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Saturday, 27 November 2021

CLOSING OF THE YEAR OF ST JOSEPH

The amazing season of Advent is in our midst! It is a season for preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ Jesus. This year we begin Advent on 27 November, with Sunset Mass, and end it on 24 December 2021. Everyone eagerly looks forward to singing the various seasonal hymns such as “O Come, O Come Emanuel”, “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Come O Divine Messiah” to welcome the arrival of Christmas. As we begin the season of Advent, our Parish has initiated a wonderful celebration for the closing of the Year of St Joseph.

The Holy Father Pope Francis announced the Year of St Joseph and the Year of Plenary Indulgence (8 December 2020 to 8 December 2021) in honour of the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph as Patron Saint of the Catholic Church with the theme - “With the Father’s Heart” (Patris Corde). Since 1908, our Parish has been dedicated to St Joseph, and we made a request to Archbishop Julian Leow to officially declare it as a pilgrim centre for the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur. He was pleased with our request and made the announcement on 21 December 2020.

 

We tried our best to promote and celebrate the Year of St Joseph despite the Movement Control Orders (MCO) that were declared by the government. We hosted various events, activities and formations online as well as an e-pilgrimage celebration. For the past 10 months, the Year of St Joseph went silently by, oblivious to many of the faithful, due to the pandemic. However, once the authorities lifted the inter-state travel ban and sectors started to open up, many pilgrims throughout the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur came to pay homage to St Joseph, at our Church.

 

As both the Year of Plenary Indulgence and the Year of St Joseph are coming to a close, we have extended invitations to both Priests and the faithful throughout the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur to make a pilgrimage to our Parish. Many have turned up from other parishes in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Seremban and Kuantan to pray and participate in the Eucharistic celebration. Many groups and individuals have planned their trip to our historical Parish, and I encourage those who have yet to do so, to make their pilgrimage soonest possible.

 

During this First Week of Advent, from 30 November 2021 until 8 December 2021, our Parish will celebrate a 9-Days Novena to St Joseph - including Mass - as a closing of the Year of St Joseph. We have extended invitations to several Priests to preside at the daily Eucharistic celebration for our devotees. However, due to the current situation, and requirements with regards to social distancing, we must limit the number of in-person participants to 300 people only. Those unable to register via google forms for in-persons celebration, could always follow the live stream via YouTube. Links for the live streaming of the Novenas and masses during these 9 days can be found on our Parish and KL Archdiocese websites – www.stjosephsentul.org or www.archkl.org. The links will be updated periodically, so kindly check these websites for updates.

 

We have quite an interesting spiritual programme planned for the next 9 days - Evening Prayers (Vespers), Novenas and the Litany to St Joseph as well as Recitation of the Rosary and Mass. We invite everyone to tune yourselves into a more prayerful and solemn manner, as we come to the end of the Year of St Joseph.



Tuesday, 23 November 2021

SERVING WITH KINDNESS AND DEDICATION

On Friday night, 19 November 2021, a text message was posted by Archbishop Julian Leow in our Clergy chat group. It was the sad and shocking news about the sudden demise of Rev. Fr John Gnanapiragasam at 8:20pm, at his residence in Seremban. I read this short text message over and over again, as I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

A day before his passing, I texted Fr John regarding the Novena and Mass in conjunction with the closing of the Year of St Joseph, at our Parish, and invited him to celebrate mass with us. He replied the next morning saying, “… Will surely be happy to be there [Parish of St Joseph] to celebrate with you…” I was so glad that he accepted my invitation for the celebration of the Anointing of the Sick, Novena and Masses on days 5 and 6 (2nd Sunday of Advent). These past four years he has not failed to celebrate our Parish Novena and Feast days.

I came to know Fr John when I was in the first year of my seminary in Penang in 1995. He wasn’t my lecturer, but he conducted a weekly seminar on “Fully Human, Fully Alive” by John Powell, SJ. His seminar and workshop helped me to discover myself and gave me new perspective and understanding. I shared with Fr John G, the uncertainties and anxieties I was going through during my first year in the seminary. He advised me to work seriously on these four areas - self-acceptance, self-esteem, self-knowledge and self-discipline. These four key areas caught my attention and I gradually developed them over the years. I really gained tremendous insight from his formation, and till today I continue to reflect on them.

Fr John G was a man of prayer, and he had very good methodology in his presentations. The NEWBEC (the New Way of Being Church) and Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) reflection papers were the brainchild of Fr John. As the first Director of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Institute (API), he spent a lot of time giving proper insight and guidance for BECs in the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur.

