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Religious Vocation Awareness Seminar 2019

Purak, PAPAR – A total of 162 participants (62 males and 100 females),  from various parishes in the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, Diocese of Keningau  and even as far as from the neighbouring country Brunei attended the vocation Seminar held from 15 – 17 Feb 2019 at Pace Bene retreat Centre. This vocation Seminar was jointly organized by the Council of Religious (COR) in the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu which is currently headed by Br.Thomas Paul, SG. 

According to Fr. Valentine Gompok (OFM Cap), one of the members of the organizing committee, the Council of Religious (COR), initiated this joint vocation Seminar 10 years ago as a way of collaboration among the various congregations serving in the archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu for vocation promotion. Five years later the COR extended an invitation to other congregations from other dioceses within Malaysia to come and participate in the Seminar. And for the first time this year, the Order of the Pious School (Piarist) (Sch.P) Philippines secured permission from the Archbishop to participate.

This yearly vocation seminar is intended to be an eye opener and give a kind of exposure to the youths of the various religious congregations presently serving in the archdiocese as well as other dioceses within Malaysia or even outside Malaysia. 

Six women religious congregations and eight male religious orders were present to showcase or share with the participants about their respective Charism and Mission: the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (FSIC), Good Shepherd  Sisters (RGS), Daughters of St. Paul (FSP), Franciscan Missionary of Mary (FMM) Sisters from Petaling Jaya & Singapore, Sisters of the Divine Saviour (SDS) or Salvatorian, based in Melaka Johor Diocese, De La Salle Brothers (FSC), Brothers of St. Gabriel (SG), Marist Brothers of the School (FMS), Clerical Society of the Most Holy Trinity of Mirinae (SST), Order of Franciscan Friar Minor (OFM), Order of Franciscan Friar Minor Capuchin (OFM Cap), Order of the Pious School (Piarist) (Sch.P) and Society of Jesus also known as the Jesuits (SJ). And though not physically present, the Order of Discalced Carmelite Nuns (OCD) was with the team spiritually. A presentation on their Congregation’s Charism and Mission was done by Sr.Bibianah,fsp on their behalf.

The seminar started with the registration, followed by opening Mass, concelebrated by 6 priests from various orders. After dinner there were ice-breaker activities and then the logistic and safety briefing before the night prayer.

A talk on religious Vocation was given by Fr. Valentine, OFMCap, on the Second day. He explained to the participants about the importance of prayers in religious life and the 3 vows which they profess. A topic on Discernment and some practical and helpful examples on how to discern their religious vocation was also given by Br.Egbertus Jaikol, FSC.

Due to the large number of participants, the organizing committee decided to divide the afternoon session on the second day into male and female categories. During this time, the various religious congregations accordingly took turns to present their respective charism and mission to the participants. On Sunday, another talk on Spiritual life was given by Fr. Raphael, OFMCap. He highlighted our connectedness with God in Spirit as we have been created in His image and likeness.

For the duration of the seminar, the schedule was arranged in such a way that the participants shared responsibility to clean the refectory and wash plates after each meal.  There was time for group dynamics, praise and worship, personal and community prayer, an hour of adoration, as well as allotted time for spiritual direction.  Before the Seminar ended a piece of paper with the list of the various congregations were distributed to the candidates and each candidate was encouraged to put a check on a particular congregation which they would like to know more and the next day return the filled up form to the congregation concerned. This way will be helpful to follow up the candidate and assist them to make further discernment in their vocation.

Jordan Juhakim from Stella Maris Parish, was grateful for having participated in the vocation Seminar. He came to understand better the life of religious priests, brothers and sisters. He said that he encountered various challenges on his way to Purak. He took a train to Papar and he lost his way. From the train station he had to walk for 2 hours 45 minutes to reach Purak. Notwithstanding the challenges along the way, it didn’t dampen his Spirit. Instead he learned patience and perseverance amidst challenges and he realized that Jesus is truly the way and the Truth and the life.

Likewise, Mary Kasmih from St. Peter Claver Church, Ranau, a first time participant expressed her joy and contentment for the opportunity to join in the Seminar. All the sessions had given her better understanding about religious life and she also learned many things from the various congregations.

