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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Our journey in the Diocese of Sandakan.


'It is through these small communities (BECs) that we inculcate the characteristics of unity, the devotion to listening to the Word, fellowship, sharing and prayers as significantly prevailed in the early Christian communities. These elements are the pillars that support the life of every Christian community, a solid foundation for growth. All four parishes across the Diocese have prioritized on the formation of BECs. It has flourished. Today, there are some 130 BECs in the Diocese.' ~ Shared by Bishop Datuk Julius Dusin Gitom during his speech after the Anniversary Mass on 27th October 2012.

St Dominc's Parish of Lahad Datu presented a medley of songs and dance during the Anniversary Banquet Dinner held on 26th October 2012 at Yu Yuan Hall. The 42 performers were all from the BEC of Silam, some 22 km from the main Church. The eldest in the group is 68 years while the youngest is merely 3 years. The 'Our Father' sang to the tune of Auld Lyne Syne was most touching and the audience were moved. Estrella Luna, a mother and a lead member of the group has this to share.
Getting all members for training isn't a big problem because we live in the same neighbourhood. We belong to the same BEC. We are proud of our BEC. We are grateful to be given the opportunity to represent our Parish.  Our two month training has been tiring and time consuming but we held on together because we want to do our very best for our Parish. We surrendered our difficulties and obstacles to God through prayers and that kept us together.
Our families have been most supportive throughout the training. Those not involved would prepare food and drinks for us. Others would offer transport and others would chipped in to help financially and yet others would offer prayers for our success. Community living through BECs is most beneficial for it builds us up, relating and supporting one another. It promotes unity, the devotion to listening to the Word through Bible sharing, fellowship and prayers. 
We were nervous yet excited as we went on stage for the performance. God has been with us and we are happy and joyful to be able to contribute our talents for the Lord. If given a chance, we would like to perform again in the next anniversary.

Petrus Plou is from the BEC of Kampung Bakau, just 6 km from St Mary's Cathedral, Sandakan. The BEC was formed less than two years with a membership of some 6o people from 19 families, mostly Indonesian migrant workers.

Petrus shared, 'Uprooting from my country of origin to seek for greener pastures here in Sabah is tough. Life could be lonely without the support of the community. Our faith may waver as we encounter the many problems of our daily life. We need the strength to sustain not just acquiring our daily needs but more so with the practice of our faith. Before the formation of our KKD we were on our own, each minding one's business.'

He added, 'With the establishment of our BEC, we are like a big family. We journey together as a community. We gather to share on the Word of God and we pray together. In that way we are more united, for prayers keep us close. We are really grateful that the Priests, the Religious and the local lay leaders come and visit us occasionally. We are being welcomed into the midst of the local community. We are no longer strangers.' 
In a very happy note, he said, 'Today is a special day, the 5th Anniversary of our Diocese and so we come as a community to give our full support to the Diocese and our Bishop Datuk Julius Dusin Gitom. Our young people will entertain the audience after mass in the Parish Hall.'      

Daniel Zullian from  St Francis Assisi Kg Sukang, Paitan led a group of 16 youth to the 5th Diocesan Anniversary celebration. Paitan is the only missionary area in the Diocese and is some four hour drive from Sandakan.

Daniel said, 'We are glad that we are part of the celebration. We will be rendering a song after the Eucharistic celebration during the luncheon fellowship. We are glad that we are given the opportunity to share our talents. In the process of preparing our presentation, we met up very often and that builds up our relationship.'

The regular pastoral visits by our Parish Priest, Fr Thomas to Paitan has been a great motivation for the young people to come forward to serve. The Diocesan Youth Coordinator and her team has been journeying with us, exposing us to a variety of programs that strengthen our faith and confidence. The Bahasa Malaysia Prayer Group from the Cathedral  has been conducting Life in the Spirit Seminar from Chapel to Chapel and that draws people to the Church.
We realized that we are far behind, lacking in many things. We are determined to carry the cross in all situations for we know the day will come when we will experience resurrection. We are grateful that we are being taken care of, the contribution to physical and spiritual development. We hope to remain strong and united so that as a community of young people we will continually serve the Diocese.

Didacius from Kampung Kiabau, about an hour drive from Telupid town is an active member of St Arthur's BEC. There are six BECs in Kg Kiabau, each with eight - ten families. St Martin's Parish Telupid responded to the pastoral thrust of the Diocese which has been and shall be the building of communities through Basic Ecclesial Communities as declared Bishop Datuk Julius in 2008 during the 1st Diocesan Anniversary in 2008. Today there are more than 40 BECs in Telupid.

