"PREX is not an organization but only a Catholic formation seminar. It is a lay movement always conducted and guided by the parish priest" (page 166 PREX Manual, 2nd Edition, 1994). Yet, as a movement, PREX is very organized. At the parish level, there is the Parish PREX Secretariat (PPS); at the diocesan level there is the Diocesan Association of Parish PREX Secretariats (DAPPS), and at the national level there is the National Association of Parish PREX Secretariats (NAPPS).
In this article, I shall discuss the experience of the DAPPS in Malolos, how it came about, how it operates, how it makes a difference in spreading the PREX movement in different parishes of the diocese.
PREX first came to the Diocese of Malolos in 1997, in the Parish of San Jose, Calumpit, Bulacan, where the outreach team from the Parish of Sto. Nino in Tondo, Manila planted the seed that was to blossom into what it is today (presence in about 50 out of 100 parishes).
This was followed in May 1998, when the outreach team from the Good Shepherd Parish (GSP) of Fairview, Quezon City approached Fr. Mar Arenas, then the head of the Diocesan Commission on Formation and broached the idea of introducing PREX in the diocese. Fr. Arenas agreed to pilot the seminar in his parish - Holy Cross in General Tiburcio de Leon, Valenzuela. After three classes and seeing it bear fruit, a special class was conducted on September 20 & 21, 1998 for the different heads of PASKA, charismatic movement, diocesan staff, nuns and priest coordinators. The seminar was again conducted by the outreach team of the GSP led by no less than Msgr. Fidelis Limcaco at Bukal ng Buhay, Bustos, Bulacan. The graduation mass was officiated by then Bishop Rolando Tria-Tirona D.D., who encouraged the propagation of PREX in the different parishes.
After Bustos, PREX spread throughout the different parishes of the diocese. Among the first parishes that followed were the Immaculate Concepcion in Malolos, San Pedro Apostol in Tungkong Mangga, San Jose del Monte, etc.
Today, about 50 out of 100 parishes in the diocese have PREX. The Parish of the Holy Cross in General T. de Leon, Valenzuela now has a total of 81 classes, and still growing. The Parish of St. Lourdes in Dona Remedios Trinidad is the latest to have PREX in September 2005. The total PREX graduates in the diocese are about 42,000.
What is DAPPS? What is it in relation to the PPS and the NAPPS? What is its role in the PREX movement?
"The bishop in a diocese may form a Diocesan Secretariat to guide the movement in his diocese" (page 166 PREX Manual, 2nd Ed, 1994). In the case of the Diocese of Malolos, its DAPPS was organized sometime in 2000. What triggered its formation?
In February 2000, the 6th National Convention of PREX was scheduled in Baguio City, and many PREX graduates from different parishes wanted to attend. There was a need for somebody to coordinate with the different PPS on information dissemination and their preparation for their trip to Baguio. Fr. Avelino Sampana, a graduate of the Bustos class, was designated by Fr. Arenas as the Diocesan Spiritual Director of PREX. In turn, Fr. Sampana formed different committees to assist him in his task.
After the Baguio convention, Fr. Sampana thought of having a general assembly of PREX in the diocese because of the growing number of PREX graduates. This was held on November 18, 2000 at the University of Regina Carmeli in Malolos, which was attended by more or less 2,000. Again, Fr. Sampana had to organize committees to take care of the preparation and actual management of the first General Assembly. It was these committees that metamorphosed into and eventually became the Diocesan PREX Secretariat, which mirrored the PPS. There was a chair couple, vice-chair couple, secretary and treasurer, and depending on the need, other officers were added. Diocesan officers came from the different vicariates of the diocese, ensuring that there is geographical representation. The first Diocesan Chair couple were and still are Kuya Lito and Ate Luisa Fernando from the Parish of the Immaculate Concepcion of Malolos City.
After the January 2002 7th PREX National Convention in Baguio, the Diocese of Malolos had its 2nd Diocesan General Assembly on September 28, 2002 at the St. Paul College in Bocaue, Bulacan, attended by about 3,000 graduates. Guest speaker then was Fr. Ramon Ramos. C P who enthralled the audience the whole afternoon. On January 15, 2005, the 3rd Diocesan General Assembly was held in the scenic town of Angat at the Colegio de Santa Monica with Bishop Ted Bacani D.D. and Fr. Sonny Ramirez OP as speakers. About 2,500 delegates attended.
