Monthly Archives: March, 2018

Thousands turn up in churches to observe Good Friday

Abp John Wong raises the crucifix to bless the people at the veneration of the Cross, Good Friday, 30 Mar 2018, Sacred Heart Cathedral Karamunsing.

KOTA KINABALU – As in previous years, thousands turned up in churches to observe the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, 30 March 2018.  Most churches across the archdiocese had the service at 3:00 pm and some had the service at a later time, according to pastoral need.  A collection was made for the upkeep of the Holy Land.

Good Friday is the second of the Easter Triduum. The summit of the Liturgical Year is the Easter Triduum—from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday. Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery.  The single celebration of the Triduum marks the end of the Lenten season, and leads to the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Easter Vigil.

The celebration of the Lord’s Passion consists of three parts, namely, the Liturgy of the Word, the veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion.

In this celebration of the passion and death of the Lord, the faithful listen to the words of scripture and strive to understand the true meaning of his sufferings and the mind that was in him.  Then they pray with his spirit for the needs of the whole world.  They worship the cross as a symbol of his triumph.  Then they enter into sacramental communion (the hosts are consecrated on Holy Thursday) with him who is their Saviour and Life.

According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the liturgy applies to Jesus’ descent into the night of death the words of Psalm 23/24: “Lift up your heads, O gates; be lifted up, O ancient doors!”  The gates of death are closed, no one can return from there.  There is no key for those iron doors.  But Christ has the key.  His cross opens wide the gates of death, the stern doors.  They are barred no longer.  His cross, his radical love, is the key that opens them.  The love of the One who, though God, became man in order to die, this love has the power to open those doors.  This love is stronger than death.

Many parishes also had the concluding Way of the Cross in the morning, though some had it integrated with a Passion Play performance.

Elect receive preparation rites before Easter baptism

Abp Wong prays over the Elect at the handing back of the Creed during the preparation rites, Holy Saturday, 31 Mar 2018, Blessed Sacrament Chapel, SH Cathedral Karamunsing.

KOTA KINABALU – Over a thousand Elect receive the preparation rites on Holy Saturday, 31 Mar 2018, before their baptism at the Easter Vigil or on Easter Sunday in Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese.

At the Sacred Heart Cathedral Karamunsing, over 200 Elect – adults and children – received the ephphetha rite (opening of the ears and mouth) in order that they may hear the word of God and profess it for their salvation.

The elect then returned or recited the Creed: it prepared the elect for the profession of faith they will make immediately before they are baptised.  It also instructed them in their duty to proclaim the message of the Gospel.

The anointing with the oil of catechumens below the throat symbolises the elect’s need for God’s help and strength so that, undeterred by the bonds of the past and overcoming the opposition of the devil, they will forthrightly take the step of professing their faith and will hold fast to it unfalteringly throughout their lives.

The oil used for this rite was blessed by the archbishop at the Chrism Mass on Mar 22.

The elect were reminded to continue their fast until they have received the sacraments at the Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday Mass.

Before the dismissal, Archbishop John Wong encouraged the elect to attend the postbaptismal catechesis (mystagogy), especially the Walk to Emmaus programme on May 12-14, and to join one or two of the many groups and communities for ongoing faith formation and growth.

After the dismissal, the English-speaking and Chinese-speaking elect went to the cathedral for a rehearsal for the night ceremony while the BM-speaking had their rehearsal on Mar 25.

The ministers for the rites were Abp John Wong (English, chapel), Father Max Hontor (BM, cathedral, elect included those under St Paul Dontozidon), and Father Paul Lo (Mandarin, parish centre).

Bishop Piong focuses on the three things Jesus desires for his disciples in his Easter message

KOTA KINABALU – In his Easter message released in March 2018, Bishop Cornelius Piong of Keningau focuses on the three things Jesus desired for his disciples.

These three things – unity, protection from evil, holiness – are recorded in the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John’s Gospel.

The first is that the disciples may be one: that they may be one, even as we are one (Jn 17:11); that they may all be one… so that the world may believe that you have sent me (17:21); that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (17:23).

The bishop says that the church will not be one and united if the faithful do not prioritise and work on being one with Jesus.  The motivation and desire for unity in family and community can only come from being one with Jesus (Jn 15:4-5) because He alone is the source of unity and faithfulness.

The second thing the bishop highlighted is the prayer for protection from the evil one (Jn 17:15).  This is because of the human tendency to fall into temptation, the lure of the evil one.

