SANDAKAN – A third deacon was ordained for Sandakan Diocese recently.
Seminarian Christopher Ireneus of Kg Kiabau Telupid, 35, was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom on 18 July 2016 at St Mary’s Cathedral here. Among the 11 concelebrants were Fr Terry Burke mhm of St Peter’s College Kuching, Fr Charles Chiew of Keningau (the candidate’s retreat master), and Fr David Garaman (semestral break). Over a thousand faithful across the diocese turned up to witness the event.
The first to be ordained deacon (March 2010) and priest ( December 2010) was David A Garaman; followed by Stanley W Matakim (deacon 2015, priest 2016). Both are from Lahad Datu.
The Rite of Ordination began after the Gospel proclamation. Fr Thomas Makajil called the candidate by name and presented him to the bishop. After the election by the bishop with the consent of the people, the bishop preached the homily. The homily touched mainly on the deacon’s duties and responsibilities: proclaiming the Gospel, preparing the sacrifice, distributing the Lord’s Body and Blood to the faithful. He will also exhort believers and unbelievers alike and to instruct them in the faith. Moreover, he will preside over public prayer, administer Baptism, assist at and bless Marriages, bring Viaticum to the dying, and conduct funeral rites.
After the homily, responding to the bishop’s queries, the elect resolved to do what is required of him and promised obedience to the bishop and his successors. Then all knelt for the Litany of the Saints.
The high point of the rite was the laying on of hands by the bishop on the head of the elect in silence. With hands outstretched, the bishop prayed the Prayer of Ordination. After the prayer, Fr Jasery Gabuk, pastor of St Martin Telupid, put on the neo-ordained the deacon’s stole and dalmatic. The new deacon then went and knelt before the bishop who placed the Book of Gospels in his hands, signifying his preaching ministry. The rite ended with a fraternal embrace from the bishop. The new deacon then took his place beside the bishop in the sanctuary. The Eucharist went on as usual with the deacon assisting at the altar at the proper time.
In his speech after Communion, Deacon Christopher thanked all those who have journeyed with him in his formative years. He added, “We often hear that the Church is the mystical body of Christ. In this body, we tend to think of the priest as the head, the leader, and the shepherd. However, it is possible that sometimes we may be so eager to lead that we forget that there are always those who follow. In the Gospel of Luke 22:14-20, 24-30 we heard just now, Jesus reminds us, “the greatest among you must behave, as if he were the youngest, the leader, as if he were the one who serves.”
He continued, “I say these things to remind myself and all of us, that ordination to the diaconate is not an honour that I deserve to earn, or bestowed as a reward upon those who responded to the call, nor on those who live a just moral life. If that were the case, I would not be standing here. Like the Holy Eucharist, it is a gift which you and I are called to participate in. It is a call of grave commitment despite my mountains of imperfections. As far as I can remember, I have heard this call within my heart. In spite of my many sins and shortcomings, the call remains. Today I pledge to continue answering this call to the best of my ability, knowing that nothing is possible without God.”
In his turn, the bishop also thanked all those who have helped the neo-ordained in his journey to the priesthood. He encouraged the faithful to continue journeying with the young deacon but warned them not to spoil him.
The reception was held at the parish hall with the usual cake-cutting ceremony and entertainment programme by the various groups/ministries.
The new deacon holds the distinction of being the first from Telupid to be ordained to the diaconate. He will continue to serve at the cathedral where he was assigned before his diaconal ordination. Two days earlier, on July 16, his fellow townmate, Novice Maria Natalia (Decvianney Julius), 24, took her first vows as a Putri Karmel Sister in Kaingaran Tambunan.
Telupid is a small landlocked town located in the district of Beluran in the centre of Sabah. By road, it takes two and a half hours to reach there from Sandakan and about four to five hours from Kota Kinabalu. It is a peaceful area surrounded by forested mountains.
The Christian community first started in Labuk with the help of catechist Linus Gumak of Kg Gambaron in 1961. The first priest to evangelise the area was Fr Oestdyke mhm (1966-1967), who built a school and boarding house. He was followed by Fr Jan van Velzen (1968-1969), who built the first church. It was completed and blessed in early 1971. The community was placed under the pastoral administration of St Peter Claver Ranau. The hall was built in 1985. In September 1994 the church was demolished and a new church was built under Fr Bruno Yasun’s supervision. It was opened and blessed by Bishop John Lee on 12 Nov 1995.