A Survey of Current Institutions & Jurisdictional Structures
for the Pastoral Care of Filipino Migrant Workers.
IN the first part of this article, we defined the problem we wish to address—i.e., the pastoral care of the 5 million OFWs—and made a brief historical background of the ecclesial response to the phenomenon of migrants in general. In the second part, we focused on the principles for the adequate pastoral care of migrants. In this third and final part of this article, we shall focus on the possible structures for the adequate pastoral care of OFWs.
III. A Survey of Current Institutions & Jurisdictional Structures for the Pastoral Care of OFWs by the Philippine Ecclesiastical Hierarchy.
After all the previous considerations, we are ready to understand better the actual provisions of Canon Law—most recently resumed in Part II: Juridical Pastoral Guidelines, of the Instruction Erga migrantes of 2004—as regards the pastoral care of migrants, applicable to our present study as we delimited it—i.e., the pastoral care of Filipino OFWs that can be carried out either unilaterally by the Philippine Hierarchy (or at most with the recognition of the Holy See) or by the Apostolic See, with little dependence on a host Church which may either be non-existent or hardly capable of collaborating in the pastoral care of Filipino OFWs in those areas where they are presently deployed.
A. Chaplains/Missionaries for Migrants
The original figure to provide pastoral attention to migrants were individual priests, who were simply denominated chaplains or missionaries for migrants. They could either be secular or religious, and are treated in Erga migrantes, Part II as follows.
Art.4: [Notion of Chaplains/Missionaries for Migrants]
§1. Presbyters who have been given the mandate by the competent ecclesiastical authority to provide spiritual assistance in a stable way to migrants of the same language or nation, or belonging to the same Church sui iuris, are called chaplains/missionaries for migrants; in virtue of their office they are endowed with the faculties described in c.566,§1 of the CIC.
§2. This office should be conferred on a presbyter who has been well prepared by a suitable period of formation and who for reasons of virtue, culture and knowledge of the language and other moral and spiritual gifts, demonstrates that he is a suitable person for this particular and difficult task.
Art.5 [Missio canonica of chaplains/missionaries for migrants.]
§1. To those presbyters who wish to devote themselves to the spiritual assistance of migrants, the diocesan or eparchial bishop should give authorization to do so if he considers them suited to this mission, in accordance with what is laid down in CIC, c.271 and CCEO, cc.361-362 and in these present juridical pastoral regulations.
§2. Presbyters, who have obtained due permission as explained in the preceding paragraph, should make themselves available to the Episcopal Conference ad quam, furnished with the relevant document granted to them by their own diocesan or eparchial bishop and their own Episcopal Conference, or by the competent hierarchical structures of the Eastern Catholic Churches. The Episcopal Conference ad quam will then ensure that these presbyters are entrusted to the diocesan or eparchial bishop or to the bishops of the dioceses or eparchies concerned, who will appoint them chaplains/missionaries to the migrants.
§3. As far as religious presbyters who dedicate themselves to assisting migrants are concerned, the specific norms contained in Chapter III have to be applied.
It must be pointed out that as far as the Philippine Hierarchy is concerned, they can only authorize individual priests to go as chaplains/missionaries. The specific missio canonica, by which the juridic relationship of faithful-sacred minister arises, will have to be expedited by the host Church—which, in our assumption, is either non-existent or hardly able to attend to the OFWs.
Art. 18 [Selection of chaplains/missionaries for migrants.]
§1. The diocesan or eparchial bishops of the countries a quibus shall remind parish priests of their serious duty to provide for all the faithful a religious formation such that, if the case may be, they will be able to face the difficulties connected with their departure for emigration.
§2. The diocesan or eparchial bishops of the places a quibus shall moreover take it upon themselves to seek out diocesan/eparchial presbyters who are suited for pastoral care with emigrants, and they shall not neglect to enter into close relations with the Episcopal Conference or the corresponding hierarchical structure of the Eastern Catholic Church of the nation ad quam in order to help in pastoral work.
