Category Archives: Catholic Sabah

Remembering eight brave war heroes from WWII (Part 2)

File photo of the day of exhumation of three heroes in 1957.

During the annual 2018 official ceremony for all war victims Jan 21, eight men’s names were commemorated on a new plaque at the main war monument at the Petagas War Memorial Park. This is the second installment of a write-up to remember particularly six men out of the eight, with the perspective on how their Catholic faith had helped them to survive life’s ordeals.

In the second war crime charge, the four victims Paul Lee Fook Onn @ Paul Lee Onn, Simon Thien, Paul Chong Pin Sin and Stephen Pan Tet Liong lived in Tamparuli during the war. The war crime charge stated they were “native residents, chief of the village and very influential.”

SIMON THIEN and Paul Lee Onn shared some land that they applied for in Tamparuli, across from Charlie Peter’s property. Simon was also one of the Fr Weber’s ‘old boys’ from Sacred Heart School as was Charlie. He worked in the Customs as senior officer collecting taxes at the port. He was married to Hiew Nyet Kiao and they had three adopted children Agnes, Rose, and John. He is survived by his siblings, nephews, and nieces.

PAUL CHONG PIN SIN was born in 1903 and came to Jesselton in the 1920s from China and worked as a “house-mate” for “orang putih.”  With the little savings and experience he had from working with them, he first started a ‘laundromat,’  then moved on to trading and became a successful merchant owning a grocery shop in Jesselton town.

A written account by his only surviving child, Rose Chong states that in 1944 a troop of Japanese army marched from Sandakan to Ranau, and reached their house which was near the roadside at Tamparuli. The Japanese army stayed at their house where they required Paul Chong, Simon Thien, Stephen Pan and Paul Lee to supply food and other rations to them.

PAUL LEE FOOK ONN @ PAUL LEE ONN was the first born of three children to parents Anthony Lee Biang and Maria Liew Fung Kiao in Jesselton in 1902. He worked as a chief clerk at Harrisons and Crossfields Shipping. When his father fell ill and eventually died at a young age, his mother sent them to mission schools. Paul was also a former student of Sacred Heart School under Fr Weber. Church records show he was a devoted Catholic and prominent lay leader particularly of the Chinese congregation of Sacred Heart Church in the 1920s and 1930s.

Like Vitalianus Ubing, Paul Lee was also a volunteer with the North Borneo Volunteer Force and was ranked a Sergeant. After the war, the family received a scroll commemorating and honouring his sacrifice. Paul was the father of nine children. His wife was pregnant with their youngest son John when he was taken away and killed. Today, his six surviving children live around the globe.

BUNG AH TEE @ STEPHEN PAN TET LIONG previously worked at the British rubber estate in Sandakan as supervisor and owned a rubber estate in Bakut, near Tuaran. According to his grandson, Stephen’s family was originally from Papar and he was educated at St Joseph mission school, Papar. He was married to Francisca Chin Kon Kiao, and they had ten children.

As with the other families, because of safety Stephen moved his family to Tamparuli. The Pan family lived very near to the other three Chinese families at Tamparuli and became good friends. He was appointed as village Chief or as Kapitan at one time.

In 1945, all four men were captured by the Japanese and never returned. The reason behind the capture was that all the four men’s names were found on the Defender (undercover) list of names. They were accused of, “not supplying the Japanese army with foodstuffs, planning to attack the Japanese in the rear in the event of an Allied landing and in contact with bandits in Kinarut, and to attack the Japanese units which came from Ranau to Tamparuli.” (War crime trial proceedings)

After the Japanese surrendered, the Australian army caught the Japanese and they went house to house to find out how many victims were missing and forced the Japanese to tell where those innocent victims were killed and buried. It was then they knew Paul Chong, Simon Thien, and Stephen Pan were killed together on June 12 at the same place and their bodies shared the same burial ground.

Three months after the killing, the families followed a map given by someone and located the ground in the Telipong area. They recognised and confirmed the bodies by means of personal possessions which were with the remains. However, nothing much could be done then as life was difficult for the families and no one could afford to do anything with the remains. Twelve years later, the three families got together again and transferred all the three men’s remains into a burial jar which was then buried at the Tuaran Christian Cemetery.

Paul Lee was taken away on a separate day while the family was having dinner. He was taken away, badly tortured and returned home twice prior to his final departure on June 16. Although a map of his killing place was also provided by the same person (as mentioned above) months later but sadly, the remains of Paul have never been found.

