6. Proposal for a Personal Prelature for Overseas Filipinos
A. PERSONAL PRELATURE’S TASKS (always in coordination with local Bishops)
- CARE FOR FILIPINO MIGRANTS:
- 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 providing full pastoral care, 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 DIOCESES INCORPORATE THE OFW’S. This is a challenge for Dioceses abroad, as they do not usually have a grasp of our culture and religious practices. The Personal Prelature 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.
B. A PERSONAL PRELATURE IS THE PROPER CONFIGURATION AND NOT AN ORDINARIATE OR PERSONAL DIOCESE BECAUSE:
- Ordinariates (Military, former Anglicans) 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 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. 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.