Thought for First Week of Advent


The new liturgical year starts with the First Sunday of Advent which falls on 29 Nov 2015. In this new liturgical year, the Church not only wishes to indicate the beginning of a period, but the beginning of a renewed commitment to the faith by all those who follow Christ, the Lord. This time of prayer and path of penance that is so powerful, rich and intense, endeavours to give us a renewed impetus to truly welcome the message of the One who was incarnated for us. In fact, the entire Liturgy of the Advent Season, will spur us to an awakening in our Christian life and will put us in a ‘vigilant’ disposition, to wait for Our Lord Jesus who is coming:

‘Awaken! Remember that God comes! Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, now! The one true God, “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”, is not a God who is there in Heaven, unconcerned with us and our history, but he is the-God-who-comes.

The Season of Advent is therefore a season of vigilant waiting, that prepares us to welcome the mystery of the Word Incarnate, who will give the ‘Light’ to the womb of the Virgin Mary, but essentially this time prepares us not only to welcome this great event but to incarnate it in our lives. We could say that the true light enters the world through the immaculate womb of Mary but it does not stay there. On the contrary, this light flows out into our dark, obscure, sinful lives to illuminate them, so that we can become the light that illuminates the world. For this reason, let us live this time of waiting not only to celebrate a historical memory but to repeat this memory in our lives and in the service of others. To wait for the Lord who comes, means to wait and to watch so that the Word of Love enters inside us and focuses us every day of our lives.

The Advent Wreath is a great tradition to implement in all homes during the Advent Season.

Obscure in origin it is believed that the Advent Wreath may have had its beginnings in the pagan fire wheel. In Christian symbolism the wheel or wreath stands for eternity. Its use is especially fitting during Advent the season of the anticipation of the coming of our Lord. Lighting candles in an Advent Wreath is a simple way to start a tradition of family worship in the home.

The ceremony is simple. It starts at the evening meal on the Saturday before the first Sunday in Advent with the blessing of the wreath.

(The head of the household is the one designated to say the prayers following which various members of his family light the candles. If the group is not a family then a leader may be selected to say the prayers and others appointed to light the candles.)

For blessing the wreath the following prayer is suggested:

Father: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then follows the prayer which is said before the evening meal each night of the first week in Advent.

The First Week

Head of Household: O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Each night the first purple candle is lighted by the youngest child of the household and is left burning during the meal.

Nov 22

KK cathedral parish celebrates 34th dedication anniversary

Abp Wong addresses those present at the fellowship after Mass.

Abp Wong addresses those present at the fellowship after Mass.

KOTA KINABALU – Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish here has a low-keyed celebration of its 34th dedication anniversary on 22 Nov 2015, the Solemnity of Christ the King.

Parish priest Abp John Wong presided at the BM Mass, concelebrated with Fr Willfred Atin, one of four assistant priests of the cathedral, assisted by Deacon Joshua Liew  at the altar.

In his homily, the prelate dwelt on the readings of the day, elaborating on the kingship of Jesus.  He also touched on the meaning of the dedication anniversary.

In his address at the fellowship at the parish centre after Mass, Abp Wong told those present that the dedication anniversary is an occasion whereby the leaders of the seventy plus groups/ministries in the parish can get to know each other so that they can work together for the good of the parish.

In his turn, Parish Pastoral Council Chairman Jason Joenoi briefed those present about the recent PAX Assembly and the need to integrate the outcome into the parish planning.

Nov 20

New bishop for Melaka-Johor appointed


bp tan n successor bernard paulKUALA LUMPUR – Msgr Anthony Bernard Paul from the Diocese of Penang has been appointed the new Bishop of Melaka-Johor Diocese by Pope Francis on November 19.

The Holy Father accepted the resignation presented by Bp. Paul Tan Chee Ing, SJ from the pastoral governance of the diocese of Melaka-Johor, Malaysia, in accordance with canon 401 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law, and appointed Rev. Anthony Bernard Paul, presently parish priest of the Cathedral and Vicar for Pastoral Care of the Diocese Penang, as the new bishop of the Diocese of Melaka-Johor.

Archbishop Joseph Salvador Marino, the Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia made the announcement at 7.00pm.

Msgr Bernard was born in Kuala Lumpur on July 6, 1953. After completing his education, he entered the seminary in Penang and was ordained a priest on July 21, 1989.

He has served in almost all the states in the Penang Diocese except for Kelantan. After his ordination, he was posted to St Mary’s Church Tapah as assistant parish priest. Three years later, he was appointed parish priest of the same church. In 1995, he became the parish priest of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Butterworth.

In 1998, he became the administrator of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Penang and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Kulim, Kedah. One year later, he was the parish priest of Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Kulim until 2005.

