Daily Archives:September 19th, 2017

Maria Baidolly shares how Alpha takes her on a spiritual journey to her true self

I joined Alpha in September 2016 for round 28. I thought it was just going to be like a course about Jesus and that was it. But instead Alpha has become to me a “beautiful spiritual pilgrimage” journey from my old self, old thinking, old behaviour and beliefs to an all new me and this journey has just begun. I must thank the persons who introduced and brought me to Alpha, Bapa Francis Liew and Donny Mapat.

Alpha came into my life just at the right time when I needed healing the most from a broken heart and business challenges. Bapa Francis is a figure I look up to when it comes to motivation and running a business. I was looking for him in late Aug 2016 for guidance in business but instead, he came to me with a Rosary and told me to pray more. At the same time, he invited me to Alpha “free buffet dinner” and I just came not knowing what it is all about, at the Sacred Heart Parish Hall at room F7.

Here, I met a lot of new friends whom I considered my “special friends” and are now very much like family members. I felt welcomed and loved which made me wanted to stick around and continue to join the next rounds. It is always that welcoming faces that you see. This changes my perception about Catholics: I thought that we are all solemn and cold but here, everyone is so warm and friendly.

I love the groupings where we get to share about our life experiences – it makes me feel that I am not alone that there are others who are also struggling. Real people with real life stories – and that really strengthens my faith.

I am Timorese by race and come from a mixed religion family. My dad is of a different religion and my mom is a Catholic. So I think I have some knowledge about Jesus and the Trinity but I don’t really understand about the Holy Spirit until the Alpha Weekend Away. I felt overwhelmed and felt a deep sense of love which I couldn’t describe in words and tears flowed profusely for no reason. The praying over session helped me to break the chain that has held me back from receiving God’s fullest love through His Holy Spirit that is the feeling of unworthiness.

After that weekend away, I fell in love with Alpha and I told myself maybe I could help out a little bit with arranging chairs but instead I found that Alpha has rearranged my life. I then continued my journey with inner healing seminar, going for retreats and sharing of spiritual growth together with other sisters in Christ. All this is because Alpha has introduced me to God and opened doors for spiritual growth.

From that moment of weekend away to date – nine months – I changed from less time for God to making time and communicating with God, from holding grudges to forgiving, from an ignorant daughter to a responsible one and it’s all because Alpha had taught me about God’s love.

From Alpha, I have also learned about the power of prayers, that we too should pray for others and let others pray for us. I am also now serving in the Alpha for schools around KK and Papar.

Alpha has also automatically affected my career and business life. I begin to put God first before I start my work daily. Bring my teammates to pray together and even invite them to join Alpha. The challenge as a young entrepreneur is tough and I have many times thought of quitting when challenges come.

But as I come to understand more about the Holy Spirit and how wonderful our God is, I begin to take heart in every aspect of the business. Believing that He is a great provider and that He is holding and guiding my hands and mind in every decision I make, I have come to realise that everything I have is not mine; it is given to me by the Grace of God as a blessing to be shared with others.

I used to have a very self-indulgent thinking that earning more in life would make me happy and was entangled with too many obstacles until I learnt that the secret of “success” is learning to be happy (joyful), loving, confident (trustfulness) in the Lord and peaceful regardless of outer condition. And who else can better teach us these values but the Holy Spirit Himself.

Local Migrant Sunday message focuses on migrant children’s vulnerability and voicelessness

Below is the message by Bishop Bernard Paul, president of the episcopal commission for the pastoral care of migrants and itinerants (ECMI), Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei which was published in Catholic Sabah on 17 Sept 2017.  Migrant Sunday is observed locally on Sept 24.

The archdioceses and dioceses of the Conference of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei have adopted this theme “Child Migrants, Vulnerable and Voiceless” for this year’s Migrant Sunday Celebration.

“The migrant children are the most vulnerable and fragile victims of war and persecutions. They arrive alone in their countries of destination; they are unable to make their voices heard; they easily become victims of violations of human rights. They are invisible because they are undocumented or unaccompanied.” – The Pontifical Council for Migrants & Travelers

According to UNICEF report, 31 million children live outside of their countries of birth. And 11 million of them are forcibly displaced. What happens to them? Their rights to live, learn and flourish are compromised. They suffer torture, physical violence, moral and psychological aggression. They are easy targets for smugglers, traffickers and sexual abuse; or recruited into militias or criminal groups; or become victims of organ trafficking, child labour and early marriage.

Maria, a refugee girl who escaped violence in Kenya, now schooling in Italy, made this call, “All children deserve the right to be children.”

Pope Francis reminded, “Every person is precious; persons are more important than things, and the worth of an institution is measured by the way it treats the life and dignity of human beings especially the vulnerable.”