After the closing Eucharistic celebration, Br.Thomas, SG, in his concluding speech thanked all the Franciscan Sisters, the staff and management of Pace Bene under the Supervision of Sr. Juliana, the superior of the Retreat Centre, who allowed the religious and participants to occupy the place for the weekend seminar free of charge. He also thanked all the various congregations as well as the participants of the vocation seminar from far and near who contributed to the success of the Seminar. It was surely a memorable moment for all especially those who participated in the Vocation Seminar for the first time. – kkdiocese.net

World day of Consecrated Life in KK Archdiocese

KOTA KINABALU – In union with all the religious men and women throughout the world, the various religious congregations in the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu gathered together on 2nd February 2019 at St. Paul’s Hill Chapel at Montfort, Kinarut to mark the 23rd world day of Consecrated life on the feast of the Lord’s Presentation. The World day of Consecrated life was first mooted by the late Saint Pope John Paul II in 1997. It was intended to help the entire Church to esteem ever more greatly the witness of those persons who have chosen to follow Christ by means of the practice of the evangelical counsels. At the same time, it is intended to be a suitable occasion for consecrated persons to renew their commitment and rekindle the fervour which should inspire their offering of themselves to the Lord.

In the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, this is only the 12th year that we are celebrating the World day of consecrated life together as a religious body. It was initiated by the Council of religious (COR) in 2007 which was then headed by Br. Francis Chua, SG. As in the past years, the celebration this time was preceded by the triduum of holy hours in the evenings:  at the Carmelite Chapel on 30th January animated by the Marist and the La Salle Brothers, Stella Maris adoration chapel on 31st January animated by the Franciscan Sisters and at St. Michael’s Church Penampang on 01st February animated by the Good Shepherd Sisters and the Daughters of St. Paul. According to Br. Thomas Paul, the present chairperson of the Council of religious in the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, it was a kind of a pilgrimage to prepare our hearts for the actual celebration of the World day of Consecrated Life.

More than 100 religious from various congregations and secular institutes turned up for the celebration: Montfort Brothers (SG), La Salle Brothers (FSC), Marist Brothers (FMS), Clerical Society of the Holy Trinity (SST), Good Shepherd Sisters (RGS), Franciscan Sisters (FSIC), Daughters of St. Paul (FSP), and the third order of Carmelite as representative of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns (OCD).

Quoting from the Pope’s writings, the Archbishop, in his homily explained in brief the meaning of the presentation of Jesus, also known as the feast of the Encounter, where Jesus came to meet His people for the first time in the temple represented by Simeon and Anna who had the faith to recognize Him as the Saviour of the world. He said, regardless of whether we are old or young, Jesus comes continually to present himself to us in our daily life. He wants to meet us daily especially in the celebration of the Eucharist and wants to establish a relationship, an encounter with each one of us.

The Archbishop then posed a question, have you met him personally? When and what was your first experience in your encounter with Jesus in your life? Did we recognize him as did Simeon and Anna? Did our hearts burn with fire when we encountered Him? He reminded us to keep the fire of the first experience burn bright in our lives so that we can shine the light of Christ in the world and so that others in turn may recognize Christ through us.

After the homily, the religious renewed their religious consecration together in the presence of the Archbishop who accepted their prayers of commitment.

The joyful atmosphere of the celebration was enhanced with the attendance of some friends and families who lived near the Montfort residential campus and also with the full support and attendance of more than 150 students and staff from the Montfort training centre. They sang very well during the Mass and some of the boys even helped as altar servers.

After the final blessings, the chairperson Br. Thomas, thanked the Archbishop for his willingness to grace the celebration. He also thanked the Montfort Management centre for their kindness in allowing the religious to make Montfort Youth Training Centre a venue for their gathering this year.

Archbishop John Wong, on the other hand also apologized on behalf of his priests who could not make it to be with the religious on this occasion due to the fact that it was Saturday and the priests are busy in their respective parishes. The Archbishop went on to express his gratitude and appreciation to all the religious for their dedication and contribution of services in their various charisms in building up the Kingdom of God in the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu. He also assured the religious of his continual support and prayers for them in his daily recitation of the Holy Rosary.

As usual the celebration was not complete without fellowship. The festive lunch was graciously sponsored by the Montfort brothers.

Call for Catholics to bring new hope to the marginalised and the elderly

KOTA KINABALU – Archbishop John Wong, who heads the Catholic Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, has called on members of his flock to build themselves, their families, and our nation on new hopes.

In his message to mark the Lunar New Year, often referred as the Spring festival, he reminded Catholics that, “Jesus is our eternal Spring. He brings us eternal hope.”

