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.