Fr Rayner Bisius has just completed a 2-year study in Sacramental Theology in Rome and returned to Sabah to take up pastoral assignment in the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu. He is presently appointed as Chaplain to the Carmelite Monastery and Rector of the Initiation Year Formation House while at the same time he will be assisting the parish priest at St Catherine Inanam. On being approached by CS to share his experience in Rome, he graciously obliged.
In June 2012, I was sent to Rome to take up a 2-year course in Sacramental Theology at the San Anselmo University, which is privately owned by the Benedictine Congregation.
While in Rome, I stayed in the International College of San Paolo together with 200 student-priests from all over the world. As Italian was the main language, it presented a huge barrier for me. With God’s grace, I was able to complete my 2-year course.
Many were the abundant blessings and good memories that I have experienced in Rome, including meeting face to face with our two beloved Popes, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. Some of the experiences have a profound impact on my life as a priest. I am truly grateful for the chance to study in Rome for it has given me the opportunity to experience the Catholic Church as the Universal Church, as well as the chance to view the Pope as the head of the Catholic Church.
Life in college and in the university, as well as the audiences with the Holy Father, have enhanced my view of the universality of our church. I saw the uniqueness of our Catholic Church in fellow Catholics from other parts of the world coming together from so many diverse cultures and backgrounds and united in the same faith and under one roof. I am proud to be a Catholic.
My study in Rome has helped me to step out from my normal routine in my parish. It has enabled me to see myself as a priest from a different perspective. The sharing from others has given me a deeper insight into priestly service at diocesan level as well as pastorally. I was led to see how they take care of their parish and their sheep.
Pope Francis played a prominent role in shaping my view on priestly service. He leads by example when he encouraged his fellow priests to go and reach out to people….he is the first to do so. The Pontiff inspires me and calls me to similar acts in my priestly service. His call to be “Be shepherds with the smell of your sheep, in the midst of your people like Jesus, the Good Shepherd” has been a great motivating force to bend my will to follow him.
During my time there, I was also privileged to be present to witness the great celebrations of the church such as audiences with the Holy Father, the resignation of the pope and the election of a new one, the canonization of the new pope saints, meetings and group activities of the worldwide church movements.
In every celebration one visible blessing was the involvement of the youths with their vibrant, energetic and lively spirit. It helped me to see the important role of the youths in being a lively, active and energetic church.
The Apostolic Letter by Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel, has been another positive impact on me. With his document, the Pope envisioned a missionary church as ‘a door that is always open’. I was touched by the Pope as he expounds on the spirit and joy of encountering Jesus. He issues the call ‘Be missionaries of Joy’ to us as the witnesses of Christ in this millennium. As a priest, I too desire to share this same call and to bring the peace of Christ to all.
Last but not least, what I perceive through my Rome experience, is that our local church is in need of a radical transformation as called for by the Pontiff in his Evangelii Gaudium. Pope Francis wrote about restoring the original light of the Gospel, and to renew the overall structure and the vision of the church. This must be adopted by our local church to better equip us in our evangelistic mission in the modern world.
According to Pope Francis, the church must not be afraid to check herself and be corrected by the Gospel. He called all Christians to bring about the ‘gentle revolution’ by opening our hearts daily to Jesus’ love. In order for the church to live the call of ‘gentle revolution’, we have to step out from our comfort zone and be willing and courageous to get our hands and feet dirty for the sake of the Gospel. We must be bold to make (allow) changes, and to create new things, so that our church would be more relevant and heart-touching especially towards the youngsters of the new generation.
With great hope and anticipation, I want to attempt to do this wherever I am sent to serve.