Category Archives: Catholic Sabah

KK prelate: Christmas is to open our eyes to the presence of ‘Emmanuel’

KOTA KINABALU – At the Christmas Vigil Mass, KK prelate Archbishop John Wong quoted Pope St John Paul II that “Christ is the sacrament of the invisible God – a sacrament that indicates presence…. and now, God is with us!”

He brings home the message of Emmanuel “God is with us”, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas… “A saviour born for us”.

Keeping the question “Why do we celebrate Christmas?” burning in our hearts, the prelate invited his listeners to “open the eyes of faith to see that God is not invisible, or distant from any of us”.

He underlined “We can see Him, touch Him, hear Him in the sacraments of the Church, and in the Word of God.”

“He is a God who is never far from any of us. He is present. We can find Him in each of our success, and even in each of our failure, hurt, grief, anger, or joy,” said Archbishop Wong.

He added “We can also find Him in every person, and in our very own life.”

After the Gospel, Archbishop Wong placed and incensed the baby Jesus in the manger.  Drawing the people’s focus on the baby in the manger, he probed further “What do you see?  What is your experience?”

Archbishop Wong invited the 3000-crowd, who packed the Sacred Heart Cathedral on that Christmas Vigil Night, and occupied every single seat placed between the Cathedral to the foyer of the parish hall, to ruminate the meaning of Christmas by providing three words: Emmanuel, Free Gift, and Silent.

Emmanuel… We need to hear the Lord saying to us “I am the God who is with you here, now and forever.  Today, I am born for you!

“Open your life to Him. Let God be in your comings and goings, your joys and pains, your dreams and fears.”

Free Gift... “As part of the physical preparation for Christmas, we have been buying gifts for others, as well as being tempted to expect gifts from others, gifts that you like, or gifts that are not to your liking. But did you realize that the greatest gift for us to receive is the “free gift” that comes down from heaven, the Son of God?

“We should bring this “gift” home, which has been freely given to us by God, and give to your children/family, your friends, your colleagues, your acquaintances, etc.”

Silent… “The familiar hymn Silent Night, Holy Night bids us to share in the ‘night’ made holy by our SaviourBut in order to have a share in the ‘holiness’, we need to be ‘silent’ and ‘calm’ from the many voices that bombard us from the world and from the frenzied busyness that move us from one activity/program to the other.

This year the Cathedral featured two mangers, a beautiful large one at the foyer of the parish hall and a smaller but simpler one at the Sanctuary, which provided a more reflective ambience for the faithful to ponder over the ‘baby’ lying there. 

Meanwhile the Christmas Cantata, prior to the Vigil Mass, masterfully crafted a wonderful balance between “fresh” and “familiar”, “new” and “nostalgic”, remembering Christmases past, while celebrating new traditions and the glorious hope of God with us. – CS

The future of Borneo Bamboo Straw and the Church’s role

THOUGH only two months old, Borneo Bamboo Straw has attracted attention from interested parties.

“SMK Kolombong has ordered more than 100 sets of bamboo straws from us as door gifts,” informed Lissa Johannes, the young prime mover of Borneo Bamboo Straw under the auspices of SK Lambidan Menumbok (see main story).

“It has also received an enquiry from a well-known local hotel in Kota Kinabalu who is concerned about beating single-use plastic in their premises. A meeting was convened between us in Nov 2018, which will lead to a site visit to Menumbok at an appointed date in 2019,” she revealed.

Besides, they have also collaborated with Taman Pelancongan and Tagal Komuniti, Kg Rantai Apin-Apin to promote bamboo straws at the Crocker Range Festival in Keningau Nov 24.

The enterprising young environmentalist had more to share: “The latest order comes from a German who wants to promote bamboo straws produced in Borneo.” Lissa promotes the budding enterprise in the Borneo Bamboo Straw Instagram profile.

Although the effort to use bamboo straw as an alternative has yet to pick up locally, what matters is the awareness of it as an alternative to beat single-use plastic usage.

