February 7, 2023

When the church starts to work as the government does, it will start to lose the essence of initiative and voluntary service. I recall who I consider an Igorot saint and hero, Bishop Francisco Claver, SJ, when he said, “Make use of the word ministry in your groups, not committee.” I did not understand that line until I was immersed with the people and with their voluntary services to the church.
In the government, there is no problem in using the word “committee” to name its small groupings. They are being paid for their job. The services in the government are both an obligation and a job.
One is obliged to do his work because he is being paid for it. The sad part is when one is paid and yet he does not do his obligation. Obligation is motivated by recompense, wage, award, promotions, applause or praise. Without these elements, a person will not work well or will not even work.
Our work in the church is called responsibility.
Responsibility is the work attitude and the power that drives someone to work. It’s not the wage, reward, award, applause, appreciation or promotion that impels a person to work or serve. We simply work and serve because it’s our nature to serve others. With or without appreciation or compensation, we still serve and we are not frustrated if people do not award or appreciate us.
I remember an institution with volunteers in the operation of its programs and activities. The volunteers were demanding honorarium from the institution.
In fact, they had been receiving honorarium, but they were asking for more. It simply meant these people do not know what voluntarism, voluntary service, or volunteers mean. When one demands for honorarium, they cease to be volunteers. But if volunteers get something they did not ask for, it is not a payment but an act of gratitude or expression of joy for what they are doing without expecting something in return. Volunteers and voluntary service cease to be voluntary if it demands for something.
There was once a church community that started to pay somebody to clean the church. Well, the good result was, the church was consistent in its cleaning works. But the community service died and people started to depend on the paid cleaner. The community spirit of coming together and cleaning the church together died.
Now, I have a better grasp of Bishop Francisco’s wisdom. Let us not equate all services with money otherwise we become hirelings. A hireling does not have a place in the ministry because a hireling sees all work with wages and equates all services with money. A hireling will never understand initiative, creativity, and ministry. Hirelings are the allergies of volunteerism and creativity and will never understand the word providence. Hirelings will result to emptiness and see life meaningless in the end.
There is emptiness when everything is seen as a work rooted in wages. At the end of the day, we ask ourselves, “I worked hard. I was paid more than enough. Am I happy? Maybe fleetingly. But when I worked hard and donated some of time, treasure, and talent to people and I felt their joy, I myself was happy. When I rested, I felt fulfilled and loved.”
There is a big difference between voluntary service, paid work, volunteer, and hireling. We see the Book of Job 7:1-4, 6-7: “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages. If in bed I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ Then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter that a weaver’s shuttle, they come to an end without hope.”
Government-funded projects in communities did a great part in the development, but it also did a great disaster among the people. It gradually killed volunteerism. People and government officials will just wait for money. Initiatives to care for the roads and community facilities are gone now. Many project contractors and government officials are becoming greedier milking from these projects. This is what happens if we remove the real essence of voluntary work and if money has a special place in the workplace.
I am happy that through the church, the Mountain Province youth are imbibing the culture of initiative, volunteerism, and creativity. They will surely be big agents of change.
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