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KOTA KINABALU – Fifty-one women participated in the first ever programme for young women organised by the four young adult ministries of Sacred Heart Cathedral here on 12 Nov 2015 at the parish centre.
Elysian came to birth when a group of young adults saw the potential in young women in the parish who are full of life and zeal, having the capacity to create a space to build up a generation of women who would see themselves as gifts of Christ, as daughters of the King, and know their identity as women.
In response to this crucial issue in the parish, the four young adult ministries of Sacred Heart Cathedral – Efata, Lifeline, Sacred Heart Chinese Youth and Sacred Heart Young Adults Prayer Group, came together to pray, and eventually to plan a one-day programme.
While meeting with members from all four ministries, the name Elysian was chosen as it is the Greek word for beautiful or delightful. The theme for the event is “Returning to His Love”, taking the story of the Prodigal Son. The scripture was taken from Wisdom 2:23 the reading of the day – For God formed us to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made us.
The one-day programme was conducted in English but participants were allocated in small groups according to their language preference.
The first session invited the participants to reflect on where they are in their journey. Three characters of women in the bible were introduced where participants were invited to choose which character they identify themselves with. Mary Magdalene represents abused women; Martha represents active but unacknowledged women in society; the woman with the bleeding issue represents the identity crisis that is attacking our generation.
In the second session, the participants were presented with the same three biblical characters whose identities have been restored, and are welcomed by Jesus with love and acceptance. They were once again invited to identify themselves with these three characters. Every session was followed by group sharing where participants were given the opportunity to share their reflections.
The prayer of blessing
The participants were invited to make a crown that represents themselves as an expression of gratitude for their identity.
After some time of reflecting on the event theme based on the Gospel story of the Prodigal Son, the group leaders led each participant to wear their own-made crowns, signifying who they are today and to be presented before the Father. Following that, the participant was robed using their shawl as a symbol of the Father welcoming His daughter home, as in the parable of the prodigal son. In addition, the participants were being prayed with blessings and encouragement as they allowed themselves to enter into the Heart of the Father. We witnessed this as a time of healing and empowerment.
Five workshops were offered with the purpose of exploring more of the participants’ gifts and talents. Some shared that the workshops had also been therapeutic and was a healing process for them.
The one-day gathering of women was the result of team work among the four young adult ministries in the parish. There was the positive element of sharing gifts, skills and passion together which made the event fruitful.
The participants were happy to have the opportunity to meet up for support, fun and bonding with one another. Many were able to identify themselves with the characters of the women in the bible and were able to share openly in the groups which was said to be essential in the programme.
They were glad to have the opportunity to participate in the various workshops. They would like to see more options of workshops in the future as it had helped them to relax and explore their talents.
Identity was affirmed and restored through the words of blessings by women in their groups in the final session.
The participants would like to have the event as an annual event, with more topics and workshops offered in a two-day gathering over the weekend. They are also encouraged to attend the various young adult prayer meetings for follow up.
Amy Alison: ELYSIAN was my first experience of a women’s gathering in Church. I got to meet different women and bonded with some of them too. This event is a good way to bring women together and learn about God in our lives every single day. I am reminded where I stand right now in my life. At times, we are too distracted with all the noise in the world and have put God in the back seat. The workshop has helped us to relate our passion with God too. Thank you for creating an awesome experience for all of us!
Sarah: After coming for the Elysian gathering, I have learned more about myself, how beautiful the Lord’s plan is for me.
Shirley Paul: Personally, I was grateful for the opportunity to reflect on myself and my life so far – where I am at the moment, where I was in the past and where I see myself walking towards in the future. I was caught up with work and life’s ups and downs and did not take much time to reflect and identify where I was. By sharing my own thoughts and experiences and also by listening to others, I am reminded again of God’s infinite love and to keep on returning to his love no matter where life takes me. We are precious daughters of God. Therefore, we should never feel alone. In the future, I anticipate having a better relationship with God and finding peace in His love. – Debbie Douglas