Kalookan (Agenzia Fides) – In the diocese of Kalookan there are 32 parishes and 17 municipal missions. The diocese includes the southern part of the city of Caloocan and the cities of Malabon and Navotas, all in Greater Manila, a conglomerate of 17 cities with a total population of 12 million.
The initiative to create “points of light” in the slums or in areas where people experience great economic and social hardship was launched five years ago and wants to go to the “existential peripheries” to which the church is called to proclaim the Good News of God’s love, explains 62-year-old Msgr. Pablo Virgilio David, Bishop of Kalookan, who is also President of the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
Less than 20% of baptized Catholics in the region are actively involved in parish life, according to local Church statistics. Pastoral care in metropolitan areas and in densely populated urban areas needs creative means, from “Church that goes forth” and the establishment of “mission stations” seemed to be a possible solution: traditionally, mission stations are places where a priest goes regularly to ensure a pastoral service that are mainly located in rural or mountainous areas. Often they are in the territory of very large parishes and in areas of first evangelization where the faithful could not otherwise participate in Church life.
But the same criterion, Bishop David said, could also be applied to a metropolis where the suburbs and slums are left to themselves, or where citizens spend much of their time in office work or in large shopping malls. In this way, spiritual needs are completely neglected, and in order to meet these needs, “urban mission stations” have emerged, which can be found in hospitals, train stations, airports, government offices, shopping centers and also in social hotspots. These “new oases of peace in the desert of the big city” in Kalookan are specially designed for people living in the vast, miserable, crime-ridden and violent slums of northern Greater Manila. As part of a new pastoral experiment, mission stations have been set up in the slums, where priests and religious settle to live with the people of these neighborhoods. “The idea is to start again with the last,” emphasizes Bishop David, because “only when the Church becomes small and weak does the power of the Holy Spirit become present in this weakness”
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