Out of adversity comes strength, sometimes formidable strength and courage. After the death of Paul Lee, his widow Margaret Liong Choi Chin, like the other three widows in Tamparuli, struggled to bring up their children. The widows got together to form a strong support network.

Due to constant floods, the children were often prevented from going to school, which was located on the other side of the river. So Margaret, with the help from the widows and older children of the families, decided to raise funds to build a school for the children who lived on the south side of the river – about 20 of them from their own families alone. The boys led a Dragon Dance team and the girls sold handmade paper flowers. They went everywhere by bus or on foot. Margaret went as far as Labuan to raise funds for the school.

Their children were first schooled in Charlie Peter’s house in 1946.The families also gathered at the house on Sundays for service or Mass, if there was a priest visiting. Apparently, faith has put the families together and helped them survived through the difficult times.

While going through the hardships of raising funds, the school had to shift to an old Japanese warehouse when the number of students grew too big for Charlie’s house. In 1949, they had to move again to an abandoned two-storey attap house on the land between the properties of Paul Lee and Simon Thien. After some persuasive negotiations between Margaret and the land owner, they bought the land on which the Gong Gao School grew and rebuilt.

Being nearly illiterate, Margaret sought the help of Yong Tao Pin @Yong Chen Koon, who was educated in China, with the school’s administrative work. Meanwhile, Mrs Simon Thien, affectionately known as Nyet Kiao Ji, her sister Fook Kiao, wife of Paul Chong, and others helped with chores and the never-ending fundraising.

In the late 1950s the school was handed over to Father Tepstra who was in charge of the Tuaran Catholic mission. Around 1964, the school became known as St Philip’s School, under the care of Bishop James Buis. The school is very much in operation today and has educated many successful students.

The third war crime charge involved the killing of Lim Hock Beng and Mohinder Singh. They were the two non-Catholics who were also recently commemorated at the Petagas War Memorial Park.

LIM HOCK BENG was working as a wireless operator at the Jesselton Post Office. He was considered the “chief of the rebellion who used the wireless set to catch intelligence that was against the Japanese army and carried out an agitation to the native residents”. According to a family member, Lim Hock Beng was a Christian belonging to the Society for the propagation of the Gospel, now known as the Anglican Church. His wife was Rose Walker, a Catholic, who was also a close family friend of Lothar Manjaji’s wife, Otillia. With the untimely death of Lim Hock Beng, the children were separated. The two eldest, Lucy and Richard were sent to stay in the convent in Singapore where they were taught Catechism and subsequently they and their families became Catholics. The other three siblings, Jane, Victor, and Timothy studied in St Mary’s School, Sandakan where they were also taught catechism and accepted the Catholic faith.

MOHINDER SINGH, a 19-year old male nurse at the Jesselton Hospital, assisted Lim Hock Beng in keeping an eye out for enemy planes using his binoculars. They were captured and killed around early July 1945 and buried unceremoniously together in a shallow grave. Both bodies were later exhumed and taken away by their families.

Many gaps in the stories of these brave men remain and it is hoped more will be uncovered as the families embark on learning about their loved ones. Their story, set against a backdrop of the cruelties of the war and the horrific suffering they must have endured show how only their unwavering faith must have given them courage in their greatest hour of need, surrendering to God their lives and the families they were leaving behind. They also bring to mind the many other brave victims who were taken and killed during the war.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9-10 – Contributed by Vera Chin and Susanna Lye, granddaughters of Lothar Manjaji and Paul Lee.

Korean Clerical Society opens religious items shop in ITCC

Father Andrew Kim blesses the Woori Jib religious items shop, ITCC Penampang, 16 March 2018.

PENAMPANG –The Korean Clerical Society of the Most Holy Trinity has opened a shop selling religious items in the ITCC Shopping Mall here.

Known as the Woori Jib Holy Item, it is owned and managed by members of the Korean congregation headed by Father Leo Choi Sangki.

Some 50 parishioners from nearby parishes, friends and supporters witnessed the blessing ceremony of the new premises on 16 Mar 2018.

Franciscan Sisters Dariah Ajap and Imelda Angang, and Marist Brother Anthony Choi were among those present.

Other guests included Penampang District Officer Luvita Koisun and Datin Sylvia Wong Bongkos.