After I had completed my assignment as the Parish Priest in Church of the Visitation (May 2010), Fr John G had become my successor. He continued some of my unfinished works, and he carried out the vision of the Parish. He was also a mentor for the ALPHA program and on several occasions, I sought his assistance to conduct this programme at St Joseph’s Church as well as at the Church of the Visitation.

After his retirement in 2020, Fr John would occasionally visit the Church of St Joseph here in Sentul. He had a special affinity to this Parish as it was his first posting after he was ordained as a priest in 1972. He was assigned as the assistant to the late Fr Anthony Thomas.

We thank God for his priestly service in the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur. He has touched the hearts of countless people with his kindness and dedication throughout his priestly ministry. We will miss him dearly. Our heartfelt condolences to Monsignor James Gnanapiragasam and his family on the passing of Fr John Gnanapiragasam.

Saturday, 20 November 2021

SERVICE TO THE POOR AND MARGINALSED

The Fifth World Day of the Poor (WDOP) was celebrated by the Universal Church on 14 November 2021, with the theme chosen by our Holy Father Pope Francis, “The Poor You Will Always Have with You,” (MK 14:7). Over the years, individuals and groups have come forward to spend their time and effort in contributing towards the poor who are affected physically, economically and financially. The Parish of St Joseph in Sentul has always paid extra attention and care towards the poor and vulnerable in our community. Parishioners have always placed great importance in their service to the poor and marginalised.

During the weekend of WDOP, our Parish organised two events – a vaccination program and a food distribution program. On Saturday, 13 November 2021, we organised the COVID-19 Immunisation Vaccination (CIV) program for both documented and undocumented refugees and migrants living within our vicinity. These refugees and migrants were mostly workers from farms, factories and restaurants in the area. A total of 300 people turned up for their vaccination. They have been given appointments for their second dose, scheduled to be on 4 December 2021.

 

Prior to this, we organised two other CIV projects for refugees and migrants on 16 October and 30 October 2021 respectively. These CIV programs, in collaboration with the Malaysian Red Crescent and Tenagita, went on smoothly without any hitches. Plans are in the pipeline to coordinate a CIV program especially for refugee and migrant children, aged 12-18 years in December 2021. As the roll out of the COVID-19 Immunisation Vaccination (CIV) takes place throughout our country, we need to ensure that even those who are undocumented receive their vaccines. Vaccinations are important as they may reduce the possibility of serious illness and effects of the C19 virus.

 

Our Parish Integral Human Development Ministry (PIHDM) distributed 330 food packs to all who turned up for their vaccination, including volunteers. The following day, on 14 November 2021, food packs were distributed to over 400 adoptee families and individuals. As some families were unable to collect their food packs personally, the PIHDM made necessary arrangements to personally deliver these to their homes. All this was part of our Parish’s annual World Day of the Poor program. 

 

In the first three years of WDP (2017-2019) our Parish celebrated this event on a grand scale together with our Parish Family Day, but in these past two years, we’ve been forced to curtail our celebrations due to the pandemic. The annual School Uniform project however, is scheduled to take place just before Christmas, in time for the 2022 school term. We hope that it will be as successful as in previous years.

 

People living in poverty are often neglected or overlooked. Most of the time they are invisible to our sight, even though they are always in our midst. We should not forget or ignore them. Instead, we should acknowledge their visible presence as they are part of our lives. Let us not hesitate to reach out to them as a people of God.



Saturday, 13 November 2021

SERVING CHRIST THROUGH THE POOR

The Catholic Church celebrates the 5th World Day of the Poor on 14 November 2021, with the theme – “The poor you will always have with you” (Mark 14:7). These words were uttered when Jesus visited the house of Bethany, and a woman there came in with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment. She poured the precious ointment on Jesus’ head. Pope Francis interpreted it in two different ways. First, he said that few people would spend on the ointment when instead it could be spent for the poor, but the woman has done a wonderful act for Jesus. Second, it reminds us that Jesus is “the first poor, poorest of the poor, because He represents all of them.” We remember this nameless woman’s act of empathy and understanding of Jesus’ mission.

The poor have so much to teach us. First and foremost, they are “always and everywhere”, and they give us an opportunity to evangelise them. The Holy Father reminds us that we should make every opportunity to express our kindness to the poor wherever they may be. The Holy Father invites us to open our hearts “recognising the many different forms of poverty,” “constantly care for the poor” and “desire for more relations in the community.”

There is widespread poverty, injustice, isolation, loneliness, homelessness, trafficking, violence and abuse happening around us, but the Gospel calls us to conversion and to live the message of Christ, by serving Him through the poor with love, respect, dignity and justice.