Didacius together with his wife will be doing the offertery for the Anniversary Mass. This is what transpired during an interview before the start of the mass. He shared, 'BEC is certainly an excellent platform to bring people together, among members and also non-members. It helps to promote unity. We are involved in all Church activities as a community providing service and material needs as and when required. Our focus, during our gathering would be Bible sharing; listening to the Word, sharing our faith expriences, disseminating information on Church activities and seeking ways to assist the Church and reaching out to neighbours in need.'
One amazing outcome of journeying in BECs is that Sunday Church goers begin to participate in Church activities as BECs are assigned monthly duties and service.  This is one sure way to get people involve as readers, commentators, wardens, altar servers and the choir. Pastoral visits by the parish priest has motivated the people and draw them closer to one another. I really hope that more BECs would be formed so that the Church would be strengthened  through the communion of these small communities.

Danny from Holy Trinity Church Tawau is all for BECs. He belongs to the BEC of Taman Ria, with 7 families and a membership of close to 40 people. There are more than 30 BECs in Tawau. Msgr Nicholas Ong, our Parish Priest puts much emphasis on BECs. He keeps a good record of visiting BECs and to date he has made close to 200 visits.

I strongly believe that BECs is a new way of being Church. A way to reach out to people and to evengelize. Neighbours who are non adherents may see the beauty of neighbourhood community, the care and love and the get together in the sharing of the Word and fellowship. As members of  BECs, we are committed to one another and to the Church in whatever duties assigned to us. Our yearly neighbourhood caroling has brought everyone to trumpet the Good News.The visits by the priests and religious have encouraged and motivated our members. We are inspired to care and serve the Church.
As Christians we are not to isolate but to relate to one another in a community and what other way than to belong to BECs. I hope the many parishioners who have yet to journey as a community would see the benefits of BECs, its roles and functions in binding the people and assisting the Church to grow.

Photos by  Alex Tai, Franco and Bell

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The 5th Anniversary of the Diocese of Sandakan

(Soccom Sandakan)
Sandakan : The Eucharistic Celebration for the 5th Anniversary of the Diocese of Sandakan and the Episcopal Ordination of Rt Rev Datuk Julius Dusin Gitom was held on Saturday 27th October 2012 at 9.00 am at St Mary's Cathedral. Bishop Datuk Julius presided over the Mass con celebrated by Msgr Marek Zalewski, the Charge D' Affairs of the Apostolic Nunciature in Malaysia, six Arch / Bishops from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, twelve Diocesan Priests from Sandakan, Kota Kinabalu, Keningau and Kuala Lumpur.
The Celebration began with the procession of priests and arch / bishops from the Catechectical Room behind the Cathedral led by the tambourine dancers dressed in well blended colored costumes and in the most orderly manner befitting a great feast for the Lord ~ Psalm 150 : 4 'Praise Him with tambourine and dance.'
The trumpets sound, the angels sing
The feast is ready to begin
The gates of heaven are open wide 
And Jesus welcomes you inside
The Opening hymn 'The Feast' led by the Parish Choir, joined by more than 1,500 parishioners coming from across the four parishes and the Paitan Mission, the Religious Sisters of Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, Good Shepherd Sisters and D' La Salle Brothers heralded the start of Holy Mass. After the Opening Rite, the first and second reading were proclaimed in Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese respectively. The Parish Priest Fr Thomas Makajil proclaimed the Gospel taken from Luke 10 : 1 -9. 
In his homily, Bishop Datuk Julius said that the anniversary is an important day for all faithful in the Diocese for it is a celebration of God's love, a time to acknowledge the blessings that God has showered upon us. He called on the people to reflect on how they have worked together moving forward as a local Church and to improve on areas that had hindered them.
As the celebration coincides with the Year of Faith launched on 11th October 2012 by the Holy Father, he shared that the year long event is an opportune occasion to rediscover Jesus, the Lord and Savior. 'Faith hidden and not shared is not faith at all. Before we could share our faith, we need to know the content of the faith. The Holy Father proposed that there should be concerted effort by all to study the fundamental contents of our faith. This could be done in BECs and Spiritual Groups Gatherings'

The prelate went on to say that he was pleased that all parishes have responded to the thrust of building communities through BECs, the grass root Christ-like Ecclecial communities. BECs are not merely human gathering communities but with the Lord animating his faithful through his Word, evangelizing his people and in turn they become evangelizers. The study on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and documents of Vatican Council II are to be given special attention during their gatherings.

