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Sandakan Diocese gearing up to be a Missionary Church

Sandakan pastoral leaders pose in front of the pastoral centre with the apostolic nuncio.
Sandakan pastoral leaders pose in front of the pastoral centre with the apostolic nuncio.

TELUPID – The two-day event to mark the 8th Anniversary of the Diocese of Sandakan kicked off with a formation session for some 110 people, comprising  clergy, religious and lay leaders of the diocese.  The formation, held at the Sabah Forestry Institute, Telupid on Oct 13, was facilitated by Archbishop Joseph Marino, Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia.   Also present were Bishop Julius Gitom, and Bishop Cornelius Piong of Keningau.

Drawing from the letters of St Paul, Archbishop Marino enlightened the participants that the whole idea of Christian life is to be formed and be conformed to that of Jesus Christ.  He said that the session would touch on the type of formation and mentality we should possess in the Church today as proposed by Pope Francis.

He shared on the qualities of a missionary church based on Pope Francis’ Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel).

He cited the address of the Holy Father, then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, before the conclave, in four short and concise paragraphs:

  1. In evangelization, the Church must come out of herself to reach out to the peripheries.
  2. If the Church remains within, the church is self-referential keeping Jesus locked inside. She tends to be sick.
  3. If the church remains self-referential, she ceases to be concerned about the world. She looks only at herself.
  4. In contemplation and adoration, it helps the church to go forth and be a fruitful mother caring for the world and bringing others to the church. In so doing, we find our joy whenever we bring Jesus out.

It is not how much doctrine that we give but how much love we put in as we reach out to others. Thus, it is linked to how we think, involving our attitude, to bring the joy of the Gospel to the people.

The Church that goes forth should be a joyful Church. The Holy Father envisions a community which moves out from itself in personal encounters with people, sharing with them the beauty of the Gospel from which we experience the mercy and joy flowing from God’s love.

The second reflection was on the challenges facing pastoral agents. The nuncio said that we are often too concerned about external forces we think threaten the church. However, we ought to redirect our attention to challenges that come from within the church (EG #76-109).

Some of the challenges encountered by pastoral workers were listed: heightened individualism, inferiority complex, relativism, apathy, ‘tomb’ psychology, pessimism and spiritual worldliness.

The third reflection centred on the Extraordinary Year of Mercy which, on 13 March 2015, the Holy Father announced an extraordinary jubilee which has at its centre the mercy of God. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6 : 36), animating the church, ‘in her mission to bring the Gospel of Mercy to each person.’

The prelate explained  the meaning of the Year of Mercy, from 8 December 2015 to 20 November 2016. The goals of this special time of grace are:

  1. to experience strongly within ourselves the joy of having been found by Jesus, the Good Shepherd who has come in search of us because we are lost;
  2. to be transformed by his mercy so that we may be witnesses to mercy, and
  3. to rediscover and enter into the ‘logic of God.’

The nuncio said It is important to understand  why Pope Francis constantly repeats the word  mercy, insisting upon it without hesitation.  If we have received and touched by the mercy of God, he continued, should we not do the same to others? It is a call to everyone to be witnesses of mercy, sharing with others the mercy we have received.

“We learn of the parable of the healing of the leper where Pope Francis stated the ‘why’ of Christ’s mission: to show compassion, to reach out and find those who are marginalized and to reinstate them,” the archbishop added.

In conclusion, he cited the reflection by the Holy Father given on 11 April 2015, “This is the time for mercy… heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see, and to touch with their hands, the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

Bishop Julius announced that the clergy, in its recent meeting, has proposed some activities to commemorate the Year of Mercy, particularly the opening of the Holy Door of Mercy at the cathedral. These activities will be a time to manifest mercy to everyone. – DOSPO, DS


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