PURAK, Papar – Over two hundred delegates – clergy, religious, laity – to the 2015 PAX Assembly were tipped on how to counter the three main challenges using the Archdiocesan Vision recently.
After a hiatus of five years, the PAX Assembly was held at the Paca Bene Formation Centre here on 8-11 Nov 2015. Among the delegates, over half were first timers. They were mainly members of the parish pastoral councils of the 19 parishes and subparishes in the archdiocese. For many, it was perhaps the first time they had a deeper understanding of the archdiocesan vision. The last assembly was held in 2009.
On the first night, the delegates were treated to a powerpoint presentation of the journey of the local Church from prefecture to archdiocese within a span of 153 years (1855-2008) after the welcoming speech of Archbishop John Wong. Present also was Abp Emeritus John Lee.
In his speech, the prelate stressed that the 2015 assembly was different from the previous ones because of its pastoral nature. This was because, he said, the assembly dealt with issues related to pastoring, taking care of those under their care in the parishes, the challenges they are facing, the situations around them.
“We want to look for ways how to provide better pastoral care for them, to seek those who are lost, take care of the sick, comfort those who mourn, strengthen those who are weak,” the prelate said. He quoted Pope Francis: “the Church is like a ‘field hospital for wounded souls.” As Local Church, he continued, we try to do the best we can, according to our ability.
The next day, the morning was taken up with the delegates’ reports on the findings of the survey undertaken by the parishes earlier in the year in the areas of A) perception of Catholics in Malaysia; B) Strengths and Weaknesses of the Local Church; C) Consequences of these Weaknesses (Threats); and D) Opportunities to Counter Threats of Apathy, Islamisation, and Secularisation.
The assembly was divided into 25 groups for sharing on what they had heard in the morning, and what they perceived to be the message of the Lord to them. Later after dinner, the delegates took all what they had heard, realised, and shared into prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament.
Inputs were given on the second full day: 1) Our Christian Identity in Malaysia (Fr Wilfred Atin); 2) Archdiocesan Vision (Abp Wong); 3) Our Pastoral Thrust a) “Go Inward” vs Apathy (Fr Nicholas Stephen); b) “Go Smaller” vs Islamisation (Fr Paul Lo); and c) “Go Outward” vs Secularisation (Fr Michael Modoit).
After dinner, the delegates divided themselves into three simultaneous “workshop” groups relating to the three ways of countering the issues.
On the final half-day, Apostolic Nuncio Abp Joseph Marino presented his reflections on the Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) and the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which actually deepened the understanding of our Christian identity as missionary disciples living in our own particular context in Malaysia and how to live out the Year of Mercy. The event ended with a closing Mass presided by Abp Marino followed by lunch.