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2019 Pastoral Letter - CFC Chairman

Please read the Pastoral Letter from our new CFC International Council Chairman, bro Rabboni "Bong" Arjonillo, as we face the future of our community as well as where our community will be in the next decade or so.


                                                  Ref. No. 19-045
 
A Pastoral Letter from the CFC Chairman
July 27, 2019
 
 
FACING THE FUTURE,  EMBRACING THE FUTURE
 
Dear CFC Family,
 
As of today, the new set of International Council members has been on the job, so to speak, for only 27 days. Not enough time to make any kind of impact. And yet, when one looks at the remaining 703 days of our term, one can say that there is still a long way to go, a great opportunity still to accomplish many things.  
 
I speak for the International Council when I say that we are at the cusp of something very significant. We will end our term in 2021, the very year when CFC celebrates its 40th anniversary, the very year when we as a people celebrate 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.
 
This fact is not lost on us, the nine members of the Council. We recognize the timing and God’s hand in this, in the very unexpected gift of being at the helm of this community we love so much. We have asked ourselves many times, particularly President Reggie Ragojos and I, why we were elected to be Chairman and President, respectively. What is God’s message in this? What awesome tasks and challenges are in store for all of us – including Bros. Arnel, Nonoy, Ricky, George, Jimmy, James and Melo - as we approach these twin milestones in our lives as Catholics and CFC members?
 
We are both excited and humbled.  Excited because we see the opportunity the Lord has placed before us today – to rally everyone in CFC to face the future with confidence and full of hope. Humbled because we never expected to lead this community.
 
Crossing Over
 
As we prepare to face the challenges of the future, we have sought advice.  One of them had something very surprising to say. He pointed out that the Israelites prepared to cross over to the land of milk and honey on their 40th year. This is exactly what the Lord is asking us to do – to cross over, on our 40th year, to a better CFC, a community more fully equipped to embrace what the future holds.
 
When the Israelites crossed over, it was Joshua and Caleb who led the march. It was not Moses, who had led them for all of the 40 years. On our 40th year, our vision is to see many of our young and unheralded leaders crossing over to greater leadership opportunities, taking on greater risks and reaping greater harvests.  
 
Is that a terrifying prospect?  It definitely is! Because the world is constantly changing and many times, not for the better.  
 
There is a growing secularism in the world. Technology continues to advance exponentially, which may not be totally a bad thing. However, whether we like it or not, technological advancements are forcing us to re-invent ourselves and innovate our ways of doing things and presenting the values that shape us.  
 
One disturbing aspect of our modern life is an upsurge in the manner that family and life are being attacked and devalued, distorting the younger generations’ standards and behavior. Let us look at some of the studies and statistics:   
 
•    Almost 50 percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce or separation. You may say, “But that is in the US!” Sad to say, Philippine statistics show the same trend except that here, we do not recognize divorce. But couples in the Philippines are starting to separate in almost the same frequency as those in the US and other Western countries.   
 
•    The youth are the future of the nation. But are they also the future of our faith?  One disturbing trend is that the 20-somethings and 30-somethings, those who are now on deck to carry on the faith, may not be ready to do that. According to a study, nearly half (47%) of practicing Christian millennials—churchgoers who consider religion an important part of their lives—believe that evangelization is wrong.  
 
•    Growth of the unaffiliated - For every one person joining our Church today, 6.45 are leaving, and most are leaving at young ages, primarily before age 23. This statistic was shared by Bishop Robert Barron who advocates that the Catholic Church should now focus on getting these young ones back into the fold.  
 
Going into Uncharted Territory  
 
For many of us, the future represents uncharted territory. What lies before us? What things await us? Like Joshua, we feel that we are at the border of a new country—the promised land. It is exciting, as we anticipate what lies beyond. At the same time, there is anxiety as this is a way that “we have never been before”.  
 
As we enter CFC’s 40th year, I believe God is CALLING us to embark on a NEW JOURNEY. I believe God is LEADING us to a NEW PATH. I believe God has been PREPARING us to ENTER into a NEW WAY where “we have never been before!”  
 
What’s so new about it? For one, there will be new experiences to face, new problems to solve, new trials to endure, new temptations to ward off, new sorrows to bear, new opportunities to grasp, new tasks to perform, new blessings to enjoy.   
 
But despite this “newness”, God has promised: “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” (Joshua 1:6)  
 
Our Call to New Evangelization
 
How can CFC become more relevant as a community in this present society (locally and internationally) as we move towards our 40th year, and even beyond?    
 
More than ever, CFC will be called to proclaim the Good News of salvation. The Gospel message is the same, but the ways by which we will be instructed to proclaim God’s truth may have to be reviewed in order for us to learn, unlearn and re-learn methods in evangelization. This review would be performed through the CFC PASTORAL CONGRESS.    
 
The Congress will be a series of national and international conferences, meetings, consultations, and evaluation of the state of the CFC community nationwide and in the world. It is the first comprehensive evaluation of CFC in 38 years that will engage CFC elders worldwide, particularly those who are household heads and above. The Congress findings will become valuable inputs in the planning for the next 20 years of CFC life and mission. We will involve our bishops and clergy extensively, globally. We shall also engage thought leaders from other communities here and abroad.
 
We began this journey into the future by charting a five-year plan for the Asia-Oceania Mission.
This plan is now heading towards its second year and as 2020 unfolds, the “balanced scorecards” approach introduced at the beginning of the process shall now be implemented.  Our vision is to see the medium-term planning process adopted in all of our mission areas. The Pastoral Congress will allow us to expand this vision to a longer development plan for the community – to the next 20 years and even beyond.
 
Call to Prayer  
 
God may be leading us into “uncharted territory” but there is one thing certain: we need to follow God’s instructions, and He will make sure that “no one will be able to stand against us all the days of our lives.” (Joshua 1:5)  
 
God will not leave us to ourselves as we step into the seeming unknown. Like the ark of the covenant that went ahead of the Israelites as they crossed the Jordan River to the Promised Land, let us be confident that God has gone ahead of us to this uncharted territory. We may stand between the desert and the land of milk and honey, and there may be obstacles that will prevent us from moving forward but He will make sure it will be safe to cross, and that He will stay there until everyone has passed.  
 
The fact that new leaders are being raised might seem uncomfortable for some but trust God that He will speak through our new breed of leaders, giving His instructions for all to obey. (Joshua 1:1-9)  
 
And so we encourage everyone to pray with us. The next two years will not be a walk-in-thepark kind of entry into the Promised Land. Even Joshua had to lead the Israelites to fight seven nations and overcome them in order to expand their territory.   
 
Like Jabez, our prayer and desire to enlarge our territory would require fervent prayers -- for the Lord to accompany us and to spare us from distress (“…and that Your hand may be that it might not cause me pain”) and to protect us (“…and that You would keep me from evil”).   
 
May God bless our plans and allow us to fulfill them, all for His greater glory!