ASPAC Biblical Coordinators Assembly took place at the Camillian Pastoral Care Centre in Bangkok from September 25–29, 2023. Sixteen Coordinators from the 20 PRMs in ASPAC were present for the Assembly. They were joined by three resource persons: Wojciech Szupula, SVD General Biblical Apostolate Coordinator, Gabriel Suban Koten, SVD ASPAC Zonal Coordinator, and Jan Stefanow, Secretary General, Catholic Biblical Federation. There were also four non-SVD invitees from Thailand and Myanmar. Jose Kollemkunnel (INC), Valan Stephen (INH), and Matthew.
Kavukatt (INM) participated from India. Justine Thomas (Bangladesh Mission) and Wilson Jacob (PNG) were the other Indians present. After the input sessions, each PRM reported their Biblical apostolate activities. It was a good exercise to know what is happening in our Zone. Biblical pastoral ministry by way of bible sharing groups, bible study groups, etc were happening in most provinces. Some ideas regarding the Biblio drama were imparted. There was also a general feeling that the number of confreres involved in Biblical Apostolate has not increased as much as needed. Even among the Coordinators, only three were full-time. Hence, it was felt that more efforts were needed to regain the importance of Biblical Apostolate in our mission as Divine Word missionaries. Some of the ideas that emerged as a consensus among the BA Coordinators during the deliberations were:
- For the Divine Word Missionaries, “Our Name is our Mission.” Hence, there is a need to regain the rightful importance of Biblical Apostolate (BA) in its various forms as the central focus of our mission. Thus, it was proposed to suggest an institutional change for the Society in the next General Chapter to make the Biblical Apostolate the main and top priority of the Society.
- In the area of Formation, it was suggested that the Bible and its pastoral use be set as a core formative component in the SVD formation programs, to ensure that the formation of the SVDs prepares them to be the DIVINE WORD Religious Missionaries, not just missionaries.
- Regarding the visibility of the BA, it was agreed that the PRMs will submit regular news reports of their biblical activities at least once a year to the zonal coordinator to be submitted to the Arnoldus Nota. The process will be overseen by the Biblical Apostolate Zonal Coordinator.
- To ensure more effective BA Coordination, it was felt that we need to strive for a full-time Biblical Apostolate Coordinator in PRMs, wherever it is possible. The individual BA coordinators are also to make every effort to create a network of confreres and lay partners to carry out the Biblical Apostolate in the PRMs.
- To ensure the sharing of resources, the BA coordinators will also strive to make the materials available to other PRMs by using social media apps.
- To continue the spirit of collaboration and communion, the BA Zonal Coordinator will also organize annual on-line meetings among the BA coordinators in the ASPAC Zone.
- Regarding the Dei Verbum Course in the ASPAC Zone, it was proposed that the ASPAC Zonal Assembly set up a committee to conduct a feasibility study of a Dei Verbum course in the ASPAC Zone and present its findings to the ZONAL Executive Committee by December 2024.
- Regarding the Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF) membership, it was agreed to encourage the PRMs who are not yet part of the federation, to apply for CBF associate membership.
During the Assembly, one day was also set apart for a sightseeing trip to Bangkok. It gave us an insight into the life and culture of Thailand. We visited a Buddhist temple, the palace, and a shopping area, besides a river cruise for dinner. Bangkok as a tourist destination is indeed a very hospitable, clean, and safe place with plenty of entertainment and fun. After the meeting two of us spent a day visiting the churches and getting a first-hand experience of the migrant ministry of the SVD among the Vietnamese in Bangkok. It was also an eye-opener for me to see that there are many Christian refugees from Pakistan in Bangkok, who flee the persecution in their country.