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A Position Statement of Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon Community on the Separation of Couples for Christ
by Fr Herbert Schneider, SJ, Victorino B Gutierrez, Michael P Joseph Jr, and Kenneth Noecker
March 30, 1993

BACKGROUND

In 1980 the leaders of the Ang Ligaya Ng Panginoon Community (Ligaya) sensed a great need to evangelize families and to bring them to a relationship with the Lord. We realized that to effectively renew society, a conversion of families to Christ was necessary. We realized further that to effectively renew families, a conversion of both husband and wife to Christ was necessary. The challenge then was to evangelize couples together.

By that time, the Ligaya was conducting two prayer groups, numbering about 600 to 800 each, the biggest prayer groups then. However, 80% of the groups were women, many of them wives without their husbands. The prayer meetings, with their loud praising, singing and spontaneous prayers appealed to the women, but not to most men. We knew that if we wanted to attract the husbands, we needed to use means other than the prayer meetings to draw them in.

The Ligaya designated one of its leaders, Vic Gutierrez, to head the team assigned with the task of evangelizing couples. Trying our new evangelization methods, the team successfully evangelized couples. This eventually led to the birth of a new movement for the renewal of families, the Couples for Christ. In June, 1981, sixteen couples made their commitment to Couples for Christ.

Over the years, the Couples for Christ grew and developed under the leadership of Ligaya. The Ligaya made its pastoral resources and experience available to CFC. Eventually, it appointed an Executive Director, later an Executive Council, to oversee the affairs and concerns of the CFC. This was in line with our goal to make all our outreaches more and more autonomous. We also created a body, the Partners in Mission Council (PIMC), to coordinate the work of the various outreaches of Ligaya. This council was composed of the Executive Directors of these outreaches. Ligaya’s authority over CFC was an accepted reality, until recently.

RELATIONSHIP DIFFICULTIES BETWEEN LIGAYA AND CFC

Towards the end of 1991, some of the top leaders of CFC proposed to form a separate community that would solely serve the needs of CFC. After much discussion, the Ligaya leaders turned down this proposal. This was communicated to the CFC Council and the community in July, 1992.

Unfortunately, this decision did not resolve the conflict. Fr. Herb Schneider continued with some of the CFC leaders to discuss, to listen and to bring the issues to a resolution but to no avail. Therefore, it became necessary for the Overall Leadership Team (OLT) of Ligaya to meet with the CFC Council to state clearly the present relationships between the two groups and from there to come to discussions and agreements on changes proposed. Two meetings for this purpose were held, February 26 and March 1, 1993. During the March 1 meeting, some members of the CFC Council refused to acknowledge that CFC was an outreach of Ligaya and as such, was accountable to the community. They refused to acknowledge this reality even as a starting point for further discussions on organizational changes.

On March 12, 1993, Fr. Herb Schneider, in his capacity as the head of the OLT wrote a memo to the Executive Council of CFC. This memo spelled out the present relationship of CFC to Ligaya, its being an outreach, and asked the CFC leaders to acknowledge this publicly. It also reiterated the Ligaya’s long standing policy that the Executive Director of its outreaches including CFC needed to be a covenanted member of Ligaya. This was meant to define the base from which further discussions on organizational changes would proceed.

On March 15, 1993, Frank Padilla, then Executive Director of CFC, acknowledged receipt of the memo and requested that the Council be given a week for prayer and discernment before meeting again with the OLT. Fr. Herb gladly agreed to the weeklong period for prayer and discernment. Frank and Fr. Herb agreed to meet on March 20, 1993.

On March 19, 1993, in the regular elders assembly of CFC, Frank led the move to dissolve the existing CFC Council and to elect a new Council. This was carried out despite the objections of some CFC leaders.

With this move, the CFC leaders repudiated the relationship of CFC with Ligaya. Their action translated loud and clear, as follows:

We are no longer an outreach of the Ang Ligaya Ng Panginoon, nor accountable to the community for how we conduct the affairs of CFC. Our officers are no longer appointees of the community. They are of our own choosing.

RESPONSE OF LIGAYA TO THIS MOVE

  1. The Ligaya leadership and the community members who have been deeply involved in the CFC leadership are grieved by the move of the CFC leadership to separate from Ligaya. We strongly disapprove of the manner in which the separation was done. What they did was out of order and seriously damaging to relationships among brothers and sisters in the Lord.
  2. While we believe that Ligaya has rights over CFC, we opt not to pursue those rights for the sake of peace and harmony in the Church. We believe that it is right in the Lord for us to spend our efforts in bringing the gospel to many families, rather than in seeking redress for our grievance. We enjoin our brothers and sisters who share in our grief to take on this posture of peace.
  3. In practical terms, our decision is to let CFC go its own way. We are relinquishing our rights to the name CFC, to the CFC Foundation, with all its assets and liabilities.
  4. Our decision to let go of CFC does not in any way affect our mission to bring families to Christ. The Ligaya is committed to continue responding to God’s call to evangelize families. The response that we made to God’s call in 1981 when we organized CFC does not end new that CFC has been led away from us.