“Pollution, especially plastic pollution, in our globe has reached a critical stage. We need to take action. In fact it is already late… hence, the need to increase awareness of this environmental threat to as many people as possible,” said an impassioned Lissa.

She describes her own life calling as one that is gearing towards the care of environment, our common home    “What I learn and do at school, I make it a point to bring it to my family, the church and practise it in the society,” she shared.

She also takes Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si as a guide, with which she plumbs for a deeper understanding of the importance of care of creation.

Lissa maintained “Wherever I am planted, there I can act and give.”

She also expressed her hope on the Church “The Church needs to take part in caring for creation. The leaders need to play their role and support related efforts on this issue at a local setting.”

For example, she suggested the Church could act, even though the efforts are small, such as beginning with commentators at Sunday Masses to encourage people not to leave any rubbish inside the Church or its compound.

Warming up to the role of the Church, Lissa confirmed that the youth have brought up their concern on the lack of support by parish priests and parish leaders for any green activities such as beach clean-up.

Not one to give up easily, Lissa impressed on the Church the need to feature annual celebration such as World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation as many of the faithful are not aware of such an event, which is celebrated globally by Catholics. Linda Edward

Bamboo straw: the way to go

WHO would have thought that a service stint at the 4th Sabah Youth Day (SYD-4) in Tawau would turn out to be a stepping stone for Borneo Bamboo Straw, an enterprise that says no to plastic straw?  It is one of those surprises in life!

Ester Ermerlissa Ngoai, or better known as Lissa Johannes among her peers, is a youth from St Thomas Becket Kelampun, under the care of St Peter Bundu, Kuala Penyu.

Lissa, 31, works as a teacher at SK Lambidan Menumbok, which runs a program called SERASI, or Sekolah Rakan Alam Sekitar (Environmental Friendly School) created by the Sabah Environmental Department to bring awareness to the care of our environment.

How did the idea of the bamboo straw come about?

In June 2016, Lissa was assigned to serve at the SYD-4 as a sub-MOT (Main Organizing Team) for the Gallery Walk at one of the stations called “Hero Ecology”. The task, which involved preparing materials, visiting the landfill site in Kayu Madang, conducting research and interviews with members of society concerning environment was an eye-opener for her.

The service stint opened her eyes to see creation with the eyes of faith, which spurred her on to make it her own personal mission.

While production and usage of plastic is widespread, accumulating our landfills and becoming a source of pollution to the environment, the awareness to combat this ugly threat is on the rise globally.

Single-use plastic is often associated with plastic pollution crisis in which about 40% of plastic production is aimed for packaging, and which inadvertently contributes to the highest waste production (Source: Science Advances, 2017).

Depending on region, this category involves all stages of consumers, from manufacturers to suppliers and end users, such as domestic homes.

While global awareness on this issue has triggered efforts to combat this giant menace, mostly aimed at single-use plastic, it has at the same time suggested alternatives that are durable and re-usable.

Meanwhile, in our own backyard, Lissa has responded to the single-use plastic crisis by producing bamboo straws as an alternative to plastic straws.

“I spotted a video in social media posted by Dane Kovacs, popularly known as ‘Orang Putih Kita’, who highlighted on a restaurant that embarked on using bamboo straws,” recalled Lissa.

“It got me thinking, and I began to ask the school canteen workers, who belonged to a local community in Menumbok, whether their village possessed a source of bamboo from which straws could be produced,” she added.

To her surprise, she received a positive response, “not only from our canteen workers, but also from the school security guard, who supported the project by looking for alternate sources of bamboo!”

Lissa was pleased to point out “Incidentally, the theme for World Environment Day in 2018, which was also celebrated by SK Lambidan, was “Beat Plastic Pollution”. The bamboo straw idea is therefore in line with the theme to combat single-use plastic usage.”

In view of the positive progress, Lissa, who is also SERASI coordinator, launched the ‘Say No to Plastic Straw’ campaign in her school, and by October 12, the production of bamboo straw kicked off under the name Borneo Bamboo Straw.

