Saturday, 14 September 2019

OUR JOURNEY IN SERVICE FOR THE CHURCH

Last Saturday, 7 September 2019, we had two spiritual formations simultaneously in our Parish – the ALPHA Training Program and the Lectors & Commentators Session. 
 
The ALPHA Training Program for Catholics was conducted by Corrine and Christine from the ALPHA Team under the spiritual director, Rev Fr John Gnanapiragasam. Currently our Parish ALPHA team, which falls under our Parish New Evangelisation Team, consists of 10 members, and we are looking forward to adding on 10 more members by the end of the year, so that they too will be equipped with knowledge to be facilitators.

Initially, we wanted to start the ALPHA program in October/November this year, however due to time constraints and a shortage of members, the parish ALPHA Team has decided to only start the program in February 2020, as preparation for Lent and Easter. The ALPHA Program will be held one day a week, over nine weeks, with each session lasting approximately 2-3 hours. There will be one extraordinary topic, coordinated and planned as a weekend-away session. The main objective of this ALPHA program is to discover and rediscover Jesus, who is Love - believing in Him and responding to His love, as we undertake the greatest adventure in our journey of faith as a Church. Our parish ALPHA Team will be reaching out to you soon!

Around 55 parishioners involved in the Lectors & Commentators Ministry, attended a spiritual formation presented by Rev. Fr. Patrick Masang CSsR. The main purpose of this Formation was to bring about an awareness on the roles and responsibilities of lectors and commentators during the Mass. It was very inspiring and informative for all those who attended it. The last formation for this group was held in July 2016 with only 30 participants.

I would like to highlight that lectors and commentators, as well as psalmists/cantors, should be inside the church at least ten minutes before Mass begins. For those who are unable to make it on an assigned date, please make necessary arrangements for a substitute, and kindly inform the respective person in a timely manner. For all those who did not attend the formation session with Rev. Fr. Patrick Masang, I would suggest that you meet up with your coordinating team or friends who attended, to get an update. 

Thank you to both groups for making the effort in attending the abovementioned formations and most of all, for your sincere dedication to be in the ministries. We shall work collaboratively within the ministry and engage in parish activities, to make our parish alive!

Msgr. James Gnanapiragasam and I have recently attended our annual spiritual retreat under Retreat Master, Most Rev Gerrardo A. Alminazza, D.D. He is a Bishop of the Diocese of San Carlos, Negros Island, in the Philippines. Msgr. James attended the first retreat (1-6 September 2019) in Cameron Highlands while I attended the second retreat (8-13 September 2019) in Penang Island. Our retreats were based on the theme Extraordinary Missionary Month of October 2019: Baptised, Ordained and Sent

It was a simple retreat with much relaxation and quiet time. I was really fascinated with what we were told of the Diocese of San Carlos under the shepherdship of Bishop Gerrardo. The Diocese has 850,000 Catholics, with over 80 priests working enthusiastically and collaboratively towards equality, justice and human rights, more especially to overcome poverty and drug trafficking.

Bishop Gerrardo shepherds with zeal, and his Diocese of San Carlos moves with the spirit of “UBUNTU", an African term in the Philippines which means, ‘interconnectedness, togetherness and working together’. 

As parishioners of St Joseph’s Church, let the spirit of “UBUNTU” work among us in order to lift up our parish to greater heights by using all the varied graces that we have received from God and put them into the service of others (1 Peter 4:10-11).

LOST SHEEP AND LOST COIN

This parable of Luke (LK 15: 1-10) is about things that seem to be lost to us, but they are not to God. We are never lost! God is always searching for us.

In these two parables God’s cares and He shows His righteousness and justice.  He is more than a just Judge. He is merciful.

In the first parable Jesus talked about a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of his sheep strayed away and became lost. So he left the ninety-nine and went to search for the one lost sheep. When he finds it He calls all his friends together to celebrate finding the lost sheep. 

In the second parable, Jesus talked about a widow who had ten silver coins and a silver coin was lost. When she finds the lost coin and she rejoices. 

When we lose something, search hard for it, and when we find it, we can celebrate by sharing our joy with others.

Sometimes we do get lost. When that happens, God doesn’t give up on us. He searches for us and He won't stop until we are found. 

“I will rise and go to my Father.” (Ps 51)


Saturday, 7 September 2019

A SPIRITUAL MOTHER TO US ALL

On Sunday, 8 September 2019, the Catholic Church celebrates the birthday of Our Blessed Mother, daughter of St. Joachim and St. Anne. It is a traditionally fixed date, exactly nine months after the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary which falls on 8 December. The Bible does not record her infancy or early childhood but some of the earliest Christian writers and Fathers of the Church have described her in the first century of the Church.

