The members of the Catholic Plenary Council of Thailand A.D 2015 are grateful to the foreign missionaries who arrived in the Kingdom of Siam in 1516 and began to announce the Good News of Salvation. An important event that took place 350 years ago was the “Synod of Ayudhaya”. That meeting in 1664 enabled the church to take root and develop.
A significant sign of its development was the establishment of its own hierarchy 50 years ago in 1965. Therefore the year 2015 was an opportune time for Catholic Thailand to give thanks to God for the gift of salvation and to look forward with hope as “Christ’s Disciples living in the New Evangelization.” So that they can face many challenges caused by social and contemporary cultural changes by being a witness in their lives and reaching out to proclaim the Good News.
A New Way of Being Church would be our pastoral approach to build up communities of faith as a communion of communities according to FABC V, Bandung 1990.
Suratthani Diocese has started to formulate direction on building Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC) at the time of Bishop Michael Praphon Chaicharoen. Several BECs still maintain their direction with the Word of God as the center, while several parish communities have clear pastoral structures with a division of pastoral areas and clear roles in the parishes.
It is a positive direction with the good process of building BEC. One important phenomenon that we can clearly see in recent years is the role of laypeople with their greater participation in parishes and the diocese. Therefore, we are committed to building a new way of being church through BEC and small Christian communities by developing a holistic pastoral director in the Suratthani Diocese for the next 5 years from 2020 to 2024.
What is Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC)?
“If you love one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”
BEC is a way of living like the early Christian community at the time of the Apostles who realized the Kingdom of God. This kingdom is evident in our midst when there is a gathering of small Christian communities among neighboring households. These small Christian communities live their lives as brothers and sisters through the Word of God, prayer, sharing, and search for the will of God, committing to bring change in personal life, families community, and the larger society.
Living the way of BEC comprises of the following factors:
- The members of BEC meet in their homes, they are neighbors.
- They make Gospel Sharing the basis of their meeting
- They act and do things together; mutually taking care of the community and the environment, and help improve the living
- They have to be linked to the Universal Church to pray, celebrate the sacraments as well as various activities at the diocesan and at the national level as part of the Body of Christ
Without any of the four factors, this gathering is not BEC, but a group of other kinds. For example, when people do not gather in their neighborhood, it will be an organization. If it is a gathering with no prayer and sharing of the Word of God it will be just a social or occupational grouping. If it does not do any activity or charitable act together, it will be just a prayer group. If there is no participation with the Universal Church, that group would become different denominations.
Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC) is, therefore, not a group or organization in the Church. It is a way of Christian living with the same faith and mission in bringing the love of God to all human beings.