Do we hear their cries? Is this phenomenon a sign of the times? Is the God of History still speaking in signs? Is this the time, the appropriate time for us to work with our compassionate God in history and in human community? It is a call to universal communion.

On 21 Feb  2017, Pope Francis introduced four verbs for ‘faith-in-action’ initiatives among migrants, that is, Welcome! Protect! Promote! Integrate!

May we, with courage and sacrifice, step out to WELCOME, PROTECT, PROMOTE and INTEGRATE the strangers, the travellers and sojourners into our space and time.

Together building His Kingdom!

Likas pastoral care ministry organises 6th outreach visit to senior citizens home

The writer (R) listens to Mdm Chin (L) during the visit by the Likas Pastoral Care Ministry to the Holy Family Senior Citizens Home Papar, 29 July 2017.

PAPAR – About 25 members and their families of the St Simon Catholic Church Likas Pastoral Care Ministry visited the Holy Family Residence for Senior Citizens here on 29 Jul 2017.

The sixth outreach visit for the ministry this year, led by Vera Chin, also involved 15 students from confirmation class and two teachers.

The team was blessed by its pastor, Father Cosmas Lee, before the convoy of 10 vehicles loaded with food stuff and goodies left for the 45-minute journey.

Franciscan Sisters Aileen and Regina were on hand to welcome them to the residence, home to 35 elderly.

Some of the highlights of the visit included meet-and-greet, fellowship and performances by the confirmation class students which moved some of their audiences to tears, among others.

However, amid all the formality of the event, one story of conversion caught this writer’s attention, that of Madam Chin.

Madam Chin, 84, was wheelchair-bound following a fall which injured her hip bone. She said she moved into the residence only four months ago.

Chin was born in Sandakan to a pagan family. When she was five years old, she envisioned an eagerness to see God and asked her elder brother where to find Him.

“It has to be the God from the Catholic mission (Tien Tzu Tong in Hakka dialect),” said Chin.

Her brother told her the church is the only place to find God. He was studying in a Catholic school then. While growing up as a Buddhist, she never forgot about the Catholic Church.

She eventually married and had children of her own. Then one Sunday morning 22 years ago, she felt a very strong urge to seek God. So she got hold of her baby grandson who was under her care then, called a taxi and instructed the driver to go straight to St Mary’s Church (now St Mary’s Cathedral), which was eight miles away from her home along Labuk Road.

She said the minute she heard the Church bell tolling and the hymns, she felt her burden, sorrow, unhappiness and sufferings all disappeared. She felt so peaceful, relaxed, and joy filled her body thoroughly (the feelings have never changed since then, she said).

That same Sunday, she enquired about how to become a Catholic. She was introduced to Fr Tobias Chi the rector of the church then. She joined the Chinese Catechism class and was baptised a year later.

Later, her husband got a stroke and she had to care for him. She confessed there was a time she became a lapsed Catholic while being engrossed with family matters.

When she decided to go to a retirement home she insisted it has to be managed by Catholic mission. She said the Holy Family Residence for Senior Citizens is her only choice because she feels she can be near God there. She said she prayed “very, very hard” in order to be admitted into the residence. She believes she has made peace with God now by attending daily Mass to make up for the times that she neglected God.

When Chin talked about God, her tone became very excited and her face radiant, and a flow of peace and happiness filtered through her. When she heard the song “Amazing Grace,”  her eyes brimmed with tears. She did not speak English but hummed along sweetly. She said she loves singing and would love to have a Chinese hymn book.

The writer felt privileged to meet this simple but remarkable lady whose struggle to know God took her through so many years of ups and downs that now she surrenders her later years in the senior home just to be near God and not with her children and family.

“It is my choice to come here… to have time with God,”  were her very first words to this writer when they shook hands. – Joan Pang @ SOCCOM St Simon Catholic Church

Papar parishioners celebrate assistant pastor’s 8th priestly anniversary

Fr Bisius (with eye-glasses) sings together with the children and PPC members before cutting the cake marking his 8th priestly anniversary at the Mother of Mercy open hall, 16 Sept 2017

PAPAR – After the Sunset Mass, parishioners of St Joseph’s Church here gathered together to celebrate the 8th priestly anniversary of assistant pastor Father Rayner Bisius at the Mother of Mercy open hall on 16 Sept 2017.

Fr Bisius, in his brief message, thanked everyone for the warm welcome accorded him when he arrived three months ago. He exhorted the parishioners to constantly pray for him and all priests in their priestly ministry.

Prior to that, Johnny Sitamin, chairman of the parish pastoral council, thanked everyone involved in preparing the event.

The evening programme included several solo and choral singing performances as well as traditional dances.

