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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 


  

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