§3. Even in dioceses/eparchies or regions where it is not immediately necessary for seminarians to specialize in the field of migration, the problems of human mobility should be taken more and more into account in the teaching of theology, especially pastoral theology.
B. Institutes of Consecrated Life
Historically, the best capacitated clerics to accompany emigrants were precisely members of institutes of consecrated life, given the existence of their own organizational and spiritual support structure to sustain them in such arduous assignment. It is no wonder then that Erga migrantes positively appraised the role played by the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in their specific contribution towards the pastoral care of migrants, regulating them in Part II: Juridical Pastoral Guidelines as follows:
Art. 12 [Positive appraisal of the work done by religious.]
§1. All institutes, in which religious of various nations are often present, can make their contribution to assistance for migrants. Ecclesiastical authorities should therefore encourage in particular the work done by those who, under the seal of religious vows, have the apostolate to migrants as their own specific goal or who have acquired appreciable experience in that field.
§2. The help offered by women’s religious institutes to the apostolate among migrants should also be appreciated and valued. The diocesan or eparchial bishop shall therefore ensure that these institutes, with full respect for their own rules and bearing in mind their obligations and their charism, lack neither the spiritual assistance nor the material means necessary for them to carry out their mission.
Art. 13 [Missio canonica of religious chaplains/missionaries for migrants.]
§1. In general whenever a diocesan or eparchial bishop intends to entrust the care of migrants to a religious institute, with due respect for the customary canonical norms, he will draw up a written agreement with the superior of that institute. If more than one diocese or eparchy is involved, the agreement must be signed by every diocesan or eparchial bishop. The role of co-ordinating these initiatives belongs to the competent commission of the Episcopal Conference or the corresponding hierarchical structures of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
§2. If the pastoral care of migrants is entrusted to an individual religious, it is always necessary first to obtain the consent of his superior and in this case too to draw up the relative agreement in writing; in other words, taking into consideration due distinctions, the procedure is the same as that laid down in Art. 5 for diocesan presbyters.
Again we have to point out that following this formula, the Philippine Hierarchy can only authorize members of institutes of consecrated life or societies of apostolic life to go and minister to the OFWs wherever they are deployed. The specific missio canonica, by which the juridic relationship of OFW-sacred minister arises, will have to be expedited by the host Church—which, we should not forget, is either non-existent or hardly able to attend to the Filipino OFWs.
C. Role of the Episcopal Conference: The Commission on Migration & the Director for Migration
In order to foster and coordinate the work of chaplains/missionaries, Erga migrantes provided for the opportune organisms under a given Episcopal conference, in Part II, Chapter V as follows:
§1. In countries to which migrants go, or which they leave, in larger numbers, the Episcopal Conferences and the competent hierarchical structures of the Eastern Catholic Churches shall set up a special national commission for migration. It will have its secretary, who in general will take on the office of national director for migration. It is very opportune that religious should be present on this commission as experts, especially those working for the spiritual assistance of migrants, as well as lay faithful qualified in this matter.
D. Lay Associations
As previously pointed out, the Philippines enjoys a particular advantage in the reality of a vibrant ecclesial involvement of the laity. This affirmation is easily verified by the simple observation of the proliferation of lay associations and movements, including so-called covenanted communities, in which the members commit themselves to varying degrees of dedication to works of zeal and apostolate.
This fact can be made to dovetail with the provision of Erga migrantes, Part II as follows:
§1. The faithful who decide to live with another people should strive to esteem the cultural patrimony of the nation that welcomes them, to contribute to its common good and to spread the faith especially by the example of Christian life.
§2. While maintaining the right of migrants to have their own associations, at the same time everything should be done to facilitate their participation in local associations.
§3. The lay faithful who are culturally better prepared and spiritually more available should furthermore be urged and trained to take on a specific service as pastoral workers in close collaboration with the chaplains/missionaries.
In effect, in what affects the OFWs, it would not be difficult to envision the collaboration of the Philippine Hierarchy with these lay associations—especially the covenanted communities—in order to orient their members who are OFWs to collaborate more effectively with the chaplains/missionaries for migrants, all in favor of the pastoral care of the OFWs in their particular places of deployment.
