KOTA KINABALU – Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese played host to the 1st Episcopal Regional Commission for Family Life (ERCFL) Meeting held at Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish Centre, Karamunsing, from 16-18 Jun 2014.
The meeting was convened by Archbishop John Wong, President of ERCFL for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei, with the objectives: (a) to listen to the programs and initiatives made by the arch/dioceses in this region for family, as well as to know the current issues and challenges faced by families today; and (b) to formally set up ERCFL for the region.
13 official delegates attended this meeting, made up of heads or representatives from the Commission/Ministry for Family Life from 8 arch/dioceses: Andrew & Andrene Teoh from Kuala Lumpur Archdiocese, Permanent Deacon Dr Leslie Petrus from Melaka-Johor Diocese, Fr Edmund Woon and Joyce Ang from Penang Diocese, Anthonius & Felicity Sindang from Kuching Archdiocese, Fr Gabriel Chiong from Miri Diocese, Fred Judin from Keningau Diocese, Julita Kantod from Sandakan Diocese, and Fr Fundes Motiung, Waky Taim and Neil Mah representing Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese. 3 other arch/dioceses in the Conference, Sibu Diocese, Vicariate of Brunei Darusslaam and Singapore Archdiocese, could not send delegates to this inaugural meeting.
Beginning with an opening mass held at the Vianney Home Chapel, the presider, Archbishop John Wong said that it was most appropriate to start the meeting with Mass, in order to centre our efforts of helping families on Jesus Christ, and to bring families to Jesus who will strengthen them to face the issues and challenges of today.
The second day was dedicated to reports from the arch/dioceses on the existing pastoral programs and initiatives made for families. The reports also included challenges faced in reaching out to families and current issues faced by families today.
Some members of the Kota Kinabalu Archdiocesan Family Life Commission were also present at the meeting as observers.
As part of the program, the delegates visited the Archdiocesan Catholic Family Service Centre at Sacred Heart Parish Centre, where they were briefed on the ministry and workings of the Centre which focuses primarily on counseling services.
The delegates then visited the Youth Prep-Link Centre at Alam Mesra, run by the Good Shepherd Sisters. Here they were briefed on the charisms and outreach ministries of the congregation, which includes: (a) Seri Murni Crisis Centre, a support centre for women, mothers and their children experiencing abusive relationships and domestic violence, unwed women in pregnancy, women experiencing conflict marriage, survivors of rape or assault; (b) Family building and reconciliation program, an effort to rediscover or find new and creative ways in addressing family problems today, and (c) Youth Prep-Link Centre, a point of reference for youth seeking help and assistance by offering counseling services to help youth, skills development, bridging with other youths, access to legal aid, personal formation, and assistance in getting employment.
In the evening Stella Maris Parish hosted the delegates to a dinner, preceded by Mass. It provided a time of fellowship and bonding, and some mingling with parish pastoral and family BEC leaders.
On the last day, delegates from outside Sabah listened to some issues and concerns that are unique to Sabah: migrant families and problems related to migration, marriage break-up due to migrant workers, drinking culture that leads to other social issues e.g. pre-marital sex, abortion, rape, incest, etc.
The meeting was concluded with a session on the formal set-up of ERCFL. All delegates expressed it was timely for a national or regional body for family life to be set-up to better coordinate family life programs, initiatives and network with all arch/diocesan Family Life Commissions/Ministries.
Two levels of body were proposed: (a) a National Council for Family Life to be set-up each for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, and (b) a Regional Council for Family Life that comprises representatives from the 3 National Councils. However, there was also a proposal to just have ERCFL comprising of all arch/dioceses in Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei.
As Sibu, Brunei and Singapore arch/dioceses were not present, the meeting was resolved to discuss this formal set-up further at next year’s regional meeting. In the interim, Neil Mah was appointed to be ERCFL Coordinator, to assist its President, Archbishop John Wong, to coordinate all matters related to Family Life in the region.
Keningau Diocese will host next year’s ERCFL meeting. – Neil Mah