The night ended with a closing prayer and blessing by Fr Bisius.  – William Charles Mindus (SOCCOM Papar Limbahau)

Paparians commemorate Malaysia Day with Mass and flag-hoisting ceremony

All sing the national and state anthems at the flag hoisting ceremony after Mass, St Joseph Papar, 16 Sept 2017.

PAPAR – Parishioners commemorated 54th Malaysia Day with Holy Mass and flag-hoisting ceremony on 16 Sept 2017 at St Joseph’s Church here.

In his homily, Father Rayner Bisius read the National Day message from the Christian Federation of Malaysian (CFM) dated  28 Aug 2017 urging Malaysians to rise above petty self-interests.

This message is relevant to the current situation wherein both Papar and Limbahau Parishes are embarking on a critical pastoral programme Keluarga, KKD dan Gereja Ku (KKG) as a measure of tackling one of the three pastoral issues highlighted at the 2015 PAX Assembly.

Without a doubt one of the more serious threats is apathy. Fr Bisius said that no matter how many spiritual engagements, concerts, seminars, youth camps or countless retreats one has attended, all these would be meaningless if one does not pick up and carry one’s cross and use these spiritual activities to help others who are in need.

After Mass, all proceed to a simple flag hoisting ceremony outside accompanied by the SMK St Joseph Brass Band where everyone sang the National and Sabah State Anthems. – William Charles Mindus (SOCCOM Papar-Limbahau)

Religious contingent marches in National Day Parade

KUALA LUMPUR – Merdeka, merdeka, merdeka, merdeka, merdeka, merdeka, merdeka! Tunku Abdul Rahman shouted in joy and triumph on 31 August 1957.  Now, 60 years have passed and the people are still filled with the same spirit of merdeka joy and jubilation in celebrating the birth of  Malaya.

This year, the nation celebrated merdeka in a very unique way by calling religious leaders of all faiths to play an active role at Dataran Merdeka. A contingent of all faiths, comprising some 100 members was formed. Special thanks to the Unity Department of the PM’s office under the leadership of Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, the minister of unity and national integration.

After practices at different locations and at the Dataran, the march past finally took place on Merdeka morning.

In this contingent, there were representatives from the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Taoist and Bahai faiths.

There were two Catholic priests, three nuns, a pastor, lay Catholics and a few youths in the Christian group. Thanks to the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) for coordinating the Christian group for the march. The atmosphere was very conducive for everyone to interact and promote peace and harmony.

Pastor Juining of the Anglican Church had this to say, “This historical march has enabled all of us to build bridges and be agents of peace and harmony.”

Ms Chong Hui Jun, Buddhist youth, expressed deep love and reverence in working and walking together with people of all faiths here.

“We are all now flowers of one garden,” said Mrs Mariamah from the Hindu group.

Overall, this year’s Merdeka celebrations, especially the march past and the presence of church leaders like Archbishop Julian Leow, Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam and hundreds of Christians with their pastors, was truly a remarkable experience for all to go on building the nation through dialogue and bridge building in daily life. – herald malaysia.com

 

Salesian priest recounts harrowing tale of his capture, liberation

Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was released from captivity 12 Sept 2017, greets journalists as he arrives for a news conference in Rome Sept 16. Father Uzhunnalil was abducted during an attack on a charity care home in Yemen in March 2016 and imprisoned for 18 months. (CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves)

Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil was sitting in a room in an unknown location – one of several he had been relocated to during his 18-month imprisonment – when he received some unexpected news.

“Those who kept me came to where I slept [and said]: ‘I bring you good news. We are sending you home. If you need to go to the bathroom, go. Take a shower, but quickly!’” Fr Uzhunnalil told reporters at the Salesian headquarters in Rome on 16 Sept 2017.

The Salesian priest from India was kidnapped on 4 March  2016, from a home for the aged and disabled run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen. On that day, four Missionaries of Charity and 12 others were murdered in the attack by uniformed gunmen.

Seeing a group of Missionaries of Charity Sisters seated at the news conference in Rome, Fr Uzhunnalil expressed his condolences. However, the memory of the four Sisters’ martyrdom still proved too difficult to bear.

Silence filled the room as the Salesian priest covered his eyes, tears streaming down his face while doing his utmost to hold back emotions that he thought he could contain.

“I thank God Almighty for this day, for keeping me safe, healthy, clear minded; my emotions were in control until now,” he said after regaining his composure.

“I don’t want to speak too much about the Sisters because I get too emotional,” he said.

Although reports following his kidnapping suggested the attack was carried out by ISIS, Fr Uzhunnalil said his captors never identified themselves.

