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Redemptorist priests conduct mission in St Simon Likas

DSC_0368LIKAS – St Simon Parish Likas recently held a three-week Parish Mission conducted by the Redemptorist priests on 29 Apr – 24 May 2015, concluding on Pentecost Sunday during the morning Mass. Three Redemptorist priests came at the invitation of the Rector, Fr Cosmas Lee, to conduct this mission at the parish. They were Fr Joseph Stephen, Fr Paul Kee and Fr Suresh Pushparaj. The mission, themed ‘Renewal through the Holy Spirit’, was aimed to reach out to all parishioners to be renewed and invigorated in our life through the Holy Spirit.

The Parish Mission was done in three parts. The first was to visit as many of the parishioners’ homes as possible, this being the personal invitation to each family to take part in the Novena. This was done by three teams over 10-11 weekdays Apr 29-May 14 . The target was to cover at least 10 houses by each team per night .This was achieved to a certain degree by confirming appointments beforehand with the families, although inevitably, there were some last minute changes. Three teams set out each night, each led by one of the priests accompanied by 2 lay leaders and the taman leader.  During the visit, the priest would introduce himself, anoint any sick members of the family, conduct house blessings if asked and give a family blessing. Families were requested not to give any donation or refreshments .The priest then invited the families to attend the coming 9-day Novena (preached mission) in the church May 15-23.

This 9-day Novena formed the second part of the mission. During this Novena, Mass was celebrated, during which a priest would preach on a specific topic. These topics were:

Culture of Death, Culture of Life; Is God Dead; Christianity in a Secular Culture; Why are you a Catholic; Family in the Modern World; Eucharist: Food for our Faith Journey; Be Reconciled: Making up is Easy; Youth: Their World and their Challenges; and Holy Spirit in the Life of our Blessed Mother.

These topics had been carefully selected to cover the various issues facing the church. A major concern was whether the parishioners would respond to the call to attend the 9-day Novena. They must have been touched by the Holy Spirit because they attended faithfully each night, the numbers ranging from 400 to 700, especially high on the night an inner healing service was conducted by Fr Suresh Pushparaj. The Liturgy, including the readings and hymns were specially selected, contributing to the relevant themes of each night’s topic. ‘The night the topic was ‘Family in the Modern World’, married couples were led by Fr Joseph to renew their marriage vows. On the last night, each person was asked to bring a flower for Mother Mary and all those present were consecrated to the Blessed Mother.

The third part of the Parish Mission was the various formations given to the different ministries and groups on the three weekends. The three priests met in turn with the Parish Pastoral leaders; Youth; Catechists, Sunday School Students and parents; Wardens, the Ministry of Hospitality; and the parishioners after a Sunday Mass with a talk on Marriage and Family Life. All were well attended. The Bahasa-speaking community at Keramat also had a BM Mass celebrated and talk given by Fr Joseph Stephens on one of the Saturday evenings. Daily counselling by each priest was available at the church, and before Mass each evening, the three priests also heard confessions.

The last Redemptorist Parish Mission in Sabah was about 34 years ago at the Sacred Heart Parish. Fr Joseph Stephens CSsR was also here that time as team leader.  He has authored 5 books, the latest on parish spirituality. He is presently involved in doing missions in Malaysia and Singapore. Fr Paul Kee CSsR has a degree in Theology and has worked as a mission preacher and retreat master, while Fr Suresh Pushparaj  CSsR has worked in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. He is well known for mission and retreat preaching.

CssR stands for an abbreviation for Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris, Latin for “Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer”.The Congregation has a motto taken from verse 7 of Psalm 130, in Latin: Copiosa apud eum redemptio (With him there is plentiful redemption), a succinct declaration that motivates Redemptorists because in it God shows himself to be absolutely generous in love, mercy and forgiveness for men and women, especially for those who feel abandoned and live on the fringes of society.

The Parish Mission posed a challenge as it was the first time a Redemptorist mission had been held at the parish. As it came soon after the Lent/Easter season there was a limited time to plan it including the publicity, relevant people and logistics involved. As we surrendered the mission to the Lord however, everything fell into place. With the Intercessory group praying for the mission every night of the visitation, the lay leaders and taman leaders came forward willingly to accompany the priests, and the parishioners responded with their hearts to come faithfully each night of the Novena, willing to learn and be touched by the Spirit. The spirit of mission in every baptised to go out and spread the good news was also emphasized.

Feedback from many was that the down-to-earth approach of the priests made them feel connected, and also feel important in God’s eyes. The house visitations gave them a sense of being remembered, especially those who had been away from the church for various reasons. The opportunity for house blessings and those of the sick was also welcomed.

Fr Joseph Stephens, Fr Paul Kee and Fr Suresh in their closing comments on Pentecost Sunday commended the parishioners for their openness to this mission and also expressed their appreciation for their warm hospitality and generosity. They also thanked Fr Cosmas Lee, expressing their heartfelt gratitude for his generosity, willingness and invitation to them to conduct this mission.  The whole mission concluded with a fellowship breakfast in the parish hall where multi- celebrations were also  held – including an early birthday celebration for Fr Cosmas; a welcome for our Neophytes and the 17th anniversary for the Legion of Mary. Truly, a joyous, happy and fitting occasion to bring the whole parish together. – Vera Chin

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