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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Open Dialogue with UMS (Sandakan) Undergraduates


Fr Thomas seated 4th from right
SANDAKAN : An open dialogue session with the University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) undergraduates was held on Friday 12th October 2012 at St Mary's Parish Hall at 7.00 pm. Some thirteen undergraduates and two lecturers from UMS, all Catholics, participated in the session. The main reason behind the open dialogue session is to help the Diocesan Youth Apostolate (DYA) understand the situation and the needs of the undergraduates and thereafter to strategize on ways to reach out to them.

University Malaysia Sabah (Sandakan branch) located in Sg Batang some 20 kilometres from Sandakan was set up here sometime last year. Currently there are 20 Catholics enrolled in the School of Sustainable Agriculture. They attend Mass in St Peter's Chapel, Sungai Manila, a short distant from UMS. Their involvement in the Word Ministry and the choir has in some way added much vibrancy to the chapel.
"You are sent to Sandakan and definitely you can  help the people in Sungai Manila. The people there are ready and very happy to receive you. If you want someone to lean on, someone to talk to, go to the Church" - Rev. Fr Thomas Makajil , rector of St Mary's Cathedral, Sandakan.
"When we first met at St. Mark last year, there were twenty of you who joined the program. However, the last program we had last May 2012, there were only 2 of you who came.  I think we need to have this session to understand the situation and explore  ways on how we can come in to help you" - Sr. Lilian Unsoh FSIC
"Treat this parish as your home and if you miss your family, we are ready to become your foster family" - Uncle Patrick Seah
"God is marvelous. He will show you the way if you trust Him. The experience that you have now is what build you as a person" - Dr. Bonaventure Boniface
"There are five Catholic lecturers in UMS now, and we are all ready to help and journey with you" - Mr. Janu
The dialogue, a process to actually relate to one another, allows expression of views and promote creative  cooperation, was moderated by Uncle Francis Tan. He highlighted that it is the norm of the Church  to welcome and gather people to the fold as in Matthew 25 : 35, 'I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.' Such a gathering would ensure more successful interaction in the future among the local and those coming from other parishes.
Clauvia (Telupid), fourth year student.
Clauvia who hails from Telupid highlighted some issues that hindered them from participating in Church activities and at times from attending mass because of activities that required their attendance, even on Sundays. She felt that the small number of local parishioners, a merely 13-family community in St Peter's Chapel, needs much pastoral care and concern. To this point, Fr Thomas urged the undergraduates to take the opportunity to journey with the community. He said, 'They will be inspired by your participation and your presence may also uplift their spirit and commitment towards the Church.'
Olivia (Bundu Tuhan), fourth year student.
Olivia from Bundu Tuhan shared on their plight concerning transportation, a factor that affects their involvement in Church activities. According to Fr Thomas, the matter could be solved as members of the community are more than willing to provide assistance, if approached.
Another issue raised was about the structure of the Diocesan Youth Office and its coordination with the campus students. Sr Lilian FSIC, the assistant spiritual adviser to DYA explained explicitly about the structure of DYA and assured them that the soon to form Campus Ministry under the jurusdiction of DYA will see to all matters concerning campus students which also includes the student nurses and the polytechnic students.
In response to a question raised on accommodation, Patrick Seah, the PPC Chairman said that there are ample space in the premises within the Church compoud to accommodate them. He called on the participants to refer to the Parish Office, should the need arise. 'We can also arrange for you to stay with foster families. Please feel free to contact us.' 
Anna Amandus, the coordinator of  DYA, urged them not to withdraw from participation in the Church but to move forward by strengthening the ministry through strong bond and unity. The little challenges could be opportunities to build up one another in building His Kingdom. She continue to say, 'You are the agents of change and change would definitely come your way if you are determine to change.'
The session was very fruitful, setting a foundation of understanding and collaboration for effective future undertakings. 
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you"
Matthew 7:7

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