PAX (Pastoral Constitution of the Catholic Church in Sabah) was officially formed on 12 April 1971 but the idea of its formation existed some eleven years ago. In 1960 there was already a move to form a group of lay councillors in each parish with the purpose of assisting and advising those in charge in the running of the parish. Fr Willibrord Smit mooted this idea during the rectors’ meeting in August 1960:
. . . that in every parish a committee of lay councillors be formed which should meet frequently (once a month) to discuss the spiritual and material problems of the parish . . . that the rectors, when possible, should adhere to the advice of the
councillors (John Rooney, Khabar Gembira, 133).
The Penampang mission took up the idea and by January 1967, the first parish council in the country was formed under Fr Smit. Outstations formed their own and Inobong had its first meeting on 30 April 1967. In 1969, Fr Florian Jud took up the idea and in the first election for the Penampang Parish Council, Frederick Jinu was elected the chairman. Other parishes in the vicariate followed suit. To ensure that all the parishes in the vicariate moved in one direction, a meeting was held in October 1970. After a lengthy discussion, the Persatuan Agama Katolik Sabah (PAKS) was officially formed. The initials PAKS or PAX stand for peace in Latin. Datuk Peter Mojuntin headed the ad hoc committee.
In a clergy meeting on 4 April 1970, it was proposed that a vicariate-wide parish council be formed in accordance with the decrees of Vatican II. One of the priests was asked to draft the constitution. By the end of September 1970 the draft was ready, based on the constitution of an inter-parochial council in Yonkers, New York. It was named PAX. PAX stands for Pa.C.S., initials for Pastoral Council of the Catholic Church in Sabah, the highest Parish Council.
The formation of an ad hoc board of directors was done at a meeting of nominated members of 13 Oct 1970. The following were elected: Peter Mojuntin (chairman), Herman Luping (vice chairman), Fr Peter Cahill (secretary). Committee Members: Frederick Tan Jinu, Julian Yong, Fr Augustine Amandus, Fr Mulders, Mother Immaculata Ho, Sr Rose Hiu. Since its formation, the ad hoc board of directors met twice: 12 Jan 1971; 3 Apr 1971) to prepare for the inauguration of PAX at Easter. The ad hoc board was dissolved at the end of the inauguration of PAX.
The formation of PAX was also because the Church then was experiencing difficulties from the government. Missionaries were expelled and Catholics were harassed. As such, the local faithful had to come up and take care of the young growing church. So on Easter Monday, 12 April 1971, PAX was officially formed and proclaimed at the Sacred Heart Parish Hall, Kota Kinabalu with Bishop Chung as the president and Peter Mojuntin as the lay chairman.
Since Bishop Chung (from Miri) was only given a three-month pass in each visit, he told the lay leaders: “You (the laity), have now taken a great responsibility upon yourselves.”
Inauguration of PAX (carried by Catholic Sabah, 5 May 1971)
At 3 pm on Easter Sunday, 11 April 1971, delegates from every parish council in Sabah convened at the Sacred Heart Parish Hall Kota Kinabalu. Refreshments were prepared by the Catholic Women’s League of Stella Maris. The vice chairman of the ad hoc board delivered the opening address at 3:50 pm, followed by an open forum. At 5:15 pm the assembly recessed for Holy Mass during which delegates read the readings, presented the gifts, led the Prayers of the Faithful, and served the Mass. Bishop James Buis presided at the Mass.
At 8:35 pm the second session of the assembly opened with a prayer by Bishop Buis. After long discussion the following two proposals were passed:
- Amendments to the constitution shall be made by the assembly (not by the board) with the approval of the bishop and his council.
- The “Draft of Rules and the Constitution of PAX” as presented to the delegates was adopted as provisional. Each parish council is expected to make a thorough study of it and send in their comments so that at the next assembly the “Rules and the Constitution . . .” proper could be adopted.
Next came the elections of the board of directors. Twenty-two delegates were nominated to fill 12 positions on the board. Each nominee was given the opportunity to introduce himself after which 12 were selected by secret ballot to serve on the Board of Directors of PAX.