As such, he says they are called to bring this new hope to those who live in despair, especially those who are marginalized, abandoned and forgotten; those resorting to drugs, wasting their life and youthfulness; and the elderly ones who long for love and concern.

Looking back on the past year’s events, Archbishop Wong recalled how the nation voted in a new government on May 9, 2018, “bringing the most extraordinary political change in Malaysia after six decades of the old regime.”

Referring to a Chinese saying, “A peaceful nation provides peace for her people”, he maintains that, “It speaks of the significance of a nation that is led by leaders who are fair, just and honest.”

He also stresses the importance to have state and national legislators who would ensure political stability, are able to enhance the people’s life with peace and happiness.

Reminding the people of their Christian duty to pray for the nation and her leaders, the Archbishop Wong says, “Prayer is the most effective force to guide our leaders as they tend to the needs of our people.”

He adds, “Besides pursuing the advancement and prosperity of our nation, we must not forget to pursue the kingdom of God.”

Elaborating further, he says, “Building the kingdom of God is to happen even here and now, through the offering of charity, care, humility, tolerance, fairness, justice, and integrity to society.”

He also expressed his pastoral concern by saying, “As we begin the New Year, I pray that we do not only pursue material wealth, which would not satisfy our spiritual thirst. We must above all remember to pray and to listen to the teachings of the Lord.”

The pursuit of spiritual wealth, he stressed, cannot be understated having witnessed the rise of suicides among the young people, who have found life empty, meaningless, directionless and purposeless.

Archbishop Wong calls on his faithful to enter into the season of Spring with hope so that they would be renewed. – SOCCOM ADKK

Former FSP missionary passes away

PASAY, Philippines – Former Daughter of St Paul missionary passed away on 27 Dec 2018 at the St John of God Hospital here. She was 92.

Born in Iloilo City Philippines on 22 Feb 1926 as Elena Bravo, the future Sister Maria Eulalia entered the congregation in Lipa on 26 May 1949 when she was 23. She made her first profession on 19 Mar 1952 and took her final vows in 1957.

In 1961, she was one of the four sisters sent to establish the congregation’s presence in North Borneo. She sailed to Jesselton together with Sisters Elisabetha Capello, Assunta Labay and Virginia Guevarra on 21 Jan 1961.

From her memoirs she wrote:

This was the only place where we did not start from Bethlehem.  What a beautiful house of Mrs. Philip Lee.  After a week, when everything were settled, Sr. Virginia and I started our house-to-house propaganda, visiting the schools, offices, hospitals and stores. 

We enjoyed our mission in Borneo, as we were accepted by the people, Catholics, non-Catholics and even by pagans.  Everybody knew of our coming as our arrival was announced over Radio Sabah.  How good really is God.  That’s why we were really happy in this mission land.  Though the place was not well-developed and there were few inhabitants yet our mission was very successful because we are welcomed by the people.  My hardship was with the languages: Malay and Kadazan.  A few months later, Sister Elizabeta Capello was replaced by Sr. Silvana Guerrero from Italy.

In 1963, Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya formed Malaysia. She left Sabah on 27 Apr 1968. Upon her return to the Philippines she dedicated herself primarily to bookcentre work and also to the technical apostolate for a certain period of time.

Of a sunny disposition, she was always on the lookout for vocations and often asked the young women who visited the book centre whether they would like to become a Daughter of St Paul. Her sweetness and conviction led many of them to accept her invitation, receiving the question as a call from the Lord. Sr Eulalia had a big heart and wished she had “a thousand lives” to help out wherever there was a need in the congregation.

Sr Eulalia carried out the Pauline mission zealously but she was also a woman of profound prayer. The chapel was her “home” and she wanted it to be large and spacious enough to welcome as many people as possible, especially members of the laity, with whom she wanted to share the wealth of the Pauline charism.

In 2017, Sr Eulalia was transferred from Iloilo to the Pasay City infirmary due to advancing age and fragile health. In November 2018 she contracted pneumonia–a health issue that hastened her meeting with her Lord and Master. She died peacefully in the hospital on Thursday, the day when the Provincial Chapter started.



           

Archbishop John Wong’s Christmas Message 2018

THEREFORE the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)  How humbling it is for us each time when we contemplate on the mystery of Emmanuel – God is with us, and on the reality of how God chose to reach out to us by becoming one of us!

