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Parish responds to Gaudium Et Spes in the face of Nepal earthquake

NF 3“1. The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.” [Gaudium Et Spes, Vatican II]

 LABUAN – In response to the above challenge, a few parishioners of Blessed Sacrament Church, Labuan, felt strongly that something had to be done for the people of Nepal who had suffered a devastating earthquake that killed about 8,000 people, injured more than 16,000 and left 450,000 homeless on April 25.

It all started on April 30.  It took only a phone call to the parish priest Msgr Primus Jouil for his permission to organize a food fair in the parish.  After that there was no turning back. The Nepal Appeal Food Fair cum Jumble Sale was officially on!  A committee was immediately set up and we decided that it must take place on May 24 and no later as the homeless are facing the oncoming monsoon rains shortly.

The first meeting was held on May 5 with most of the parish groups participating and offering different food items for sale.  Everything was done with great urgency: production of coupons, production of banner, preparation of announcements after church services, notice in bulletin and distributing coupons for sale. Our initial target was for $10,000 sales.

NF 5By Jun 9, 4 days after the meeting, coupons were already printed for sale.  Fr Thomas Madanan who was visiting from Holy Nativity Church Terawi on May 11 gave an excellent homily on love and charity linking it to the Nepal Appeal. As usual when a priest appeals, the congregation responds. We sold a lot of coupons after that Sunset Mass.

Continuous lobbying to get friends to donate cooked food went on. Gradually more and more WhatsApp messages came through indicating people’s desire to help. Many of them were non-Catholics.  Their generosity just kept pouring in. Many offered cooked food, one sponsored a banner advertising the event, others gave their time in getting the coupons done, whilst others offered to help with the logistics. By the time we had our second meeting on May 11, we calculated we had more than $20,000 worth of food for sale.

As the day grew closer, a friend from another Christian denomination came forward to donate a freezer-fridge, a television set, a home theatre system and 2 hampers for a raffle draw.  Another person donated a pricy hamper.  Later another donation for 2 handphones were received. These were also used for another raffle draw.

On Saturday the eve of the event, all groups went to set up their stalls and decorated them with pride. There was a lot of laughter and joy as the community put their efforts together for a worthy cause. Fr Tony Mojiwat celebrated Mass that weekend. He did another round of appeal to the congregants and they responded.

When the day of the food fair/jumble sale came, everyone did their part. The atmosphere was so calm yet purposeful and joyful. A few ‘customers’ graced the stage with Elvis’ and Engelbert’s hits. They created a cheerful ambience and other guests were suitably entertained whilst enjoying their food there. The young ones were seen carrying trays of food for sale going from one table to another. The Sunday schoolers came to help after their session. Some golden-age members helped to tend to the stalls as well.

Everything fell into place and it was smooth going.  Within 20 days all was done. We clocked in a total of RM52,000.

Clearly our Lord was with us throughout this event. The generosity of the donors was overflowing, patience was unusual and hiccups were overcome.

The parish community has definitely put their faith into action and for a noble cause at that.

On behalf of the people of Nepal, we thank everyone who has contributed and helped in one way or another. – Betty Teo


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