Category Archives: Catholic Sabah

Listening to God’s word between Christmas and Lent

THE beginning of the calendar year is a time for making resolutions, but in the Catholic liturgical year it is called “Ordinary Time” — a boring title for the part of the year that’s not Advent, Christmas, Lent or Easter.

But it is also an opportunity to be an extraordinary Catholic — one who reads the Scriptures daily.

In the bad old days, Catholics were discouraged from reading the Scriptures because clerics feared their parishioners would become like Protestants and start thinking for themselves. “You don’t need the Scriptures; just memorise the catechism and do what I tell you.”

Today, the church encourages Catholics to nourish themselves with God’s word, and has some of the best Scripture scholars in the world. But sadly, polls show that Catholics still read the Scriptures less than their Protestant brothers and sisters. Only 17 percent of Catholics read the Bible every day as compared to 38 percent of Protestants.

There are lots of ways to read the Scriptures, but one of the best is to read the passages used during Mass, even if you do not attend daily Mass. Over its two-year cycle, the weekday lectionary gives readers a comprehensive taste of the best passages in the Old and New Testaments. The Sunday lectionary follows a three-year cycle.

These lectionaries are also used by many Protestant churches. When you pray over these readings, you are united with Christians across the world who are reading the same passages. It is an experience that can be shared in prayer groups or with family and friends.

The daily Scripture readings during Ordinary Time provide Christians with the opportunity to get acquainted with the Bible. The word “ordinary” comes from “ordinal,” as in “ordinal numbers,” since these weeks are numbered. The first weeks of Ordinary Time use the first chapters of Mark’s Gospel, and during even numbered years, the first reading is from the Book of Samuel.

These readings often have relevance today.

For example, during the first week in Ordinary Time, the First Book of Samuel begins with his mother, Hannah, who like many women today is being badly treated by her culture and her priest. She is told she has no value unless she has a son. When she prays in the temple, the priest Eli accuses her of being drunk. The only person on her side is God who hears her prayer.

Mark’s Gospel is challenging. Mark’s Jesus demands uncompromising personal commitment. In Mark’s mind, nobody understands Jesus, not even the Apostles and his mother Mary.  At the end of the Gospel, the women do not tell the disciples that Jesus is risen. Rather, they “fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

With such a downer for an ending, it is no surprise that someone added to Mark’s Gospel the appearances to Mary Magdalene and the disciples. It was not that Mark was ignorant of the appearances; he did not include them because he wanted to give one message to his fellow Christians: “You just don’t get it.”

Mark’s Gospel was sufficient in the early days of Christianity when people had to make a personal choice for Christ, but as time went on it was hard to live with his relentless calls to total commitment.

Matthew realised that Christianity was not only about personal commitment, but about a Christian community that needs teaching, structure and rules. Luke understood that we never are as committed as Mark wanted and therefore need a compassionate message that gives hope.

Each of the four Gospels has a special message. At the beginning of Ordinary Time, Mark tells us that we need to make a personal commitment to Christ and this commitment needs to be absolute. But lest we get too proud, we also need to be reminded that no one really understands Jesus. If we think we do, we need to return to Mark.

There are many ways to get the daily Mass Scripture readings, including buying hardbound missals or monthly missalettes with the readings. The readings are also online in text and audio at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

For those with smartphones or tablets, there are also free apps, like iBreviary. Or they can be heard on iTunes in “Daily Readings from the New American Bible.”

Catholics need to be nourished by the word of God, and this is a way to do it with the whole Catholic community, even if they don’t go to Mass every day. This is a great New Year’s resolution. If every day is more than you are willing to commit, at least read the Sunday Scripture readings during the week before attending Mass. – Fr Thomas Reese @ NCR

Cana Cafe hosts book launch for three authors

L-R: Jeanny Chong (cafe owner), Roy Jessesly, Derek Chong, Jennifer Linggi pose with copies of their books at the book launch, 5 Jan 2018, Cana Cafe Penampang.

PENAMPANG  – Cana Cafe here hosted a book launch for three authors, Derek Chong, Roy Jessesly and Jennifer Linggi to a closed audience of friends and acquaintances on 5 Jan 2018.

Derek Chong, 49, who hails from Kota Kinabalu, launched the 3rd edition of his book “30 Days to a Better Self-Awareness.