If we just take a moment to look at how fallen our world is, we will realize that we are living in a culture that has lost touch of what faith and the meaning of love truly mean; a culture that flows with the current of secularism and relativism. God’s design for every human person to be dignified is slowly being washed away by this current. We see a trend where every individual is now allowed to determine what they want to believe. The truth is no longer objective, but subjective to one’s right in deciding what is truth for themselves.

My dearest brothers and sisters, we truly have fallen behind; and the world needs a saviour! God is relentless when it comes to reaching out in love to His people. God had each of us in His mind when He planned to send His Son, Jesus Christ. God planned, God prepared, God brought to fulfillment, and God became. That is what Christmas is all about. God’s love is manifested because He chose to become one of us; taking upon himself every aspect that a human being can ever possibly experience or go through.

No matter what our circumstance may be at this present time – be it a personal struggle, a family problem, a financial burden, a work issue, or dealing with the loss of a loved and dear one, or just the pain of feeling and suffering alone, may we all find comfort and joy, knowing that this Christmas, He is coming to us and He is with us. He is not just with us, in a vague and general sense, but He comes to meet each of us exactly where we are at in our individual lives. In our joy, in our pain, in our suffering, in our incapability of making sense of what is going on in our own lives, in our brokenness, in every possible circumstance we are going through – God is right here, with us, and He truly understands.

Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Saviour; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state? (Catechism of the Catholic Church 457).

No one can put it more beautifully than what is stated in our Catechism. God is moved when He sees His children suffering, and He draws near to them at once, and at all costs, even if it meant descending to human nature. This is TRUE LOVE.  This Christmas, True Love comes down once again and wants to dwell in our hearts.

But are we prepared to welcome this Love into our hearts at this Christmas? Will Love find any room in our hearts when He comes this Christmas? How can I prepare my heart for Christmas? It is too easy to get carried away with the hustle, bustle and busyness as we draw nearer to Christmas, especially in our world today, where Christmas is extremely secularized and commercialized. While there is nothing wrong to celebrate Christmas in festivity and merriment, let us take a moment this Christmas to truly reflect on the true meaning of what we are celebrating, which is found in Christ, the “Word made flesh” in the most vulnerable form – a baby, born in a stable, on a still night.

Therefore, we may say that making room for Love to enter our hearts, means taking time to be silent in our hearts. Let us not miss the sound of the Baby Jesus’ cry when He arrives. May He find room in each of our hearts when He comes.

The great Venerable Fulton Sheen once said, “How to find Christmas peace in a world of unrest? You cannot find peace on the outside, but you can find peace on the inside, by letting God do to your soul what Mary let Him do to her body, namely, let Christ be formed in you.”

Let us not be afraid to respond to the mystery of God’s great love this Christmas. Let us be unafraid to come as we are and surrender to Him our sins, our brokenness, our weaknesses, our lacking, and all our struggles. Let us not be afraid to let Christ form our being! In the words of one of the greatest saints, St Therese of the Child Jesus, “A God who became so small could only be mercy and love.” God chose to come as a helpless infant to us. May we too, come to Him in our most vulnerable state and surrender to His love this Christmas.

I would like to end with the words of St Teresa of Calcutta as an invitation to all of us: “At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark this season of Christmas by loving and serving others with God’s love and concern.”

Wishing you a very Blessed Christmas!

Archbishop John Wong, Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu 


  

Photojournalism workshop

Members of SOCCOM Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, with the Photojournalism speakers and workshop participants – Photo credit William Charles Mindus

Kota Kinabalu – A one-day Photojournalism workshop, from 8:30AM till 4:30PM, was held at Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish Hall on Saturday 15 December 2018 organized by the Social Communication Commission (SOCCOM) of the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu. The speakers of the workshop, Eddie Angat and Ruben Sario, both have extensive knowledge, gleaned from more than twenty years working experience as photographers and journalists formerly attached to New Sabah Times and The Star respectively.  This workshop had 18 participants coming from SOCCOM members from various parishes in the Archdiocese. They were taught the right skills on how to take photographs using smart phones as well as editing and putting captions to the pictures taken.

