New book chronicles vibrant synodality in Aparri parish

July 10, 2024 - 3:13 PM
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Parokya San Telmo (CBCP News)

The parish of San Telmo in Aparri, Cagayan recently launched its inaugural publication, Parokia San Telmo: Agayus ti Pammati iti Biag (Where Faith Flows into Life).

The book chronicles the 344-year history of the coastal town and captures the journey of the flourishing faith community, emphasizing the transformative role of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) in engagement and pastoral care.

Spearheaded by then-outgoing parish priest Fr. Manuel Vicente Catral, the book provides a visual and textual narrative of the formation of the parishioners rooted in the missionary life of its patron Blessed Peter Gonzales, and the priestly, prophetic, and kingly life of Jesus.

It also highlights current pastoral programs of the parish run by its 800-strong BEC workers in 69 puroks across 11 barangays.

Vignettes feature conversion stories of parishioners, including their joys and challenges in leading 4,000 active families through the worship, education, social action, and stewardship ministries.

The book was written by Diana Verzosa Moraleda, a development worker and former researcher at the John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues who found herself back in her hometown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moraleda said she took on the job because she was deeply impressed by how the parish has transformed in recent years and believed, as Catral did, that the story should be documented.

“I felt a new vibrancy in how people practiced their faith. The parish was always full with people scurrying about. The number of lay ministers ballooned, and I no longer saw just the usual influential families serving. All our 15 chapels were renovated and held regular Masses; street masses were also common with a complete crew of lay ministers,” Moraleda said.

She added, “I was awed most especially at how the usually risk-averse Aparrianos became bolder in opposing injustice, such as that of black sand mining that caused much environmental damage and suffering among fisherfolk. Our parish played a crucial role in that. Not all parishes focus on social action in the same manner that they focus on worship.”

Moraleda was referring to the 2022 Earth Day March where 1,700 fisherfolk walked for two hours from the municipal arch to the San Telmo parish to advocate for the care of the river and the sea. The first-of-its-kind rally helped stop black sand mining operations in Cagayan.

Moraleda would later discover how the BECs also conduct family catechism in the home and Bible reading camps for children and wrote about these and the parish’s other teaching programs.

The book outlines the parish’s stewardship efforts, raising and allocating 71 million pesos over seven years through transparency measures like the parish information management system and monthly public reports to parishioners.

Aside from operations and church building renovations, funds were used in trainings for BEC workers, and regular purok dialogues. Major projects included the province’s first Kolumbarium de Aparri and the San Telmo Village, a sustainable housing project using typhoon-resilient earthbag technology.

“People realize that giving is an important component of discipleship and in journeying together in mission. Add to this, when they see that the parish manages resources effectively, achieve tangible results, and serve the most vulnerable with integrity, they are inspired to contribute, participate, and unite in the mission, thereby bringing people closer to God,” Moraleda explained.

Reflecting on the book’s significance, Catral said that Parokia San Telmo: Agayus ti Pammati iti BIag is a testament to the thriving synodality within the parish and how the community has embraced Pope Francis’s call for a ‘pastoral conversion’ through BECs.

“Because of God’s abiding presence in the Parish of San Telmo, the BECs give back in thanksgiving. Living as a community of missionary disciples in the BECs–attending to the needs of the families in worship, education, and social action–the parishioners ensure the parish’s productivity and sustainability. Stewardship–the sharing of time, talent, and treasure–becomes a way of life,” Catral added.

Archbishop Ricardo Baccay of Tuguegarao commended the parish for its initiative, stating that the book is a timely invitation for all of us who are journeying together as Church.

“This journey, which is a pilgrimage of faith, is an arduous task that demands our commitment to be more caring, more listening, more participative, opening our doors to everyone. This is where [the book] comes as a ready guide,” he said.

Parokia San Telmo: Agayus ti Pammati iti Biag is available for purchase at the San Telmo Parish Office. Those outside Aparri interested in obtaining a copy may contact Joey Ayson at 09157650399. Proceeds from the book will support the parish’s ongoing stewardship initiatives and future publications.