Borneo Bamboo Straw was subsequently launched by Sabah Environmental Department during the SERASI Awards Ceremony at the National Department for Culture and Arts, JKKN Sabah in Kota Kinabalu on Oct 23.

It might appear that this effort only impacts a small area in Kuala Penyu but looking closely, it is a starting point of beating single-use plastic usage. – Linda Edward

Stoke the fire in your soul

WE are all creatures of habit. From the moment we get out of bed in the morning until we return there in the evening, our daily routines are much the same. We drive the same way to work, during which we listen to the same radio station; we stop at the same coffee shop where we buy the same coffee. At night, we make the same meals and mindlessly watch the same television shows. Then we pray the same prayers. And the cycle begins again the next morning.

We do this every day, all the while longing for more.

We crave the peace that we know will only come from knowing Christ better, understanding his Church more, learning about those who devoted their lives to doing his will. And yet we leave no time to tend that fire that is burning within us.

But in order to change our lives, we first must change our habits. St Paul of the Cross gives us a few suggestions: “Prayer, the frequentation of the sacraments, good reading … these are, believe me, the means of sanctifying yourself.”

While a stronger prayer life and more frequent reception of the sacraments are obvious ways to grow in faith, many ignore the third recommendation: good reading. Because in order to grow spiritually, we must grow in intellect and understanding – of God and of ourselves. More importantly, we must make time to sit in silence and be inspired.

St Jerome said, “When we pray, we speak to God; but when we read, God speaks to us.”

What God is offering us in that silence is an invitation to know him better. Are we too busy to accept?

Take the time this year to stir that fire within, because if you are tired of being stagnant in your faith, perhaps it is time to turn the page.

     Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) suggests a list of books: Fr Solanus Casey by Catherine Odell; A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction by Christopher O. Blum and Joshua P. Hochschild; Adopted: the Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World by Kelley Nikondeha; From Atheism to Catholicism: Nine Converts Explain their Journey Home by Brandon McGinley; and others. – OSV

Malaysian Churches prepare for Extraordinary Mission Year

ZENIT – The Catholic Church in Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei has announced that the solemnity of Epiphany on January 6, 2019 will mark the opening of an “Extraordinary Mission Year” to culminate with the celebration of the “Extraordinary Mission Month”, convoked by Pope Francis for October 2019, Fides News Agency reported December 12, 2018.

The news was announced in a report sent to Fides by Bishop Sebastian Francis, shepherd of the diocese of Penang and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei.

 According to the report sent to Fides, the dioceses of Singapore, Brunei, and Malaysia have already started preparations for the Extraordinary Year. For example, the Institute for New Evangelization in Malaysia recently held a special formation session for prominent local Catholics promoted by Bishop Sebastian Francis of Penang and Bishop Bernard Paul of Malacca-Johore, attended by 56 participants, including pastoral workers and community leaders.

The aims and contents of the Extraordinary Mission Year were illustrated by Fr Victor Louis, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. The Director recalled the approach of Pope Francis for the coming celebration: Evangelization is a response to Christ’s command “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to all peoples” (Mk 16, 15).

“To obey the Lord’s mandate is not an option for the Church; it is her essential task. The Church is missionary by nature: she exists to evangelize. Evangelization is, in fact, is the grace and calling proper to the Church,” said the Director.

The five days of study, which opened with a special celebration of the Eucharist, stressed the fact that every baptized Christian has a calling to evangelize. As an experience of Street Evangelization, the participants visited a local hospital, a shopping center and a home for the elderly.

The Extraordinary Missionary Month in October 2019 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud issued in 1919 by Pope Benedict XV and will have the theme, Baptised and Sent: the Church of Christ on the mission in the world. The aim is to increase awareness of “missio ad gentes” and give new impulse to missionary transformation in the life of the Church.