The Holy Father says that the poor are a Sacrament of Christ, represents Christ and points to Him. We need to discover the true face of Christ in the poor. The poor are neither strangers nor outside of our communities. We must make them part of our lives and take every opportunity to lift them up from all their sufferings and difficulties, in order “to restore their lost dignity” and to include them in our communities. Our sharing and caring “generates fraternity” and “strengthens solidarity” among the poor.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, millions of people have been impacted. Poverty has increased, and countries are facing difficulties in combating the virus. Many people have come forward to spend time and effort to contribute towards helping the poor, especially those who have been physically, economically and financially affected.

Everyone needs to find a new way of being evangelisers during this global crisis in order to “respond to the new form of poverty experienced by humanity today.” We should not hesitate in reaching out to them in their homes, hospitals, nursing homes or on the streets. The “poor are always present in our midst - let’s recognise them and make them part of our lives and an instrument of our salvation.”

(AN EXTRACT FROM THE FIFTH WORLD DAY OF THE POOR 2021)





Saturday, 6 November 2021

PARTICIPATION DIRECTED TO MISSION

The Universal Church inaugurated Synodal 2023 - journey together - at every diocese level throughout the world with the theme: “For a Synodal Church - in Communion, Participation and Mission.” We are now in the first Diocesan / National Phase (October 2021 - April 2022) and this will be followed by the Continental Phase (September 2022 - March 2023) and the Universal Phase - Synod of Bishops in the Vatican City (October 2023).

Our Parish Synod Team (PST) consists of 9 members. They attended a briefing session with the Archdiocese Synod Team a week ago, and this week they presented the synodal process to our BEC leaders and other parish ministries. Our Parish of St Joseph is already onboard, and getting into momentum of the Synodal Church 2023 orientation. We are now in the phase of briefing the respective groups and will soon start distributing questionnaires in November 2021. Certainly, we will familiarise ourselves with certain terminology of the Synodal process and the 10 fundamental questions for our reflections and discussions. We invite every individual - BECs members, ministries and all parishioners - to participate fully in this discussion.

 

At this initial phase we would like everyone to listen and discern their Synodal journey till early December 2021. There are a few steps that parishioners should take into consideration before putting their thoughts, insights and reflections onto paper. First and foremost, we invoke the Holy Spirit to come upon us so that we may tune ourselves to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Hence, we need to vigorously pray as we “walk together” during this period of listening and discerning, mainly on these 10 important fundamental questions of Synodality. Our PST hopes that all parishioners will take part, and answer the questionnaires according to the given guidelines.

 

As we “walk together” at this first phase at our Parish level, we are invited to pray, listen, analyse, dialogue, discuss, discern, articulate and respond to the fundamental questions which are profoundly interrelated with the theme - “communion, participation and mission”.

 

Here are the 10 fundamental questions for us to recall our experiences (Communion), re-read the experiences (Participation) and gather the fruits to share (Mission). 

 

·      Companions on the Journey

·      Listening

·      Speaking Out

·      Celebration

·      Sharing Responsibly for Common Mission

·      Authority and Participation

·      Discerning and Deciding 

·      Forming Ourselves in Synodality

·      Dialoguing in Church and Society

·      Ecumenism

 

The PST is also ready to brief and facilitate workshops from time to time to various groups or ministries pertaining to the synodal process. We want everyone to feel at home,  responsibly participate and engage themselves in dialogues, discussions and interactions within the community. After much listening and discerning, all the collated answers and findings will be compiled and submitted to the Archdiocese Synod Team.

 

As we responsibly undertake this task, let us be reminded that by listening and discerning as a community, we are building up our faith in the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” The Holy Father stressed that the synodal process be “a process of becoming, a process that involves the local Churches, in different phases and from the bottom up, in an exciting and engaging effort that can forge a style of communion and participation directed to mission.”

Saturday, 30 October 2021

JOURNEYING AS A PEOPLE OF GOD

After the Feast of St Joseph, the Worker in May 2021, we closed our Church to Public Masses for almost 5 months. However, the last Chancery Notice from the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur dated 25 October 2021 was received with overwhelming joy, as it allows for an increase in capacity for the Eucharistic celebrations and for the resumption of other Sacraments in our Churches!

We are finally able to welcome all our parishioners once again for the Eucharistic celebration, as a People of God. We want our parishioners to return to Church and participate in the celebration of the Sacraments, especially encountering the real and true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. It is part of our community of faith. 

