Daily Archives:September 13th, 2018

Barefoot priest facilitates Sabah clergy annual retreat

KOTA KINABALU – Arch/bishops, clergy and deacons from the three arch/dioceses of Sabah were given a rare treat for their mid-year retreat with a barefoot priest from Tamil Nadhu, India as their retreat master at Bundu Tuhan retreat centre from 10-14 September 2018.

Natives going barefoot are not rare in the villages, but to have one barefoot Catholic priest walking and ministering amongst his peers, albeit from overseas, is a rare occurrence.  Fr Jerry Rosario  has earned his accolade as the “barefoot priest” internationally not because of his personal gratification but because he has willingly and lovingly accepted to live like this – embracing poverty and extending solidarity with the marginalized.

Fr Jerry Rosario SJ has just two sets of shirts and slacks, walks barefooted, sleeps on a mat and travels only through public transport.  Short distances he covers through his bicycle.  No TV, no mobile phone, no computer.  No bank account, no wrist-watch even.  He is a living legend.  To his credit, he has written 76 books and numerous articles. (Foreword by Fr Antony Pancras in Perspectives, Possibilities, Practicalities of Leadership in the Light of the Life of Jesus)

This being his fifth retreat for Malaysian clergy, the Jesuit priest, who is also a professor, lawyer and social activist, finds Sabah unique and declares that he has put his “heart and soul” in facilitating the retreat exercises for the Sabah clergy.

Given the traditions, the clergy have got into a certain comfort zone.  “Nothing wrong about it” he was quick to add, “but when comforts and conveniences consume the life of the ordained and consecrated, they need to be looked into,” underlined Fr Jerry.

He invited them to respond to this concern in a pragmatic way – to say ‘no’ in their personal life, to be ready to go beyond themselves to “make a difference”, to be at the service of the people of God, particularly the least and the poorest.

To concretize their response, Fr Jerry suggested that they make an analysis of society crossing the boundary of Christianity, to read the signs of times in terms of socio, economics, political, cultural, religious and ideological systems of the State, based on which they should monitor the pastoral responses in order to make their ministries relevantized and radicalized.

Taking the opportunity of the presence of the social activist priest in the State, Catholic Sabah invited Fr Jerry to speak about the minorities aspect shared by Malaysian and Indian Christians.

“Each time that I visit Malaysia, I could vibrate with the Malaysian Church and Society because of the various similarities that exist between India and Malaysia,” said Fr Jerry.

He threw the spotlight on two related issues; a certain amount of “majority complex” happens in any country (religion, culture, language) and creates tension for the minorities.  However, attempts to understand should be made so that response could be made.  For example, certain dialogues (religious, cultural, inter-lingual, etc) between majorities and minorities be freely done in view of a new future where all can live in harmony.

Meanwhile, the emerging and young generations should be encouraged to “think out of the box” in order to enter into a Malaysian Church and Society based on a culture of solidarity.

Secondly, “If you inwardly look into Malaysia or India, we are not going to solve any problems.  We need to widen our horizon of vision in broadening Asia, if not the world at large,” said Fr Jerry, drawing from his sociological inspirations when looking at the bigger picture, the problems within the smaller confine will diminish.

Moving on to the Christian commitment in the political arena, Fr Jerry, founder-director of the Manitham movement in India for political analysis and action,  sees it as two-fold: religion and politics.  He said “In order to be an authentic and matured Christian, one should not be churchy.  In other word, we need to be launching out to bring into politics the values of the Gospel of Jesus – justice, freedom and love.” (In the political language, these values are highlighted as equality, liberty and fraternity.)

He added “If we keep away from politics saying that ‘that is unjust’, it would amount to sin of omission.  God’s kingdom has to be ushered in the totality of society.”

Since we have a new government and lots of expectation on the part of the people, the Malaysian Church can render its service in three ways: 1) It can continue to conscientize people at large, as well as the government, that the policies and programs must respond to the needs of people who are at the periphery of Malaysia; 2) As and when the government does well, the Malaysian Church should extend its appreciation, thereby accelerating the process of progress.  Likewise, when the government does a disservice, the Church must not hesitate to raise its voice in protest; and 3) The Malaysian Church can organize workshops and seminars at both parish and diocesan levels focusing on the political commitment of our Christian faith.

Fr Jerry has also spoken extensively, as well as written, on the fast-emerging concern of eco-protection and eco-promotion.  In total agreement and support of Pope Francis’ contribution to this eco-call in his apostolic encyclical “Laudato Si’”, the green activist said “We need to promote Nature, preserve Nature, and protect Nature because God sustains our life through Nature, through Creation.”

