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KOTA KINABALU – His interest in nature, especially his passion for orang utan, has impelled Fr Michael Gebhart to spend his rwo-week (a year) holiday in Sabah since 2013. The Benedictine monk from Weltenburg Benedictine Monastery, Kelheim, Germany was in Sabah again for the fourth time from Jan 12-27 and according to him, would also be his last visit.
In 2013, he corresponded with Dominic Lim from Kota Kinabalu (KK) Archdiocesan office, who welcomed and helped him to arrange his itinerary, though he came on a personal capacity.
During his first visit, Fr Gebhart found that this land below the wind is a place that he likes. He found the Church here as ‘very alive’ and the people friendly.
This year, he visited the same places with a few additional places such as Labuan, and Lahad Datu and Semporna on the east coast.
He requested to celebrate Mass everyday while he was here; which he did in several parishes around Sabah, for instance, St Aloysius Limbanak, St Joseph Papar among others.
He was also interested in meeting young people. He celebrated Mass with the youth participating in the recent Emmaus Youth Camp-7 at the KK Catholic Student Group (CSG) Centre. In fact he has been faithfully celebrating Mass at the EYC since his first arrival here.
While here, he also paid a visit to Archbishop John Wong, a few priests, religious, and parishioners; and visited convents, children’s homes and Catholic retreat centres.
Several youths/parishioners from Divine Mercy Church Maang under Penampang Parish wrote to Catholic Sabah sharing their experience being with Fr Michael Gebhart on Jan 17.
Norbert Bisuil, Maang youth leader: I’m so happy to have a priest coming from far to Divine Mercy Church Maang, Penampang. It was like he was God-sent, who gave a new breath to all Divine Mercy parishioners, especially to the youths.
Howell Bensing, KBP Limbanak coordinator: Parishioners were united in welcoming Fr Michael to our Church community. His homily on the reality of serving the Church was a mind opener. As for us, he urged us to breathe new life into the Church by involving and supporting community activities. Fr Michael also commended us to show mercy and compassion towards each other.
Kathy Ah Ting: I am happy and thankful to have a priest from Germany visiting us. Fr Michael is a very friendly priest. In his homily, he said without love and compassion, the Church is empty, like the Church in Germany where there are only senior people left. He also spoke about the Year of Mercy, and urged the community to understand its real meaning and to practise it daily. There were about 200 people in the Mass. Fr Michael commended on the turnout of parishioners and commended Maang community for a well-organised Mass.
Melania Christianus: As a small community, he urged us to support each other, not only in prayers but in being good friends and neighbours to each other. Let our Church be a loving and merciful Church so that everyone who comes to visit us could feel the blessings and graces of God.