During the Year of Faith, the faithful were called to become witnesses of their faith. In his message at the Thanksgiving Mass for the Year of Faith, Archbishop John Wong reminded the faithful that faith continues to grow, to be deepened, to be lived even after the Year of Faith. The launching of Rakan-rakan Aspirans dan Seminarians (RASS) cum fund-raising dinner for the seminarian fund Dec 15 at Portview Restaurant has indeed responded to the message of the Archbishop. The response of the faithful to this fund-raising dinner was overwhelming whereby the restaurant was packed.
The chairman of RASS, Peter Suking, welcomed all those present for their support. In his speech, he said that RASS was inspired by the Rector of the Catholic Archdiocesan Centre (CAC) and Director of the English Year for Aspirants, Fr Wilfred Atin, who took over the task from Archbishop John Wong.
When Fr Wilfred took over three years ago, he gathered friends to help aspirants in terms of material needs. As time went by, the group felt that it was time to officially form a group recognized by the Church so that more people may help.
RASS is focused to support the formation house in CAC because it is not directly under St Peter’s College seminary. In the past three years, the group has helped in looking for sponsors to change beds, utensils, books, dictionaries and other material needs. Since it is compulsory for aspirants to pass MUET to proceed to Initiation Year (IY), the group has helped to provide the teachers needed.
Peter added that the Rector’s approval and Archbishop’s blessing are needed before they proceed for any activity. He asked everyone to pray for them so that they may continue to render their service to the formation of future priests.
As for the fund-raising dinner, he said that they initially wanted to organize for 50 tables but because of the good response, they raised it to 100 tables. The dinner did not cost the organizing committee anything because of sponsorship. The profit of the ticket sales which amounted to RM20,000 will be fully given to the seminarian fund.
In concluding his speech, he thanked all those present for their support and hoped this cooperation and support will continue.
In his turn, Fr Wilfred gave a brief explanation of the stages of the 8-year formation. The first stage, English Year, is in CAC for a year. During this stage, the main focus is learning English. In addition to that, there is also the human and spiritual formation. Then the second stage, which is for another year, is the Initiation Year (IY). The focus in IY is the spiritual, human and academic formation. The third stage will be in St Peter’s College Kuching (SPC) for the remaining six years. Before committing oneself to formation, a person has to undergo pre-formation in a vocation seminar and vocation retreat. During the vocation seminar, he will know what vocation is all about, the process of vocation and taught how to discern. During the vocation retreat, he will then be guided to discern whether he is called, exposed to the sacrifices and challenges as a Diocesan Priest, and more importantly to discern whether he is ready. There are also vocation follow-up in between whereby those interested can stay-in for the weekend and experience the life of the aspirants in CAC. There will be faith sharing, reflection and guidance from the Spiritual Director.
In his time in the seminary, a seminarian will go through different stages of ministry. In his first year theology, he will be installed as lector. In the second year of theology, he will be installed as acolyte. After graduation from SPC, he will be ordained as deacon and then as a priest. Fr Wilfred added that there is a dire need for priests. Currently in SPC there are 10 seminarians from Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese, 6 from Sandakan Diocese and 5 from Keningau Diocese. In IY, there are 1 seminarian from Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese, 3 from Sandakan Diocese and 1 from Keningau Diocese. In CAC, there are 4 seminarians from Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese, 2 from Sandakan Diocese and 3 from Keningau Diocese.
In conclusion, Fr Wilfred called for parents to allow their children to become priests. It is alright for them to give it a try even though they might not succeed. Maybe God has other plans for them. To all who are present, he encouraged them to share this occasion with others.
Apart from speeches, there were presentations from the aspirants, seminarians from IY and from SPC. In addition, a cake cutting ceremony marked the official launching of RASS. The night was truly merry with the presence of some local artistes such as Martha Ginun, Fabian William, DJ Ray, and Leonard Ingging.
The support given to the dinner was a sign of the fruit of the Year of Faith. May this continue to bear fruit in the future for the glory of God.