Touching on the Gospel reading, he said, like the seventy-two disciples we also are commissioned to go forth and make disciples of all nations. We are given specific instruction to be totally dependent on God's providence, abiding to His Word, the source of peace and joy ~ the door to salvation. We may face challenges in sharing our faith with others but with the power of the Risen Lord, we are given strength to overcome in patience and love, the mystery of our Lord until it is manifested in full light.

Fr Thomas expressed his appreciation to all who came to lend support to the celebration. He said, 'I am strictly grateful to God just as Mary exclaimed 'My soul glorifies the Lord' because today's celebration marks the culmination of a long preparation by so many dedicated people sharing their various gifts to make this day an eventful and momentous occasion attended by so many of the faithful from far and near.'

'Yesterday's occasion is a historical milestone of the Diocese ~ the Official Opening and Solemn Blessing of the Diocesan Pastoral And Worship Centre, the nerve centre of the Diocese. He took the opportunity to congratulate Bishop Datuk Julius on his recent conferrment of the state PGDK award that carries the title 'Datuk'. He went on to say that the award is indeed a recognition of the Church of its role played in helping to build a better society. 'May the award spur us on to be faithful and responsible citizens of the country.'

Msgr Marek in extending his cordial greetings to Bishop Datuk Julius and the faithful of Sandakan recalled some historical facts on the setting up of the Diocese, carved out from the then Diocese of Kota Kinabalu. The inauguration of the new Diocese and the ordination of its first Bishop on 15th October 2007 is a clear expression of the paternal love and pastoral solicitude of the Holy Father towards Bishop Datuk Julius and the faithful in Sandakan and for the general welfare of the Country.

Citing that the anniversary takes place during the Year of Faith, it provides us allocation to thank God for strengthening us and building us up, the spirit of love and reconciliation. He referred to the Apostolic letter 'Porta Fidei' that the door of faith is always open for us, inviting us into the life of communion with God and offering us entry into his Church. It is possible to cross the threshold when the Word of God is proclaimed and the heart allowed itself to be shaped by transforming grace. The fruit of this Year of Faith is the love to God and to one another. The Bishop's motto, 'Serve one another with God's love' in the context of washing  the disciples feet is a call to serve others. Reaching out to the needy is bearing witness to the life of Christ.

Bishop Datuk Julius in his speech said, 'Recalling its initial years, I must acknowledge that we encountered many difficulties and crosses. But from the Cross come Resurrection. The Diocese is what it is today because the clergy, the religious and the laity had resolved to work together in moving forward the Church.' The prelate disclosed that there are some 130 BECs across the four parishes, an indication that the people are committed to community living.

The prelate hoped that the Vision and Mission Statement of the Diocese set out some two years ago could be formulated and launched during the 6th Anniversary. Touching on the new Diocesan Pastoral Centre, the prelate said that it was made possible by the people and therefore it shall be used for the people, providing the best possible service to the people. In conclusion, the prelate called on each and all, 'Let us rededicate and recommit ourselves for our beloved Diocese especially during this Year of Faith.'

Holy Trinity Parish, Tawau will host the 6th Diocesan Anniversay in October 2013.

After the photo session, parishioners adjourned to the Parish Hall for a luncheon fellowship with a host of presentations from the four parishes and the mission area of Paitan.

Photo By:
Alex Tai, Franko Amigo, G. Bell

Monday, October 29, 2012


Terrence Ngui ~ Diocesan SOCCOM

Sandakan : October 26, 2012. The Sandakan Diocese was able to complete a “checked” mark on their “to do list” today. The ceremonial erection of the Diocese and the Episcopal Ordination of Rt Rev Datuk Julius Dusin Gitom on the 15th October 2007 was the beginning of a journey, which culminates with today’s celebration ~ the Official Opening and Solemn Blessing of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre. The Official Opening was graced by YB Datuk Edward Khoo, the Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister of Sabah while Bishop Datuk Julius solemnly blessed the Centre. More than 600 parishioners coming from across the four parishes attended the event.

