Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fr. José Marins & Team and the CEBs

Our good friend Fr. José Marins spent one day with us in Macau and Zhuhai at the end of three months of courses and seminars on BEC (Basic Ecclesial Community) or SCC (Small Christian Community) in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Korea. A pilgrim along the grassroots of the Church for the last 40 years, Fr, Marins and Team witnesses to a new model of being Church today. Accompanying Fr, Marins in this trip was Fr Gerry Proctor, a Fidei Donum priest from Liverpool, England.

It was a return visit to the Continent for Fr Marins who had previously been here in 1981 invited by the Claretians. At that time we visited 11 countries in Asia. Now, 27 years later he came back. The first visit was to initiate contacts between the Latin American process and Asia and to promote dialogue between the two continents. This second visit was to renew the fraternal contacts and to listen and learn from Asian experiences.

In their report they say:

“Fr Marins has developed a unique way of working with SCCs where the method is the content and the content is in the method. It is a very interactive methodology based upon a profound respect for and understanding of the presence of wisdom and experience within all peoples regardless of educational or theological attainments. He has discovered over time that they are capable of articulating what has been experienced through engaging with the Marins methodology and process. It is a way of working with SCCs that is fully coherent with both the theology and the experience of this level of Church, and so is able to deliver not only a serious and rigorous content but also the mystique, ethos or spirituality that is proper to this way of being Church.

“Marins does not bring a model that can be copied and is completely against any attempt to make a photocopy of anywhere else or indeed of any process. Each country and culture is unique with very different histories, needs and limitations. Latin America cannot and does not offer a model or even a recipe for how to be Church in any other part of the world.

“The seminars follow three basic thrusts or moments; the first being a Nazareth moment where the focus is on starting, building and developing community amongst the participants who are understood to be ‘neighbors’ for the duration of the seminar. The second moment is the Emmaus moment where we focus on the person of Jesus in the gospels, giving the participants a way of entering into the text in order to be brought into contact with the original experience of God that characterized the event described in the gospel story. This emphasis on the Word of God coming alive for the people and being related to life is critical for how the SCCs use and experience the scriptures not only in their meetings but also in the way the communities develop and are formed. The third moment we call the Galilee moment and it focuses on the Early Church communities from Acts and the letters of Paul. This gives not only an insight into but also an experience of community and Church life as lived during the apostolic period which because of its presence in the New Testament is therefore part of revelation and in some important sense normative for the Church in every age.

He tells us in their report:

“This moment of another visit to Asia by the Marins team has provided us with an unparalleled opportunity and one we never imagined would be afforded us to reaffirm our commitment to being brothers and sisters in the work of building a Church that will permit the reign of God to be felt amongst the peoples of our neighborhoods and where the only gospel that will ever be read is likely to be the gospel lived by and encountered amongst the members of Small Christian Communities.”

Father Marins is one of the pioneers in laying a theological basis for Basic Christian Communities (BCC) in Latin America. He played an important role as a theology advisor at the 1968 and 1978 plenary assemblies of the Latin American Episcopal Conference, in Colombia and Mexico, respectively.

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