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Lay Franciscans gather for inaugural assembly

PAPAR – The first ever Assembly for the Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis (OFS) of the Emerging National Fraternity of Malaysia-Singapore took place 10-13 Jan 2014 at Pace Bene, Franciscan Retreat Centre, Papar. The lay Franciscans also known as the Third Order Secular was founded by St Francis of Assisi. This Assembly was a coming together of the brothers and sisters from the three Regional entities, namely the Regional Fraternity of West Malaysia, the Emerging Regional Fraternity of Sabah and the Emerging Regional Fraternity of Singapore. This Assembly would not have happened, had it not been for the “labour of love” between the representatives from West Malaysia, Sabah and Singapore, for a period spanning more than 24 years. At present, there are 350 professed lay Franciscans in Malaysia – Singapore.

The way we were

As the Lord would have had it, the Order of Friar Minor (OFM), Capuchins from India set sail and landed in West Malaysia (then Malaya). There they gave birth to the OFS. Much later, the OFM from Australia landed in Singapore and gave birth to the OFS there and eventually across the sea to Sabah. The brothers and sisters from West Malaysia were put under the direct loving care of the Presidency of the International Fraternity, headquartered in Rome, while Singapore and Sabah, having been constituted a single Regional Fraternity of Singapore-Sabah, formed part of the National Fraternity of Oceania. The desire was to consolidate their local fraternities and their relationship to form a National Fraternity of Malaysia-Singapore. A time frame of 4-6 years was given for the process to mature (projected to be completed by Year 2013). The intent was to allow sufficient time for the National Fraternity of Oceania to constitute the separate regional fraternities of Singapore and Sabah. This intent became a reality on Jan 16, 2011. Together with the already constituted Regional Fraternity of West Malaysia, the two Emerging Fraternities of Sabah and Singapore, formed a National Coordination Group and work out a Plan towards the constitution of a National Fraternity Malaysia-Singapore. The primary purpose of the Assembly was two-fold. (1) To vote for the proposal for the recognition of the Emerging National Fraternity Malaysia-Singapore. (2) To elect 5 members to serve on the Provisional National Council for a term of 3 years. The Assembly voted “Yes” to the proposal and elected the Council. The result was: National Minister: Ruth Marcus, ofs (Sabah), Vice Minister – Janet Lim, ofs (Singapore), Secretary – Dymna Richard, ofs (Sabah), Treasurer – Helda Laurencius, ofs (Sabah), Formator – Camillus Ginibun, ofs (Sabah). Immediately after the election, the brothers and sisters got down in earnest and conducted a plenary on goal settings. For the next 3 years, the top 3 priorities are: (1) Formation, (2) Communication, (3) Strong OFS Presence in the world. True to the spirit of St Francis, the Assembly was also a time for the fraternal celebration of the Eucharist, as well as Lauds and Vespers and a social gathering for the brothers and sisters to come together to experience the true meaning of Franciscan fellowship and the joy of living in Fraternity. It was a double Joy when His Grace Archbishop John Wong arrived on Day 2 to celebrate the Mass. In His Grace’s homily, he welcomed all the Franciscans from as far as Canada and Australia and while we are all part of the Franciscan family, His Grace, in a light-hearted manner, credited “ALLAH” for bringing everyone together.

The way we are now

To a question, why the need to go National? The answer is, it is the only way, that is, FORWARD. By bringing 3 entities of geographical proximity together, we gain the opportunity to learn from each other, to pool our resources and gifts together and make a significant presence in the world, the National Fraternity will have direct accessibility to the International Fraternity and join half a million other Secular Franciscan brothers and sisters around the world. Doug Clorey, ofs, Vice Minister General presided over the Assembly, assisted by Sandra Tilley, ofs, National Minister Oceania. Bishops/Priests Of 3 Arch/Dioceses Meet For Better Collegiality cs20140201_bishopsmeetKENINGAU(CS).- There comes a time when it is hard to find any priest to administer sacraments. These times are usually twice a year – January and September. In this bi-annual event, all the bishops and priests of the three dioceses in Sabah are gathered at one place for meeting, which is in January, and retreat, which is in September. It is understood that when they go for retreat, they are on retreat; but what do they do during the priests’ meeting? Do they just have meetings for the three days that they are absent from the parish? Recently on Jan 13-15, the priests of the three dioceses are again gathered for the priests’ meeting which was held in Tatal Retreat Centre in Keningau. Though the Sandakan Diocese priests would be having their own meeting later this month, they still came. The priests’ meeting is not just about having serious table talk. It is a meeting of brothers, of togetherness, of oneness in the ministry, in the fraternity, in the presbyterium. For this year, it began with a friendly football match against the Keningau parishioners. It was not about winning or losing, but highlighting the importance of keeping the body healthy. In addition to that, it is a time for the priests to mingle with the parishioners and have fun apart from team building and teamwork. During the night, a time for fellowship is provided whereby the priests have the opportunity to share with one another of their experiences in their ministry. In this way they can help, support and encourage each other. The second day began with the office prayer and holy hour. During this session the priests have the opportunity to recollect themselves as they prepare spiritually for the meeting. The Word of God is central to the life of every Christians especially priests. So after the holy hour, Bible Sharing, based on the Sunday readings, takes over. The actual priests’ meeting only begins in the afternoon. It began with the recitation of the office prayers. During this meeting, the priests with the Bishop discuss matters concerning the parishes and diocese as a whole. The liturgy is the source and summit of Christian life. So it is only fitting that the day is ended with a daily Mass. A simple fellowship followed after dinner to wind down. The third day is usually reserved for the meeting to continue if it cannot be concluded on the second day. The recent meeting went smoothly and not many matters arose so most of the priests returned to their own parishes after the morning Mass and breakfast.

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