The Rite of Blessing was officiated by Father Andrew Kim Youngjun, one of the three resident priests of the Society in Kota Kinabalu. With him was Father Lawrence Kim Jinsu. Fr Leo was away in Korea for a pastoral commitment.

The religious items are sourced from South Korea, and Fr Andrew said all sales made under the store are channelled to Woori Jib St Francis Xavier Potuki, their welfare orphanage home located at Kg Potuki, Lokawi Putatan.

Therefore, he calls for continuous support from all to Woori Jib to sustain the orphans who come from poor local Catholic families.

Woori Jib Holy Item is located at Lot No. 1-202, (Corner), Tingkat Satu, Bangunan ITCC (International Technology& Commercial Centre) Penampang, and operates from 10 am-6 pm daily.

For any enquiries, contact the management at 019-8822418. Linda Edward

Bethel English Prayer Community refreshes itself with retreat

KOTA KINABALU  – Members of the Bethel English Prayer Community (BEPC), or better known as the English Prayer Meeting, took off to the retreat centre at Bundu Tuhan on 9-11 Feb 2018, to rejuvenate and strengthen themselves for another year of activities.

Of the 40 participants, some are currently serving in the ministry while others are those who have responded to the invitation to serve in the BEPC in the year ahead.

Though the prayer meeting has existed since 1974, it has been through many memorable moments, as well as challenging ones.

Currently, the BEPC, with Carlos Cordova as the interim coordinator, is acting as a caretaker for the prayer community pending the expiry of the current leadership to pave way for the election of new leaders this year.

BEPC also paid a courtesy visit to Father Paul Lo as the new assistant parish priest and introduced themselves to him at the close of last year.

Apart from the weekly Praise and Worship, sharing and in-house talks, BEPC also has a special ministry that caters for benevolent prayers, hospital visits and other spiritual outreach for the members. All are invited to join the BEPC for a time of praise and worship every Friday at 8:00 pm at the Sacred Heart Parish Centre, Room F7.

The Bethel English Prayer Community is one of 70 plus ministry/community groups that are flourishing in the Sacred Heart Cathedral parish. – Joe Carlos Leong, CS

Easter challenge

After 40 days of penitential preparation, the Church welcomes the Easter season with abundant joy. Christ has vanquished death. He has brought hope, light and new life to a people previously living in sin, darkness, and death. His sacrifice and subsequent victory was the ultimate game-changer.

For Catholics, Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday is the third act in the story of salvation, one preceded by suffering and death. It is the height of the liturgical year.

But how often do we rejoice in the event without really understanding it? How often do we take the time to properly reflect on its deeper significance in our lives? How often do we forget to ask ourselves: “What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ in a post-Resurrection world?” To that end, here are three points for consideration.

We must be a people of joy – of resurrection – even when it’s not easy.

In a world where Christ is risen, we must strive to be people of hope and joy. In our lives, when all hope seems gone, when we are tempted to give in to despair, it’s important to recognise that this is where God is at work. This takes an active faith – a trust in God and an understanding that his thoughts are not our thoughts, nor his ways our ways (Is 55:8).

We must continue to seek always. To understand the full meaning of the Resurrection in our lives, we must work to seek the answers that Christ and the Church hold. The paschal mystery is not easy to understand. We are challenged to read, research, ask questions – to become a seeker for Christ. Only through our own understanding will we be able to fashion an appropriate response.

We must actively respond. Jesus’ resurrection is not a passive event. Rather, as was modeled to us by the early Christians, it demands a response.

As Catholics, we are blessed with opportunities to respond as Christians in a post-Resurrection world. We can encounter Christ frequently in the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, and through prayer, Scripture and the witness of holy disciples. We can care for the needy, vulnerable, sick, imprisoned and dying. We can model the Resurrected Christ to others through our interactions, our charity, and our selfless acts.

This Easter, we have the opportunity to be a people of joy, to seek to know Christ more deeply, and to recover the active fire of the first Christians. Like those early Christians, when we understand the Resurrection fully, we, too, will be willing to live our lives completely for God. – OSV

Remembering the eight brave war heroes from WWII

Representatives of the eight families pause in silent prayer after the wreath-laying ceremony, Petagas War Memorial Park, 21 Jan 2018.

Between June 12 and early July 1945, eight local civilians were apprehended, denied military trials, tortured and unlawfully killed for participating in anti-Japanese subversive activities with “sympathies which leaned towards the Allied cause.”   The 1946 war crime trials held in Changi Singapore revealed that of the 30+ men on a black list, Kempeitai Harada Kensei chose to issue three orders to eradicate the “8 civilians” identified as the primary persons “definitely detrimental” “to the maintenance of peace and order.”

