KENINGAU – Faces of joy and pride were evident among the more than 1,000 ‘first pilgrims’ who attended the first Holy Mass at the Holy Family Pilgrimage Centre Nulu Sosopon here on 4 Jun 2016.
They have two reasons to be happy. First, because it is a day of blessing and opening ceremony of the third pilgrimage centre in the Diocese of Keningau, and second, because it was a historic day that the event was attended by Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia, Archbishop Joseph Salvador Marino who officiated the event.
With the official opening of the pilgrimage centre built on a land area of 10.2 acres on the hill of Nulu Sosopon, it is now open to anyone who wants to visit there. The other two pilgrimage centres in the interior diocese are located in Tatal and Purun.
For the church blessing, the Entrance Rites for the dedication of the building to mark its readiness to be used for regular worship were used. Then led by the bishops, the assembly entered the building for the celebration of the Eucharist, which was presided by Bishop Cornelius Piong of Keningau, and concelebrated with Archbishop Joseph Marino, Archbishop John Wong of Kota Kinabalu, and more than 10 diocesan priests. The ceremony of the unveiling of the commemoration plaque and the unrolling of the bunting was officiated by Archbishop Marino.
Many of the people present at the function expressed joy and satisfaction that another pilgrimage centre is available for them to utilise for praying, spiritual activities and pastoral events for their spiritual development.
Matilda Siun from Kampung Patikang, said that she and her family would definitely come to pray or meditate at this centre.
“I’m glad that we have a pilgrimage center that is close to our home. We no longer need to go to other pilgrimage centres elsewhere. Here, pilgrims can pray and reflect because the atmosphere is quiet and beautiful,” she said.
Naturally, Nulu Sosopon is the perfect place for pilgrimage because it is located on a hill and pilgrims can enjoy breathtaking views of the town of Keningau and mesmerising forests and hills.
Reflecting on how the idea of the center began, Bishop Piong said, it is a vision for the community in his diocese to be faithful people of God, committed to serve His kingdom.
“I have a vision of how the family contribution can help develop the diocese. With that, I feel the need to build a center of pilgrimage and of thanksgiving to the Lord, which also serves as a reminder that family plays an important role in community building,” he said in a statement.
So starting in 2015 with a few people, after identifying the suitability of the location, communities began clearing the area where the pilgrimage centre would be built and to connect the former timber road to the main road.
“The place is very comfortable and is named after the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It has a nice atmosphere and cool weather. It is suitable for self-reflection and meditation,” he said, adding that when the weather is sunny, pilgrims can enjoy the sunrise against the backdrop of Mt Kinabalu and the Trusmadi Range.
Accordingly, Bishop Piong hoped that the pilgrimage centre would be a place where pilgrims are able to feel the presence of God through prayer, reflection and meditation.
Chairperson of the organising committee, Mathilda Nain said the center was equipped with a church, hall and most significantly, seen from afar, is the seven-level Cross tower.
In the center is a statue of the Holy Family that was built to become an icon so as to generate and encourage families who face challenges daily to remain faithful to Christ.
The Holy Family is the patron and protector of this pilgrimage centre.
In preparation for the silver jubilee celebration of the Diocese of Keningau in 2018, the statue of Monsignor August Wachter was also built. Wachter represents early missionaries who brought the Gospel to Sabah.
When it is fully completed, the pilgrimage centre will also provide accommodation to enable pilgrims stay longer and perform spiritual activities there more effectively.
In his speech before officiating the centre, Archbishop Joseph Marino reminded the congregation about the story of a Samaritan woman whom Jesus Christ met by the well in Samaria.
Jesus reminded the woman about the living water. He said: “The water that I will give will become a spring which will provide life-giving water and I will give him eternal life.” (Jn 4:13-14)
This verse, said the Bishop, is very relevant to the setting up of the retreat centre in Nulu Sosopon, where pilgrims will enjoy the ‘living water’ there by praying and meditating to God and feel God’s presence there.- JJK