Tradition describes that Mary’s parents was deeply sad because they were unable to conceive a child. They began to pray and fast earnestly and finally an angel appeared to Anne and prophesied that all generations would honour their future child: “The Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth, and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.”

Mary’s parents brought her to be blessed by the temple chief priests saying, O God, bless this child, and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations,”and “look upon this child, and bless her with the utmost blessing, which shall be for ever.”Her parents and the chief priests offered her to God “as a consecrated Virgin for the rest of her life, and enter a chaste marriage” with Joseph, the carpenter.

Every September, our Blessed Mother’s birthday is celebrated in the three main prominent feasts of Our Lady - Annai Velangkanni, Our Lady of Good Health and Mother of Perpetual Help. In the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, there is one parish (Mother of the Perpetual Help in Mentakab, Pahang) and three chapels (Our Lady of Annai Velangkanni in Gadong, Seremban, Our Lady of Good Health in Kg. Pandan, Kuala Lumpur and in Assam Jawa, Kuala Selangor) celebrate her birthday. I have ministered in the chapel of Annai Velangkanni, Gadong, which is situated in between Seremban 2 and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). It is quiet a well-known chapel in Negeri Sembilan whose faithful are mostly Tamil-speaking. The chapel draws approximately 2000-2500 pilgrims during the feast day.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is a very special and a powerful spiritual mother for all of us. Today, she is in heaven united fully with Christ Jesus and praying for us. We, Catholics have a very special devotion to Blessed Mother because we believe that she is a mother who gives us her maternal care and protection. Whenever we say our Rosary, the Blessed Virgin Mary communicates to us. When we turn to her in our time of need, she protects all of us from all harm, from all evil and from all danger.

St Louis de Montfort, who was a priest in the 18th century, in his book entitled – “True Devotion to Mary”, spoke about how Blessed Mother protects and leads souls to Jesus. He compares her to a hen who gathers and shelters us under her protecting wings, saving us from outside enemies - from hawks, eagles and vultures. To ensure that the hen becomes their escort, surrounding them as army in battle array. This is what Blessed Mother does out of love she has for everyone, especially those who are devoted daily to her. St Louis also added that when we trust in her, she “dispatches millions of angels” to protect us from the power of enemies. 

In our anguish, struggles and distress, our devotion to Our Lady and receiving the Holy Communion will save us from all evils and Jesus will make known His salvation to His people.



TO BE DISCIPLES OF JESUS

“If anyone comes to Me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers, sisters, and even his own life too, cannot be My disciple,” (LK 14:26).

Do you understand what it means to be a Disciple? It is not easy task to be Disciple of Jesus. There is a price to be paid for becoming a Disciple – the complete surrender of all self-interest. If we want to be His disciples we have to have undivided love for Him. Even family affection cannot interfere with the primary duty of discipleship.

God comes first. God comes before family, friends and before our own lives. That is a big price we have to pay. Discipship is a personal commitment to follow Jesus Christ faithfully and truthfully. We have to place Jesus first above everything else in our lives.

We need to change our lifestyle – not to cheat our neighbour. Do not involve in the gossip, hold grudges, not to be greedy. We must have willingness to share with others. We, as Christians, will not grow into the image of Christ unless we first experience and encounter Christ in our lives.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

FAITH THROUGH WORDS AND DEEDS

September is the month that our Peninsular Malaysia clergy - Cardinal, bishops, priests and deacons – go on their annual spiritual retreat. The retreat will be held each week in several places for six days, starting Sunday evening till Saturday morning. There are three retreat-centre locations: Cameron Highlands (1st week and 4th week), Penang Island (2nd week) and Plentong, Johor (3rd week).

We, the clergy during this period will take time off from all our parish pastoral commitments in order to fully participate in the spiritual retreat. We listen to talks in the morning and afternoon, given by an invited speaker (usually a bishop or priest from overseas) before entering into silent prayer, reflection and mediation for our personal renewal. We hope and pray that God’s is fulfilled in every way for each of us, and that at the end of the retreat, our spirits will be restored and renewed.

Starting this weekend, there will be three long-weekends consecutively with four public holidays therein – Merdeka (31 August), Awal Muharram (1 September), the birthday of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (8 August) and Malaysia Day (16 September). During these long weekends, you may take the opportunity to go on vacation or visit your hometown. By now you would have planned your trip, but I would like to remind you that wherever you go, do not forget to fulfil your Sunday obligation by attending Mass. Check the respective websites or the Catholic directory for the closest church and for the Mass timings.
 
In connection with these holidays, there will be no catechism classes for three Sundays (September 1, 8 and 16) and our children will miss out on at least 5-6 hours of catechism lessons. If possible, I would like to encourage parents to spend some time with your children, especially on these Sundays, to pray with them and teach them about our faith. Parents and godparents should also spend some time going through the catechism textbooks with their child.