“The human person is searching for meaning. When we have the right foundation, the personal meaning of our lives can be found,” he said this by way of introducing his book at the launch.

“We will search and find. However, when our foundation is wrong, our search becomes tiring and aimless. The 30 Days to a Better Self-Awareness is a tool that can help individuals to find and set right those foundations in our perceptions, hearts and principles of life, leading us to find the true meaning of our life,” he added.

The first edition was released at the end of 2013. Since then, he has used the book to journey with individuals and in groups to help them discover who they are.

Derek, who is also a life coach in his own right, feels strongly that everyone should re-look at one’s foundation. When it is right, life becomes powerful, meaningful and celebrated. When it is not, it means we have been building on wrong foundation.

“But we can change,” underlined Derek, emphasising that “one of the things that we want to do first is to build or re-build our foundation, the way we know (understand) and love ourselves, and this is where the reflection from the 30 days can assist you.”

Derek revealed that some of his associates have used the book as a tool for reflection with people wanting to grow, looking for change or finding it hard to express oneself.

One such person, Mariana Yapp, has a dream to illustrate since young, and with one-to-one coaching from a friend who walked with her through the book ‘30 Days to a Better Self-Awareness,” she finally found the courage to write, illustrate and print her first book.  Her second book has also been released recently.

The “30 Days to a Better Self-Awareness” has found its way to the sharing tables of individuals and groups, either for self-reflection or group discussion in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Wellington.

ATC Publisher of India, who published the 3rd edition, is now marketing the book for the author.  It is Derek’s hope that it would benefit a wider reach of people to lead them to a richer and more beneficial existence, both to themselves and to others around them.

The book is sold locally @ RM20 per copy.  Derek can be contacted @ 019-8620660.

The second author, Roy Jessesly, launched his first book, Colour Me Book at the same event.  His story has been published in the 21 January 2018 issue of Catholic Sabah on page 17.

Jennifer Linggi, 51, architect by profession, was at the event to introduce her book Kampung Legacy, the result of her devotion to the subject of basket-making and the need to document the traditional baskets of Sabah.

Linggi was at the book launch at the friendly invitation of Cana Cafe.  Her book was launched earlier in May 2017.  The Tun Fuad Foundation funded the publication of her book after realising the need to preserve the knowledge of local ancestral traditions.  – CS

OFM Capuchins opens first centre in Keningau

KENINGAU – Some 500 faithful witnessed the blessing and opening of the Franciscan Capuchin’s ‘Rumah Sederhana’ (humble house) by Father Valentine Gompok OFMCap, located at Kg Mongitom, Bunga Raya here on 30 Dec 2017, followed by a Eucharistic Celebration.

Among the guests were Mother Frances Mani, FSIC Mother General and other Franciscan Sisters, OFS National Councillors Malaysia, members of the Sabah-wide Order of Franciscan Secular (OFS), St Francis Xavier’s parish PPC Chairman Datuk Ida Undan, and Peter Lim, contractor of the Capuchin house. Undan donated the land to the OFMCap for the purpose.

Since 2007 Fr Gompok has been praying for this intention and he has approached a few individuals to help him.  God answered his prayer and moved Undan to give the OFMCap a piece of her own land to build the centre.

The immediate plan is to build a faith formation centre on the site for the Order.  Meantime, Keningau and Tambunan OFS will take care of the building.

Acknowledging the increase of Catholics in Sabah and the need to have centres for an on-going formation after their baptism, OFM Capuchin is responding to this by helping the diocese to form the newly baptised in their faith, so that they who are just getting to know God will not stray from the faith.

The centre will also be a formation house for candidates of the Capuchin religious from Sabah.

Currently, there are 14 Sabahan Capuchin religious in formation: one final professed in Theology 3 (Br Gilbert James), two simple professed (Br Christi Rames Liew,  Br Tony Bingkuan), one novice (Br Noel Damsus), four soon-to-be novices (Marthin Steven, Cornelsteve Dominic,  Randall Lee,  Sylver Ivan Sabinus), another four entering postulancy (Adam Joel Elias, Aldrin Benedict, Anndrysent Chong, Jerry Ghani) and two entering aspirancy (Frederick Joseph, Gary Damianus).