“It is not enough to be baptised, to be ordained as priest, to pronounce the vow of fidelity in marriage and in consecrated life,” the bishop said.

He added, there is a need to consistently build up a close relationship with Jesus , to be vigilant so as not be a victim of the devil’s lies (Jn 8:44).

The third is an appeal to live in holiness through the Word (Jn 17:17).

“We, too, will live in holiness if we believe and remain faithful to Jesus who is the Word made flesh and live among us” (Jn 1:14).

The bishop ended his message with the following appeal:

May we continue to be permeated with the presence and wisdom of Jesus who is risen so that we can live in oneness, faithfulness and holiness.  The lifestyle that Jesus is praying for us is important, so that the world may believe that Jesus is the Saviour sent by God the Father (Jn 17:21).

145 attend women’s Lenten recollection

SANDAKAN – Around 145 women attended the Lenten recollection for them on 16-17 Mar 2018 at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre here.

Organised by the Diocesan Women’s Apostolate, the participants including three religious sisters, represented the five parishes and one mission centre in the diocese.

Good Shepherd Sister Maria Dipal facilitated the event together with Father Christopher Ireneus, the spiritual adviser to the DWA.

Organising chairperson Cecelia D’Souza welcomed the participants and went through the programme with them.

In his speech, Fr Ireneus reminded the women of their important responsibilities as wife, mother, sister in the family because the family is the “domestic church.”

The programme is one of the initiatives of the Women’s Apostolate to empower the women of the diocese to serve with love in line with the Diocesan Vision and Mission.

The five sessions helped the participants to look into the stage of their life journey – where they are, what are they looking for, the challenges they face, the crises they encounter – in the different aspects of life – and the tools to overcome them, enabling them to live in community and holiness, and so become peacemakers to all they meet.

The programme ended with a prayer-blessing by Fr Ireneus. – Adapted from Sandakan Diocesan Blog

SHC English youth group reenacts Passion Play

A scene from the Passion Play at the closing trilingual Way of the Cross outdoors, Sacred Heart Cathedral Karamunsing, Good Friday, 30 Mar 2018.

KOTA KINABALU – Sacred Heart English youth group led by Aline Lim reenacted the Passion Play during the combined Way of the Cross on the grounds of Sacred Heart Cathedral here on Good Friday, 30 Mar 2018.

Eleven members took part in the play directed by Aline Lim with Walter Lajanty as Jesus and
Kimberley Tamayo as Mary.

The parish youth groups (English, Chinese, and BM) take turns to organise the Passion Play annually.  Last year’s play was staged by the BM youth group Efata.

Archbishop John Wong led the opening prayer of the devotion while the 14 stations were read consecutively in English (Deacon Russell Lawrine), BM (Richard Angkis), and Chinese (Catherine Wan) in the presence of around 1000 faithful.

Abp Wong also led the 15th station (Resurrection) before the final prayers for the pope’s intentions and imparting his blessing.

In his closing remarks, the prelate reminded those present to come early for the Good Friday service either at 3 pm (English) or 6 pm (BM).

Meanwhile, the BM Catechetical groups – RCIA, Confirmation, First Communicants – took the opportunity to recollect themselves after the Way of the Cross at the parish centre.  The recollection ended with the viewing of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

On the same day, devotees of the Divine Mercy began their novena to prepare for the Divine Mercy Sunday celebration on Apr 8.

Mass of the Lord’s Supper is noted for three distinct parts

Archbishop Wong carries the ciborium during the transfer of the Blessed Sacrament after communion, Holy Thursday, 29 Mar 2018, Sacred Heart Cathedral Karamunsing.

KOTA KINABALU – The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is noted for three distinct parts: the washing of the feet of 12 selected men, the procession bearing the Eucharist to the chapel of reservation after post-Communion prayer, and the stripping of the altar.

Archbishop John Wong washed the feet of 12 men after the homily at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, 29 Mar 2018, at the Sacred Heart Cathedral here.

The men represented the various ministries and communities of the parish: extraordinary ministers of holy communion (5), wardens  (4), lectors & commentators (2), and 1 ordinary parishioner.

In his homily, Archbishop John Wong said that the Holy Thursday liturgy stresses three points: the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of Holy Orders, and the mystery of Christ’s self-sacrificing love.

The prelate was joined at the altar by Abp Emeritus John Lee and Father Simon Lim, a Sabahan priest serving in Singapore.  Deacon Russell Lawrine assisted at the altar.

At the end of the prayer after communion, omitting the other concluding rites, a procession was formed which made its way to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel with incense and candles.