Then he served for five years as the Parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes in Silibin, Ipoh.

From 2010 until now he has been the parish priest of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Penang.

Besides his tenure as a parish pastor, Bishop-elect Bernard has also served as the Vocation Director in 1996 and in 2006 as the Director of the Diocesan Pastoral Commission.

He was appointed Vicar-general of the Diocese under two bishops. His first was under Bishop Antony Selvanayagam from 1997-2000 and later under Bishop Sebastian Francis from 2012 until present.

In July 2014, Msgr Bernard celebrated his 25 sacerdotal anniversary at the Holy Spirit Cathedral.

Pedro Geronimo, the PPC chairman of the parish described Msgr Bernard as “a man of vision and highly organised. Through his vision for our parish we have run many effective and powerful programmes. Our youth are also blessed to have a parish priest who is caring and friendly.

Bishop Sebastian has described him as “a Father, Priest, Shepherd, Friend, Confessor, …” an Enabler, a Disciplinarian and a Fun Guy.

For many, the bishop-elect is known as a humble and open priest. – Herald Malaysia.

Nov 18

SHC/CMI PPC members “journey” to Emmaus

The participants pose for a shot after Mass.

The participants pose for a shot after Mass.

BUNDU TUHAN – Over the weekend of 13-15 Nov 2015, around thirty members of the Sacred Heart Cathedral and Church of Mary Immaculate Parish Pastoral Councils “journeyed” to Emmaus at the retreat centre here together with Archbishop John Wong (parish priest) and Deacon Joshua Liew.

The formation programme was facilitated by Anthony Lim, presiding elder of the Light of Jesus Christ Covenant Community, who introduced it to the parish some six years ago, first to his own community, then to the parish at large.

To drive home the Emmaus story (Lk 24:13-35), a video clip was used to illustrate how Jesus led the two disciples through a process of understanding the Scriptures first to recognising him in the breaking of the bread (Eucharist).

The process is the same today.  Using abundant quotations from recent popes – John Paul II, Benedict VI, Francis – Lim showed the participants the process of eating from the table of the Word (lectio divina or divine reading) to eating from the table of the Eucharist (Holy Communion).

It was an enlightening experience for many of the participants who have just been commissioned as parish pastoral councillors recently.  In calling them to go through this formation, the archbishop as the parish priest, hoped to help them to be rooted in the Word and the Sacraments so that they will, in turn, be able to help their fellow parishioners to be rooted too.  In this way, all of them as pastoral leaders will journey together toward the realisation of the pastoral vision of the archdiocese at parish level.

Nov 18

Delegates tipped on how to counter challenges guided by archdiocesan vision

Delegates pose for remembrance after the closing Mass.

Delegates pose for remembrance after the closing Mass.

PURAK, Papar – Over two hundred delegates – clergy, religious, laity – to the 2015 PAX Assembly were tipped on how to counter the three main challenges using the Archdiocesan Vision recently.

After a hiatus of five years, the PAX Assembly was held at the Paca Bene Formation Centre here on 8-11 Nov 2015.  Among the delegates, over half were first timers.  They were mainly members of the parish pastoral councils of the 19 parishes and subparishes in the archdiocese.  For many, it was perhaps the first time they had a deeper understanding of the archdiocesan vision. The last assembly was held in 2009.

On the first night, the delegates were treated to a powerpoint presentation of the journey of the local Church from prefecture to archdiocese within a span of 153 years (1855-2008) after the welcoming speech of Archbishop John Wong.  Present also was Abp Emeritus John Lee.

In his speech, the prelate stressed that the 2015 assembly was different from the previous ones because of its pastoral nature.  This was because, he said, the assembly dealt with issues related to pastoring, taking care of those under their care in the parishes, the challenges they are facing, the situations around them.

“We want to look for ways how to provide better pastoral care for them, to seek those who are lost, take care of the sick, comfort those who mourn, strengthen those who are weak,” the prelate said.  He quoted Pope Francis: “the Church is like a ‘field hospital for wounded souls.”  As Local Church, he continued, we try to do the best we can, according to our ability.

The next day, the morning was taken up with the delegates’ reports on the findings of the survey undertaken by the parishes earlier in the year in the areas of A) perception of Catholics in Malaysia; B) Strengths and Weaknesses of the Local Church; C) Consequences of these Weaknesses (Threats); and D) Opportunities to Counter Threats of Apathy, Islamisation, and Secularisation.

The assembly was divided into 25 groups for sharing on what they had heard in the morning, and what they perceived to be the message of the Lord to them.  Later after dinner, the delegates took all what they had heard, realised, and shared into prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament.