 

We are in the midst of preparing for the Synodal Church 2021-2023 and some of our leaders have already attended briefing sessions with regards to this. Soon we will be disseminating a questionnaire in line with the Synodal Church, to every member of our Parish. When you receive the questionnaire, first and foremost we want you to go through it, to allow yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit, before responding.

 

Each member of our Parish is invited to give a reflection on how they have been using and sharing their gifts, while journeying together as a Church. Let’s look at the many opportunities and efforts which we have undertaken to strengthen our faith in order to build “One Body of Christ” while being in “Communion, Participation and Mission” and growing with a sense of belonging in the Church. We need your response, cooperation and support to work on the preparation for the Synodal Church 2021-2023 - journeying as People of God.

 

We have dedicated the Month of the Rosary to our dear Blessed Virgin Mary by praying the Rosary as individuals and families for various intentions. We urge you to continue your devotion in praying the Rosary during this Year of Plenary Indulgence, as we do penances for our own spiritual growth, for other greater intentions and not forgetting to pray for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also include our Pope’s intention for the month of November for the “people who suffer from various depression or burn-out, to find support and a light that opens them up to life and peace.” Praying the Rosary authentically will help us to imitate the footsteps of Mary and our roles in the service of families, communities and the Church.

We are stepping into the month of November, a month of remembering and dedicating our prayers to all the known and unknown Saints of the Church. We also pray for all the faithful departed souls of our loved ones and for the forgotten souls in purgatory at home or in the Church. (Do avoid large gatherings at the cemeteries due to the COVID-19 pandemic). 

 

Two weeks ago, we circulated a link to our parishioners for submission of names of their dearly departed. We received more than 6500 emails and we have collected more than 55,000 names. We have compiled these names into a booklet and will place this booklet at the altar, for offertory during all Masses throughout the month of November.

 

We are encouraged to pray always for the dead - not only during the wake or memorial service, but to remember them always in our prayers. Pope Francis says, “Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.” The Church always offers them collectively, during every Eucharistic celebration throughout the world. The Holy Souls need our prayers, and in return, they will pray for us once their souls are purified from all sin and have attained eternal life in Communion with all saints in Heaven, (cf. CCC 1032).

 

Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Saturday, 23 October 2021

ENGAGING OURSELVES WITH EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE

This year, the Church celebrates World Mission Sunday on 24 October 2021 and the theme

chosen by the Holy Father is:
 “We cannot but speak what we have seen and heard,” (Act 4:20). Pope Francis reminds us that we cannot remain silent by keeping Jesus’ love, compassion, mercy and His teachings to ourselves, but instead, we must go forth and proclaim His message of hope to everyone, everywhere. We must speak what we have seen and heard in order to be His witnesses, as how the apostles were the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ entire ministry and His resurrection. The Holy Father invites individuals and communities to engage in the Church’s mission, which is to “Go, therefore to the highways and byways, and invite everyone you find,” (MT 22: 9) by sharing our experiences and encounters of God’s love to one and all.

The Apostles had experienced the first encounters of Jesus’ ministry and His resurrection. Their experiences and encounters prompted them to enter into dialogue with everyone, in every part of the world. When we read the Acts of the Apostles and of the lives of the first Christians, we are awakened to their endurance, hardships and the many conflicts which they had encountered in proclaiming the message of the Gospel to various communities. However, their witness and testimonies initiated and inspired the faith of those communities.

The Holy Father stresses that there is “an urgent need for the mission of compassion” for what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20) during this pandemic. Pope Francis wants us to be “missionaries of hope.” He expects us to share Christ, who is truly alive in us, in order to bring “transformation to our world and in the care of creation.”

In the present age, we face a lot of difficulties, obstacles, injustices, poverty, brokenness and divisions which cause “discouragement, disillusionment and fatigue” in carrying the mission of Christ. However, we have “to rise up and seek with creativity, every possible way to show compassion” and “Sacramental closeness of God to us” so that others may experience God’s touch too. As Christians, we cannot keep Jesus to ourselves, but we need to commit to being apostles of the Gospel of hope, and to become “messengers and agents of compassion,” in supporting the Pope’s missions.

Mission Sunday 2021 reminds us that everyone must be in “Communion, Participation and Mission” as we “journey together” for a Synodal Church. Let’s be in the spirit of mission always, keeping our faith and our Church alive, by engaging ourselves with everyone, everywhere. As we join the Holy Father’s mission, we pray that we will be “generous and joyful apostles of the Gospel of hope” and be “true missionary disciples” to our communities and to our nation.

(AN EXTRACT FROM THE MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FOR WORLD MISSION SUNDAY 2021)