He offered three suggestions to live Creation Justice in our life: 1) To begin with, we should stop throwing away anything that could be reused; 2) We need to learn to recycle the materials that we use on daily basis; and 3) We need to replant whenever we have to cut a plant so as to maintain the balance in Creation.  Imbalance means injustice.  We need to plant justice.”

As he strives to respond to God beckoning him to be His Co-Missioner and entering into a new covenant with humanity and Creation, he has taken the lowest step in the ladder of the Indian caste system, that is to live in solidarity with the poorest of the poor and those who are side-lined in society, the Dalits or the ‘untouchables’.  They are not permitted to wear shoes in public places, hence Fr Jerry’s philosophy of going barefoot to be in solidarity with them is in order to labour with them for their integral development.

In the context of Malaysia, the Church can be more and more one of simplicity, spontaneity and sensitivity, and as such be in solidarity with the poorest of the poor who are the migrants, the internally displaced, the uneducated, the unemployed, the vulnerable elderly, the widowed, the orphaned, and the natives.

The Vision Statements of the Sabah dioceses emphasize on “communion of communities”.  In order to concretize that, we first need to be in communion with the abovementioned “poorest of the poor” or the marginalized sections.  This would then snowball into the other sections of the community.  Fr Jerry believes that preferential option for a priority service to the poorest of the poor is the need of the hour. – Catholic Sabah



When is a Catholic not a Catholic?

THE President of the Philippines, in a profanity-laden message, has declared he is no longer a Catholic. He claims to have been abused by a Jesuit as a teenager, and while that allegation can no longer be met with outraged disbelief, only God knows whether it is true.

Nobody with any knowledge of history will doubt that those who perceive themselves as ex-Catholics are by far the most severe critics of the Church. One can think of excusable reasons for this, but drawing broad conclusions from the extreme criticisms of ex-Catholics is a little like assuming objectivity in a man who has divorced his wife. If we look back on our own relationships from a more mature perspective, we will usually find that defects in our own perceptions and personalities made a significant contribution to our contempt for those we thought insufferable.

Men and women who truly cannot emotionally and intellectually separate the divine character of the Church from the sins of her members must either be damaged (to a degree which mitigates guilt) or suffer from a dramatically reduced spiritual self-awareness (which in most cases will be at least partially guilty).

Awareness of our own sinfulness and guilt arises not only from the action of the Holy Spirit but from simple self-reflection. This awareness is not only essential to spiritual growth but a prime factor in helping us to distinguish the Divine and human aspects of the Church. But for any Catholic who foolishly seeks to flee the Church, the question remains: How does a Catholic cease to be a Catholic?

Surprisingly, this has no simple theological answer, except the answer that ceasing to be a Catholic is not absolutely possible. In the same way, it is impossible for a member of the Church to cease in an absolute sense to be a member of the Church. It is true that in descriptive terms we can cease to be Catholic when we knowingly embrace heresy, reject the Church, or incur excommunication. But even in these apparently decisive cases we remain baptized. Baptism impresses something that we describe, for want of better language, as “an indelible mark” on the soul. That mark is the mark of membership in the Church. That mark, in every case whatsoever, is the mark of a Catholic.

So the most fundamental answer is that we cannot really cease to be Catholic, though we can sever what we might call our voluntary connection with the Church and/or severely damage our relationship with her. The Church by her own authority can recognize that damage through a decree of excommunication, even if we did not consciously intend that result. But excommunication simply eliminates access to the sacraments and other engraced ministries of the Church. It does not make one a non-Catholic; nor does it remove the excommunicated person from the Church’s jurisdiction. – Jeff Mirus @ catholicculture.org

Amoris Laetitia formation attracts 288 participants

Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) is a post-Synodal apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis on the family. It was signed on 19 March 2016 on the Solemnity of St Joseph, and brings together the results of the two Synods on the family convoked by Pope Francis in 2014 and 2015.

The program is based on the 325-page book consisting of nine articles, and was facilitated by Fr Michael Modoit, the spiritual adviser for the Archdiocese Christian Family Life Commission. Despite time constraints, the facilitator managed to summarize the core messages from the book followed by lively interaction with the participants.

The formation program was officiated by Fr Mitchelly Kiun and closed by Fr David Sham, rector of St Catherine Church. – Michael Guntili

From yearnings to reality

SULIT, Paitan (CS) – The idea of the Pride Hostel Sulit Paitan to cater to girls and boys who have completed their primary education to continue their secondary schooling was inspired by a nun’s dream.