The first order involved Lothar Wong Manjaji and Vitalianus Joseph Lim @ Ubing. The second order involved Chong Pin Sin, Simon Thien, and Bung Ah Tee @ Stephen Pan Tet Liong and Paul Lee Onn @ Paul Lee Fook Onn. The third order involved Lim Hock Beng and Mohinder Singh.

The Kempeitai was found responsible and guilty of all three charges by the Allied Land Forces Military Court for War Crimes. (Ref: The National Archives, Kew. Japanese War Crime Trials Proceedings. Reference WO 235/884 1946 Case No.72. Defendant: Harada Kensei, Changi, Singapore).

On a bright Sunday morning on 21 January 2018, during the annual 2018 official ceremony for all war victims, eight men’s names were commemorated on a new plaque at the main war monument at the Petagas War Memorial Park.

After decades of waiting and grieving by their families, the eight were finally accorded a hero’s recognition, with representatives from each family laying a wreath at the site. The ceremony was attended by state dignitaries and representatives from the police, army, navy, foreign consulates and many from the eight families and other families.

On Jan 22, a Memorial Mass was celebrated by the Rector of St Simon Church, Father Cosmas Lee at St Simon Chapel, Likas.

Out of these eight men, six were Catholics and several were prominent leaders in their local and church communities. The Mass, held nearly 73 years after their deaths, was attended by up to 200 family members. It was the first time they gathered to pray for their loved ones – be it their father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, granduncle, great-granduncle or even cousin. To the younger generations, they were persons they had heard a lot about but had never known.

It was a poignant reminder of the cruelties of what war had done to the families. At the same time, it gave them much needed closure and a sense of pride knowing their beloved ones had died bravely and now acknowledged by the state authorities.

During the Mass, Fr Cosmas said that war has a dehumanising effect on humankind, on the aggressors and the victims alike. No one is spared the horrors of what happens in a war. We have to heal by praying for all victims, as well as the enemies. Just as Jesus prayed for and forgave those who crucified him, we must do the same.   As only by that, we ourselves are healed and reconciled to God.

After the Mass, old friends met to bond and share stories during a simple fellowship dinner at St Simon hall.

These eight men were not just random names but were inextricably linked together from their childhood days – through school, church and the local community. Much of what is known of them come from oft-repeated stories from the wives, older surviving children, written correspondence, official and church records.

The six staunch Catholics were also good friends to one another. They played a prominent role in the church community before and during the war. Born at the turn of the century, several of them were ‘old boys’ of Father Valentine Weber, a Mill Hill priest from the Tyrol looking after the Sacred Heart Mission and boys’ school from 1906-1930. They were very likely much influenced by this priest who was described as “a man of few words, his actions spoke for him instead. He continues to be reverently remembered by parishioners as a Father with outstanding kindness, especially his deep compassion for the poor.” (100 years of Good News Sacred Heart)

Church records provide a fascinating insight into the lives of these men and the part the church and their faith played in their lives. Fr Weber lived in the same house as the boarders – many of whom were children of “poverty-stricken emigrant parents, majority of whom could not pay a fee.” Fr Weber used his limited funds to shelter, clothe, feed and educate them like his own children. “These students, known as Fr Weber’s boys, developed a life-long loyalty to him and many grew up to be prominent citizens of Jesselton who would make up the core community of faith.” (100 years of Good News Sacred Heart Cathedral)

Among these older ex-students were Paul Lee Fook Onn (Lee Ah Onn), Simon Thien, and (Lothar) Manjaji.

In the first war crime charge, Lothar Manjaji and Vitalianus Lim were on this list. The Japanese authorities suspected them of making parangs and spears in preparation for an uprising, and also of preventing the Japanese from hiring coolies.

Msgr Wachter (L), Manjaji (seated)

LOTHAR WONG MANJAJI, was born Wong Kah Kee in 1896 in Limbanak, Penampang, the third child of six children of Antonius Bungon/Pungun Wong and Siaham. Lothar was baptised as a Catholic at age 16 in December 1912 by Father August Wachter, then the rector of St Michael’s, Penampang.