After the transfer of the Blessed Sacrament to the chapel, the altar was stripped.  The stripped altar symbolises the human body of Christ which was stripped of its garments: “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing” (Ps 22:18).

The holy water was emptied from the stoups. The church was left bare, in striking contrast with the richness of the Altar of Repose.

Around two thousand faithful gathered for the bilingual -English and BM – celebration.  Parish groups and ministries took turns to adore the exposed Blessed Sacrament in the chapel after Mass.

The significance of Holy Thursday is given below:

The Holy Thursday Liturgy takes place after sundown – because Passover began at sundown – marking the end of Lent and the beginning of the sacred Triduum (three) of Holy Week.  These days are the three holiest days in the Catholic Church.

This Mass stresses the importance Jesus puts on the humility of service, and the need for cleansing with water, a symbol of baptism.  This is seen in the washing of the feet of twelve people by the presider.  Also emphasised are the critical importance of the Eucharist and the sacrifice of Christ’s Body, which is now present in the consecrated Host.

At the conclusion of the Mass, the faithful are invited to continue Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the night, just as the disciples were invited to stay up with the Lord during His agony in the garden before His betrayal by Judas.

After Holy Thursday, no Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil celebrates and proclaims the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. – CNA

Misunderstanding NFP: Where Catholics and non-Catholics get it wrong

The Pill.  Credit: Layue, Shutterstock, CNA

ATCHISON, Kansas – The encyclical Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI shocked the world when it was published in 1968.

While society was in the midst of the sexual revolution, the pope wrote that couples could not morally use contraception as a means of planning or spacing their children.

“It was an explosion in the Church,” said Dr Janet Smith, a professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and a Catholic speaker and author on marriage and family.

In the 50 years that followed, she said, the Church has worked to explain its teaching to a world that often refused to accept it.

“But we’ve made some great strides,” she noted. “The fact that you can get 60 scholars to come and talk about Humanae Vitae? In Kansas? It’s fantastic!” Dr. Smith was one of four keynote speakers at Benedictine College’s seventh annual Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelisation. The theme of this year’s symposium was “Humanae Vitae 50 Years Later: A Call to Self-Gift.”

While Humanae Vitae states that couples may not use contraception, it affirms that they may make use of the natural fertile and infertile times of a woman’s menstrual cycle, measurable through Natural Family Planning (NFP), in order to achieve responsible parenthood.

But there are problems even within the Christian and Catholic community of understanding exactly how NFP works and what it means to use it morally, Smith noted.

For example, there are certain groups within the Church whom Smith called “Providentialists” – they believe that NFP should only be used by couples to limit family size for “grave reasons,” while the original Latin text of Humanae Vitae and the Catechism use the words “serious” and “just” reasons.

“Providentialists hold that unless grave reasons present themselves, such as very serious health or financial ones, spouses should just let the babies come,” Smith said.

“They’re beautiful people who really want to do God’s will in a very radical, self-giving way, though I think they reason falsely about these matters,” she said.

With Natural Family Planning, couples work together with a woman’s cycle to determine – through methods such as body temperature and cervical mucus observation – the fertile and infertile phases of her cycle. Typically, a woman’s menstrual cycle is around 28 days, and she is fertile for just a handful of those days, though the specifics of the number of days of each phase varies woman to woman.

Couples using Natural Family Planning discern through prayer and practical reasons whether to have sex during the fertile or infertile phases of a woman’s cycle, depending on whether or not they believe it is a good idea for them to get pregnant at that time. As long as couples do not impede the possibility of pregnancy through artificial means (contraception) or natural means (withdrawal), they act according to Church teaching, Pope Paul VI notes in Humanae Vitae.

Where Providentialists go wrong, Smith said, is in believing that couples should be required to have sex during every phase of a woman’s cycle, and that NFP should only be used to avoid pregnancy if a woman is on her deathbed, or the family is in financial ruin.

It’s moral to abstain from sex for other, somewhat trivial reasons, Smith noted – a spouse with a headache, someone would like to finish a book, someone wants to catch a sports game, the walls are too thin, etc.

“So I have a simple question for you. Why would it be wrong not to have sex because it’s not a good idea to have a child at that time?” she said.

“I’m certainly going to affirm that children are the primary purpose of marriage and commend the Providentialists for their devotion to that good,” Smith said, “but I’m going to challenge the claim that [just reasons to abstain] only mean the woman’s near death or the family’s financial ruin.”

