November 29th, 2020. Philippines. The Claretian Missionaries–Philippine Province and the Claretian Communications Foundation, Inc., through the initiative of the Bible Commission of the Claretian Missionaries in the Philippines, organized on November 29 and 30 the WORD CONFERENCE 2020 (WordConPH) in its third consecutive year, with the theme “The Word and Worship: …continually offer, through Jesus [the Word] a sacrifice of praise. (Hebrews 13:15)”.
The WordConPH was held via Zoom, due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). More than 260 people registered for free to join this virtual conference from the Philippines and various parts of the world: United States, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam and Malta. Rooms were set up on the Zoom platform so that participants had the opportunity to share and ask questions of both the exhibitors and the reactors. These groups were moderated by Mr. Alvin Macarenas and Ms. Rosario K. Garcia.
On the first day of the conference Brother Carlito “Karl” M. Gaspar, CSsR shared the theme “Taking Seriously the Inculturation Discourse: The Urgent Challenge for Missionaries’ Evangelization Work among the Indigenous Peoples“. Brother Karl pointed out that today we must consider the challenge of inculturation and how to deal with our indigenous sisters and brothers who have embraced the Catholic faith.
In response to Brother Karl, Father Raymond Montero-Ambray emphasized the need to establish a commitment to dialogue among the indigenous peoples, which could be the response of the local church to the challenges of inculturation.
The second talk was given by Dr. Michael Demetrius H. Asis on the theme: ” Were Not Our Hearts Ablaze? Proclaiming the Word in Liturgy that Inspires Discipleship“. Dr. Asis challenged the participants not to read the Word of God as if it were fiction, but to read it as the living Word of God and pointed out the need to always link what we say about Jesus today with what He was as a historical person.
Mrs. Tinnah dela Rosa reacted to this second talk, underlining what Dr. Asis had said, by offering a guiding image for catechists, those in religious education, youth ministry and especially those in preaching ministry so that they can attract people and experience the burning of love for God and His Word.
The second day of the WordConPH began with a talk on “The Word in the Time of Pandemic” by Fr. Jose Jonathan A. Bitoy, CMF. Bitoy invited the participants to address the Word of God in this apocalyptic, pandemic time, drawing inspiration from the Good News that sustained the faith of the early Christians in the midst of persecution. He pointed out that today, as the world experiences the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Word of God provides us with the same comfort and assurance as in the past.
Mr. Leo-Martin Angelo Ocampo, OP reacted to this talk by highlighting the difficult experience of people today, especially those who have been affected or even lost a loved one to the coronavirus (Covid-19).
The second talk was given by Fr. Alejandro Gobrin, CMF, on the theme “Hebrews: An invitation to a sacrifice of praise”. Fr. Gobrin urged the participants to rethink our worldview, our existential life, our faith, our ethics and our relationships with self, God, others, and all of creation. In addition, he explained that the Letter to the Hebrews can encourage us to maintain our faith, especially in these times when our expressions of faith, liturgical celebrations and worship are limited.
In response, Fr. Anthony Carreon, CMF emphasized the word focus, that is, what is most important to focus on Jesus Christ. Carreon invited the audience to recall the experiences of the early Christians during the time of persecution, which did not prevent them from praising God and remembering Jesus Christ.