E. Personal Prelature
At this point, it is timely to make an important observation regarding all the institutions we have surveyed, relevant to the problem of setting up an effective organization of the pastoral care of OFWs. It is simply that all of them, insofar as they are unilateral initiatives by the Philippine Hierarchy, are nevertheless all non-hierarchical in nature. The reason is equally simple: because in none of them has the principle of personal jurisdiction been invoked, such that in all of them, the OFWs deployed in foreign lands are neither hierarchically connected with a territorial ecclesiastical circumscription (either because such a host Church doesn’t exist where they are, or the language and cultural barrier prevents their being integrated to such Church at the moment), nor with their Church of origin in the Philippines (simply because they are not in Philippine territory at the moment).
Now then, no matter how zealous the chaplains/missionaries for migrants may be, or how dedicated to the apostolate with the OFWs the lay members of the covenanted communities might be, it would not suffice for the full delivery of the Church’s spiritual wealth (the Word of God and the sacraments) necessary for the OFWs to fully actualize their universal vocation to holiness. For that to happen, the hierarchical relationship sacred minister-faithful must be in place. Another way of understanding this is to remember that for the Church to effectively exist, the interplay between the ministerial priesthood of the clerics (ultimately stemming from the sacra potestas invested on the sacred Pastors because of apostolic succession) and the royal priesthood of the laity must exist.
In other words, if the OFWs are indeed to enjoy maximally the means of salvation, in equal terms with the rest of the Catholic faithful in the Philippine Church, they must form part of an ecclesiastical circumscription, in much the same way as the other Filipino Catholics back home do. The only way they can do that, given the difficulty of their forming part of a territorial ecclesiastical circumscription where they are (either because such does not exist or cultural differences make such inclusion impractical), is for them to form part of a personal ecclesiastical circumscription set up specifically for them.
In this respect, special mention has to be made of the personal prelature, the paradigm of the personal (non-territorial) jurisdiction, as pointed out by the Instruction De pastorali migratorum cura and by numerous authors.
Even a cursory reading of the canons of Book II, Title IV: Personal Prelatures of the Code of Canon Law—what may be regarded as the Organic Law for Personal Prelatures—cannot but reveal the fittingness of this jurisdictional figure to the phenomenon of which we are presently concerned.
Can. 294. Personal prelatures may be established by the Apostolic See after consultation with the Episcopal Conferences concerned. They are composed of deacons and priests of the secular clergy. Their purpose is to promote an appropriate distribution of priests, or to carry out special pastoral or missionary enterprises in different regions or for different social groups.
In the case of the OFWs, the Holy See—upon consultation with the CBCP (which could even initiate the whole process) and the competent Episcopal Conferences where the OFWs are deployed—can erect a Personal Prelature for Filipino OFWs. It can be composed of Filipino clergy—initially from the different Philippine dioceses, especially those from which the OFWs concerned come from, and even from religious orders—either by incardination or by adscription.
Can. 295 §1 A personal prelature is governed by statutes laid down by the Apostolic See. It is presided over by a Prelate as its proper Ordinary. He has the right to establish a national or an international seminary, and to incardinate students and promote them to orders with the title of service of the prelature.
Perhaps the most important element of the Personal Prelature—as provider of the peculiar pastoral care to the OFWs—is having its proper Prelate, who with the sacra potestas given by Law, will be able to adequately provide the appropriate pastoral care needed by the OFWs. As such, the pastoral care that shall be given to the OFWs shall not be a matter of personal or grassroots initiative anymore—either by missionary clerics or zealous laypersons—but shall be the hierarchical exercise of the tria munera Chrisit.
Even if initially the Personal Prelature for OFWs would most probably have to rely on volunteer clergy from the different particular Churches from which most of the OFWs come, there is no reason why in time, with the maturity of the personal prelature, it cannot establish its own seminary, to form its proper clergy imbued with the priestly spirit fitted for the itinerant flock to which they have to minister.
