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Friday, October 16, 2015

Clergy, Religious and Lay Leaders in the Diocese of Sandakan Gearing Up to be a Missionary Church

Article by DS and 
photos by G. Bell

Bishop Julius and Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Joseph Marino, 5th and 6th respectively from left posing in front of the Sandakan Diocesan Pastoral Centre
Telupid : The 2-day event of the 8th Anniversary of the Diocese  of Sandakan kicked off with a formation session for some 110 people, clergy, religious and lay leaders from across the diocese facilitated by the Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia, Archbishop Joseph Marino Tuesday, 13th October 2015. The 2-hour session was held at the Sabah Forestry Institute, Telupid from 3.00 pm - 5.00 pm. 
Albert Matusin, the moderator of the session
Rt Rev Julius Dusin Gitom, the Bishop of Sandakan and Rt. Rev. Cornelius Piong, the Bishop of Keningau were also present at the session.
Archbishop Joseph began the session by saying that the letters of St Paul enlighten us that the whole idea of Christian life is to be formed and to conform our life to that of Jesus Christ. To that, the prelate said the session would deal with the type of formation and the type of mentality we should have in the Church today as proposed by the Holy Father, Pope Francis.

He shared on the qualities of a missionary church based on the key document of the Holy Father, Pope Francis' exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel ), an essential piece that we need to understand.
He cited the Holy Father, then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio said before the conclave in four short and concise paragraphs that;

a. In evangelization, the Church must come out of herself to reach out to the peripheries
b. If the Church remains within, the church is self-referential keeping Jesus locked inside, she tends to be sick.
c. If the church remains self-referential, she ceases to be concerned about the world. She looks only at herself.
d. In contemplation and adoration, it helps the church to go forth and be a fruitful mother caring for the world and bringing others to the church. In so doing, we find our joy whenever we bring Jesus out.

It is not how much doctrine that we give but how much love we put in as we reach out to others. Thus, it is linked to how we think, involving our attitude to bring the Joy of the Gospel to people.
The Church that goes forth should be a joyful Church. The Holy Father envisions a community which moves out from itself in personal encounters with people, sharing with them the beauty of the Gospel from which we experience the mercy and joy flowing from God's love. 

The second reflection was on the challenges facing pastoral agents. We are often too concerned about external forces we think threaten the church. However, we ought to redirect our attention to challenges that comes within the church. The detail of which is contained in the second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium #76-109.

Some of the challenges encountered by pastoral workers listed; heightened individualism, inferiority complex, relativism, apathy, 'tomb psychology, pessimism and spiritual worldliness.

The 3rd reflection paper concerns the Extraordinary Year of Mercy which on 13th March 2015, the Holy Father announced an Extraordinary Jubilee which has at its centre the mercy of God. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful (Luke 6 : 36), animating the church , 'in her mission to bring the Gospel of mercy to each person.'
Sr Liza fsic responding to the nuncio
The prelate expounded on the meaning of the Year of Mercy, from 8th December 2015 to 20th November 2016. The goals of this special time of grace;
a. to experience strongly within ourselves the joy of having been found by Jesus, the Good Shepherd who has come in search of us because we are lost.
b. to be transformed by his mercy so that we may be witnesses to mercy and
c. to rediscover and enter into the 'logic of God.'

It is important to understand as to why the Holy Father, Pope Francis constantly repeating about the word of mercy, insisting upon it without hesitation. If we have received and touched by the mercy of God, should we not do the same to others.? It is a call to everyone to be witnesses of mercy, sharing with others the mercy we have received.

Let us take heed of the parable of the healing of the leper where Pope Francis stated the 'why' of Christ's mission; to show compassion, to reach and find those who are marginalized and to reinstate them.

In conclusion, he cited the reflection by the Holy Father on 11th April 2015, 'This is the time for heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.'
Msgr Nicholas Ong, the Vicar-General of Sandakan

Fr Simon Kontou of St Dominic's Parish Lahad Datu

Fr Phillip Muji of St Mary's Cathedral Sandakan
In between the presentation, the apostolic nuncio posed a question as to whether BECs, where face to face encounter with people occur, are excessively inward looking or otherwise. To this, Msgr Nicholas Ong responded that his BECs in Tawau are outward looking, citing the many assistance offered to those living in the peripheries. Fr Simon of Lahad Datu proposed that formation based on Evangelii Gaudium be given to lay leaders so that they may rediscover the meaning of mission, to reach out to others. While Fr Philip commented on the differences of the BECs in the rural and urban settings.

Mark Lai

Edward Masigi
To another question raised by Mark Lai, as to how the church respond to broken people who may wish to come back to the church. Mercy exists not in mere word but in action. Encourage and embrace them, be a welcoming church / community. Edward Masigi asked how would the church, in the Year of Mercy co-relate itself to that of the world scenario especially on the threat of ISIS. Continue to pray for world peace, pray for the government to protect his people. As to BECs in the metropolitan city, there will be right answers at the right time and at the right place as each situation is different from one another. 
Bishop Julius announced that the clergy, during its recent meeting has talked and proposed activities to commemorate the Year of Mercy, particularly on the Opening of the Holy Door of Mercy at the Cathedral. At the next upcoming priests meeting, early next month, the activities in conjunction with the Year of Mercy will be fine tuned and finalized. Such activities will be a time to manifest mercy to everyone.

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