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Monday, October 1, 2012

St Mary's Cathedral Celebrates Migrant Sunday

by DS

Sandakan : In his message for World Migrant Sunday, themed 'Migration and New Evangelization', Pope Benedict XVI has called on the local Church to reach out in love to the migrant community in our midst. Stretching out our hands to welcome them through joyful proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ, may bring hope to the people on the move. 
Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom in his message to all faithful of the Diocese of Sandakan, called on them to welcome the migrants into the local community as in Matthews 25 : 35, 'I was a stranger and you made me welcomed,' The migrants, refugees and the itinerants are the strangers who challenge us to open our hearts, welcoming them into the community.
St Mary's Cathedral, Sandakan celebrated Migrant Sunday, yesterday 30th September 2012, a date set aside for the occasion by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. The Eucharistic celebration attended by some 1200 parishioners saw a big turnout of migrants, the Indonesian and the Filipinos. In his homily, Fr Thomas Makajil, the rector said that movement of people is an inevitable phenomenon, where people are forced to leave due to instability and poverty. They leave their homeland, their families in search of a better living. From a more positive perspective, they are right at our doorsteps and what better way to reach out to them. Faith as in James 2 : 17, by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. He urged everyone to practice the 'Love of Christ' by extending Christian hospitality and welcome to those on the move, either local or foreign.
After Mass, parishioners adjourned to the Parish Hall for a luncheon fellowship. The event started with Sr Maria Dipal RGS, the Chairperson of the Diocesan Human Development Commission welcoming the locals and the migrants to the function. She extended her appreciation to Fr Thomas and Patrick Seah, PPC Chairman and his committee for their concern of migrants by lending support ~ morally and financially for the event.
A video clip on 'Migrants and New Evangelization' touching on the push and pull factors that saw them uprooting from their country of origin to a new environment in search of greener pasture. Most, if not all are engaged in the 3D jobs where local shun ~ dirty, dangerous and demanding. Their contribution has indeed assisted in enriching and uplifted the economy of the receiving country.
Patrick Seah, the PPC Chairman in his welcoming speech quoted John 13 : 34, 'As I have loved you, so you should love one another.' Jesus calls each of us to recognize each other as brothers and sisters. Welcoming migrants and giving them hospitality is for everyone, a gesture of human solidarity. He called on the migrants that apart from earning 'more bread' one must not forgo  listening to the Word of God. 'Your presence has enriched the local Church, adding more colors and flavor ~ making it more vibrant especially in out-stations.'
Josephine Rosalia, a Filipina from Cebu is the Chairperson of the Filipino Pastoral Community established some 23 years ago. She migrated to Sabah in 1984 in search of a better life. She said, 'I am touched by the hospitality shown by the local Church. We welcome the good gesture. We are not alone in our journey of faith. We have you as partners of faith.' She highlighted the plights of the Filipino migrants particularly on issues regarding education and mobility. Many are not able to attend Church due to documentation. She added, 'So in such cases, we bring the Church to them.'
Petrus Beam, a plantation worker has been around for some 15 years from Lembata, Flores, is the Chairman of the Indonesian Catholic Community. He said, 'We want to thank Fr Thomas for supporting us, guiding us and seeing that our Community was formalized in 2009. In our journey as a community of faith, we faced many challenges. God's intervention has seen us grow from strength to strength.' The Good Shepherd Sisters have been journeying with us ~ visiting individual homes, the community, running community programs, providing basic education through the Children Learning Program and the Literacy Classes. Their presence and involvement has uplifted the community as a whole.
Klemens who hails from Ritaebang, Diocese of Larantuka has been in Sabah for the past 19 years. He works in the agriculture sector. He extended his appreciation to St Mary's Cathedral for their care and concern especially in providing them the Sacraments as required. 'In our search for better living, we sometimes missed attending Masses. Our job requires us to work on Sundays.The good news is we come together in BECs and we celebrate  the Word. Such gatherings build up our faith and community.' He urged those who has yet to register with the Indonesian Catholic Community to do so, as united we stand, divided we fall.
Mirasol Claveria from Zamboanga, Philippines came to Sabah in 1987 together with her 6 siblings to join their parents who had migrated much earlier. 'We attended private school. I completed Form 4, the rest managed to complete Form 3. We had to stop schooling because our parents could not afford the fee. We worked but with very low pay because of our documents. I wasn't  active at all in the Church while I was single. Thanks and praise be to God for the grace showered upon us. After marriage, I begin to see the light of Christ. I am involved in BEC as well as the Filipino Core Group. We visit the detention camp regularly and also the Filipino workers engaged in the plantation sector in Sukau, Seguntor and the neighboring estates.' She thanked the Good Shepherd Sisters for their guidance and support.
Julie Thomas, a student nurse in the Nursing College of Sandakan is from Tamparuli. She came to Sandakan in mid-2011. She shared that she had a hard time adjusting to life in a new environment with only a handful of Catholic friends. 'I suffered from loneliness. I longed for home. I missed my Church. But today, I am glad that I found my home in St Joseph's Church. I participate in the Choir. My faith has deepened because of the many friends that I made. My encounter with them has made my life glow. Despite of the many restrictions imposed by the College, I will find ways to meet Christ for I know He will make a way where there seems to be no way.'
Fr Thomas in wrapping up, said that the sharings by the various representatives are challenges put forth for the Church to ponder and act. There is much truth in what was said and the Church must respond. He thanked the Good Shepherd Sisters, in collaboration with the Indonesian  Catholic Community and the Filipino Pastoral Community has now bore fruits. He is happy to note that leaders of the community are reaching out to their members, a very positive step in ministry. He said, 'The Diocese of Sandakan has taken a bold step forward to establish partnership with the transit Diocese of Tanjung Selor to explore ways to assist the people on the move. Arrangement is made to meet up with the Bishop of Larantuka of Flores, the sending Diocese, in the near future.
After lunch, a video clip produced by International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) on migration, human trafficking, exploitation and current laws was shown to raise awareness. It is our responsibility to combat human trafficking, and forced labor; a modern day slavery.
The Filipinos Pastoral Community serenading a song, 'Ang Bayan Ko Pilipinas' meaning 'Philippines, land of my people.' 
The Indonesian youth performing a traditional dance; the sword and shield symbolize protection of faith.
The senior members of the Indonesian community singing 'Oh Ina,' in Timorese, a devotional hymn to Mother Mary imploring her to intercede for the protection over  the people of God.
The finale of the day's event was the 'Sumazau Dance' opened to all, local and migrants. What a beautiful and meaningful celebration with a mix of cultures from the Philippines, Indonesia and the locals, Sabah. Migrant Sunday might have ended but the process of journeying together must continue ~ enriched, enhanced, deepened and strengthened to build up the Kingdom of God. 

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