Can.295, §2 The Prelate must provide both for the spiritual formation of those who are ordained with this title, and for their becoming support.
As Baura had pointed out in his incisive article, one must not forget that if the emigrants need pastoral care, the chaplains/missionaries also need such spiritual assistance. In fact, the experience has not been good as regards clerics, from different particular Churches, who had volunteered to work with OFWs. Bereft of adequate pastoral care—either from their original Church of origin or from their new host Church, the former because they are supposed to be on loan to the latter, and the latter because of cultural differences or simply because of lack of means—these migrant chaplains oftentimes also fall prey to the same dangers that the OFWs themselves are subjected to.
Thus, by having a proper Prelate, with responsibilities and rights clearly defined, the chaplains for migrants would be better provided for, spiritually and materially.
Can. 296 Lay people can dedicate themselves to the apostolic work of a personal prelature by way of agreements made with the prelature. The manner of this organic cooperation and the principal obligations and rights associated with it, are to be duly defined in the statutes.
Reading this canon, one cannot help but think of the pastoral potentials of those OFWs, members of covenanted communities, presently trying to do apostolate with their fellow OFWs. One can only imagine how much more they can do were they to be organically incorporated to a personal prelature specifically erected for them. Instead of just being a grassroots phenomenon, these zealous laymen and laywomen would in fact be sharing in the mandate and the corresponding means that the personal prelature would enjoy.
Can. 297 The statutes are likewise to define the relationships of the prelature with the local Ordinaries in whose particular Churches the prelature, with the prior consent of the diocesan Bishop, exercises or wishes to exercise its pastoral or missionary activity.
A noteworthy quality of this hierarchical circumscription is its capacity to be adapted to the pastoral needs of the OFWs, since the specific characteristics and the sphere of activity of a personal prelature (whether within the territory of an Episcopal conference or in a larger geographical extension) are fixed in the specific act of its erection and the its statutes given by the Holy See (c.295, §1).
For example, a distinction might be made between the kind of work the prelature for OFWs might do in those areas where a stable and mature territorial ecclesiastical circumscription already exists, capable of adequately providing the pastoral care for the OFWs; and in those areas where such territorial ecclesiastical circumscription either does not exist or is hardly capable of adequately taking care of the OFWs. In the former (e.g., U.S., Canada, Australia and most countries of western Europe), perhaps the role of the personal prelature for OFWs would be purely one of facilitating the assimilation of the OFWs into the local Churches. In the latter, however, the role of the personal prelature would really be to provide the full range of ordinary pastoral care for the OFWs.
The very nature of the personal prelature—as defined by the Code of Canon Law—permits a great range of flexibility in this regard.
Conclusion: Towards a Personal Prelature for Filipino OFWs
After all the foregoing discussion, my conclusion is that the best way to answer the challenge of adequately providing pastoral care to the 5 million OFWs all over the world is through the erection of a Personal Prelature for Filipino Migrant Workers.
I agree with Baura that such erection of a personal prelature by the Holy See can in fact arise as a logical development of existing structures and the re-orientation of other structures. In broad strokes, one could envision the following:
1. The Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (what Erga migrantes refers to as the National Director for Migration) can be appointed as the Prelate of the Personal Prelature.
2. The existing chaplains/missionaries for OFWs can form the presbyterium of this Personal Prelature. Note that there indeed are a number of such priests—both belonging to the secular clergy (from different Philippine dioceses) and of late even a society of apostolic life. The former can have a choice of being incardinated to the new prelature or just being adscripted to it, while the latter can simply work in it through the opportune agreements between the Prelate for OFWs and their religious Superiors.
Of course, for the long-term maintenance of the presbyterium, this Prelature will have to set up its own seminary, according to the tenor of c.295, §1.
3. The laypersons, who hitherto may have formed part of covenanted communities or lay associations dedicated to the apostolate with the OFWs, may be invited to form an organic part of the Prelature, according to the tenor of c.296.
4. The Statutes of the Prelature will have to be drawn up, according to c.297, taking into account all the peculiarities of the pastoral work that it will do with the OFWs.