On the same day,  seven OFS members of  SFX Keningau Fraternity took their final vows.

In his speech, Fr Gompok thanked Bishop Cornelius Piong for his permission for the Order to set up Rumah Sederhana, for the house to be blessed and for Mass to be celebrated. He also thanked all who came from near and far. –  Marina Anjuman

Living the faith in the ordinary moments of life

We are only two weeks into the new year and I have already heard many comments about how quickly Christmas “came and went” and how “soon Lent will be upon us!”

The liturgical season of Christmas came to an end with the celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. And now we are in Ordinary Time, the longest “season” of the Church’s liturgical year.

Ordinary Time recalls the events and mystery of Christ’s life in their totality.

It may have seemed to you at times, that this time is, well, ordinary; in the sense that it is not as important. But that is not so. This time is called tempus per annum, “time through the year.” It is from this that we render in English, Ordinary Time. Rather than meaning unimportant, it means ordered, as in Ordered Time.

Ordinary Time, then, is also a time during which we can grow closer to the Lord and deepen our spiritual lives. Here are five suggested practices to get the most out of our observance of Ordinary Time. These are things we can do any time, but let’s use them to renew our commitment to Christ throughout the year.

1. Surrender to Christ – Begin each new day by surrendering yourself to Him and His Will. Replace the habit of pride with the practice of humility, trusting in the Lord.

2. Live in a sacramental life – We can make no progress in the spiritual life if we are not in a state of sanctifying grace. Regularly and actively participate in the sacraments, particularly Holy Mass.

3. Develop a daily prayer habit – If we love someone, we desire to be with that person. The same is true if we love God. Prayer is how we spend time with God. Commit to pray daily prayers. Devotionals, such as the Rosary, and liturgy, such as the Divine Office, are great practices to assist you.

4. Meditate on the Sunday Mass readings – Spend time each week prayerfully reading and thinking about the coming Sunday’s Mass readings – what they mean and how they apply to your life.

5. Be Christ to others – We cannot claim to follow Christ if we do not serve those people He places in our daily lives. Service always requires us to be Christ to those around us, but we are also called to serve those we do not easily recognise. Widen your outreach this year.

The celebrations and seasons of the Liturgical Calendar, including Ordinary Time, along with all the other occasions and event that mark our passage through time, should serve to remind us that we are not accidents of nature, but rational beings created by and loved of God who made us for a high purpose. Let us seek always to give glory to our God! – Deacon Bickerstaff

People are hungry for good news which gives them hope, says Ranau pastor

A family poses in front of the Christmas Crib at St Peter Claver Ranau, 25 Dec 2017.

RANAU – Parish priest of St Peter Claver Ranau (SPCR) Church, Father Nicholas Stephen said people today are hungry for good news, which gives them hope for a better day ahead in the midst of uncertainties.

“Every day we wake up and see on our smartphones or tablets all kinds of bad news which make us question the hope for mankind and our own safety for tomorrow. We live in all kinds of fears,” he said.

“But today I urge people from all walks of life, regardless of their faith as well as ethnic background, to be joyful because the Christmas that we celebrate each year is the point where all hopes for tomorrow are renewed,” he continued.

Towards that end, Fr Nicholas said, people today should go to the Bethlehem of their souls, which has since been left dry and empty, and to rediscover the joy of life where the Saviour of mankind is born.

He was speaking to a crowd of about 3000 Catholic Christians at the Christmas Mass at St Peter Claver here on 25 Dec 2018.

He prayed that this year’s Christmas bring peace to all families, especially to all broken families, that their relationships would be restored once again, thus bringing peace to society, the state, the nation and the world as a whole.

Earlier that day, Fr Nicholas also launched the parish’s first published magazine entitled Effatha!, which was produced by St Peter Claver’s SOCCOM (Social Communications) Committee. The magazine featured all the activities that took place in SPCR in 2017.

The first edition of Effatha! also highlighted the journey made by the statue of Our Lady of Fatima throughout the seven zones under the Ranau parish, ending with the major street procession over the town of Ranau on Nov 25 last year.

On Dec 30, Fr Nicholas joined other community leaders for a Christmas and New Year celebration at district level.