KK Archdiocesan commission heads reappointed for another term 2019-2021

Archbishop John Wong has recently reappointed the following effective 1/1/19 to 31/12/21:

Liturgy:  Fr Cosmas Lee (Adviser/Coordinator)

Catechetics:  Fr Nicholas Stephen (Adviser), Sr Dariah Ajap (Coordinator)

Education: Fr Jalius Sading (Adviser), Sr Rita Chew (Coordinator)

Women:  Archbishop John Wong (Adviser), Anita Tunggolou (Coordinator)

SOCCOM:   Fr Thomas Madanan (Adviser), Datuk Joseph Leong (Coordinator)

Youth:  Fr Joshua Liew (Adviser), Sr Terry Loukang (Coordinator)

Family Life:  Fr Michael Modoit (Adviser), Sr Suzan Guntabid (Coordinator)

Human Development:  Fr.Ambrose Atang (Adviser), Dominic Lim (Coordinator)

Stella Maris homes receive new visitor, Our Lady of Guadalupe

TANJUNG ARU – Stella Maris homes were recently introduced to their new visitor, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe was introduced to the parish families by assistant parish priest Fr Peter Abas during the month of the Rosary, as he shared with them his own experiences and devotion to Mother Mary. He invited them to travel with her and to receive God’s blessing for their homes through her, along with the recitation of the rosary during the visits.

Fifteen families were chosen to journey with the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  She stayed in each house for two nights before being taken to the next family. Stella Maris Convent was chosen as the first family to receive the statue.

During our Lady’s visit, families came together as a community to join the chosen family in praying the rosary. Praying the rosary every night brought the families closer to one another, and to God. It taught them to be more kind, patient, loving and caring toward each other. In coming together, they not only shared the presence of the statue but also the joy and love that the statue of Our Lady brought to their families.

Fellowship followed after the rosary prayer, where they inevitably grew more united as one big family sharing meal together.

Traditionally, October each year is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary. This is primarily due to the fact that the liturgical feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated annually on October 7. – SOCCOM SMP

Thousands join interchurch Christmas Street Festival

INANAM – More than 3000 visitors from all walks of life turned up for the 5th Inanam Inter-Church Christmas Street Festival, which was held over two evenings on Dec 1-2 at Inanam Memorial Monument.

The theme for this year’s fiesta was “Jesus is the Bright Morning Star”.

The annual event, which was organized by  the Sabah Council of Christian Churches Inanam branch, was participated by all Christian denominations within Inanam, Kolombong, Menggatal and Telipok areas.

This year the number of participation has been pared down to 13 choir groups to give way to three local Christian singers in the persons of  Rey Kimara, Rosario and  Hosiana Kewon who have been invited by the organizers to entertain the crowd with Advent and Christmas songs.

The lighting up of the Christmas tree, carol singing, Christmas drama, lucky draws and traditional ethnic dances have been lined up for the revellers’ enjoyment.

Kenny Chua, the Assistant Minister of Finance and current State Assemblyman for Inanam officiated the event, while Dean Musa Ambai a representative from Sabah Council of Churches closed it on behalf of Anglican Bishop Datuk Melter Jiki Tais.

Among the guests were Dr Roland Chia, the former State Assemblymen for Inanam, Fr Mitchelly Kiun, the spiritual adviser for the Interchurch Christmas Street,   Archdeacon Moses Chin, Benny Chua PPM and several local church leaders.

The Interchurch Christmas Street Festival was the brainchild of Dr Chia, who saw the need for the churches to reach out to the faith communities in this northern part of Kota Kinabalu City.

The 1st Christmas Celebration was also held at Tugu Peringatan Inanam on Dec 15, 2014 which attracted some 500-600 people.  Michael Guntili

Don Bosco children’s needs: more than just material goods

RANAU – A total of 17 members of the parish Pastoral Care for the Sick, Aged and Needy Ministry made a maiden visit to the Don Bosco Children’s Home at Bundu Tuhan here on 13 Oct 2018.