They have not reached their destination yet, for the journey is a process but it is definitely a happy interlude. For more than five years the Bishop’s Office has been the renovated former kindergarten of the St. Mary’s Parish. One of the main items on the list was a Diocesan Pastoral Centre which started with the signing of the contract and ground breaking ceremony on 13th September 2010.
Many of those who attended the ground breaking ceremony would know that this has been an eventful journey.  Though scheduled to complete on the 15th October 2011, it was only attained today due many unforeseen circumstances. It is therefore with deep gratitude to God that the Diocese could finally have the building completed.

Mr. John Pang the Building Committee Chairman recalled how the task started with great expectation was completed with what he described as “co-responsibility” and “collaboration”. “The process of getting the building in place was to him a journey of faith, believing and trusting God as provider.”
The total construction costs of the building including external works was approximately RM2.9 million. Inclusive allowance for furniture and fittings and other miscellaneous the total cost would eventually be RM3.5 million. Government grants and other sources contributed to one quarter of the cost whilst he was proud to report that the balance of more than three quarter of the costs has been from the parishioners of the  four parishes in the diocese.
He extended his sincere appreciation to the following for free consultation and technical services viz:  KK Lee Consulting Engineers,  Jurukur Kuantiti Konsultant, Sabah Interdesign, Chan Design, Perunding SF Sdn Bhd, M&E NTM (S) Sdn Bhd, Jurukur Tanah Sdn Bhd and Mr. Paul Lee. Others who had chipped in to assist  at cost were STL Drilling, Suntronic and Kinabalu Air-Con. Some of these consultants had been assisting the Church in previous projects. The main contractor, Mr Charles Lau of City Construction Company entrusted to construct and complete the Diocesan Pastoral Centre was the same company, then managed by his father Mr Y. C. Lau that built St Mary's Church some 52 years ago. 
YB Datuk Edward Khoo, the guest of honor quipped that it was the first time for him attending an official opening of a building where all the consultants were present. Whilst reiterating the State Government’s practice that religion, other than the official religion of the country, continues to receive aid and assistance where possible. He further pointed out that it is an inalienable right to freedom of worship and existence as enshrined in our constitution in spite of the country having an official religion. He hoped that all religions in the country and especially in Sabah continue to propagate a progressive and spirit of tolerance among the communities of the country. He was proud to note that Sabah stood apart from other states where the spirit of tolerance is the highest.

In his speech during the opening ceremony, just before the rite of blessing, the Rt. Rev Datuk Julius Dusin Gitom expressed his humility and gratefulness to God for this historic and joyous occasion. He said that it took more than two years for the Building Committee headed by Mr.John Pang to plan and complete the construction of the building. The building would now housed among other things, the Bishop’s office, Catechetical, Youth, Finance and Resource Centre including an auditorium that can accommodate approximately two hundred people. 'If the Lord does not build the house, the work of the builders shall be in vain.' - Psalm 17 : 1
Bishop Julius thanked all those responsible and the sponsors for their contributions and dedication in making the project and event of the day a reality. He also expressed his gratefulness to the Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister, YB Datuk Edward Khoo for gracing the occasion. He further remarked that the State Government has also given grant for the construction of the building as well as repairs and maintenance of Churches and Chapels. This demonstrated the Government of the day’s liberality and does not neglect the needs of other religion.
Bishop Datuk Julius handing a souvenir to Msgr Marek
In attendance to witness the occasion included Bishops from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, Diocesan Priests from Sandakan, Keningau and Kota Kinabalu, Religious Brothers and Sisters, members of the Sandakan Inter Church, Pastors, Heads of State and Federal Departments as well as the Charge D’Affaires of the Apostolic Nuntiature in Malaysia, Monsignor Marek Zalewski, well wishers and members from the four main Parishes from the Diocese. After the solemn blessing a tea reception was held in the auditorium of the building and many took the informal setting to mingle around as well as making a tour to the new building.
Our young Emcees
Patrick Seah, the PPC Chairman in his welcoming speech
Fr Thomas ~ Grace before meal
A toast to our beloved Diocese

In the evening, a Banquet Dinner was held in the Yu Yuan Hall celebrating the fifth Anniversary of the Erection of the Diocese of Sandakan and the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Datuk Julius Dusin Gitom. More than one thousand two hundred parishioners and well-wishers attended the function. The four parishes; Sandakan, Tawau, Telupid and Lahad Datu contributed performances for the evening's entertainment.


New Advent