IT BEING, as reported, the handiwork of Fr. Mon Echica who not only knows his theology but also situates it in current social reality, I am sure the recent reshuffling of diocesan priests is geared towards meeting more adequately the spiritual needs of Cebu’s Catholic faithful.
But how relevantly will the faithful’s needs be met is a question left open by Archbishop Jose Palma’s trifecta of worn-out exhortations to his priests: “Bring the love and mercy of God. Save souls. Be instruments of God’s salvation.”
Christ said to love and have mercy on the neighbor not just his/her soul. Christ also saved the whole man not just his/her soul from sin and its evil effects such as degrading subhuman social conditions.
Granting that “saving souls” somehow covers the mission priests are to accomplish in their new assignments, the question still smarts of how they would save the souls of people of varying psycho-physical and socio-economic circumstances.
How, for instance, do they save the souls of people who are in such dire economic straits and so tightly tied up with the business of physical survival that they lose all awareness of God’s image (the soul?) in them?
At the opposite extreme, how do they save the souls of persons whose greed for material possessions smothers their soul’s yearning to live Christ’s loving, true and just way of relating to brother/sister humans?
How do they save the souls of criminal psycho-paths who can hardly be called to account for their actions? And how do they save the souls of hardened criminals whose life of crime has completely silenced the voice of the God that yet lives in their hearts regardless?
How do they save the souls of street children and of their parents or of sexually and commercially trafficked children and of their traffickers that include their own parents?
How do they save the souls of Church-going but irresponsible, uncaring and greedy politicians who cheat, steal and neglect the physical needs of their constituents? And how do they save the souls of the victims of the former’s official neglect?
More than a new mode of reshuffling that neutralizes the materialistic tendencies of some priests, the Catholic Church needs new modes of pastoral ministry. Today’s world has a new set of victims and victimizers and the Catholic Church is mandated to save the souls of all of them. But how?
One way to find the answer is to ask how, after Pope Francis has said it, it smells like the sheep you are shepherding? The answer is definitely not by staying behind the altar and waiting for the sheep to come to you but by going and searching for the above-mentioned lost sheep who are more badly in need of total salvation than regular Church-going Catholic faithful.