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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

St Mary's Cathedral Parish Celebrates World Day Of Migrants And Refugees

Article by DS
Photos by Bell

Sandakan : The 99th World Day of Migrants and Refugees themed “Migrations: Pilgrimage of Faith and Hope” was celebrated on 13th January 2013, in conjunction with the the Year of Faith.  The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei has set 29th September for the event. The Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant called upon and encouraged every parish within the region to organise Migrant Sunday, an occasion to instil HOPE in migrants and to raise awareness among the local to understand the challenges faced by migrants. The celebration is an effort to respond to the challenge of new evangelization.

This year around, St Mary's Cathedral Parish celebrated the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sunday 29th September at St Mark's Church, some 20 km from town. Prior to the celebration, some two months ago, Sr Maria Dipal rgs, the Chairperson of the Diocesan Human Development Commission has been going around visiting the Indonesian Catholic Community, the Filipino Pastoral Community and the various BECs to promote the event. Eight such visits were carried out and one of the activity would be the sharing and reflection of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI message on World Day Of Migrants and Refugees.

The Eucharistic celebration presided over by Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom commenced with a solemn procession from the multi-purpose hall to the Church. The Church was filled to full capacity with more than 500 parishioners mainly Indonesian and Filipino migrant workers and the local community. The prelate in his homily said that the parable of the 'Rich man and Lazarus' projects a vast contrast of two personalities - one with enormous wealth and the other in grave poverty. The focus is not so much on possessions but more on the caring attitude towards those in need, our neighbors. 
All too often, we are like the rich man, very self-centred and not concern at all to the grief and sorrow of our neighbors. We take no heed of their plights. We preach the Good News but we don't act on it. We are 'pretenders', pretending we are unaware of their needs. In conjunction with the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he called upon the faithful to reach out in compassion to the people on the move. Extend a hand to welcome them, make them feel accepted and provide space for them to be fully involved. 
Prayer of the faithful recited in various languages
He concluded by saying that we are all equal in the eyes of God. We are all migrants, on the move towards the Kingdom of God. And to the migrant workers, he said, 'With faith and hope you will cross the shore of darkness. Hold on to the Holy Bible and abide to its teaching, apply it in your daily living. The light shall shine forth.'

After the Eucharistic celebration, a video clip on migration and foreign workers was shown. Thereafter, parishioners adjourned to the multi-purpose hall for a luncheon fellowship followed by presentations from the various communities, personal sharings and fun-filled communal activities.
The event had in a way achieved the following objectives as outlined by the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants;
  • To celebrate the positive presence of migrants and refugees in our midst
  • To create awareness on the need to respond to migrants and refugees
  • To state the position of the church on issues affecting migrants and refugees
  • To provide an opportunity for parishioners to interact with migrants and refugees in the parish.
The celebration might have ended but the zeal to reach out to the 'strangers' should continue. The challenge faced by migrants is vast and more volunteers are needed to assist in this area of outreach in a spirit of welcome. By sharing, we gain a deeper insight into the biblical command, 'Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.' (Hebrews 13 : 2) The act of extending our welcome to the migrants poses the possibility and opportunity for us  to share the good news with those on the move where they are right at our doorsteps.
Let us put into practice the commandment of charity that Jesus left us, when He identified Himself with foreigners. Together, let our community be truly places of hospitality, concern and care.
Lukisan Kartun oleh Cik Rogena Roger Sining Sempena Hari Migran Dan Pelarian Sedunia 

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