The Diocesan Secretariat meets every first Monday of the month, while the Diocesan Secretariat together with all the chaircouples of the PPS meet once every quarter. Once every two years there is a General Assembly of all PREX graduates in the diocese, which is held alternately with the national PREX convention.
Pursuant to the PREX Manual, the conduct of the PREX seminar in the parishes is managed by the PPS under the guidance of the parish priest. The DAPPS does not manage the seminar in the parish. It is merely an oversight coordinating body that guides and inspires the movement in the diocese. How is this operationalized? How does DAPPS function? In the diocese of Malolos, the DAPPS has become a forum for planning and assessment, for information sharing, for resource exchange, problem solving and community building. In its yearly assessment and planning session several common areas of concern have surfaced, to wit: How do you generate resources to finance the conduct of your seminars? How can you have an effective recruitment campaign? How do you train a pool of effective speakers? How can you make the seminar alive with a vibrant music ministry and animators? How do you establish good rapport with church organizations and your parish priest? How can you spread and sustain PREX in your parish and in other parishes; and the most common theme, after PREX what? By gathering the various experiences and common challenges facing each PPS, the DAPPS is able to design programs to address these common problems and assist PPS that have particular needs. DAPPS has conducted workshop for speakers, music ministry, and planning and assessment. DAPPS goes on random visits to the parishes to ensure that the conduct of the seminar is in accordance with the PREX Manual and correct practices. DAPPS also holds retreats and recollections for chaircouples at least once a year. It manages the diocesan general assembly, and encourages attendance in national conventions.
While it may be said that PREX has established a stronghold in the Diocese of Malolos, much still remains to be done. Like the parable of the sower, some seed fell among thorns, some fell along the path, some fell on rocky places, while others fell on fertile soil. In some parishes PREX has stopped. It is this situation that needs to be closely monitored and nurtured. Under the guidance of the Diocesan PREX Spiritual Director, the DAPPS continues to watch over the progress of PREX in the different parishes. The DAPPS formulates a work program for the year that seeks to address the issues, concerns and challenges facing PREX. It also manages resources efficiently by tapping parishes with talents and expertise on managing PREX as a formation program. Through the quarterly meeting of all chair couples, the PPS is updated of the latest developments as well as get feedback from them about the progress of PREX in their respective parishes. The quarterly meeting becomes a good forum for all those who are in chargeof managing PREX in their local parishes. It is also a good sounding board for new and fresh ideas about how to make PREX more effective and meaningful, and how to overcome the challenges.
It is said that PREX is not an organization, but it is good to be organized -- at the parish level, at the diocesan level and at the national level. Because we are organized (although PREX is not an organization), whenever it is time for the pa-klase, every kuya and ate knows what his or her role is. There is no need to remind everyone about what he or she has to do. It is like second nature to them. Those in charge of the food go to the kitchen; the physical arrangement committee has all the requirements for the seminar ready, etc. Everybody goes around doing his/her chore. But before we achieved that level of efficiency, we had to show by example.
The Malolos experience saw the formation of its DAPPS arising from a need, a need to coordinate for the National Convention and later for the Diocesan General Assembly. Later the DAPPS came to manage the spreading of PREX through the different parishes of the diocese through the outreach program. By getting "immersed" in and by sharing experiences among the different parishes, the PREX formation program is enriched and invigorated. The challenge is how to sustain those that are successful, revive those that have stopped, nurture those that need assistance, and bring the "Good News" to those who have not yet been reached by the benefits of PREX. With the grace of God and the selfless dedication of the workers in the Lord's vineyard, PREX in the Diocese of Malolos is confident that it can achieve in building a one, holy, Christian community.
Kuya Manny, together with his ate Abel, were the first Chair couple of the Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Pulong Buhangin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, and presently consultant to the Malolos DAPPS and NAPPS Vice-President.