The culture at large, on the other hand, misunderstands sexuality as something “nasty and naughty,” and sees children as an optional means of personal fulfillment or a hobby, Smith said, rather than as a supreme gift from God resulting from the gift of sexuality within the context of marriage.

“They don’t see [sex] as a huge gift from God that God has given to spouses as a means to let them help him create new human souls,” she said.

“[Children] are a supreme gift of marriage, they give people meaning, purpose, joy, unbelievable laughter…and bills to worry about and all kinds of things,” Smith said. If Christians believe they are raising up souls for God, “why wouldn’t they want to have a lot of children?”

But while the Church recognises children as a gift and asks couples to be generous in their openness to life, it also allows for couples to abstain from sex during the fertile phase for “serious” and “just” reasons, including “physical, economic, psychological and social conditions,” Humanae Vitae states.

Furthermore, it notes that “responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.”

What counts as serious or just enough reasons? “It’s between you and God,” Smith said. “One thing you have to do [to use NFP] is to learn how to pray, and to learn how to say, ‘What do you think, God?’”

It is possible to use NFP selfishly, Smith noted, but she added that the cure for that selfishness can also be found within the use of NFP, since it facilitates conversations between the couple about their family and relationship. Furthermore, she said, most people want to have sex, meaning that abstaining from sex requires a self-mastery that is not characteristic of selfish people.

“If you believe you’ve got good reasons [to abstain], go ahead and use NFP, but keep praying, and tell God: ‘If we’re being selfish with NFP, let us know,’” she said.

When asked what the biggest hurdles are for Catholics and non-Catholics alike when it comes to accepting Church teaching on this issue, Smith said it is a misunderstanding of both contraception and NFP within both groups.

“They don’t have any idea the damage that the hormonal contraceptives do to a woman’s body, so they don’t even know they should be looking for something else,” Smith told CNA. Furthermore, “they don’t understand the many benefits that abstinence brings to a relationship, and it needs to be acknowledged that it’s difficult. It’s as difficult as dieting, and budgeting and exercising regularly, but everybody knows that those bring great benefits to those who do those things. And if you have a necessity to do them, they’re that much easier, because you have a necessity,” she said.

It’s important that the Church keep teaching the truths of Humanae Vitae even 50 years after its original publication, Smith said, because most people still don’t know the truth, and it has also become “more and more overwhelmingly clear that it was right, that contraception would be devastating to relationships and to cultures.”

Smith added that she was encouraged by the symposium at Benedictine. “It was astonishing, and these were young people for the most part in some way defending Humanae Vitae,” she said. “People who oppose Humanae Vitae seem to think it’s a dead letter, but we need to show that young people are confirming its truth rather than rejecting it.”  – Mary Rezac, CNA, 28 Mar 2018

Human rights body issues press statement on anti-fake news bill

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) issued a press statement on 28 Mar 2018 on the anti-fake news bill 2018.  Below is the full statement.


KUALA LUMPUR  – Though the concern over the utilisation of fake news is global, which the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) agrees must be managed; SUHAKAM having perused the Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 (“Bill”) cannot support the Bill for the following reasons:

1. The Bill in its present form has far reaching consequences as the law could be used to exert government control over the media. At present, Malaysia is ranked poorly at 144th out of 180 countries by Reporters Without Borders in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

2. The implications of the proposed law can be enormous and can inspire an authoritarian form of government. The government’s track record in utilising laws for reasons other than its intended purpose is arguably questionable.

3. The Bill fails to specify the body responsible to verify whether the news or information is fake.
4. Not only have there been very limited consultations with the public, the dissolution of parliament being imminent means that debates on the Bill, for the Bill to become law will be rushed. This practice is not in the national interest.

5. Despite being legally mandated to advise and assist government in formulating legislation, SUHAKAM was only invited to the final consultation, without having sight of the Bill. The trend to ignore this provision in the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 is of serious concern.
6. The definition of fake news in the Bill is unclear as it does not offer a distinction between news generated by malicious intent or otherwise.

7. Clause 8(3) of the intended law is unclear in its definition of what can be “prejudicial or likely to be prejudicial to public order or national security”. SUHAKAM cannot agree on this clause as it ousts the jurisdiction of the courts, further taking away judicial powers and denying the right to seek relief from the courts, which is an affront to the rule of law in a democratic form of government.

8. This is also not in line with the intended spirit of the principles of freedom of expression in the Federal Constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

9. The meaning of “knowingly” under clause 4(1) is ambiguous. 10. The penalties proposed in the Bill can be interpreted as being unreasonable and disproportionate.