Some of the members were there for the first time even though the centre had existed for not less than 50 years!

Before the visit, we found out from Sister-in-Charge, Sr Anne Marie, that there are 60 children living in the hostel, whose ages range from seven to 17 years old – 13 of whom are 12 years old and below while 47 are in secondary school.

One of the highlights of the visit was a motivational talk given by member Mary Ann Chew, entitled, “Don’t Be Controlled By These 5 Things: Your past; Other people’s opinions and judgements; Limited beliefs you project on yourself; Relationship – love and connection; Money – Do not allow your decisions to be controlled by money.

We spent time talking to the children, especially the teenagers who are hungry for guidance and knowledge, pending entry into the working force of the real world. A number of them spent more than six years at the centre.

These children attend classes at the government-run school, SM Bundu Tuhan in the vicinity. Most of them come from broken families that are affected by divorce, single parenting and some are also victims of abuse.

These families are mostly located in rural kampongs (villages) around the area of Kiau District, Papar, Tamparuli, Kota Belud, Keningau, Ranau and in particular, a girl from further away. The girl’s father died when she was very young. The mother and her relatives abandoned her. Brother Ben found her and brought her back to the centre six years ago. She is now in her teens and needs love and peace of mind.

The centre has limited grounds for expansion. The construction of the hall and hostel was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu some 30 years ago. Maintenance and upkeep of the building is challenging.

The person that Sister and the children never forget, is the founder of the centre, Brother Martinus JA Snoeren, affectionately known by all as Brother Ben, born on Oct 8, 1929 and was called to the Lord on Feb 13 this year.

His Christian mission started in 1953 and retired in 2014. He spent almost all his 61 years of service in Don Bosco. A little table is placed at the side of the hostel hall with Brother Ben’s kind face in a photo frame in memorial of him.

He was the “papa” to the children of the centre. He will be forever fondly remembered by all the people who have known him. The children prayerfully remember all his love, comfort and hope he showered on them.

Sr Anne Marie and the five helpers at the centre have their hands full in looking after the children. Aaron, who was personally trained by Brother Ben, is one of the key assistants in the work force.

Sister said he is the “second Brother Ben”, a compliment to his diligence in looking after the centre. Sr Anne Marie and her team worked tirelessly in nurturing the children through prayer intercession, love and care to the best of their ability to deepen the children’s Catholic faith; strengthen their hope and increase their love of God to carry on the legacy of Brother Ben.

We left the centre with mixed feelings. These children are blessed to have a place to stay, food for physical health and education to meet their best ability in learning. However, looking into their eyes, one cannot help but feel they lacked the genuine happiness of family support and love.

     The two hours we stayed with the children made us realize that material goods are just a temporary satisfaction. What they really need is attention and love, especially from their own families. – SOCCOM St Simon

SHC Prayer Group enriches the underprivileged

BUNDU TUHAN – Not wasting the opportunity as it presented itself, the Sacred Heart Cathedral English Prayer Meeting (SHCEPM) visited the Don Bosco Home for underprivileged children to spend some time with them in the midst of their family retreat on Nov 9-11.

The retreat, which was held at the Retreat Centre here, was a way for the prayer meeting to conclude a year’s service of weekly Praise and Worship. 

Themed “Be healed and restored: Healing and Restoration through the Seven Miracles of the Gospel of John”, the retreat attracted some 100 participants.

The retreat master, George Thien, assisted by Vincent Abel, walked the participants through the Gospel of John, expounding it in detail for the 3-day retreat. 

Apart from the main input, there were counselling sessions, inner healing sessions, and sessions of praise and worship. 

Participants shared that the retreat has been fruitful, and has given them a sense of renewal.  They enjoyed the fellowship throughout the retreat.

The organizing committee thanked all who have supported in making the retreat possible.

The Prayer Meeting, with faith formation and Praise and Worship, will resume on January 11, 2019 at 8.00 pm at Sacred Heart Parish Centre. Joseph Carlos Leong

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