Daily Archives:March 5th, 2018

Battles and Blessings: a tribute to the late Mary Selestine

LIFE as a Christian is a struggle between battles and blessings. In between there’s a need for intense prayer.

Prayer is an invocation that seeks to activate a rapport through deliberate communication with the Lord. It can be either as an individual or as a community and can take place in private or public.

This journey of prayer and faith chosen by the late Marykutty Selestine in her life as a staunch Catholic illustrates the power and blessings one can receive by sheer faith and practice of that faith.

Mary Selestine was called to the Lord on 27 December 2017, at the age of 75. She regularly attended daily and Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Kota Kinabalu… a familiar figure in that parish, but now sadly missed by all who had known her.

She faced multiple illnesses over 23 years. Yet she held on to the belief that all things come from God and that life is full of both battles and blessings. She held firmly to the belief that it is only in prayer that one gets true answers from the Lord.

Hailing from a small village in Kerala, India, her faith had an early start. She was the youngest of six siblings in an extended family with several priests and religious. She attributed the strong foundation of her faith to her mother Sosamma Panicker, who she remembered as strict and loving and a constant source of inspiration and strength.

Her mother’s discipline and values made a lasting impact on Mary’s life and gave her a deep-rooted belief in prayer. In 1967, she married Peter Selestine and set sail for Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. That was her first venture outside her home state of Kerala.

Since then, Kota Kinabalu had been her home, where she lived for a good 50 years (1967-2017). She taught at St Francis Convent for a brief period and later got involved in her husband’s restaurant business.

In early 1994, she was diagnosed with acute kidney failure and underwent a kidney transplant in August 1994. With the transplant came various ailments that lasted throughout her life. She slowly withdrew from active involvement in business.

A year or so later, she began to have a desire to do something useful with the gift of life that the Lord gave her. She started participating in church groups, taking every opportunity to share with others her experience with the Lord. She became a comforting confidante for others going through difficulties in life.

Being a transplant patient, she was on a high dosage of medication to avoid rejection. Those medicines had many side effects. She began to have very brittle bones and suffered from severe aches and pains.

Furthermore, she underwent surgeries for her knees and eyes, had an angioplasty and many other medical issues. Despite all these ailments, not once did she look up and ask, “Why me, Lord?” She only prayed for strength to bear the pain and burden.

She founded her belief on prayer as a dialogue with God, calling out to him not only in distress but also in thanksgiving for every blessing she received. She made it a point to start her day with the Eucharistic blessing at morning Mass and did not miss it unless extreme poor health prevented her to do so.

Attending daily Mass for the last 50 years, she submitted all her aches and the pains to God in prayer during the Eucharist. This was her daily schedule until the end.

She was disciplined with her time. Every afternoon, there was a time for prayer, and could find some time for her favourite TV shows. She tried to schedule in at least one church activity a day.

She also believed that prayer was the only way to get blessings for her children. She dedicated one decade of the holy Rosary for each of her children and their families. She was a strong advocate of prayer and she counseled everyone to pray continually for their children.

She asked them to dedicate their pain and troubles to the Lord and seek blessings for their children. She reminded her family and close friends that prayer was the one remedy to all troubles. She vouched for it and lived by it.

In her younger days, she prayed on her knees before a picture of Jesus and as she grew older prayed at her desk. She especially enjoyed speaking out loud to the Lord when driving alone. There was a time for God every day. She held that if we don’t have time for God then God won’t have time for us.

According to her, faith in God meant that we rely on Him and depend on His reliability, thus realising that God is bigger, greater and better than anything else. She believed that her constant conversations with God would eventually turn into many blessings.

She held that that life would never be short of troubles nor would it lack blessings. She was sure that God allows trials and temptations in our lives so that we have the opportunity to respond either by trusting our own feelings and life experiences or by taking Him at His Word.

Mary believed that ultimately, the power of prayer resides not in the person praying, but in God who answers prayers. She used to tell family and friends, “Although God’s answers may not always be what we want, we can be certain that they will always be in our best interests. When we pray passionately and purposefully, according to God’s will, God responds powerfully.”

May we all learn and be enriched by the strong experience of this woman of faith. May each one of us also experience the same power of prayer in our lives; able to taste and see how good the Lord is.

And may Mary Selestine receive the reward of eternal rest in the Kingdom of God. – contributed by Selestine family


Discipleship programme draws 20 participants

KOTA KINABALU – Twenty people attended an eighth-day discipleship programme based on the theme The glory of God is a human being fully alive on 12-20 Jan 2018.

The programme, conducted by LiFE-ICPE Mission Sabah, was held at the Community House at Taman BDC Jalan Family Planning here.

It comprised of a weekend seminar on knowing God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, followed by five successive evenings of various teachings on self-knowledge that leads  to loving and serving others.

Organiser Beatrice Wong said the final day was focused on evangelisation and praying with one another to be able to live fully and share it with others.

She added that life lived in common through fellowship and prayer together provides a place of connection and application of what has been learned.