Franciscan Sister Dorothy Laudi dreamt about having a hostel to accommodate those students who were schooled at the eight mission kindergartens ran by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (FSIC) in and around Paitan.

These students live in the remote regions of the sub-district of Paitan, roughly a three-hour’s boat ride from their villages to the one and only government secondary school in Paitan, SMK Simpangan Paitan. In order to reach school by 7:00 am, they need to start off from their house by 4:00 am. Besides, transportation costs for each person per boat ride is not within their means, which is at RM6 per ride or RM45 per month.

Pride Hostel, located in Kampung Sulit, Paitan is a single-storey concrete building raised on 18ft I-beam pillars, consisting of two dormitory rooms upstairs partitioned for male and female, and kitchen, dining hall and utilities downstairs.  The construction of the building began in 2015. Fully sponsored by Sabah Credit Corporation, the RM350,000 hostel can accommodate 40 girls and 40 boys of secondary school age.

The completed hostel was handed over officially in a simple ceremony on 3 August 2018 by Sabah Credit Corporation CEO Datuk Vincent Pung to FSIC Mother General Sr Frances Mani, in the presence of former Mother General Sr Grace Deosing, hostel caretaker Sr Hilary Laudi, Daniel Kong, Sergius Ramday, and members from the Sabah Credit entourage.

At the time of handing over, the hostel has taken in 14 boys and six girls who come under the care and supervision of Sr Dorothy and Sr Hilary. The students come from no less than 45 km radius within Pekan Paitan. Most of the students were from our FSIC kindergartens located in their respective villages.

There is an existing government-owned school hostel but it cannot accommodate all the students who are in need of accommodation. With the hostel facilities concretized by FSIC in partnership with Sabah Credit, eligible students have no excuse not to further their academic studies in secondary school. Furthermore, the location of the Pride Hostel is within a 20-min boat ride and walk to SMK Simpangan Paitan and the hostel provides boat transfer.

Sr Dorothy expressed the hope that retired teachers would volunteer to come to Sulit to give tuition to those students who need strengthening particularly in their Mathematics and English Language during the school breaks. Presently, the boarders are assisted in their studies by a diploma graduate Ms Royze Rudy and Form Six student Ms Erna Germanus who opted to go back to their roots for the betterment of their peers from the remote. They also act as cook and warden, one for the male boarders and one for the female boarders, for which they are paid.  As and when the need arises, they assist in the disciplining of the students.

The social involvement of Sabah Credit Corporation in the sponsorship of a hostel for students made a difference in the lives of the poor and marginalized. The generous act of lending a hand to others must impact society as it opens the hearts of the young and teaches them to be more compassionate and active in reaching out to others in need, regardless of geographical location.

With the hostel fully operational, sourcing for funds to manage the hostel becomes a dire need. The monthly expenses to feed the boarders, to pay workers’ salaries, and other expenditure run up to a minimum of RM7,000. Contributions to FSIC for the running of the Pride Hostel are most welcome.  Person to contact is Sr Frances Mani, Loreto Convent @ 013-8586567 or 088-711991 / 727977. – FSIC

Two new zones for St Michael Penampang parish

KOLOPIS, Penampang – Fr Wilfred Atin announced the creation of two more additional zones, Maang and Labak, to the existing nine zones under the care of the Penampang parish of St Michael at her 8th Family Day celebration hosted by St Theresa of Child Jesus Church, Kolopis Zone on 26 July 2018.

Presently, St Michael Parish encompasses  Penampang, Limbanak, Sugud, Kolopis, Minintod, Sukang-Madpai, Kinarut, Terian-Tiku and Timpangoh-Sugud zones.

Fr Atin added that the Archdiocese has also mandated Putatan to form its own Catholic Community, which will come under the  pastoral care of St Augustine Church, Kinarut zone, being the nearest.

The Family Day event kicked off with a Mass, presided by Archbishop John Wong.  At the event, the prelate reminded the faithful of the importance of preserving their mother tongues (Kadazan, Dusun, Chinese).

He urged them to liberally use their mother tongues at home and in the faith community, especially among the young, and not just for use during Church services, and cautioned them not to replace them with the national language.

Archbishop Wong reiterated that efforts must be made to promote their use as the medium of communication in the various activities and programs to avoid them from being diminished as time passes by. He added the faithful must be proud of their own dialects and to honor them as precious gifts for their particular race and culture.

Earlier, the week-long celebration had also organized a Kadazan Hymns Choir competition.

Divine Mercy Church, Maang has been selected as next year’s host for the Family Day event. – Soccom Penampang


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