6. Proposal for a Personal Prelature for Migrant Filipinos
A. PERSONAL PRELATURE’S TASKS (always in coordination with local Bishops)
- HELP INCORPORATE MIGRANTS INTO THE LOCAL PARISHES, in three scenarios according to the characteristics of existing parishes in the area:
- FULL PASTORAL CARE where there are no normal parish activities, perhaps even serving non-Filipinos (e.g., Middle East)
- HELP INCORPORATE migrants into local parishes (e.g., Europe, where removing Filipinos from local parishes and providing full pastoral care for them, autonomous from local parishes, would certainly be opposed by Bishops)
- LEARNING BEST PRACTICES OF INCORPORATION where migrants are fully incorporated and are even members or leaders of all Parish and Diocesan Ministries (e.g., US, Canada, Australia).
- ASSIST LOCAL PARISH PRIESTS INCORPORATE THE OFW’S. Many Dioceses abroad do not usually have a grasp of our culture and religious practices, hence they do not really know how to incorporate our migrants into the local parishes. In many cases, Filipino migrants are given by the parish Priest full use of the church building for Filipino Masses and other activities, but almost never interact with the local parishioners. The Personal Prelature can help the local (non-Filipino) parish Priests understand and receive the Filipinos, not at the sidelines, but into the mainstream local parish. This will also assure us of continued Filipino practices (Simbang Gabi, Santo Niño, Marian Devotions, etc.) – this time as activities of local Parishes and not just of Filipino groups.
- The above, as desired by Can. 296 for Personal Prelatures, literally puts flesh and bones into Can. 107, which reads:
- §1. Through both domicile and quasi-domicile, each person acquires his or her pastor and ordinary.
- §2. The proper pastor or ordinary of a transient is the pastor or local ordinary where the transient is actually residing.
- §3. The proper pastor of one who has only a diocesan domicile or quasi-domicile is the pastor of the place where the person is actually residing.
B. A PERSONAL PRELATURE IS THE PROPER CONFIGURATION AND NOT AN ORDINARIATE, APOSTOLIC VICARIATE OR PERSONAL DIOCESE BECAUSE:
- Ordinariates (Military, former Anglicans), Apostolic Vicariates and personal dioceses (certain rites) provide all pastoral care independent of the local Parishes. This would definitely and totally be unacceptable to Bishops abroad, who already have dwindling Church attendance from locals, and would never want the Filipinos to leave their normal parishes and tranfer to the Ordinariate, Apostolic Vicariate or Personal Diocese.
- The figure of a Personal Prelature on the other hand is very flexible and can focus on very specific roles only (without having to provide all pastoral ministries unless necessary). Its goal is to eventually incorporate the OFW’s (perhaps this will take long yet in the Middle East) and not to keep Filipinos separated. This does not mean that the Personal Prelature would eventually be left with nothing to do, as there will always be new migrants; and besides, we are only reaching perhaps at most some 5% of migrants, so there are still 95% who can be reached.
C. A PERSONAL PRELATURE IS THE PROPER CONFIGURATION AND NOT A “CLERICAL ASSOCIATION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITHFUL” BECAUSE:
- (References for the latter: “Associations of the Christian faithful” is in Can. 300, 3; of a “Clerical” type is in Can. 302 – directed by clerics, and may admit lay people.)
- Why? Because Associations are formed by like-minded people who wish to pursue a similar goal to promote the faith. On the other hand, a Prelature is a structure created by the Holy Father to care for a certain group or to promote specialized works of evangelization – into which the Personal Prelature for FIlipinos would perfectly fit.
- In other words, it is not that the OFW’s are organizing themselves and looking for Priests to lead them in an association, nor Priests seeing the need to organize themselves into an association to serve the OFW’s. Rather, it is the Holy Father, upon the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ recommendation, who sees the need for specialized care for a specific group of people, and thus he creates a structure for them, a Personal Prelature specific for Filipino migrants.
- Asking the OFW’s to form an association, instead of providing a Personal Prelature for them, would be like asking a group of Catholics in a Diocese’s far flung area to form an association, instead of the Church providing a chapel or parish for them.
D. OTHER NOTES:
- For now we are losing a lot of OFW’s because Priests are concentrated in big cities (e.g., Rome with 50-60 Masses for OFW’s each Sunday, some with just 10-15 attendees – since groups keep on dividing, being able to find a Priest willing to celebrate for them) and there is no ecclesiastical authority (an Ordinary) who can ask the Priests to celebrate instead in other cities with no Masses yet. Such authority in the future could also ask Priests to hear Confessions, hold recollections, and offer other means of formation aside from just celebrating Masses – this would be possible if the smaller groups could join the larger groups for Masses, to make Priests available for other activities.
- We are also losing a lot of the Filipinos’s children (they do not want to be called “second generation”, but “new generation”) because they find it hard to listen to a homily in Tagalog. They cannot relate with the Philippine context anymore. When they reach high school, they will no longer go to the Filipino Masses, and instead hang around with their local friends, many of whom do not go to Mass. If the first generation migrants are little by little guided into the local Parishes, their children will hopefully continue to attend Mass as they grow, and even bring along their friends (Italians, French, Spaniards, Asians, Aftricans, etc.) to the local Masses (something they cannot do if they grow up stuck in Tagalog Masses). This is part of the OFW’s missionary work. So the Personal Prelature should help the first generation migrants integrate thier families to the local parishes, which is definitely a gradual process.
- The Prelature could have incardinated Priests in the future, with specialized formation for care for OFW’s. But meanwhile, it could have “guest priests” just like dioceses, who would be under the real and effective jurisdiction of the Prelate.
- The CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerants (ECMI) Chairman does not have canonical jurisdiction over the priests serving the migrants (just like ECFL, ECLaity, etc.). Besides, the ECMI Chairman is first of all Bishop of his own Diocese, and has to care for maybe 1 to 2 milllion faithful.
- It would be understandable if the millions of migrants are given a Prelate with Ordinary powers who could focus on a proper Pastoral care and coordination for OFW’s and also have his own Curia, for a population bigger than the population of all other Philippine Dioceses except for a few.
- Last January 2020 the CBCP has created an ad hoc Commision (composed of four Episcopal Commssions: Seminaries, Clergy, Canon Law and ECMI) to study and present to the CBCP Plenary Assembly this July the possible creation of a Personal Prelature. If ever the Holy See decides to create a Personal Prelature for Filipino migrants, just like creating a new Diocese, it would be based in the Philippines as part of the CBCP, and minister to Filipinos all over the world.