Inputs were given on the second full day: 1) Our Christian Identity in Malaysia (Fr Wilfred Atin); 2) Archdiocesan Vision (Abp Wong); 3) Our Pastoral Thrust a) “Go Inner” vs Apathy (Fr Nicholas Stephen); b) “Go Smaller” vs Islamisation (Fr Paul Lo); and c) “Go Outward” vs Secularisation (Fr Michael Modoit).

After dinner, the delegates divided themselves into three simultaneous “workshop” groups relating to the three ways of countering the issues.

On the final half-day, Apostolic Nuncio Abp Joseph Marino presented his reflections on the Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) and the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which actually deepened the understanding of our Christian identity as missionary disciples living in our own particular context in Malaysia and how to live out the Year of Mercy.  The event ended with a closing Mass presided by Abp Marino followed by lunch.

Nov 17

SHCWL celebrates 44th anniversary

The members take their pledge of service before Abp Wong.

The members take their pledge of service before Abp Wong.

KOTA KINABALU – The Sacred Heart Cathedral Women’s League celebrated its 44th anniversary with Mass and fellowship on 16 Nov 2015.

Archbishop John Wong, its Spiritual Adviser, presided at the Mass celebrated at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, concelebrated with his assistants.  During the Mass, the members once again pledged to do their best to carry out the ministry entrusted to them for another term of three years.

The fellowship was held at the Putera Ballroom Theatre in Bukit Padang.  Those who attended the fellowship included Abp Emeritus John Lee and several religious sisters.

In her speech, Chairperson Anita Tunggolou expressed her gratitude to those who have collaborated with them in their ministry, including the two prelates and the assistant priests who have guided them down the years.

As is normal in such functions, there was a cake-cutting ceremony to mark the occasion, tokens of appreciation given out, the annual contribution to the seminarians’ fund (this year RM60,000) good entertainment by the members themselves, and blessing draws.

Nov 17

SFCS Board organises Teachers’ Appreciation Night

The awardees pose with Abp Wong for remembrance.

The awardees pose with Abp Wong for remembrance.

KOTA KINABALU – The management board of St Francis Convent Schools organised an appreciation night for the staff of both primary and secondary schools at the Hibiscus Garden, Pacific Sutera Hotel here on 15 Nov 2015.

Gracing the occasion was Archbishop John Wong, the board adviser.  In his speech, he expressed his appreciation to all those who have been teaching in both schools for several years.

In line with that, the prelate gave out several tokens of appreciation to those who have served for many years, ranging from over ten to forty years.  It was not just the teachers who were appreciated but also those who have served long in the canteen.

Similarly, in her speech, Board Chairperson Mary Gomez also expressed her gratitude and appreciation to the long-serving and current teaching staff on this first appreciation night organised by the board.

Nov 17

SFCSS Building Committee updates members on building progress

 A section of the group photo taken before the cake cutting to mark the occasion.

A section of the group photo taken before the cake cutting to mark the occasion.

KOTA KINABALU – The St Francis Convent Secondary School (SFCSS) Building Committee updated alumni members on the building progress on 7 Nov 2015 at the GC Woolley Hall, Sabah State Museum, at the Franciscan Get-Together 2.

In her briefing, Chairperson of the SFCSS Fundraising Subcommittee Leena Toyoi said the proposed school has two 4-storey blocks with a central atrium.  She reported that extensive foundation works were in progress with concretisation of pad footings and column stumps.

Toyoi further said that following the site blessing officiated by Archbishop John Wong in November 2014, piling works started from December until February this year.

“Construction commenced in September this year, and the school building is scheduled to be completed in September 2017 based on the contract,” Toyoi said.

In her report, chairperson of the St Francis Convent Schools Management Board Mary Gomez said the realisation of the secondary school building before 6 June 2018 is “to mark the 50th birthday of our Board Adviser Abp John Wong.”  She expressed the hope to complete the project with the help of God and collaboration from each member.

As for funds, Gomez said, “Donations from ex-girls and well-wishers, however small the contribution, will be used to finance the construction, even if it is just RM1.”  Both the Federal and State governments have contributed to the bulk of the funds in hand (RM4 million).  The estimated cost of the project is RM12 million.

Fundraising projects undertaken by alumni members are ongoing.  According to Toyoi, the Inland Revenue Board (LHDN) has approved the school project as eligible for income tax exemption.  She said, “Official tax receipts will be issued for donations received from 15 March 2015 to 14 March 2018.”

In relation to that, Toyoi said the needed funds will be raised by way of donations and sponsorships.  Those who sponsor classrooms (minimum sun is RM50,000) will have naming rights to the respective rooms.