As parents, one of the graces that the Sacrament of Marriage requires is educating your children about our faith in Christ and the Church. While parents are preparing their children to be baptised, the Church gives them the Infant Baptism Instruction to make parents and godparents aware of their roles and responsibilities. It states: “You have asked to have your child baptised. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him/her in the practice of the faith. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?” Then, the Church asks godparents if they too are “ready to help the parents in their duty as Christian parents?”

Parents and godparents must make a constant effort in bringing up their children in the faith of the Church, as children too play an active part in practicing their faith. The Church expects parents and godparents to be the best faith educators, bearing witness to the faith in whatever they do or say. Parents must remember that faith education is just as important as secular education.

Parents and godparents are the first teachers of faith education of their children. When they pass on their faith, it impacts the lives of their children, as they learn best through example and practice and the Church expects parents and godparents to be the best faith teachers through words and deeds. As faith educators, you must always endeavour to learn more about your faith and pass on what you have learnt or received to your children. Your knowledge, attitude, roles and responsibilities will help in your child’s faith development. Walk with your child, talk to your child and know and love them.



A PLACE AT THE BANQUET

Jesus was invited to a wedding party,(LK 14:1, 7-14). Those attending were the leading Pharisees.Jesus was the guest of honour and everyone wanted to be at the head table. 

Whether we want to admit it or not, we all want to have a place of honor. We want people to recognise us.

His advice to dinner guests is to “take the lowest place” at the table. If the host desired them to “move up to a higher position,” he would ask them himself. Then the guests would “enjoy the higher esteem” of their companions at table. If we are to be a true follower of Jesus Christ, we need to learn humility.

Among the 7 Deadly Sins, pride is first. Pride often becomes the source of all other evil. It is very closely related to selfishness. Humility is the opposite of pride or self-importance.
God’s call is to humble ourselves. To count others as better than ourselves so that we can show others the love, grace, courage and power of Jesus Christ.

Only a humble heart realises: “God, in Your goodness, You have made a home for the poor.”(Ps 68)

Saturday, 24 August 2019

SOWING TANGIBLE SEEDS OF HOPE

Our Parish has always taken a special interest in caring for the poor. In the second half of 2019, two important Parish annual projects to reach out in solidarity to the poor and migrant families, are in the pipeline.

The first event is the School Uniforms Project. Since last weekend (17-18 August), we started collecting funds for this project after each Mass. The aim is to provide uniforms to school kids from underprivileged families, including migrant students who live around our parish vicinity. For the past six years we have successfully carried out this free school uniform project for both primary and secondary school students.

This year, our target is to provide school uniforms for approximately 400 underprivileged students. This will comprise of 2 sets of uniforms (shirts and pants/skirts), 2 sets of shoes and socks, and a bag inclusive of stationery for each child, worth between RM120-RM150 each. Our aim is to reach out to these poor children, so that they will be able to go to school properly attired, with confidence and self-respect, and be able to concentrate on their studies.

All the ministries under the Parish Integral Human Development Ministry (PIHDM) will coordinate with the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) to set up booths before and after all weekend Masses. At least 4-6 committee members are needed to help out at these booths for every weekend Mass. We also encourage more parishioners to volunteer their time and also to donate generously, as this fund raising project will go on till the end of November 2019. The amount we need to collect is estimated at around RM40,000 to RM50,000.

The second event is the World Day of the Poor. In 2017, we celebrated the 1stWorld Day of the Poorin a grand manner. We were happy and privileged to have been able to celebrate with all those living around our Parish vicinity. We held various activities such as a funfair with lots of games and entertainment, and a fellowship as well with the poor and migrant families. Last year, the celebrations continued albeit on a smaller scale, and this year, the members of the Fundraising Team are in the midst of preparing and planning to organise the 3rdWorld Day of the Poor which will include a few activities, exhibitions and a luncheon.

This year, the 3rdWorld Day of the Poorfalls on Sunday, 17 November 2019 (33rdSunday of Ordinary Time) and the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has chosen the theme “The hope of the poor will not perish for ever,” (Psalms 9:19).In his message, the Holy Father encourages Christian communities “to offer hope and consolation to the poor,” and “to help ensure that this World Day of the Poor will encourage more and more people to cooperate effectively so that no one feels deprived of closeness and solidarity.

We invite parishioners to come forward in assisting the PIHDM and the Fundraising Team by supporting and promoting the two planned events. Let’s work hand in hand together as a parish, to make these events more significant, as we reach out to the unprivileged and less fortunate. We, as parishioners of St Joseph’s Church in Sentul will not “stop sowing tangible seeds of hope” and be “instruments and opportunities for peace, solidarity and the promotion of dignity for every human being.”