It is recorded in the history of St Aloysius School Limbanak that Manjaji first taught adult male classes in his elder brother Ligunjang Pungun’s house. At that time, no females went to school. Manjaji, who had been educated at Sacred Heart School under Fr Weber, later took it upon himself to educate some of his brothers’ children, especially the girls who were still living in the kampung.

In the 1930s leading up to the war, Manjaji was employed by the Rubber Restriction Board. He also owned family businesses e.g. a rice mill (where local families bartered the milling of their padi with rice grain) and 50 acres of rubber land. According to historian Danny Wong, this sound financial position allowed him to indulge in sporting activities and all that “made him famous and remembered among people of his community, as well as able to live quite comfortably and accorded him the strength to play a pivotal role within his community”.

He was an active member of the Sacred Heart Church and close to the priests. A father of seven children, he often invited the foreign missionaries to his Karamunsing home for dinner. A frequent visitor was Msgr August Wachter, the previous rector of Penampang Mission from 1907 and who became the fourth Prefect Apostolic of North Borneo (1927–1945).The then Fr Wachter had baptised Manjaji as a teenager and was undoubtedly a key influential figure in his life. His daughter Katherine Anna, born in 1928, would recount many stories of Msgr Wachter visiting the their Karamunsing house and how he would call her by her second name ‘Anna’.

During the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945, Manjaji was appointed native magistrate by the Japanese Military Administration. One of his duties was to supervise the collection of padi and other foodstuff for the Japanese army from the Dusun cultivators in the district, many of whom had little for themselves and hardly any to spare. Katherine said they used to hide the bulk of the padi up in the roof of their house and display the little padi left to the Japanese soldiers who would come to each house to check their stock.

Towards the end of the war, on 19 May 1945, the Japanese army arrived at the Penampang mission to take Msgr Wachter, six other foreign priests, and three school boarders away. The church annals recorded that before Msgr Wachter was taken away, “there came to him Manjaji, Herman (Motogol), Vitalianus Lim and Claudius Yap, all influential members of the parish and he begged them to look well after the Mission property in case the Japs insisted on their removal.” (100 years of Good News Sacred Heart).

Soon after, those men were also apprehended by the Kempeitei. Manjaji’s body has never been recovered. After his death, his widow Otillia Libuyan Bokuta was left to fend for their seven children and also those he had adopted.

VITALIANUS J LIM @ UBING was born in 1900 at Kg Limbahau. He was the son of Didacus Lim, a Chinese originating from Hainan China, and Maria Gondomboi Kokoyou, a local Kadazan. Vitalianus married Marcella Kuntim Duaon, a Kadazan and they had six children, three of whom are surviving today. He worked for the government as a clerk in Kudat and Keningau. Later, he was transferred back to Jesselton as Constabulary Clerk. He was also a volunteer with the North Borneo Volunteer Force (established in 1938) as a Corporal.

When the war started, Lim was appointed as the District Officer of Tenom and in 1943, was transferred back to Jesselton and resided at Batu Tiga (presently Bukit Perwira). Based on evidence from the 1946 War Crime Trial proceedings, the family believes that he was unlawfully killed on 13 June 1945 together with Manjaji. After his death, the family moved back to Papar and resided at Kg Limbahau, attending the Holy Rosary Church, Limbahau where they continued to journey on in their faith.

The two men’s close friendship and association with the church as well as the other men named on the black list seemed to suggest a linkage with each other. – Vera Chin and Susanna Lye

(Vera is the granddaughter of Lothar Manjaji and Susanna Lye is the granddaughter of Paul Lee.)

To be continued

Can you really vote your conscience?

Can you really vote your Conscience?

“VOTE your conscience” is not an unfamiliar phrase during election seasons. However, conscience is a biblical theme, and Christians should ask whether the common understanding of conscience in our society has become more in line with Disney’s Jiminy Cricket than with the word of God.

When we open the Bible and ask what God has to say about it, we’ll soon find that your conscience, in fact, does not have a vote in this election.

Hearing crickets?

The way many of us understand the conscience is actually very close to a tiny cricket living inside our heads. The conscience is like an inner, speaking guide leading us through the blinding haze when we lose our way.

Tapping into the wisdom of Seinfeld’s Kramer: “What does the little man inside you say? . . . The little man knows all.” In short, many people think of their conscience as the guiding voice inside them that speaks which direction to take at the fork in the road. When you don’t know what to do, let your conscience be your guide. So, when we hear, “Vote your conscience,” we think, “Listen to the guiding voice inside you.”

