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by Rev. Fr. Randy Jasper C. Odchigue

THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL in 1967 is considered to be a watershed event for the renewal of the life of the Catholic Church. Flowing from the organising theological concept of "communio," practices that signify renewal became lenses through which the relevance and authenticity of an ecclesial community is discerned. In practice, Vatican II is seen in the communitarian liturgical celebrations, in communal reflection of the Word of God, in lay participation, in collegiality and the rediscovery of the local churches.

Butuan, erected as a diocese on the heels of Vatican II. can be regarded as a daughter oft his movement of renewal. She is envisioned to be a community that lives and breathes the spirit of aggiornamento of the council.

As Butuan commemorates its golden anniversary as a diocese, we look back with gratitude for all that has been. We are grateful for this milestone as the diocese continues to journey towards relevance and authenticity. The growth of the number of clergy and the parishes, the numerous Basic Ecclesial communities where the breaking of the bread and reflection of the Word are done on the grassroots level, the many programs and initiatives for the various sectors in society, all attest to the efforts expended in the diocesan journey towards relevance and holiness.

Under the leadership of the two bishops, Butuan diocese became-and continues to be-a local church engaged in the on-going call for renewal and evangelical work.

During the tenure of Archbishop Morelos, Butuan has been at the forefront of the Mindanao Sulu Pastoral Conference implementation through lay empowerment and organisation of Basic Ecclesial Communities. Formation programs for lay people and priests were given due importance through the establishment of the seminary and the pastoral formation center. Programs on social apostolate ranging from indigenous peoples to sectoral groups were initiated.

Under Bishop Pueblos: the intensification of Gagmayng Kristohanong Katilingban was prioritized; reorganization of educational centers were done and engagements for peace and development were given pre-eminence. Throughout the ministry of the two bishops, parishes and diocesan shrines were erected. Likewise, priests and religious working in the diocese rose in unprecedented numbers, making Butuan a vital local church in the Caraga region.

One can indeed celebrate golden anniversary with gratitude for the graces bestowed upon the diocese. The trajectory of renewal initiated in Vatican has been set and with past engagement of the diocese, the journey has been set. If the diocese will stay the course, one can look to a future that holds promise to the people of God in Butuan.

The vision that inspires the diocese of what can and might be for the local church enables us to work with zeal and enthusiasm in the various ministries and apostolates. God's 'kingdom imaginary' of the future lays claim to our present actions so that we are held bound and responsible for the choices that we make and the praxis that we choose in order for that imaginary to happen in our midst.

As Butuan faces the contemporary challenges of clergy renewal, integral evangelisation for the people of God and the creation of viable and sustainable structures for the accountability and effective implementation various apostolates and ministries, we hold on to the hope of the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ our saviour.

We continue to labor on behalf of the kingdom with the grace of God in whom we live and move and have our being. (Acts:17:28)

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