price. The cooperative also lent money to the members. By 2001, there were already 101 members of the cooperative with a net asset of P554,871.00. The cooperative also organized a food processing project for some of the members which supplemented their income. At the end of each year, during the general assembly, the cooperative gives 70% patronage refund to the members and the dividends are added to the capital. Our cooperative therefore provides a great service to the members and to the neighborhood community.
Recently, our community came together for the Festival of Faith. It started on a Saturday evening from 8:00 to 10:00 and continued the whole day of Sunday. Over a hundred attended this gathering. This was facilitated by a Redemptorist priest, a parish worker and some theology students. During the first session, the theme was "Jesus Christ." We spent the first 20 minutes meditating on an icon of Jesus and reflecting on our own experiences of Jesus in our life. We then broke into small groups where we shared our experiences of Jesus and who he is in our life. This was followed by a long sermon about the Jesus-story and his continuing presence as the risen Lord. The theme of the second session the following morning was "Jesus’ call to Conversion and Discipleship." We went through the same process of meditation, group sharing and sermon. The session ended with a penitential service. During lunch we had an agape or a festive meal in the chapel. We share with one another the food that we brought along. There was even a lechon (roast pig) that we shared. The last session in the afernoon dwelt on the theme of "The Community of Disciples:The Church and the Basic Ecclesial Community." We ended with the celebration of the Eucharist. Within the mass we renewed our baptismal promises and affirmed our commitment to actively live out our discipleship within theBEC.
We wish to end this letter by sharing with you our reflections on the readings of the 5th Sunday of Lent. (John 11:1-45)
In the Gospel, Jesus proclaims himself as the resurrection and whoever believes in him will not die. He asks Martha if she believes in this and Martha replies: "Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world."
"I believe." This is Martha’s response to Jesus’ revelation.
This is the same response that we give to Jesus who has come to reveal himself to us. This is what faith is all about.
To believe in Jesus as the Christ is to believe that he is the prophetic, priestly and kingly messiah sent by God into the world.
Because of our faith, we believe in what Jesus has revealed to us. We believe in the message that he proclaims to us. We believe in his word.
Because of our faith, we put our trust in Jesus our Lord. We believe that he will always be with us, that he is close to us, that he will never abandon us, that he will always be there to save us and share his life with us.
Because of our faith, we follow Jesus. We are his disciples. We commit ourselves totally to him and carry out his mission. We show our faith by our works of mercy, compassion and justice. For James reminds us: faith without good works is dead.
By our baptism Christ we have died to sin and have risen to a new life in Christ. Christ shares his life and mission with us. We have become one with Christ and members of his body, the Church, the Christian community. We have become part of the community of believers, the community of disciples, we are truly a Christian community – a priestly, prophetic and kingly community.
Thus, to believe in Jesus is not an individualistic act. It is both personal and communitarian. We do not only say "I believe" but "We believe"
Thus, living as a BEC is a concrete expression of living our faith.
Mr. Felix Talorete
Pangulo sa Katilingban (Leader of the Community)
The Basic Ecclesial Community of Sta. Teresita
March 17, 2002
(drafted in English with the help of Fr. Amado Picardal)