At the event, Siringan Gubat, who co-hosted the event, and who is also Minister of Resource Development and Information Technology, said that such celebration is important, especially for people living in a multi-cultural setting like in Malaysia, especially in Sabah.

“This is why we never stop organising this event each year. Because an open house is like a tonic for the fostering of unity, especially considering that we in Ranau are living in a diversity of ethnic and religious backgrounds,” he said.

Dr Joachim Gunsalam who is also Assistant Minister of Local Government and Housing shared the sentiment and added that the event strengthened the brotherhood which has long been inherited by the people in Ranau.

“Good relationship among the people here has long existed and this acceptance between one another transcends the boundary of minds, interests and even political ideology,” he said.

Among the highlights of the celebration, which was held at the Dewan Masyarakat Ranau, were the singing of Christmas carols by choir groups from the different churches in Ranau, and distribution of Christmas goodies to children.   – Clarence Dol

Ranau mission kindergarten receives encouraging response from parents

Some of the children at the Ranau mission kindergarten, 2018

RANAU – The newly established St Peter Claver Ranau (SPCR)’s Tadika Kasih Bonda continues to receive encouraging response from parents in the area when 20 four-year-olds were accepted to enroll in its new intake this year.

Headmistress Deyana Johnny said despite the inadequate facilities the kindergarten is experiencing since its inception in 2015, teaching staff at the school continue to hope for a better future for the school in the days ahead.

“Currently we are coping with problems like lack of staff and lack of classrooms. We are operating with 10 teachers, including myself, and only three classes. We are caring for 20 four-year-olds, 40 five-year-olds, and 45 six-year-olds.

“Imagine how the situation is when one of them needs to go to the washroom. We have to escort those children to the washroom in order to ensure their safety,” she said.

On the issue of classrooms, Deyana said the over-quota numbers of students gave them the thrust to improvise, which means getting some of the children at school to have outside-of-classroom activities.

Towards the end of 2017, SPCR received a donation of RM210 thousand from the Vatican Foundation to build a kindergarten (Tadika Kasih Bonda) which is currently located in the old church building (Fr Salm Hall).

SPCR parish priest, Father Nicholas Stephen said earlier that Tadika Kasih Bonda, which uses English as its medium, and now requiring a building to run its own programmes, receives a very encouraging response from Christian students in this area.

To accommodate the construction of the building, the church needs an allocation of RM750 thousand, and the Vatican Foundation has contributed RM210 thousand through the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, he added.

Therefore, he said, the contribution of all the people is needed to realise the completion of the building, thus helping the kindergarten to develop and enabling it to enroll more children in the future. – Clarence Dol

Don’t water down Christianity

“Everybody worships somebody or something. Everyone’s got a king, right? Our job is to stand up boldly and say, ‘No, Christ is your king. Everything in your life belongs to him’.”

Bishop Robert Barron asked some 8000 people at a Catholic leadership conference to help “remind the world whom they are to worship.” He said that trust in the risen Christ should give us the courage to preach the truth boldly.

“Through the Holy Spirit, the ascended, risen Christ commands his mystical Body the Church to do what he did, and to say what he said. That’s it…that’s the task of the Church to the present day.”

While caring for the poor is important, Bishop Barron said, this work “in and of itself can never be evangelically sufficient.”

“This is not the time for anti-intellectualism in our Church! We have lots of young people who are leaving the Church for intellectual reasons,” Barron said.

He called for a kind of “bold speech” needed to proclaim the Gospel, pointing to the preaching in the early Church, which challenged the widely held belief at the time that “Caesar is Lord.”

“The bold speech of the Church is that not ‘Caesar,’ or any of his successors, but rather Jesus is Lord, Jesus is the king. And he is also Christos, anointed.”

“If he is Lord, everything in your life belongs to him. Your personal life, yes. Your body, yes. Your friendships, yes. Your political life, yes. Your entertainment, yes. All of it.”

When Christianity becomes reduced to a mere message that can be gained from the dominant culture, Bishop Barron said, it moves from the faith of early persecuted Christians to one which is rewarded lavishly by others.

“In the Acts of the Apostles we hear that when those first disciples spoke, people were cut to the heart. Still true, still true to this day. Bland spiritual teachings, saying what everybody else says, that won’t cut anyone to the heart, but trust me, declaring the lordship of Jesus, that’ll cut them to the heart.”

