KAWAYAN, Biliran, (PNA) — The Catholic Church here has one simple tool to draw churchgoers in this sleepy town.
Each worshiper has to sign a log book as a proof of attendance, which is a basic requirement to access documents that only the church could produce.
“The problem is that without pushing them, they will not be compelled to go to the church,” shared Gregory Monte, parish priest of Kawayan town.
Monte recalled that when they started enforcing the policy in 2013, many residents were against it.
People complained the policy obliged them to attend masses. But later on, he noticed that the people are cooperating, resulting to 20 percent to 30 percent increase in attendance.
He explained that if a family who doesn’t go to church wants to avail the Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC) certificate or other documents, they have to attend first five or more consecutive masses.
BEC certificate is a basic document needed to approve a mass for burial, wedding ceremony and also to access to baptismal certificates issued by the town’s parish church.
More than 90 percent of the town’s populations are Roman Catholics.
The church is firm on implementing the policy approved by the Church’s Diocese of Naval.
Assistant parish priest Raymond Osok said the church also wanted the citizens to willingly attend the mass not because of the purpose of signing the log book, but to passionately listen to the words of God.
Epitacio Palma, a 69-year-old farmer from Mapuyo village, is opposing the program since it makes one hesitant to listen to sermons.
“Why do I have to sign the log book? God knows that I’m attending masses,” he added.
Nenita Rizo, 45, one of the Catholic catechists in the same village explained that policy is also a strategy of the parish to identify those Catholics who really goes to church.
The church found out that there are also Catholics who attend meetings of other Christian faith.
There are two log books placed at the opposite sides of the church so people could sign their attendance easier after the mass.
Kawayan town is located on the northern part of Biliran province, which is approximately 142 kilometers northwest of Tacloban City and 26 kilometers from Naval, the provincial capital.
As of the 2010 census, Kawayan has a total 20,238 population, most of them are supported by farming and fishing activities. (PNA)