Can’t vote your conscience

This understanding of the conscience more closely resembles the Hindu idea of a guru counselor than the Bible’s explanation of the conscience.

Biblically speaking, the conscience is less like a guide and more like a reporter. Your conscience is not like a crystal ball that tells you what choice to make going forward (whether this candidate or that one). It’s not a proactive voice that provides you with new information you do not know. Rather, it is a reactive voice that tells you whether your actions, thoughts, and beliefs conform to the law of God.

Biblically, your conscience doesn’t have a vote. To be precise, you don’t “vote your conscience” – but your conscience does have something to say about your vote, once you begin to formulate it.

Your conscience is the inward testimony of God’s law written on your heart (Romans 2:15); it is like a microphone to God’s law, so that no one can ever say before God, “I didn’t know I was sinning” (Romans 2:16). The unbelieving suppress the truth of God within them (Romans 1:18), but this is no excuse for not knowing God, because the conscience regularly reports to them that they are sinning against God’s law.

If a Christian sins against God’s law, the conscience will flare up – in fact, the Christian conscience is presumably more sensitive because of the Spirit’s work in us. However, the Christian’s conscience is not testifying to the wrath of an angry God but the loving discipline of a heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:6–7).

No excuses for bad decisions

The distinction between conscience-as-guide and conscience-as-reporter becomes massively significant when we apply it to elections and other important decisions.

For one, understanding your conscience as a guide – as a kind of third-party counsel, other than your own heart and mind – can aid the effort to excuse oneself from moral accountability. It is an easy thing to play the conscience card: “I’m going to vote for Candidate X because my conscience told me to.” Well, who can argue with that? If your conscience told you so, no need for further thought or careful arguments.

In reality, what most people mean by “conscience” is “my gut feeling,” which is to say, the bottom level of a sometimes-sinful, sometimes-good, often-confused, sincere mess of emotions, opinions, and understandings of what’s right and wrong – not exactly a faithful guide. Thus, the conscience often becomes a moral scapegoat either for sinful choices, or for the sin of apathy, or for neglecting the hard work required to make tough decisions.

By pointing to the “conscience,” many expect to be let off the hook for their sinful or unexamined actions. But this is foolish, since what they really mean by conscience is not the unquestionable law of God, but the highly questionable human heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Essentially, this abused understanding of the conscience trades a deceptive excuse like “the devil made me do it” with “my conscience made me do it.”

For love of God and neighbour

A proper, biblical understanding of the conscience should lead Christians in the opposite direction. Instead of washing our hands of the hard work of making difficult decisions, we should be eager to give voting its due diligence and offer up our leanings against the law of God for evaluation.

The Christian’s conscience is tethered to God’s law. That means that the conscience always speaks to the summary of God’s law: love God and love your neighbour (Matthew 22:37–40), which is a helpful grid to consciously consider for any election: Which vote (or no vote) will be the truest expression of my love for God and desire for my neighbour’s good?

In any given situation, your conscience – properly speaking – will not lead you. It’s not your guide. But it will evaluate your thoughts or actions based on whether they conform or transgress God’s command to love him and love your neighbour with all you are – heart, mind, soul, and strength. Your own God-given wisdom – your “powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14) – will lead you to understand (and be accountable for) the best way to obey the obligations of love for God and neighbour by voting for this candidate or that (or whether to abstain, not from apathy, but from principle).

What your conscience will do is convict you if you are voting out of sinful comfort or greed or fear. Or it will minister God’s approval if you act, as well as you’re able, in an effort to obey the command to honour him and love your neighbour.

When this is done – when your vote is a positive expression of a heart that is earnestly “desiring to act honourably in all things” (Hebrews 13:18) – you will receive the testimony of a good conscience.

Make that your goal this election season: not to hear crickets, but to receive the peace that comes from “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

So, don’t vote your conscience. Rather, in whatever electoral choice you make – hidden to the world, but in the full sight of God – seek to love him and love your neighbour with a good conscience. – www.desiringgod

In season of Lent, Church offers everyone to live a time of desert

LENT is the occasion that the church offers to everyone, indistinctly, to live a time of desert without thus having to abandon daily activities. St Augustine made this famous appeal:

Re-enter your heart! Where do you want to go far from yourself? Re-enter from your wandering which has led you outside the way; return to the Lord. He is quick. First re-enter into your heart, you who have become a stranger to yourself, because of your wandering outside; you do not know yourself, and seek Him who has created you! Return, return to your heart, detach yourself from your body…. Re-enter into your heart: there examine Him whom you perceived as God, because the image of God is there, Christ dwells in man’s interior.”

