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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Final Day - 8th Conference Catholic Women of East Malaysia (28th August 2014)

BY BRENDA DE GUZMAN
PHOTOS BY HELEN AND BELL
Sandakan : All the 297 participants of the 8th Conference Catholic Women of East Malaysia attended the Closing Mass at St Mary's Cathedral, Thursday 28th August, presided over by Bishop Cornelius Piong of Keningau, con celebrated by Archbishop John Wong of Kota Kinabalu, Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom of Sandakan, Rev. Fr. Thomas Makajil, Rev. Fr. Philip Muji and Rev. Fr. Rhobby Mojolou.
In his homily, Bishop Cornelius related the Feast of St Monica celebrated the day before, 27th August and the feast of her son, St Augustine of Hippo, 28th August. The story is a fine example of how a mother persistently pray for the conversion of her son to Jesus, who later became priest, bishop and a saint. The prelate advised all mothers not to lose hope admist trials and tribulations in the family but to emulate Saint Monica, an example of Christian motherhood.
In our journey of life, we are to remember that we are the creation of God, created for God. He is the source of our life, the reason why we are here and the purpose of our life. We should not be attached to the world but to stay vigilant, stay awake and remain faithful to Him.
He drew the attention of the participants, first to the Last Supper, where Jesus washed the feet of his apostles, giving them the commandment, 'to love one another as I have loved you.' It is a call to serve one another.
Second, he touched on the prayer where Jesus said, 'Father, I pray that they all may be one as you and I are one.' Without communion with Christ, we will not be able to sustain in the church / ministry. 
And third, he called upon all to remain holy and stay steadfast to His word as in John 17 : 17, 'Make them holy by your truth, teach them your word.'
The delegation make a courtesy call on Bishop Julius at the Diocesan Pastoral Center, a short distant from the Cathedral after the Eucharistic celebration. They were given an insight to the Diocese, compilation of statistics and the pastoral approach as adopted by the diocese by Francis Tan, the Executive Secretary. 
The Closing ceremony, a charity dinner banquet was held at the Sandakan Hakka Hall with some 1,000 people in attendance. Among the guests present were Bishop Julius, Fr Thomas Makajil, Fr Philip, Fr Sunny Chung, Sr Grace Deosing, the Mother General of FSIC, Sr Appollonia fsic, the ex-officio of the Catholic Women's Apostolate of Sandakan and representatives from the Good Shepherd Sisters.
Cecilia D'Souza, the Chairlady of the Organizing Committee in her speech extended her appreciation to all who have helped to make the conference a reality. She hoped that through the short span of time, delegates have learned and grown in faith and in spirit.
She added, 'As we return to our lives, no matter what lifestyle we may lead, let us remain steadfast and faithful, uplifted and protected by our Lord's life as Women of God.'
She cited Pope Francis' statement, 'The feminine genius is needed in all expressions in life of society, the presence of women must also be guaranteed in the workplace, and in the various settings where important decisions are made, both in the church and the social structures.'
Bishop Julius in his address, called on the lay people to heed Christ's call to work in His vineyard, become active and responsible workers in the mission of the Church. The 5-day event, he hoped has given the delegates a greater awareness of the importance of women’s contribution in society and in the church.
The importance of women to the "life and mission of the Church" was emphasized by Pope John Paul II who wrote: "The presence and the role of women in the life and mission of the Church, although not linked to the ministerial priesthood, remain absolutely necessary and irreplaceable.
Do continue to share your pastoral responsibilities. Many have benefited from your commitment and contributions. Serve your parish and continue to contribute to its growth for you are the backbone of the church. Emulate Mary because she seeks to change the world, helping it to grow in faith and love.
In the course of the dinner, the audience were entertained to some lively dances. The five participating arch / dioceses presented a cultural dance each. The Sandakan Performing Arts Club also presented two other cultural dances. 
Annie Rokneh, the Chief Coordinator of the Diocesan Catholic Women's Apostolate presented souvenirs to all participating arch / dioceses followed by exchange of souvenirs.
Bishop Julius presented the Conference Banner to Anita Tunggolou, the Chairlady of the Catholic Women's League of Kota Kinabalu, the host of the 9th Conference in 2017.
The committee members, representatives from each arch / diocese together with Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom, Rev. Fr. Thomas Makajil and Sr Grace Deosing held hands together to sing 'If We Hold On Together,' - the finale of the night.

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