We are now in the process of organizing the Ligaya Family Life Apostolate. We will pour into this apostolate our available pastoral and leadership resources as well as our years of pastoral experience in family life ministry.

LIGAYA FAMILY LIFE APOSTOLATE

The Ligaya Family Life Apostolate will be marked by the following:

  1. LEADERSHIP
    We have assigned our leaders with tested capability and experience in family life ministry to organize and develop the Ligaya Family Life Apostolate. We have appointed Vic Gutierrez, who started CFC in 1981 and who led it through its developmental stage up to December, 1990, to head the team. He will be attested by an interim council composed of Arben Visenio, Bobby Pilar, Archit Bartolome, Aury Abella, Vic Abella, Jojo Villegas and Rey Sarmenta. The council is complemented by a team of women composed of Agnes Gutierrez, Yola Pilar and Baby Sarmenta to ensure adequate attention to all areas of family life.
  2. STRENGTHENING OF FAMILY LIFE
    Our mission is to bring families to a deep and personal relationship with Christ. Our goal is to strengthen families, so that together, we can serve the Church and society effectively. Through our mission, we hope to bring about peace and justice in the social order.
  3. PACE AND QUALITY OF EVANGELIZATION
    We believe that our effectiveness in evangelization will, to a large extent, depend on the maturity and witness of our member families. We adhere to the dynamics of helping couples reach a level of Christian maturity where they are able to responsibly pastor their families and to serve effectively in the larger church. By doing so, we bring them to a level where they, the evangelized, can become the evangelizers in turn.
  4. PARISH INTEGRATION
    When we established CFC chapters in various parishes across the country, we intended to integrate them into the life of the parish and to place them in the service of the parish priest. We intend to continue with that plan with our family life apostolate. In partnership with the parish priests, we will organize our family life units in such a way that they will get integrated into the parish.
  5. TRAINING, PASTORAL SUPPORT AND ORGANIZATIONAL LINKAGE
    Ligaya aims to train those it evangelizes in the Christian way of life—a life in holiness that finds expression in mature, personal relationships and service to Church and society. Ligaya takes on this duty of ongoing training and support even as the family life units continue to serve the parishes. Through Ligaya, they will be linked together for mutual support and common identity.
  6. EVANGELIZATION TARGETS
    Statistics show that the majority of our people, though Catholic, are "unchurched".They are the main target of our evangelization efforts. We want to reach the masses of people who do not belong to any Christian organization, who may have grown cold or lukewarm in the faith and who do not live out their Catholic life in the concrete. They are the ones we seek to serve. We remain open, though, to anyone who wishes to join us in a life of mutual support and service to the Church.

CONCLUSION

The position of Ang Ligaya Ng Panginoon as expressed above is the product of much prayers and discernment. We have consulted and have taken into consideration the prayerful inputs of our Ligaya members, especially those who are involved in the CFC-LNP relationship.

We are making this position paper available to anyone who wishes to understand our decision. Ligaya members who are serving in CFC may use this paper to speak to their members regarding the decisions taken by Ligaya. We caution them, though, to refrain from campaigning. While we do not want to campaign, we want to be clear that we are open to receive anyone who wishes to serve and to participate in our Family Life Apostolate.

We wish no evil to and speak no evil against those who have separated from us and have led CFC away. We do not intend to compete with them in any way. All we desire is to end this period of strife and be able to serve the Lord and His Church fruitfully through our Family Life Apostolate.

Together with our Partners in Mission:

Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals
Christ’s Youth in Action
Ang Lingkod Ng Panginoon
Tahanan Ng Panginoon
Institute of Pastoral Development
Women for Christ
Lumen Christi
Word of Joy Foundation

And our sister communities and family ministries:

Kahayag sa Diyos, Cagayan de Oro
Ang Buhing Pulong, Malaybalay
Life of Jesus, Manila

We commit ourselves to a common work. Through this cooperative effort, we desire to give witness to Christian unity and brotherhood and sisterhood, even as we pursue our individual organization’s vision and mission.

We apologized to anyone who may have been scandalized by this unfortunate event and we seek your prayers as we try to serve the Lord in a more determined way.

(Sgd.)
FR. HERBERT SCHNEIDER, S.J.
VICTORINO B. GUTIERREZ
MICHAEL P. JOSEPH, JR.
KENNETH NOECKER

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