To re-enter into one’s heart! But, what is represented by the word heart, of which there is so often talk in the Bible and in human language? Outside the ambit of human physiology, where it is but a vital organ of the body, the heart is the most profound metaphysical place of a person, the innermost being of every man, where each one lives his being a person, namely his subsisting in himself, in relation to God, from whom he has his origin and in whom he finds his purpose, to other men and to the whole of creation. In ordinary language the heart also designates the essential part of reality. “To go to the heart of the problem” means to go to the essential part of it, on which all the other parts of the problem depend.

Thus, the heart indicates the spiritual place, where one can contemplate the person in his most profound and true reality, without veils and without pausing on externals. Every person is judged by their heart, by what he bears within himself, which is the source of his goodness and his wickedness. To know the heart of a person means to have penetrated the intimate sanctuary of his personality, by which that person is known for what he really is and is worth.

To return to the heart means therefore to return to what is most personal and interior to us. Unfortunately, interiority is a value in crisis. Some causes of this crisis are old and inherent to our nature itself. Our “composition,” that is, our being constituted of flesh and spirit, inclines us toward the external, the visible, the multiplicity. Like the universe, after the initial explosion (the famous Big Bang), we are also in a phase of expansion and of moving away from the centre. We are perennially “going out” through those five doors or windows which are our senses.

Saint Teresa of Avila wrote a work titled The Interior Castle, which is certainly one of the most mature fruits of the Christian doctrine of interiority. However, there is, alas, also an “exterior castle” and today we see that it is possible to be shut-in also in this castle. Shut outside of home, incapable of returning. Prisoners of externals!

What is done outside is exposed to the almost inevitable danger of hypocrisy. The look of other persons has the power to deflect our intention, like certain magnetic fields deflect the waves. Our action loses its authenticity and its recompense. Appearance prevails over being. Because of this, Jesus invites to fasting and almsgiving in a hidden way and to pray to the Father “in secret” (cf. Mt 6:1-4).

Inwardness is the way to an authentic life. There is so much talk today of authenticity and it is made the criterion of success or lack thereof in life. However, where is authenticity for a Christian? When is it that a person is truly himself? Only when he has God as his measure. “There is so much talk – writes the philosopher Kierkegaard – of wasted lives. However, wasted only is the life of a man who never realized that a God exists and that he, his very self, stands before this God.”

Persons consecrated to the service of God are the ones who above all are in need of a return to interiority. In an address given to Superiors of a contemplative religious Order, Paul VI said:

Today we are in a world which seems to be gripped by a fever that infiltrates itself even in the sanctuary and in solitude. Noise and din have invaded almost everything. Persons are no longer able to be recollected. They are prey of a thousand distractions, they habitually dissipate their energies behind the different forms of modern culture. Newspapers, magazines, books invade the intimacy of our homes and of our hearts. It is more difficult to find the opportunity for the recollection in which the soul is able to be fully occupied in God.”

However, let us try to see what we can do concretely, to rediscover and preserve the habit of inwardness. Moses was a very active man. But we read that he had a portable tent built and at every stage of the exodus, he fixed the tent outside the camp and regularly entered it to consult the Lord. There, the Lord spoke with Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).

However, we cannot always do this. We cannot always withdraw into a chapel or a solitary place to renew our contact with God. Therefore, Saint Francis of Assisi suggested another device closer at hand. Sending his friars on the roads of the world, he said: We always have a hermitage with us wherever we go and every time we so wish we can, as hermits, re-enter in this hermitage. “Brother body is the hermitage and the soul is the hermit that dwells within to pray to God and to meditate.” It is like having a desert “in the house,” in which one can withdraw in thought at every moment, even while walking on the street. Saint Anselm of Aosta in one of his famous works:

Come now, miserable mortal, flee for a brief time from your occupations, leave for a while your tumultuous thoughts. Move away at this moment from your grave anxieties and put aside your exhausting activities. Attend to God and repose in him. Enter into the depth of your soul, exclude everything, except God and what helps you seek him and, having closed the door, say to God: I seek your face. Your face I seek, Lord.” – Fr Raneiro Cantalamessa

How to pray for the upcoming general elections

In Paul’s teaching on prayer in 1 Tim 2:1–4, one of the major thrusts is praying for those in authority. According to Paul’s reasoning, we want good government that allows us to live “peaceful and quiet lives” – ultimately freeing us to evangelise those who are lost.

