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Monday, July 17, 2017


Reported by DaliusLL
Photos by Leonard S

Sandakan :  St. Mary’s Cathedral, the mother church of the Diocese of Sandakan, held its first Parish Pastoral Assembly, last Saturday, 8th July 2017, at the Parish Centre. The event was organised by the Parish Steering Committee, comprising of the Parish Pastoral Council, Parish Finance Committee and the Parish Property and Development Committee. The soon-to-be launched Vision and Mission of the Diocese in October this year, in conjunction with its 10th anniversary, has prompted the Steering Committee to hold the assembly.
Around 180 leaders from the various ministries, groups and communities of the parish attended the assembly, themed ‘The Lord Calls Us to be One.’ (John 17:20) Also in attendance were the clergy, religious and observers from the Parish of Our Lady of Fatima Beluran and Paitan Mission. The assembly started at 8.00am with Praise and Worship followed by Enthronement of the Bible, Proclamation of the Gospel and reflection by Fr. Christopher Ireneus.

In his keynote address, Rt. Rev. Julius Dusin Gitom, the Rector and also the Bishop of Sandakan, elaborated on the purpose of the half-day assembly aimed at giving updated information on matters related to pastoral, finance and property of the parish. The prelate pointed out, that for lack of information and lack of communication will result in an unhealthy misunderstanding and unnecessary speculations among members in the parish. His Lordship considered the session very important and timely as a way forward towards a better, united and strong community of faith.
The prelate highlighted that the assembly would be a starting point to inculcate the spirit of the soon-to-be launched Diocesan vision, ‘Christ-centred community serving one another with love’ that can build a strong communion of communities of faith in the parish through;
a. The spirit of service, that all the different communities collaborate in bringing the Gospel values to all.
b. Having a missionary spirit whereby the different communities would actively cooperate in carrying out the mission of the church within the parish by promoting ongoing faith formation in every community and pastoral group in the parish.
c. Effective collaboration and cooperation among the communities, to remain in constant communication and openness within the parish community.

His Lordship concluded by quoting Rom 12: 4-5 that in the church: members have different gifts and tasks for the good of the whole church. There may be misunderstandings and discords among members sometimes, nevertheless as members of the one body of Christ, we may still have to care for one another.
The next session, facilitated by Rev. Fr. Thomas Makajil, the resident priest of Paitan Mission, was on the topic of ‘Being Church and Shared Responsibility.’ He cited from Christifideles Laici that through Baptism the lay faithful are made one body with Christ and are established among the People of God. They are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ. They carry out their own part in the mission of the whole Christian people with respect to the Church and the world.

Soon after the session ended, participants were divided into nine groups to discuss on two lead questions related to the talk – ‘What are the realities in our church that hinder us from being church and how can church groups contribute to bring about being church.’ Three groups were called upon at random to present their findings and proposals to the audience.
The second part of the PPA was a briefing and report session of the three respective pillars; the pastoral, property and the finance by their chairmen. They shared on the development and status of their ministry. The collaboration among these three church leaders, complementing each other, is a clear response to the theme of the assembly, ‘The Lord Calls Us to be One.’
Pilis Malim in his Pastoral briefing
David and Elaine Lim in their Finance briefing
Peter Thien in Property briefing
The last presentation was on “The Importance of Internal Control and Good Governance within the Church” by the Diocesan Finance adviser, John Liaw. He reminded the participants that a parish running on deficit will not be able to function properly, and advised the people to be wise and prudent in spending. He also posed a question, ‘Are we ready to face the tax law ruling should the government impose it to religious bodies?’ It is wise that the church has a smart partnership with the laity for a sound internal control and good governance.
John Liaw
The final part of the assembly was the question and answer session, whereby the three pillars responded to the written questions forwarded by members of the various ministries, groups and communities, a fortnight prior to the assembly. A total of 34 questions were posed to them revolving on pastoral, property and finance matters. It was noted that 70% of the questions presented were on pastoral issues which reflected more of the concern on faith development in the parish. After the Q&A session, participants were given the opportunity to propose suggestions and recommendations for the three pillars to discern and consider.
In wrapping up, His Lordship thanked all the participants for their energetic participation, the three pillars on the information presented, the speakers who shared invaluable inputs and insights, and the organising committee for a job well done. He called upon all participants and observers to share the outcome of the assembly with members of their communities. The assembly concluded at 2.15pm with a closing prayer led by Rev. Fr. Stanley Matakim, and thereafter participants adjourned to the Parish Canteen for a luncheon fellowship.

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