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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bidding Farewell and Extending Cordial Welcome

Article by Dalius LL and 
photos by Keith Edward
Sandakan: St. Mary’s Parish Hall was filled with more than 300 parishioners and well-wishers on the evening of 25th January 2016 for the appreciation night in honour of Rev. Fr. Thomas Makajil who will be assigned to Paitan Mission and Fr. Phillip Muji who will be on transfer to Holy Trinity Tawau effective after Chinese New Year. 

The Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) hosted a potluck fellowship dinner, acknowledging the seven and four year services of Fr. Thomas and Fr. Phillip respectively in the parish. The same function was also meant to welcome Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom as the new Rector for St. Mary's Cathedral and Sr. Martina James FSIC recently posted to the parish. 

Also present at the function were the Sandakan Diocesan priests from Tawau, Telupid and Lahad Datu, Diocesan Seminarians and members of the Pastoral Committees of the various sub-parishes of St. Mary's Cathedral Parish.
In his opening remark, the PPC Chairman cum Organizing Chairman, Pilis Malim expressed that the event was both sad and happy. He said, 'We feel sad because we are here to bid farewell to our outgoing priests but at the same time, we are excited to welcome Bishop Julius as the new Rector of the Cathedral Parish.' He dedicated a touching poem from the parishioners to all the priests who attended the event.

The Almighty God has sent you to this place
To lead us in the way
That He would have us work and think
And live from day to day  
No matter the hour, whatever the need
You go the extra mile
Always ready and willing to share
A comforting thought and a smile
We are grateful that we were here with us
To teach us His word
And we try to do our best
In service to our Lord
We thank you for your ministry
Your guidance and your care
Lord greatest blessing for your life
Is our most humble prayer.
Fr. Phillip who will assume duty as assistant parish priest of Holy Trinity Parish Tawau shared, "I am happy in where ever parish I am posted for this is the ministry dedicated to serving the Lord."

He called upon the parishioners to share the responsibility in helping the parish to develop and grow. He encouraged them to be participative as individuals or communities for the betterment of the parish. His only regret was that he was unable to fully participate in the growth of BECs due to his heavy pastoral commitment in the vast parish. 

He hoped to see the many ministries, communities and groupings to play a more  active role to promote faith formation activities in the parish. He noted that the parishioners can work hand in hand with one other, united in diversity; a positive gesture towards building the kingdom of God in the parish. 

In his last note he humbly sought forgiveness for his shortcomings during his service in St. Mary. In a jest he said that the parishioners will not miss him terribly because in two months’ time he will be back in Sandakan for the priests' meeting.
In Fr. Thomas remarks, he asked the parishioners of St. Mary not to bid him farewell. He said, "After all, we are still close in watsapp," which drew laughter from the floor. 

One positive factor to ensure the effectiveness of the mission is to have a full time resident pastoral shepherd station in the missionary area. For this, Bishop Julius has assigned Fr Thomas to take up the challenge for a two-year term to make the mission more effective, re-activating lapsed Catholics and drawing more new members.

According to Fr Thomas, there are 12 chapels scattered throughout the district and another 11 Catholic communities with a sizeable Catholic population.  It is a challenging and an uphill journey in building the catholic community in this part of Sabah. Apart from extending pastoral care to the locals, the mission will also be responsible to the pastoral needs of the Catholic migrant workers in the surrounding estates. 

Fr. Thomas called upon the many communities, ministries and groupings to take up the challenge to support the mission, a mission of the Diocese. He quoted St. Paul, that although we are made of many parts but we belong to one body. He hoped that with the ground work undertaken by the diocese, this mission will one day become a full fledged Parish in the near future. In his closing remark, he asked all the parishioners to give their utmost support to Bishop Julius who will now assume dual tasks, as the rector of St. Mary's Cathedral Parish and as the Bishop of Sandakan.
Sr. Martina James fsic recently assigned to the Diocese of Sandakan from Keningau called upon the parishioners to offer prayers and support for her mission in the Cathedral Parish.
Rt. Rev. Julius Dusin Gitom said that the transfer of priests within the diocese is a normal practice. It is an enriching experience for priests to tend to the flock in different parishes. I am here all this while, only that now I will have to assume two portfolios as a Bishop and as a Rector. 

He explained that Fr. Phillip is transferred to Tawau as the assistant to Msgr. Nicholas Ong because Fr. Johnny Raju will return to the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu. He expressed his sincere thanks to Fr. Johnny for his 2 years’ service in Holy Trinity Parish, Tawau and to Fr. Phillip for his four years of dedicated service in the Cathedral Parish.

The prelate also expressed his gratitude to Fr. Thomas for his willingness to take up the challenge to be the resident priest of the Paitan Mission. He acknowledged that Fr. Thomas will be shouldering a heavy workload but a rewarding one because he is doing God’s work and looking after God’s people in Paitan. 

He thanked him for his invaluable service in the parish and called upon the parishioners to render him their support in the mission and foresee that the mission will become a full fledged parish in the near future. 

He also welcomed Sr. Martina James fsic and wished her a fruitful and fulfilling religious ministry in the Cathedral Parish. The prelate hoped that with him as the rector of St. Mary, he will be able to perform to the very best together with the assistance from Fr. Sunny Chung and Father to be, Deacon Stanley William. 
In between speeches, a few performances were presented to all and tokens of appreciation given to the outgoing priests. The function ended at 9.30 pm with a closing prayer led by Bishop Julius.

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