Bishop Barron highlighted Jesus’ role in light of the Old Testament, saying that only as a fulfillment of laws and the prophets does Jesus make sense. When Jesus is cut off from his roots in Israel, he becomes just a philosopher or wise figure, a “flattened out, uninspiring Jesus,” the bishop warned.

In contrast, he said, “when you present Jesus as the fulfillment of the great story of Israel, Jesus as the fulfillment of the temple that was meant to bring humanity and divinity together, when you preach him as the fulfillment of the law and the covenant and the Torah, when you preach him as the culmination of all the proclamation of the prophets, people will be cut to the heart.” – CNA

Over 200 CWL delegates participate in annual assembly

A section of the delegates to the CWL Annual Assembly, BTRC, 29 Nov – 2 Dec 2017.

BUNDU TUHAN – Over 200 representatives of the Catholic Women’s League participated in the 32nd Annual Assembly at the Bundu Tuhan Retreat Centre here on 29 Nov – 2 Dec 2017.

Two hundred and fourteen women from across the archdiocese took part in the event themed “Women of the Bible.”

The programme was a two-day retreat guided by Father Paul Lo, which concluded with the General Meeting on the last day.

In his opening speech, Archbishop John Wong advised the delegates to take the retreat seriously, reflecting on the words that they would hear during the retreat.

He hoped that the women would emulate the lives of the different women in the Bible in their role as mothers of families, and that they would be filled with the Spirit and be more committed in their service to the Lord.

Anita Tunggolou, chief coordinator of the Archdiocesan Catholic Women’s League, thanked the archbishop for his presence as well as for his continuous support of the organisation.

She also urged all members to give their full support to their respective parish priests and to be fully committed in carrying out their responsibilities to the best of their ability.

For the retreat proper, Fr Lo drew the delegates’ attention to the lives of the different women in the Bible, highlighting their courage, their prayer-filled life and their unwavering faith in the Lord.

Besides the inputs, time was given for personal reflection, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and confession.

The next part of the retreat was the business of the General Meeting, in which reports from the various Catholic Women’s Leagues were presented, followed by a Question and Answer session. – Anita Tunggolou/ACWL

ASSISS KK holds first pre-Christmas gathering

KOTA KINABALU – The Assunta Integrated Social Services Kota Kinabalu (ASSISS KK) held its first  Christmas gathering for the volunteers on 20 Dec 2017 at the right wing of Sacred Heart Parish Hall here.

Thirty volunteers turned up for the event. In keeping with the Christmas theme, carols singing kicked off the evening.

Patricia Ubing, ASSISS KK Chairman, in her speech, thanked the volunteers for giving their time to serve  the poor through the mobile clinic services.

The clinic is run on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month. The current clinic locations are at Kg Timpangoh Laut Sugud and Kg Kaiduan Papar. Other location sites would be added on.

The ASSISS KK core team did the cake cutting, followed by dinner. After dinner, there were games, exchange of  gifts among the attendees and lucky draws.

The fellowship ended with a closing prayer by Paul Isidore and the singing of the Prayer of St Francis. – Catherine Engsun

KKKR brings Christmas cheer to Ranau Hospital staff

The KKKR choir and hospital staff pose for remembrance

RANAU – The Christian Health Community Ranau (KKKR) brought early Christmas cheer to the staff of Ranau Hospital on 15 Dec 2017.

KKKR’s performance brought cheer to the staff who were not able to be with their loved ones to celebrate Christmas.

KKKR Chairman Dr Clarence D Sirisani said the activity also enabled patients, who had to be  detained in the hospital, to enjoy Christmas Day, regardless of race and religion.

“The activity also serves to bring the glad tidings of Christmas among the Christian community in every unit and to strengthen the relationship among the staff,” said Dr Clarence.

The carollers who entertained the patients, visitors and hospital staff were led by Dr Jason Hendrick, a Medical Officer at the Ranau Hospital.

Meanwhile, Dr Clarence who is also the Director of the Ranau Hospital invited the public to the Ranau Hospital Christmas Open House at the foyer on 12 Jan 2018, starting at 2:00 pm.

“We hold this celebration each year, not only in living our faith and hope as Christians, but also to forge closer ties with those of other faiths here,” he said. – Clarence Dol

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