“Our strategy also applies to the science laboratories (minimum RM88,000) and workshops or special rooms (minimum RM80,000).  Donations of RM3,000 and above will be recognised as generous contributors on the Wall of Recognition,” she said.

In his address, Abp Wong informed those present that members of the management board and building committee were ex-girls “handpicked” by him to serve their alma mater last year.  He also prayed that they will be able to accomplish their mission by June 2018.

The occasion saw the prelate launching the official website of the Alumni of St Francis Convent Schools headed by Datuk Aminah Ambrose, with Toh Puan Rahimah Stephens as its patron.

It also saw the presentation of five cheques totalling RM168,000 to Abp Wong, witnessed by Gomez and Toyoi, by Datuk Aminah Ambrose (Class 1975), Monica Kong (Class 1965), Datin Anna Au (Class 1979), Leena Toyoi (Class 1979), and Doreen Jominol (Class 1972).  The presenters shared their stories on how they raised the funds.

Of note of interest was the display of laminated enlarged write-ups on several prominent ex-girls by Daily Express Special Writer Mary Chin on the walls of the hall.

Earlier in August this year, Abp Wong led a delegation to pay a courtesy call on the Minister of Special Tasks, Datuk Teo Chee Kang, who is also the chairman of the State Committee on Mission and Chinese Schools and Non-Islamic Organisations.  He has assisted the school in securing some funds from the Sabah State Government.

St Francis Convent School, first school for girls in Sabah, was built in 1922.  Currently it is located along Jalan Kebajikan (former Harrington Road) with a population of 850 students.  However, the present site is too cramped for a bulging population so it necessitates a relocation to the site behind the primary school in Bukit Padang.  The revised development plan was approved in June 2014 and the new building plans were approved in August 2014.  The proposed school has two 4-storey blocks with a central atrium: one block comprising 22 classrooms (enough for a single session) and living skills workshops; the other block consisting of science laboratories, administrative offices, staffroom, library, and special rooms.

Nov 17

Religious make their penultimate visit to Sugud

Those present pose for remembrance at the end of the Mass.

Those present pose for remembrance at the end of the Mass.

SUGUD, Penampang – Members of the different religious institutes made their penultimate visit to the Church of the Assumption in Sugud, Penampang on 8 Nov 2015, as part of their Consecrated Year Life programme.

As in other visits, an exhibition of the various religious charisms and ministries was set up at the rather windy lobby. After the Mass presided by Parish Priest Fr Fundes Motiung, the animation on the various religious institutes serving in the archdiocese was carried out by Sr Maria Dipal rgs. Catechist Athanasius Ebol received the token banner from Sr Christine Sundin fsp, chairperson of the Council of Religious.  Following this was a warm fellowship held at the lobby.

Assumption Church community began in 2002 with around 200 members.  Although it is a small community it has given into the service of the archdiocese two of its own: Fr Rayner Bisius and Sr Clarice Jomitin fsic. The next community to be visited will be St Augustine Kinarut on Dec 13.

Nov 15

La Salle Alumni organises groundbreaking ceremony for Brother Phelan Museum

A pose after the groundbreaking event.

A pose after the groundbreaking event.

NABAWAN, Tambunan – The La Salle Alumni Association organised the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a museum in memory of the late La Salle Brother Peter Phelan on 31 Oct 2015 in conjunction with the silver jubilee of Asrama Butitin here.

Chairman of Asrama Butitin Board Johnny Kulai said he and Brother-in charge Joikul Egbertus Silverinus decided that a museum to remember Brother Phelan’s legacy would be the most fitting thing to do as the late brother was not only a respected teacher of thousands but also a prolific author on native culture, beliefs, adats, practices and customary laws, leaving behind volumes of high quality writings that ought to be preserved and made available to generations to come.

The groundbreaking ceremony was preceded by a Mass presided by Bishop Cornelius Piong.  The ceremony was marked by placement of bricks on a concrete slab by the bishop, Br Charles O’Leary, Br Justin Mobilik, and other invited guests who were also ex-students.  This was followed by presentation of cheques by Class 75 and Leslie Chan of the Sabah Tourist Guide Association, and of equipment by Class 73.

The Asrama Butitin was started by Br Phelan twenty-five years ago on a mission owned shack for twenty boarders before getting the current 80-capacity complex constructed on a two-acre land half a kilometre away from SMK Nabawan with the financial and professional help of an original core group of about twenty ex-students and well-wishers.

Born in 1933 in Ireland, Br Phelan came to teach in La Salle Secondary School Tg Aru in the 1970s.  After completing his tenure as principal of SM St Martin in 1989, Br Phelan saw the need to build a hostel in Nabawan when he learnt that it would take a day’s journey by boat for rural children of Pensiangan if they wanted a secondary education.