The following delegates were elected:
Herman J Luping, MA, MLA (Sacred Heart KK)
Stephen Yapp Man Siu JP (Holy Trinity Tawau)
Anthony Robert ADK BEM (St Francis Xavier Keningau)
Frederick Tan AMN (St Michael Penampang)
Stephen Tibok ADK BEM (Good Shepherd Menggatal)
Amadeus Leong JP ADK (St Joseph Papar)
Michael Yong PDK (Stella Maris Tg Aru)
JB Dusing (St John Tuaran)
Fong Peng Loi PDK MBE (Stella Maris Tg Aru)
David Wong (St Valentine Beaufort)
Ben Stephens ADK BEM (Stella Maris Tg Aru)
Peter J Mojuntin ADK (Ste Michael Penampang).
After the elections were the reports of the delegates on their respective parishes. These reports gave rise in turn to concern, joy, grief and great hilarity. The ad hoc vice chairman called the proceedings to an end at 11:15 pm.
Penampang hosted the second day on Easter Monday, April 12. There were banners of welcome everywhere. The board of directors met at 8 am, during which Fong Peng Loi was elected as the lay vice chairman. A letter from Bishop Buis was read out appointing Fr PJ Cahhill as the permanent secretary of the board. Followed by the announcement that the Sisters elected to the board were Mother Aloysius fsic and Sr Cecilia Liew fsic while Br Justin Mobilik represented the religious Brothers. The five clergy representatives were: Fr Amandus, Fr Jud, Fr Cahill, Fr Chi and Fr John Lee. Since Fr Cahill had been appointed permanent secretary, his place will be taken by another priest. The voting for the replacement was not clear so further voting would be required. The board then drew up a list of directors to head commissions as a guideline for the bishop and his council who have the final say on who would head each commission. The commissions were:
- Properties and Finance
- Information and Publicity
- Christian Family Life
- Women’s League
The 9:45 am Mass was presided by Bishop Buis, concelebrated with Frs Amandus, Chi, Jud and Cahill. During this Mass the members of the board acted as servers, readers and collectors. After the homily, the newly elected and appointed board of directors took their oath of office before the bishop. After Mass all the delegates adjourned to St Michael rectory for the reception.
PAX continued to play an important role through its annual assemblies (except 1975) from 1971 to 1997. The council had seen three presidents: Bishop Chung (1971-1974), Bishop Simon Fung (1976-1985), and Bishop John Lee (1986-1997). They were assisted by four clergy vice-chairmen: Fr Thomas Sham, Fr Tobias Chi, then Fr John Lee, and Fr Cornelius Piong. They were seven lay vice-chairmen: Datuk Peter Mojuntin, Dato Fong Peng Loi, Tan Sri Ben Stephens (1976-1986), Francis Chong, Donald Malinggang, and John Paujik.
Due to the changing socio-economic-political situations in the 1980s and 1990s, a move was made to study how to meet the challenges posed by globalisation brought about through new technologies. Workshops were held in 1996 and 1997 for the local Church to come up with a pastoral plan that would equip the faithful to meet these challenges. The Diocesan Organisational Pastoral Plan (DOPP) was launched in 1997 at the Sacred Heart Cathedral Kota Kinabalu. In the following year, the PAX Board of Directors was dissolved on 18 Oct 1998 to make way for the establishment of the Diocesan Pastoral Council on 19 Oct 1998. It was made up of 14 members. They were: Bp Lee, Msgr Primus Jouil, Fr Francis Tsen, Fr Bruno Yasun, Fr Simon Kontou, Sr Aquinas Voon fsic, Sr Agnes Wong fsp, Br Justin Mobilik fsc, Albert Matusin, Anthony Lim, Doreen Poh, Henry Solibun, Lawrence Bisuil, Philomena Kan, Waky Taim, Willie Binati.
It serves as a consultative body which serves to advise the bishop on pertinent matters regarding the running of the archdiocese. At parish level, the parish council becomes the parish pastoral council whose members advise the parish priest and his assistant(s) on the running of the parish.
The PAX Assembly still plays an important role under the DOPP though it does not take place yearly. It is a pastoral assembly where under the leadership of the bishop, delegates from the parishes, religious institutes, and the clergy come together to listen, to share, and to work out solutions that would help them face common problems and challenges in their respective parishes.