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Building Communities through the PREX

{ Tags: , , \ Aug14 }

BEC Advanced

Since 2005, I have been harping about the need to provide for a PREX Advanced Module for those who complete the Parish Renewal Experience. This was due to the discovery that not all PREX graduates join parish mandated organizations and not all religious organizations in the parish are responsive to the need of the PREX graduates for on-going formation in the faith. The "PREX 201 Module" I suggested years ago was designed to lead new PREX graduates to join Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) and to exercise a ministry geared towards the building-up of the Church through the BEC.

Since February of this year however, the project took a different turn after we made a few changes to the way we hold our Parish Renewal Experiences. The changes we introduced were two in number:

  1. I took "Talk No. 11" (You Are My Witnesses)
  2. We began holding the PREX in different visitas of the parish instead of just calling parishioners from the different visitas to join the PREX held in our parish hall

The result of these changes were two-fold: (a) the graduates began to realize the connection between the PREX and a venue for on-going formation in evangelization; and (b) those who were already members of cell communities began volunteering to help new PREX graduates find a place in their cell communities. The need for training those who were already in cell communities also arose, and so a training program for them under the management of the PREX Secretariat was also organized. Because of this, the PREX 201 Modules I was proposing was scrapped and replaced by something better. Below is a description of what we are doing now at the Mother of Good Counsel Parish (San Pedro, Laguna) in order to make the Parish Renewal Experience truly a venue for the on-going formation of our parishioners.

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Where It Starts

We begin with Talk No. 11 (“You are My Witnesses”) where — for the first time during the Parish Renewal Experience — I explain to the new graduates that Paul VI writes about Evangelization. Here I use the document which inspired the creation of PREX, “Evangelii Nuntiandi”. The purpose of the talk is to encourage the new graduates to move on from being passive Catholics to ones that are committed to the work of evangelization. I also add in this talk a more precise way of evangelization: that of building up Christian communities through cell groups.

The Next Step: Cell Leadership

A week after the new graduates finish their table ministry, those who are interested to continue working in cell groups begin their training as cell leaders. There are eight training modules that are geared towards:

(a) introducing the trainees to the concept of Basic Cell Communities
(b) familiarizing them with the cell meeting and its process
(c) teaching them the basics of a Catholic understanding of Scriptures

Below are the titles of the modules and a brief description

Module 1: The BEC and the PREX

The trainees are introduced to the concept of the BEC (Basic Cell Community), the way it continues some elements of the Parish Renewal Experience, and how cell meetings provide the venue for an on-going Christian formation within a community of faith. It is also an opportunity for describing to the trainees how the BEC has become a means for other PREX graduates to continue in their new resolve to live faithful to their baptismal vows.
Module 2: The Cell Meeting

A description of the way a cell meeting proceeds in our parish. The once a week cell meeting is geared towards a more attentive listening to the Gospel. The principle that is emphasized is that the study of the Gospel done during the meeting is perfected in the Eucharist. Catholics do not read the Scriptures as if these can be understood independently of the Total Christ and Apostolic Tradition. It is also emphasized that the study of Scriptures should become a conversation with God. Thus two alternate ways of meditating on the Scriptures are explained: (a) meditation with the use of the imagination (the Jesuit method), and (b) meditation by focusing on a particular passage, repeating it for some time to oneself as if it were candy in one’s mouth (the way of the Mendicants). Finally, the cell meeting would not be complete without a group resolution for the week. The cell meeting does not end until the members make a resolution to live the Gospel message. Resolutions are formulated in such a way that the members know what to do and for how long.
This second module is an actual experience of a cell meeting and is an integral part of all the training modules from day one.
Module 3: The Process of the Cell Meeting

The process of the cell meeting is explained and the theory behind it. All the steps of the cell meeting, from the opening prayer until the final prayer are explained together with the ways these can be enhanced (e.g. singing is encouraged).
Module 4: The Preparation of the Cell Leader

Module 4 explains how the cell leader prepares for a meeting. Since the cell meeting involves the reading of the Scriptures, its understanding and helping the participants apply the message of the Gospel to their lives, the trainees are given instructions on:

1. how to make use of the ORDO

2. which Bible version to use in preparing for a cell meeting

3. the importance of developing a keen understanding of the Scriptural text (e.g. creating Sentence Flows)

4. how to make use of the notes and footnotes of modern Bible translations.
Module 5: Cell Leadership as Servant Leadership

Cell group leadership is a ministry. It is one of the ways by which the laity can participate in the building up of the Church. Through this ministry, lay people can become extensions of the parish priest in their own neighborhood and at the same time give him opportunities to visit places within the parish that may prove inaccessible if he is without a lay companion. The materials in this module are made up of tips on how the cell leader runs his group in a way that is participative. Instructions on the spirituality of Christian leadership as rooted in the three-fold office of Christ which the baptized participate in are also given.
Module 6: Reading the Text in its Context

In order to understand the text of Scriptures, one should read it having its context in mind. The context of a passage as it is found in a section or a book should also be understood. More importantly, the whole of salvation history should be taken into consideration.
Module 7: Scriptures and the Catholic Faith

The Scriptures were written in the Church and for the Church. Thus the understanding of the Scriptures cannot do without the analogy of the faith. Scriptures does not teach anything contrary to the Catholic faith, since it is that faith which engendered it. The module is apologetic. It deals with mistaken notions about the Scriptures to which Catholics have been exposed.
Module 8: Scriptures, the Eucharist and Life

The eighth module is on the specifics of a Catholic way of reading the Scriptures:
(a) it is a reading that prepares for the Liturgy of the Word

(b) it is a reading that is carried on in the act of “ruminating” the Word that was heard

(c) it is a reading that should lead one to conversion
In this module, the trainees are introduced to the spirit of the “lectio divina” which is an intelligent reading of the text of Scriptures within the context of a dialogue with God. Since Scriptures derives from the life of faith, it too, must end in a faith that is lived in charity and hope.

Advanced Training

After the Basic BEC Training, the trainees move on to the next step: actual participation in a cell group. They do not join as leaders yet, but as “junior assistants” to cell leaders. It is at this point when they become more familiar with the cell meeting and gain some confidence in expressing themselves in a group. Alongside this “on the job training experience” are additional instructions on subjects that were explained but not deepened in the basic BEC modules. Questions like “how does one lead others in prayer?” or “how do I make use of a concordance?” are explained in these advanced lessons. Since our trainees in the Advanced Modules are professionals with some having been members in prayers groups and charismatic communities, lessons are given by people who are already competent in certain topics. Since the time we started the Advanced Training this year, the following short classes have been given:

  • Creating Sentence Flows for Narratives and Poetic Texts
  • Making use of Grammatical Analysis for an Intelligent Reading of the Text
  • Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels
  • Leadership and Basic Leadership Skills
  • Preparing Catalogues and Dossiers (Research Methodology)
  • Studying Scriptures with the aid of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

At the moment we have more than ten trainees under the Advanced Module and about six in the Basic Training. For both groups, sessions are given weekly. The number and frequency of those who enroll in the Basic Training depend on the graduates of the Parish Renewal Experience which we hold every other month.

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