One of the participants trying to practice some of the tips given during the workshop – Photo credit Rayner Giun

One of the groups having discussion while selecting photos for evaluation during the workshop – Photo credit Esmeralda Lydia Johnny

The speakers, Eddie Angat and Ruben Sario, sharing some tips to the participants on the right way to capture photos – Photo credit srbbfsp

 

Most of them are regular contributors of articles and news for Catholic Sabah, the only newspaper intended for the Catholic populations of Sabah. – kkdiocese.net

A visit to the Parliament

SANDAKAN – Five members of St Mary Cathedral Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) had the privilege to visit the Parliament in Kuala Lumpur on Oct 17.

The PPC was joined by another five members from the Sandakan Inter-church to make up a 10-Christian delegation to the Malaysian Parliament. All of us were a first-time visitor to the Parliament where the Rakyat’s voice is heard and Laws are made.

The study tour was made possible by an invitation from the Law Minister, Datuk VK Liew and the kind sponsorship of Dato Seri Joshua Chong, a corporate figure from Kuala Lumpur.

The objective of the tour was mainly educational and to gain first-hand experience of the Federal law-making process.

We were hosted by the officials from the Batu Sapi Parliamentary with briefings and guided tour of the many galleries in the parliament building.

The most profound experience was the opportunity to sit in the two different sections of the public gallery inside the Dewan Rakyat. We could see the chamber where the Members of Parliament (MP) had their debates and discussions. On that particular visit, we witnessed the debate on the Sales and Service Tax (SST) issue. The debate was hot, but suffused with good-natured banter.

During the Study Tour, we managed to meet a few of the lawmakers from Sandakan and even shook hands with Datuk Anwar Ibrahim.

Even though we could not visit Datuk Liew in his office due to his busy schedule, he invited us to join him and his staff for a dinner function that evening. At dinner, we discussed and exchanged our views on the issue of abolishing the death penalty in Malaysia.

At the same time, the Christian leaders brought up Church needs to his attention.

When asked about what we have learnt on the study trip, PPC Vice Chairman Michael Lai shared, “We have been given a memorable experience to witness the parliament proceeding. At the same time, the fellowship that we, from the different denominations have shared, has bound us closer to one another and to our Lord.”

From the Baptist Church, Rev Khoo Keng Shiang was impressed by the openness of the Malaysian parliament, which is accessible for the public to visit. The study trip has gained him much knowledge and invaluable exposure on how the process of Law is made in Malaysia. He hoped that in the near future, similar tours could be organized for other Church leaders to gain this invaluable insight. – Dalius LL

Cardinal Charles Bo of Myanmar new president of FABC

Pope Francis with Cardinal Charles Bo (L) in Myanmar in Nov. 2017.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon was elected the new president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences on Nov. 16.

Myanmar’s first cardinal has been elected the next president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon was elected the new FABC president at the FABC Central Committee meeting on November 16.  He will assume office on January 1, 2019.

The Salesian cardinal takes over from Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, whose second term ends on December 31.   Cardinal Gracias who earlier served as FABC secretary general between January and December 2012, is currently the president of both the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the apex body of the Church in India, and the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) which brings together the country’s Latin rite bishops.

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Pope Francis’ message to young people for 34th WYD in Panama 2019

Vatican – Pope Francis has a message for young people preparing for World Youth Day 2019: Ask God “What do you want from me?” — and allow God to answer you. 

Watch the Video Message of Pope Francis for the WYD 2019 at: https://youtu.be/9tQ3Et-6L5c?t=146

The Holy Father’s Message to young people in preparation for the XXXIV World Youth Day 2019, which will be celebrated in Panama, is centred on the theme: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). The Message, published on the day of the celebration of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, concludes a cycle of three Marian messages dedicated to young people along their journey WYD 2016 to WYD 2019.

A statement by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life said that for the first time, the Message of the Holy Father in preparation for WYD is being published principally in the form of a video message, so that it can reach the greatest number of young people; and respond to their desire, expressed during the recent synodal process, to communicate with the Church through forms closer to their own language.

In his address, the Holy Father addresses all the young people of the world — believers and non-believers — encouraging them to discover the characteristic values of youth. It recognizes their willingness to serve others and invites them to put this attitude into practice from a Christian perspective: “To be at the service of others does not only mean to be ready for action. It means also to be in conversation with God with an attitude of listening, just like Mary. She listened to what the angel said to her and then she responded,” says the Holy Father.

The video message serves as an instrument of spiritual preparation for the next WYD in Panama 2019 and also as an inspiration for youth ministry throughout the world. The next World Youth Day will be celebrated from 22-27 January 2019 in Panama.- Vatican News, 21 Nov 2018

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