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The triple celebration comprising the 22nd anniversary of the Diocese, 22nd anniversary of the Episcopal ordination of Bishop Cornelius Piong and Harvest Festival was held at Bonda Maria Church Kemabong on Saturday.
The joyful celebration began with Mass, presided by Bishop Piong. With him at the altar were Bishop Julius Gitom of Sandakan Diocese, 15 priests from the diocese of Keningau, as well as a visiting priest from Kenya, Fr Josephat.
More than 1,000 parishioners from across the Diocese came to participate in this annual meaningful celebration, comprising of religious brothers and sisters from the various congregations of the diocese, PPC, MPC (Mission) and KKD, as well as parishioners from parishes far and near. Among those present for the auspicious occasion was Datuk Radin Malleh.
In his homily, Bishop Piong reminded that as a Diocese, the faithful must strive to journey together in unity with Jesus. This unity is planted and rooted through a life immersed in daily prayer, studying and discerning the Word of God and in the Eucharist and the sacramental life of the Church, as well as in giving service to the Church.
Though weak in the flesh because of our human nature, and the many possible occurrences of falling into temptation through disobedience, Bishop Piong reminded the people that the effort to strive was to be done communally and in the spirit of Jesus Christ, which was in line with the vision and mission of the Diocese. He acknowledged that the fruits of communal living were evident as was seen in their spirit of togetherness, sacrifice and unity amongst the people in each parish. However, it was also an occasion to remind both the laity and clergy to focus on the quality of faith and to be vigilant of the challenges that were emerging more and more in broad daylight.
This year’s celebration was co-hosted by St Anthony Parish Tenom and Kemabong Mission under the purview of Fr David Mamat as parish priest and Fr Benedict Runsab, assistant priest.
In spite of the many odds against the organizing committee in the multiple tasks that still needed to be looked into in the weeks before the event, the event went smoothly on the day of the event. Camps were in place outside the church to cater for incoming parishioners, exhibition huts and booths selling food, drinks and spiritual materials were ready for those who wanted to patronize them, traditional decorations were put up, the parking space was well-marked, and the event hall well-equipped. On top of these, other necessary improvement to the infrastructure were needed such as cementing of the floor of the church building and increasing the size of the hall, which were carried out earlier on. The organizing committee was ably led by John Gilbert Ondoi.
In his speech, Fr David Mamat commended the organizing committee for their courage in facing challenges and taking risks while planning for the celebration. He took note of the slow but sure progress in matters of faith of the faithful of Kemabong Mission and appealed, “Pray for us, pray for Kemabong Mission, especially for our spiritual growth.”
In concluding, Bishop Piong reminded that this annual celebration is a part of the program that builds up towards the Silver Jubilee Celebration of the Diocese in 2018. Other physical effort slated for the Jubilee is the completion of a pilgrimage centre called Holy Family Shrine on a 10-acre land in Keningau. He then announced and handed the UTK (Ulang Tahun Keuskupan) pennant to the host for the 23rd Anniversary in 2016, St Peter Bundu Parish, Kuala Penyu.
The celebration adjourned with lunch at the hall where traditional food and drinks were served, stage performances were presented, a visit to each booth by Bishop Piong, and everyone’s favourite, the lucky draw results drawn. The event ended at 5.00 pm. – Linda Edward