SUHAKAM strongly suggests that a parliamentary committee be set up to consider plausible
measures to address the issue of fake news, and to avoid confusion among the public given
that Malaysia has already many laws to address forms of hate speech and/or unlawful content
which are found in the Penal Code, Sedition Act, Defamation Act, Printing Presses and
Publication Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act, among others.

Sri Razali Ismail
Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
28 MARCH 2018
Media queries: Contact Jesrina Grewal (Ms) at 012-6200 599 or

SHC parish fiesta focuses on building parish family

The welcoming Sacred Heart statue on top of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, Sacred Heart Cathedral Kota Kinabalu.

KOTA KINABALU – The Sacred Heart Cathedral Fiesta focuses on building the parish family manifested in its theme Oneness in Heart and Spirit: Towards Building Our Parish Family.

This was agreed upon at its inaugural organising committee meeting on 24 Mar 2018 at the Sacred Heart Parish Centre here.

The meeting was chaired by Jason Joenoi in the presence of parish priest Archbishop John Wong.

In its fifth year now, the parish fiesta is aimed to help all parishioners to grow in oneness in heart and spirit towards building the parish family.

The weeklong programme is scheduled for 4-10 June 2018.

Pre-feast day events include Taman Masses every Friday at 7:30 pm starting May 4 through June 1 and friendly badminton matches on every Sunday at 2:00 pm at the parish centre.

A triduum of prayers will be held on the first three days  – Mon-Wed, June 4-6 – at the cathedral from 6 pm – 10 pm in three languages with Benediction and inputs by Abp Wong.

The highlight will be the concelebrated trilingual Eucharist at 7:30 pm on Thursday, June 7, for the sanctification of priests and consecration of families to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  A special blessing by the priests will be said for each family at the end of Mass.  The clergy will prepare themselves for this celebration with a recollection in the morning.

On Friday, June 8, there will be a Mass for the Sick with anointing and fellowship at 9 am at the cathedral.  At 4 pm there will be friendly soccer matches between clergy, seminarians, and laity while at 8 pm a movie entitled The Book of Ruth Journey of Faith will be screened at the parish centre.

The culmination of the weeklong celebration will be the parish family carnival cum fundraising for the new Catholic Centre on Sunday, June 10, from 7 am to 2:30 pm at the parish centre.

Parishioners are encouraged not just to enjoy the day but also to give back something in return in the form of a blood donation drive in front of G1, parish centre foyer after the 7 am Mass.

Children will get the opportunity to play with inflatables in Room F7.

Indeed, the organisers hope that parishioners will benefit from all the events drawn up and move towards building their parish family in heart and spirit.

Keningau to hold gong beating contest in conjunction with diocesan silver jubilee

PENAMPANG  – In conjunction with its diocesan silver jubilee in May,  Keningau Diocese will hold a diocesan-level gong beating contest on 21 Apr 2018 at the Keningau Diocesan Square from 8 am to 4 pm.

On the same day, the Jubilee Exhibition will be opened at 8 am at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre (Pusat Pastoral Keuskupan or PPK).  The exhibition will close on May 5 at 5 pm.

The gongs are Sabah’s most iconic indiophones that are found throughout Sabah, particularly among the Kadazandusun and Murut ethnics. It is considered the backbone of the traditional musical instruments found in Sabah. The gong is made of either brass or bronze. It is usually thick with a broad rim and produces a distinct muffled sound of a deep tone. In the olden days, it was originally traded in from Brunei.

There are many different rhythms and beats in which the gongs are being played according to the occasion, ritual or festivity. The gongs are created in many different sizes in order to produce different sounds.

The sopogandangan beat, which originates from the interior division of Sabah (played by the Dusun community of Tambunan), is commonly played to accompany the magarang ritual.

The Magarang ritual is usually held to commemorate the harvest festival and weddings, although traditionally, it was associated with headhunting.

Another popular gong beat is the sompogogungan which accompanies the sumazau dance. This beat is commonly played during festivities and weddings by the Kadazan community of Penampang. During funerals, the Kadazandusun play another beat called the dunsai, which decidedly has a lower-toned, less cheery sound.

Apart from being principal musical instruments, the gongs hold other cultural significance such as being a symbol of wealth for a family. In some ethnic Sabahan cultures, a set of gongs is sometimes demanded as a berian (dowry) in marriage. Therefore, before getting the woman of his dreams, a man first would have a handsome set of gongs to offer her family.

While the art of gong-making is slowly petering out in some parts of Sabah, in Kampung Sumangkap, Kudat, the gong-making industry is still going strong. –

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