This will be a huge milestone for the Catholic Church, which on 2021, will be marking the 500th year of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines. As you might have heard from your history class, the year 1521 saw Ferdinand Magellan arriving on the Philippine shores and celebrating the first Mass in the Limasawa island of Cebu. Over the centuries, the Christian faith has spread throughout the archipelago, making the Philippines the fifth largest Christian country in the world.
To prepare for this Great Jubilee of 2021, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has set a nine-year period for the Church to undertake intensive evangelization. This nine-year journey began in 2013 with the theme “Integral Faith Formation,” which coincided with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s declaration of the Year of Faith. Now, this year 2014 is dedicated to YOU — the lay faithful — as the Year of the Laity.
WHO ARE THE LAITY?
“Laity,” comes from the Greek word “Laos,” which means “people”. The laity, according to the Second Vatican Council, include “all the faithful except those in Holy Orders and those who belong to a religious state sanctioned by the Church.” They are made one body in Christ through baptism. In other words, they are “all the faithful” who are neither priests nor nuns nor members of a religious state. They make up more than 99 percent of the Church’s population. They are, in essence, most of us.
For the Year of the Laity, the CBCP has chosen the theme, “Filipino Catholic Laity: Called to be Saints. Sent Forth as Heroes.” In his message, CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas urged everyone to “choose to be brave” and be not afraid to be Catholics.
When you were baptized, you partook in the promises and graces of the Holy Spirit. You are consecrated and, like Christ, you share in the sacred duty to spread the Gospel through your words and actions.
This, however, may be easier said than done given our shortcomings as human beings. Thus, the Church has devoted itself to the “renewal of the [lay faithful], so that they may indeed take up their role as co-responsible agents of evangelization and take in the task of social transformation,” to reach out to those who are in need.
The 12 sectors of society (Jubilees) represent the different groups of people who are in need of love, care and help of every Christian. By reaching out to these sectors, the lay person chooses to be brave.
- Non-practicing Catholics - How can you help bring back to the Church our brothers and sisters who stopped going to Mass or have left the church for other religious denominations?
- Young Professionals - How can you help empower young professionals and make them active co-actors in social change?
- Broken Families - How can you reach out and help broken families receive God’s healing in their homes?
- Homeless and Jobless - How can you support informal settlers and contractual workers through church-led programs?
- Homebound and Prisoners - How can you help restore hope to the sick, handicapped, elderly, and prisoners?
- Farmers, Fisherfolk, and Laborers - How can you inspire struggling laborers to become effective agents of evangelization?
- Troubled Friends - How can you give comfort and encouragement to those who battle with addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling and cyberspace?
- Government Employees - How can you instill virtues of integrity and honesty among our public servants?
- Civic Organizations - How can you champion volunteerism to promote the social transformation of civic organizations?
- Public School Teachers - How can you support the formation of educators to enable them to teach students virtues worthy of emulation?
- Indigenous Peoples (IP) - How can you take part in an initiative that recognizes exemplary Catholic leaders of IP?
- Lay Saints and Catholic Filipino Heroes - How can you campaign against Halloween scare and inspire people to live holy lives?
For more information about the Year of the Laity and its activities, visit www.choosetobebrave.org.