Participants were also encouraged to attend the monthly follow-up gatherings.

Jason Cyprinus, 21, a recent college graduate, said that his faith has expanded and that he desires to live life to the fullest with the knowledge that God loves him very much.

Fernando Jolin Gamin, 19, an electrician, shared that two areas in his life were transformed after going through the programme: “knowing about myself and living in community; the topic on ‘Self Awareness’ was the most significant for me.”

Shirley Paul, 32, a Medical Officer, said that the programme has transformed her outlook on her work or vocation, as well as her role in evangelisation, which is sharing her experience of God’s love with others.

Francisca Malantin, 61, a retired nurse, elaborated on her acquired understanding of being in a community.

“We cannot be on our own, we need to be in a community. This is where we can serve God’s people. I am so humbled by the way LiFE community interacts with the participants; they are so encouraging, so positive. I felt so loved and appreciated,” said Malantin.

She added, “During the sending-off and being prayed over, I experienced the power of the Holy Spirit overflowing and filling me, and felt God is embracing me” and promised to bring this love to her family.

LiFE-ICPE Mission Sabah is a lay community, committed to equip, transform and empower individuals in discovering and living out their purpose in life. LiFE is part of The Institute for World Evangelisation – ICPE Mission, an international Catholic Mission made up of Christians committed to the goal of world evangelisation. – Beatrice Wong

KK prelate launches Tg Aru parish vision and mission

Abp Wong exhorts the people at the blessing of the newly built shrine of Our Lady Star of the Sea, 28 Jan 2018, Tanjung Aru.

TANJUNG ARU – Archbishop John Wong launched the newly-formulated Vision and Mission of Stella Maris Parish during his pastoral visit to the parish on 28 Jan 2018.

Teresa Alberto, Parish Pastoral Council chairperson, said the parish saw the need for a change, in particular, to walk towards the same vision of the archdiocese.

She quoted Father Peter Abas, assistant rector, who spearheaded the process for “a need to be a vibrant church, to be a more family-oriented church, prayerful and faithful parishioners.”

It is summed up in their Vision Statement: A Christ-centred parish family journeying together – strengthened by the Holy Spirit and empowered by the Word of God in creating an evangelising community.

“We are adjusting to the new vision and mission. It has been calm here where we have been serving and celebrating according to the Church’s (calendar) with the fatherly and protective figures of our priests. Then comes this ‘storm of change’ which sets the parish on fire, moving it towards a direction,” said Alberto.

She added that the vision and mission have given them the energy to unite with confidence and zeal as one parish family walking in line with the archdiocesan vision and mission.

“Our ministry groups are excited, it moves our youth – they too are excited, we have programmes for the elderly to appreciate them better, renewal of marriage vows where we learn deeper about marriage,” she said, among others.

The formulating process started in August 2017 until January this year with a representation of all ministries and parish priests.

Alberto said this newly-formulated vision and mission would be communicated throughout the parish through their catechists.

Abp Wong said he was happy that they have a common direction with the archdiocese, and commended them for emphasising their vision on family and on being Christ-centred.

He remarked that many families (nowadays) are not Christ-centred so it is good to have such a vision. I hope with the formulation of the Vision and Mission and with the help of your patroness, Our Lady Star of the Sea, you will get closer to God and deepen your faith to resist all (temptations).”

The prelate also expressed his hope that the vision and mission will help them to grow closer to God and deepen their faith to resist all temptations through the help of Mary, Star of the Sea.

“I hope you will grow not only as individual parish family but also as one big diocesan family,” said the archbishop as he blessed the newly-installed Shrine of Our Lady outside the church after reciting the Vision prayer with the faithful.

Stella Maris is the fourth parish to formulate a parish vision and mission statement after Sacred Heart Cathedral, St John Tuaran, and Holy Nativity Terawi, since the promulgation of the Diocesan Organisational Pastoral Plan (DOPP) in 1997.

While it is not an obligation to have one, the archbishop encourages all parishes to have their own vision and mission statement in line with the archdiocesan vision.

Earlier during the BM Mass, the archbishop confirmed 62 young people. He advised the confirmands that it was not the end of their faith journey, and queried them on what they will do to keep the faith.

To that, Ezra Daniel, 17, said he wants to do corporal works of mercy; helping the elderly, being involved in the church such as ‘gotong-royong,’  among others.

The prelate encouraged them to join one or two ministries in the parish and said “I support you one hundred percent to join the Bible sharing class,” which engages young confirmands with class-based sharing coupled with outdoor activities. Linda Edward

Sabah clergy meet at annual gathering

Some of the priests chit-chat informally while waiting for dinner, 15 Jan 2018, BTRC

BUNDU TUHAN – Sabah clergy from three arch/dioceses came together for their annual gathering at the retreat centre here on 15-17 Jan 2018.

Turning up for the gathering were 43 priests, three bishops and 17 seminarians.