Knowing very little Arabic, Fr Uzhunnalil said he spoke to the militants with the few words he knew: “Ana hindiin” (“I am Indian”). To this day, the Indian priest still wonders why he was the only one spared in the slaughter.

“Why they did not kill me, why they didn’t tie my hands, I don’t know,” he said. “Perhaps they wanted some ransom or whatever it is. I only believe that maybe God had put that into their heads when I said, ‘I am Indian,’ and they made me sit there while they killed the others, the Sisters.”

After leaving him in the car boot, the militants ransacked the chapel, taking the tabernacle, wrapping it with the altar linen and placing it near the kidnapped priest. With his hands unbound, Fr Uzhunnalil carefully moved the linen and found “four or five small Hosts,” which he kept to celebrate the Eucharist the first few days of his capture.

After his short supply ran out, he said, he continued reciting the Mass prayers when alone, despite not having bread and wine.

“I peacefully was able to say my Eucharist all from memory, although bread and wine weren’t available. But I prayed to God to give me those items spiritually,” Fr Uzhunnalil said.

He spent most of his days praying for the Pope, his bishop, his Salesian brothers, and “certainly those Sisters, all those persons whom God had called” on the day of his abduction.

Fr Uzhunnalil said he found consolation in the words of a hymn, “One day at a time, sweet Jesus.”

“Just give me the strength to do every day what I have to do. Yesterday’s gone, sweet Jesus, and tomorrow may never be mine. Lord, help me today, show me the way, one day at a time,” he would sing to himself in the solitude of his room.

On September 11, Fr Uzhunnalil was given the news of his liberation. After traveling for hours blindfolded, the priest along with two of his captors waited in the car.

Several hours later, his captors told him “some arrangements weren’t done” and they headed back.

Not understanding the Church’s teaching on the Holy Trinity and the “unity of God in three persons,”Fr Uzhunnalil recalled, one of his captors said, “You might have prayed to the third God, now you must pray to the second God so tomorrow can go well.”

Returning to his cell, he slept briefly when he was rustled out of bed in the middle of the night on September 12 and taken on the same long ride, his head once again covered. He was then moved to another vehicle where a person pulled up his picture on a cell phone and asked the priest: “Is this you?”

After confirming his identity, the driver drove for more than a day through the desert and told him: “Now you are free, now you are safe.”

Fr Uzhunnalil was then taken to the Omani capital of Moscat where he received medical treatment, fresh clothes, and a shaving kit.

While he knows few details about arrangements for his release, Fr Uzhunnalil expressed his gratitude to those who helped secure his liberation, including Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said of Oman, the government authorities of India, and the Vatican, including Pope Francis whom he met the day after his release, Sept 17.

As Pope Francis entered the room, the Salesian knelt before him and kissed his feet. Visibly moved by the gesture, the Pope helped him up and kissed his hands.

Before blessing Fr Uzhunnalil, the Pope embraced him and said he would continue to pray for him as he had done during his imprisonment.

“In that meeting, the Pope kissed my hand. I never deserved it,” he said. “I’m only grateful to God for his blessings, I’m sure he prayed much for me.”

Even his captors, Fr Uzhunnalil said, knew of the Pope’s efforts and inadvertently gave him a reason to hope.

“One of the captors told me, ‘The Pope has said you will be freed soon but nothing is happening still.’ From that, I knew that the whole world was there, the whole Church was there, the world was worried for me. So, I am grateful,” he said. – CNS

Fr Chito rescued from Maute captivity

Rescued Catholic priest Father Teresito Suganob (C) waves to journalists as he is presented during a press conference at the military headquarters in Manila on 18 September 2017, following his September 16 rescue by the military.
A Catholic priest kidnapped by Islamic State supporters when they occupied parts of a southern Philippine city nearly four months ago smiled and called for prayers September 18 after escaping. / AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

MANILA— After being held hostage by terrorist gunmen for nearly four months, Father Teresito “Chito” Suganob has finally been rescued.

Government security forces recovered the priest along with another hostage near a mosque in Bato, Marawi City on Saturday night, 16 Sept 2017.

“He was rescued with another individual at about 11 pm Saturday,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told CBCPNews.

Dureza would not release other details because military operations are still going on hoping to rescue other hostages.

Suganob along with a number of civilians were abducted by the Islamic State-inspired Maute group on May 23 when they launched an attack on Marawi City including the St Mary’s Cathedral.

Bishop Edwin dela Pena of Marawi, who is currently in Rome to address a conference with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz has lauded the safe release of the hostages, saying that their “liberation is the result of our faith in prayer.”

“So many are praying for his freedom. So many Masses are celebrated for that intention,” Jumoad said. “The power of prayer is once again shown as a witness of our solid faith in God.”  – CBCPNews

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