Paul would have been amazed that Christians could someday actually take part in selecting those leaders. I believe he would have been even more amazed (and appalled) that many of those Christians didn’t even bother to get involved in selecting those leaders for the purposes of God to be fulfilled.

Praying for the electoral process is the first step in seeing the fulfillment of what Paul is writing about to Timothy. I don’t believe we should wait for a leader to be selected before we move into obedient prayer for those in authority.

So why pray for the elections? There are a number of compelling reasons:

The Bible commands us to pray for those who are in leadership, which would include those who are vying to become leaders.

Godly leaders can help slow the erosion of religious liberties in our land, providing an increased window of opportunity for the Church to pray and evangelise.

The selection of leaders who understand and lead according to God’s righteous standards can bring great blessing to a nation (Prov 14:34).

Scripture also says, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers” (Prov 11:14). The determination of who leads our nation will also determine who advises that leader and how we are guided.

Here are seven major areas to pray for that relate to our national election.

  1. Pray for our nation and the issues it faces.
  2. Pray for the Election Process, for wisdom for voters and a safe and fair election.
  3. Pray for the salvation of candidates and leaders who are in leadership of our nation.
  4. Pray for the Church.
  5. Pray for the Media and for truth to be an established standard in our news media.
  6. Spiritual Warfare – ask for great awareness and discernment as we pray over the election.
  7. Revival – pray for a Great Awakening to sweep the nation as the Lord’s people learn to humble themselves with a contrite spirit, and to tremble at the Word of the Lord.

We can broaden the prayer effort beyond our own prayers by being part of the 24/7 IN-THE-AIR prayer centres which have flourished across the country, to join like-minded Christians to pray for a fair and just electoral process. For more information on the 24/7 prayer centre in SHC, contact Lucia @ 012-8027255. – reviveourhearts

Korean orphanage renamed “Woori Jib” instead of Hamin Tokou

POTUKI, Putatan – On 28 November 2016  Woori Jib, once known as Hamin Tokou, was officially opened and blessed by Archbishop John Wong and witnessed by Rev General Liborious Park Hye Sik and Tan Sri Datuk Sri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan.

Woori Jib St Francis Xavier Potukia welfare home for orphans from poor Catholic families, is located at Kampung Potuki, Lokawi Putatan. In Korean, Woori Jib means “Our Home.”   The welfare of the children in this home is fully sponsored by the Clerical Society of the Most Holy Trinity of Mirinae, South Korea (SST).

Currently, the home is taken care of by two house mothers and a cook. There are also a few volunteers helping to look after the home apart from three full time priests running the home.

An agreement has recently been signed between the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu and the Clerical Society of the Most Holy Trinity of Mirinae for the Society to set foot in the Archdiocese.  The priests are Father Andrew Kim Youngjun, Father Lawrence Kim Jinsu and Father Leo Choi Sangki, who is also the patron of Woori Jib.

Woori Jib has started taking in children from poor families, mostly girls aged between 7-17 years. On 3 March 2017, five orphan girls began their stay at this home. However, in mid- 2017, Woori Jib opened the home for poor families too, including those families who cannot afford to send their children to school due to poverty.  As at January 2018, the number of boarders has increased to eight.

The home can accommodate up to 25 children at any one time. It is only accepting girls aged between 7- 17 (or Primary One to Form Five). After finishing their study in Form Five, they would return to their families.

In 2017, visitors and volunteers have visited the Woori Jib St Francis Xavier Potuki orphanage home to offer charity work to clean the home and its surroundings, donated cash, food and school materials.  While there, they also interacted with the children of Woori Jib.

The management of Woori Jib also announced that “Hamin Tokou Holy Item” located at Megalong is no longer associated with Fr Leo and is managed by Lawrence Jakil, while Woori Jib Holy Item, under the management of Woori Jib, is located at Lot No. 1-202, (Corner), Tingkat Satu, Bangunan ITCC (International Technology & Commercial Centre) Penampang and would be open for business by mid-March.

Any activities dealing with charity visit organised by Hamin Tokou no longer has any association with Fr Leo.  For any inquiries or charity visits, kindly contact the Management of Woori Jib, St Francis Xavier Home Potuki at 019-8822418 or 088-752088. – Woori Jib Management

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


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