The timing for the gathering, always held in January, is fittingly appropriate as the seminarians are still in their year-end break, and the parishes schedules have not kicked in yet.

However, even though the gathering takes place after the hectic Advent and Christmas schedules, the main purpose of the gathering is to serve as a time to “get together” rather than a time to unwind or to relax.

The gathering is basically divided into two parts, namely the social so-called “sacramental brotherhood,” and the meeting proper.

As usual, the gathering began with a fellowship dinner on the first night. The informal time provided the priests and seminarians an opportunity to know one another better, as well as for those who have newly joined the seminary to get acquainted.

Apart from making or renewing friendships and catching up with each other, the priests also took this time to exchange some views on pastoral experiences in the parishes such as liturgical concerns and current church issues.

After breakfast, morning prayer and Holy Hour the next day, the Sandakan Diocese priests returned to their respective parishes, while the Keningau Diocese priests proceeded with their clergy meeting before making their way home.

The KK Archdiocese clergy also had their own clergy meeting in the afternoon, with the morning hours being made use of for Bible sharing, and concluding the day with an evening Mass.

The meeting resumed on the third morning and the gathering concluded with Mass before lunch, after which all returned to their respective parishes. – Fr Mattheus Luta

What makes a good Lent?

What makes a good Lent? Many of the faithful prescribe to doing something positive and incorporating the Lenten focus of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Practically, as a fresh way of embracing the deeper conversion of our hearts this Lent, we propose focusing each day on one of the corporal works of mercy – feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead; or the spiritual works of mercy – admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries and pray for the living and the dead.

With that said, during Lent we are called to mind our sins, amend our lives and voluntarily suffer in order to be more closely conformed to the cross of Christ. Or perhaps more simply, we are to grow in holiness.

On the one hand, the things we do in Lent should not be seen only in relation to 40 days but to the rest of our lives, so it’s always good to embrace practices that we intend to be committed to, not only for the duration of Lent but beyond as well.

Regarding fasting, and especially with the ‘normal’ phenomenon of ‘giving something up,’ it is important to realise what ought to be happening there. We are not to just grit our teeth and simply try to ‘get Lent over with,’ as these practices are meant to change us and assist in our growth in holiness.

Fasting and other ascetical practices are but the process of finding God truly attractive. When we curb our appetites, this magnifies the void in our heart that we may usually give to something else – be it food, drink, lust, entertainment or the like – and we can then turn to the Lord so He can fill it. If we grit our teeth and push through without turning to the Lord (prayer) – and then to others (almsgiving) – we can miss the boat. Oftentimes, ‘success’ in this light is met with increased pride (look at how good a job I did in not eating any chocolate all of Lent).

A good measuring stick for a “good Lent” is: “How will I find God more attractive? What does He want me to do in order to give my heart more entirely to Him? And when Lent concludes, do I experience greater freedom and find God more attractive than before?

In practice, resolutions should be concrete and achievable. And as we journey through Lent itself, re-evaluation and intentional adjustment are far better than absentmindedly watering things down or giving up. – Fathers Daniel Scheidt and Chris Lapp @ today’s catholic.org

Hearing-impaired drummers showcase skills at Chap Goh Mei celebration

The hearing-impaired drummers give their performance during the Chap Goh Mei celebration, 4 Mar 2018, Sacred Heart Parish Centre Karamunsing.

KOTA KINABALU – Twelve hearing-impaired drummers showcased their skills at the Chap Goh Mei celebration at the Sacred Heart Parish Centre here on 4 Mar 2018.

Over 300 people turned up for the gathering organised by the Chinese Coordinating Committee headed by Oliver Kong.  Chap Goh Mei or 15th day of the first month marks the end of the lunar new year festivities.

Among those present were Archbishop John Wong, retired Archbishop John Lee, Father David Sham, Father Paul Lo, Father Joshua Liew, Father Max Hontor, Father Leo Choi, Father Andrew Kim, the aspirants and seminarians, the religious, and members of the parish pastoral council.

The event began with a drum display by Archbishop John Wong, followed by a longer display by the five young drummers – Frankie and Brian Wong, Jessica Liew, Betty Kong, Megan Sham – who also gave a drum performance before the Lunar New Year Mass on Feb 16.

This was followed immediately by the 12 hearing-impaired drummers from SMK Datuk Peter Mojuntin Penampang whose performance was applauded by the appreciative audience.

In his brief speech, Abp Wong welcomed those who came and thanked all those involved in the organising of the event.  He also exhorted the attendees to emulate the good qualities of the dog (being the Year of the Dog).

While taking their dinner, the diners were entertained by a variety of performances including a guzheng (Chinese zither) performance by Chang Ruo Ping and two cultural dances by the Ivy Kok group with lucky draws in between.

Both prelates distributed hungpows to the children, single youth and adults, including the aspirants and seminarians.  The priests and religious also received hungpows from Abp Wong.

The event ended with a prayer- blessing by Abp Wong after an amusing lion dance performance by a troupe based in Kepayan.

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