Discovering Asia’s laity

Charles Bertille, vice-president of Fondacio and coordinator of the movement in Asia, publishes his first book, « Empowering Asia’s Laity ». He tells us more about his work.

How did you get interested in laity ?
First was the words of pope emeritus Benedict XVI that the laity are not collaborators of priests but co responsible for the Church. Second was the evaluation if IFFAsia students on the challenges and needs they faced on the ground in local churches. And third my personal experience of lack of support structures for laity in mission. Therefore, I had to explore the understanding of Church, laity and ministries - and how much of the theology of Vatican II and Fabc had been internalized in our local churches.

How did you get the idea to make a book out of it?
It started as the requirement to write a thesis for my course in masters in theology. (I chose to write a full thesis as my work load did not allow me to continue attending classes). Gradually, as I was learning more about the topic through my reading and research, I told myself it would be very enriching for other laity too. I dreamt of sharing this with others but never really thought of publishing as I had difficulty with time and actual academic writing – I had to make many revisions. It changed when my professor called me and encouraged me to do so. The next was when two publishers we submitted the text encouraged me to do so.

How long did it take you to write it, where did you investigate?
Altogether it took me three years between when I set out and the book appeared in print. But a lot of time in between was also spent either waiting for corrections or waiting for me to make technical amendments. There were many gaps in between.

How being a part of Fondacio helped you (or not!) in this work? Did your commitment in Fondacio inspire you to work on this theme?
Surely! The entire thesis is coloured and founded on my belonging and relation to Fondacio and the Church. One challenge was to articulate the experience and formation we do at the institute (IFF Asia) into text and to link it with the theology of the FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences). Having done so, I can see more clearly the connections and contribution of Fondacio to the call and vision of the FABC. It gives confidence and credibility to our efforts.

Having a good knowledge of European culture and way of living, can you tell in what ways laity is different in Europe and in Asia? What different challenges do you have in Asia?
The context is different. In Europe many people have left the Church. Movements are helping to regenerate faith. In Asia, faith and religiosity remains. Many laity, including young attend Church. The common challenges are secularism, materialism, exclusion and suffering; and to offer a new face of the Church to the young. The particular challenge of Asia is helping laity to find their voice and their role in Church and in society as Christians, especially in the face of fundamentalism.

In what ways do you think that reading this book can empower lay people all over the world?
For centuries the identity and vocation of laity have been suppressed or covered under the role of the religious and clergy. Going back to the experience of the Church in scripture and tradition, and Vatican II, helps to rediscover the call. There is a need to grow in communion, reciprocity, and inter dependency of charism, vocation and ministries if the Church is to respond effectively to the challenges.

What did it bring you on a personal and spiritual level to work on such a book?
Discipline. Sit and finish it! Conversion, deepening in prayer and relation with God and the saints. Learning, knowing some of my ignorance. Understanding, articulating our experiences and practices as Fondacio. Gratitude, for my wife, children, friendships, opportunities,...

All profits of the book “Empowering Asia’s Laity” will benefit to Asia’s laity.
If you want to order it, please fill and send the document below.

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