Return to the Early Church
By Hector Pascua
This is am extraordinary and beautiful story of how a young Filipino lay theologian is administering a parish in Austria. It opens up what a wonderful role awaits the Filipino Church on the day we wake up and hear the call.
I am Hector Pascua, journalist and theologian, working in a parish in Austria. The Diocese of Vienna assigned me to a parish where there is no priest. Presently I am working in the publication of the first bi-monthly magazine for the Filipinos in Austria called Mabuhay ang Filipino.
Crisis in Europe
Austria is predominantly a Catholic country with more or less 85% Catholics. The advent of modernization and secularization has contributed to the decline of churchgoers and believers in the past 10 years. Add to this some hot Church issues that raise question for the new generation of Austrians (and at a times other issues such as a Cardinal charged with immorality or priests having women). One can really observe the decreasing number of Catholics. Either they join other religions and sects or live without religious faith. Indeed the Church in Austria (and in Europe in general) is in crisis. Nevertheless I find people who are very much engaged in the re-evangelization of Austria, priests and lay people alike.
I work as a layman in a parish without a priest though a priest from a neighboring parish comes every Sunday and on other festivities to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. In the parish I do everything except administration of some of the Sacraments. When I arrived in my parish, I felt the warm acceptance of the parishioners of my presence in their place. With the increasing rate of racial discrimination in Austria I thought I would become a victim of this reality. However, I was wrong. Despite of our racial difference the people have accepted me. (I speak their language, German.)
100 First Communions
I give Bibles Services three times a week. More or less 10 to 15 people attend the bible study. This school year I have 102 children who will receive their first communion in May. I prepared a 17 week catechetical program and asked the parents to share these to the first communicants. The parish also accompanies youths who will have their Confirmation.
Help for R.P.
CARITAS with their dedicated lay leaders in the parish sponsored a fund-raising campaign for typhoon victims in the Philippines last November. The donation for the victims was channeled through the central office of CARITAS, Austria.
I plan to promote mission awareness in the parish. The minds of the parishioners are still concentrated on their own parish. the thought of the Church being universal has not yet taken root in their lives. I am trying to instill this missionary ideal to the people. I would also like to build up a partnership between my parish in Austria and a parish in the Philippines.
Youth Ministry Needed
Though secularization in Europe is getting stronger, I still find people who are strong in their faith no matter what it costs. The future of the Church depends on the young generation. But this generation is the one being swept strongly by modernization and secularization. Thus a more defined youth pastoral should be put to work. I realize that as a lay person I can serve as an Evangelist and I try to convince others to follow this path and face the challenges that missions life brings.