NEW BEGINNINGS OF THE
CATHOLIC BIBLICAL FEDERATION
By Estrella (Star) del Mar
The 9th Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Biblical Federation was held at Ad Gentes Missionari Verbiti at Nemi on June 18-23, 2015 with the theme: HOLY SCRIPTURE, SOURCE OF EVANGELIZATION. Many thanks to our new General Secretary, Fr. Jan Stefanów, SVD, for having arranged and organized everything, that made these five days an enriching and fruitful experience of the Word in its global dimension.
A Lectio Divina guide was prepared that focused on the four aspects of relationship on Word and Mission from the perspective of a “Church which goes forth.” We had Lectio Divina in small groups according to language groups and a mixture of Bishops, Priests, Religious and Lay. This was done every morning before breakfast. The Lectio Divina sharing was so enriching, inspiring and challenging as well.
The Eucharistic Celebrations, prepared by regional groups, were celebrated in the evenings except for the Sunday mass that was held in the morning with the Region of Asia preparing the Liturgy. The Sunday mass was presided by the Bishop from India and the homilist was Bishop Ambo David, DD of the Philippines. His homily is also published in the CBF-SEA website.
Bishop Ambo was inspired by the Sunday readings especially the Gospel and made a good summary of the CBF journey especially the hard and painful times. Now, we do not talk about it. We need to learn from it and move on for a new start, for our new beginnings. He proposed three steps:
- Learn to leave the crowd every now and then.
- Quiet, be still!
- Have faith—in the sense of “remember”.
The homilies of our new President, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, DD, from the Philippines reminded us to be humble, forgiving, trusting, caring, and be sensitive to the Spirit to make God’s Kingdom a reality in our world. In his conference, he enumerated several challenges for us to respond to the needs of the times, to do something about the present situation and to proclaim all the more God’s Word in our lives. The Final Statement summarized these challenges there.
We are happy to have a President who leads the way, who guides us with questions and proposals that are concrete enough to show us the directions. Now, we have a lot of tasks to do. The CBF General Secretariat had prepared a blueprint of a 6-year plan of action that is concrete and doable. These were translated into programs and projects by the Regions that could be accomplished in 6 years. A sample curriculum of a 2-year course for a Masters in Biblical Pastoral Ministry was presented to us that we could easily duplicate in our sub-region. A concrete plan (based on the Luxembourg template was already worked out by the Members guided by our new South East Asian sub-regional Coordinator that is ECBA represented by Bishop Ambo David.
CBF-SEA will have its own Masters’ Program for Biblical-Pastoral Ministry at the SVD School of Theology in Tagaytay City, Philippines – which some of the faculty of the Seminary had already started in the past. We only need to enrich it and invite more CBF Experts to be resource persons. An educational trip to the Holy Land will also be a part of this course. We need to tap the Resource Persons who are already giving courses at the Holy Land. Since some possible participants may not be able to afford a long stay-in course or finish the 2-year program, some shorter modular courses will also be available for them. Bible Translation is given a priority too and need to be given the proper resources for the success of the project. The Catholic Lectionaries could be a joint project of the Bible Scholars and the Liturgy Commission. Since the Bible is to permeate all the pastoral activities of the Church, it is important that our future priests would also get a good training on Biblical Pastoral Ministry and how it is done aside from their Exegesis courses.
Workshops, meetings and communication networks were also planned out and given tentative schedules.
So much had been planned to be worked out and implemented in the next 6 years before the next Plenary Assembly.
The two resource persons: Nuria Calduch-Benages and Maricel Mena López posed challenges in the new way of reading Scriptures highlighting the challenges of Dei Verbum, Verbum Domini and Evangelii Gaudium. Cardinal Tagle put concrete images of the present situation of the world that these new way of reading and interpreting Scriptures would have to be worked out in concrete programs centering on the Word of God. Pope Francis reminded us to look at the lives of the people and their present socio-economic-political situations and make the Word of God speak to them in these present conditions for inspiration, enlightenment and hope.
This is also true to the Catholic Biblical Federation. We cannot continue to dwell on the past that cannot be changed as it had already happened. We had learned our lessons. We move on with wisdom, renewed inspiration and vitality to respond to the challenges of the times in God’s Word. We need to face the present realities guided by the Word which also needs to be read and listened to in a new way.
The Catholic Biblical Federation with its new set of members of the Executive Committee, the Commission groups, the new Coordinators of the regions and sub-regions will move ahead to meet these present challenges to make the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God become more and more relevant in the lives of our people. And we begin with ourselves. We need to witness to the people the message of the Word – to build a loving, caring, forgiving, trusting and hoping community.
We pray that our number will grow and communities of the Word will flourish. We dream that people may say to our Federation “See how they love one another!” And we support each other in different ways by sharing whatever we have.
CBF has started the new beginning. Let us rejoice and be glad in the Lord as we thank our great leaders of the past that made CBF grow in number around the world. We are a global community in the Word! How happy we are to stay and share together in these few days and all in God’s Word! Praise be the Lord of love, compassion and mercy!