PAPAR – Over 200 East Malaysian Catholic Women gathered for their 9th conference at the Pace Bene Retreat Centre here on 26-30 Aug 2017.
The 234 women came from the three arch/dioceses of Kota Kinabalu, Keningau and Sandakan in Sabah and from the three arch/dioceses of Kuching, Miri and Sibu in Sarawak.
The conference, themed Challenges of the Catholic Family in the Present Time, kicked off with the opening Mass presided by Archbishop John Wong of Kota Kinabalu, and concelebrated with Bishop Cornelius Piong of Keningau and Father Claudius Andrew of Keningau on Saturday, Aug 26.
The opening ceremony took place after dinner.
After the welcoming speeches by Mdm Anita Tunggolou, head of the KK Women Commission cum organising chairperson, and by Abp Wong, the prelate beat the gong nine times to mark the opening of the conference followed by the inevitable cake-cutting ceremony and stage performances by the delegates.
A day of recollection followed, facilitated by Abp Wong, on Sunday, Aug 28.
On Monday morning, Aug 29, Anthony Lim of Kota Kinabalu and his team facilitated three sessions on the theme.
In the afternoon, the heads and chairpersons met and shared on their respective ministries. They also came out with a mission statement at the end of the day.
On the last day, Tuesday, Aug 30, the women visited the nearby Holy Family Residence for Senior Citizens and celebrated the Eucharist at Holy Rosary Church Limbahau.
Some 1000 people including Abp Emeritus John Lee and Bishop Julius Gitom of Sandakan gathered for the closing ceremony and dinner at Putera Theatre Ballroom at Bukit Padang with stage presentations by the different delegations.
In her speech, Tunggolou said the theme of the 9th conference was aptly chosen because the family is the “foundation of society and we need to look deeply into ensuring that our families are deeply rooted in the faith as crisis of different types are presently springing up everywhere in the world and families are faced with so many trials and challenges in life.”
Recognition Awards were given to ten recipients who have attended all the conferences held so far: six from Kuching, three from KK and one from Sandakan.
Tokens of appreciation were also given to Abp Emeritus Lee and Bp Gitom for their encouragement and spiritual support down the years.
As Kuching will host the 10th conference in 2020, the host banner was handed over to Mdm Mildred Yii by Tunggolou.
The idea of Catholic Women of East Malaysia coming together was mooted by then Father John Ha of Kuching (now retired archbishop) and Mdm Anita Tunggolou, head of the KK Women’s League Commission.
With the backing of then Bishop John Lee of Kota Kinabalu (now retired archbishop), the first conference was held on 12-16 June 1993 in the KK Diocese with the objective of establishing and fostering good relationships and understanding among the women of the two states through gathering in prayer and sharing of ideas.
The conference would be held on a rotational basis in the participating dioceses every three years.
In its 25th year now, the conference was held in 1993 (KK), 1996 (Kuching), 1999 (Sibu), 2002 (KK), 2005 (Keningau), 2008 (Kuching), 2011 (Sibu), 2014 (Sandakan).