Sandakan : 23 participants from the Institute of Formation, Fondacio Asia (IFFA) based in Quezon City of the Phillippines arrived safely at the Sandakan Diocesan Centre on Tuesday night, 1st February 2011. The participants, 13 students, 4 interns and 6 staff and volunteers coming from eight different countries across Asia will be here for their second part of mission project in Sabah which is an integral part of their pastoral studies The members were earlier stationed in the Diocese of Keningau from 19th - 31st January 2011.
On arrival, they were given a warm welcome by the local organizing committee led by Francis Tan of the Diocese and foster families. 10 generous parishioners responded to host the students and interns. They, not only open their homes to house them for their 12-day stay but open their hearts as well to welcome and journey with them.
The participants and foster families were given a briefing on the schedule of their 12-day mission exposure by the main coordinator of the local organizing committee. The participants were then introduced to their foster families.
They were then feted to a dinner reception hosted by the Diocese. Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom in his welcoming speech told the participants to take the opportunity to integrate with the local faithful as they put their pastoral knowledge into practice.
The prelate said, 'Dear uprising young leaders of Asia, explore and immerse yourselves in all activities as planned to enhance your pastoral skills so that you may lead others to Christ.'
Rev Thomas Makajil the rector of St Mary's Cathedral bade the participants a warm welcome and expressed high hope of the young participants as future leaders of the Church. He also said that young people are to be empowered to be agents of change to shape the future Church.
Also present at the function were Fr David Garaman, the newly ordained priest, religious sisters of the Franciscan Sisters of Immaculate Conception and the Religious of the Good Shepherd, Diocesan and Parish Pastoral Councilors, Cathedral's ministry leaders and representatives from the youth apostolate.
The following morning, 2nd February 2011, the participants were briefed by Francis Tan on the history, structure, statistics, context and pastoral challenges of the diocese followed by a question and answer session.