KOTA KINABALU – In his Pastoral Letter released on 7 Jan 2016, Archbishop John Wong urged all pastoral leaders – clergy, religious, lay – to “turun padang” or reach the faithful at grassroots level in countering the three identified issues presented at the 2015 PAX Assembly.
The full text:
I am writing this letter to you at a special time: Christmastide, when we rejoice and celebrate the Incarnation of God. It reminds us of the love to us sinners. This time is also the beginning of a new year when new resolutions are made. I pray that each of you will start afresh in Christ as you start the year 2016. But above all, as Catholics, this is also a time when the Jubilee Year of Mercy has just started. So, this is really a God-given moment for us, the kairos.
We have just concluded an important event in our Archdiocese, namely the 2015 PAX Assembly. More than 200 delegates were there at Pace Bene from 8-11 November 2015 and about half of them for the first time. The Assembly has three specific objectives: (a) to strengthen togetherness as a diocesan community, (b) to heighten awareness on the critical issues of secularisation, apathy and Islamisation affecting the local Church, and (c) to present the Pastoral Thrust as our way to help our communities to face the identified issues.
You might remember that prior to the Assembly, all parishes were requested to organise Parish Consultations at various levels, where views and opinions were gathered with the aim to gauge the awareness of our people regarding issues affecting us in our country and our communities. Reports of the consultations were presented to the Assembly and it was clear that the three critical issues were quite prevalent throughout our Archdiocese.
However, the reports also revealed that many of our people were unable to give a satisfactory answer to who we are in this country and what is our mission. There seems to be an identity crisis. This may be one of the causes why we are vulnerable to the phenomena of secularisation, Islamisation and apathy.
As a way to address this, the Archdiocese has come up with a Pastoral Thrust. The Thrust is not something totally new. It derives from our DOPP, especially the various elements in our Diocesan Vision and Mission. It offers a three-fold movement of (a) Go Inward, (b) Go Smaller, and (c) Go Outward.
At the end of the PAX Assembly, I have urged all delegates to continue the process. We need to help our communities to systematically counter the issues of secularisation, Islamisation and apathy. We can begin with the following steps:
(a) Choose a suitable time to hold Mini-PAXes or Parish Pastoral Assemblies (PPAs). This has to be done latest by end of August 2016.
(b) Open them to as many people as possible. For bigger parishes, this can be done in various places.
(c) The content of sharing and talks in the Mini-PAXes/PPAs should be based on local situations and not entirely from the PAX Assembly. I would suggest you study, digest and share your parish consultation report and come up with concrete actions to address the issues.
(d) The Organising Committee should comprise the priests and Parish Pastoral Councillors.
(e) Try to blend your programme within the spirit and aim of the Jubilee of Mercy.
(f) The importance of the role of the Family in dealing with the issues is to be emphasised.
(g) Parishes may wish to seek help from the three Archdiocesan Resource Teams whenever necessary.
(h) After organising the Mini-PAXes or PPAs, parishes are to send in their reports to the Archdiocese on how they have organised them and what their outcome is.
In our Diocesan Vision, the element of “journeying together” is an important feature of our life in this Archdiocese. I hope you will realise that all our activities are part and parcel of our journeying together, providing pastoral care to our people and help them to deal with issues that could undermine their faith. Please encourage initiatives from among parishioners to begin the Pastoral Thrust at individual and group levels.
In our effort to pastor those under our care, may we learn to be “merciful like the Father.” May Mary our Mother intercede for us as we learn to be more Christ-like in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Let us do this because “the love of God urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14).
God bless you all.
Yours in Christ,
Most Rev John Wong
Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord
3 January 2016