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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

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