TATAL, Keningau – “Families must become the beacon of light that leads to Jesus.”
In these words, Bishop Cornelius Sim of the Vicariate Apostolic of Brunei Darussalam summed up the call of Family at the Mass to conclude the 3rd annual Episcopal Regional Commission for Family Life (ERCFL) held here at the Diocesan Tatal Retreat House, Keningau on 17-20 Apr 2016.
ERCFL was hosted by Keningau Diocese this year, and was well attended by 34 participants from across the arch/dioceses of Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Penang, Melaka-Johor, Sibu, Keningau, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam. Miri diocese was not represented at this year’s meeting.
After being welcomed by Bishop Cornelius Piong of Keningau, and the organising team comprising the Diocesan and Parish Family Life members, the ERCFL kicked off with a fellowship dinner. A special touch was added to the gathering at table with a surprise celebration of birthdays and anniversaries (wedding/ordination) of those present for March and April, as well as thanksgiving for the third edition of the ERCFL.
The following day the delegates spent the entire day listening to reports of family life activities and programmes being carried out in each diocese, followed by interaction and sharing of concerns and issues affecting families.
Some issues which drew substantial discussion included the importance of pre-marriage preparation to help engaged couples to realise the sanctity of marriage, leading them towards full, total, committed and faithful married life; the threat of conversion out of the faith, especially amongst the young through direct proselytisation and inherent system in society; con-validation of first cousin marriages, and others.
Delegates concurred they have learnt much from the sharing which enabled greater understanding, networking and sharing of resources among pastoral workers in the Family Life ministry.
In the evening, delegates were treated to dinner at “Nulu Sosopon” Pilgrimage Centre, located on Nulu Sosospon hill, overlooking Keningau township. Still under construction at its last stages, this centre will be another suitable venue for retreats and seminars in the diocese.
An opportune moment was given to the delegates on the second day to listen to Archbishop Wong on his experience at the Synod on Family in Rome last October. Archbishop Wong, who is also ERCFL President, reported that he was only given 3 minutes of intervention to highlight salient points in the region’s family report. He spoke on two points, namely to make the Marriage Tribunal process easier through the empowerment of the Local Ordinary, and to include ‘Family’ as a subject to be taught at seminaries.
Providentially these same two matters were covered in Pope Francis’ post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) released by Vatican on 8 Apr 2016.
John Ooi from Singapore, representing the Conference delegation that attended the World Meeting of Families held at Philadelphia in America last September, shared their experience. All materials and wealth of resources from the Meeting are available @ www.worldmeeting2015.org.
The proceedings also discussed the Pope’s new Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. As this document contains such a wealth of resource on the family, the Episcopal Commission mandates all diocesan commissions on the family to go back to their respective dioceses to conduct study sessions on the document among bishops and the priests, commission members and those directly involved in family life ministry, and to share outcome of these study sessions at next year’s ERCFL meeting.
The Commission informed that it would send an official 12-member strong delegation representing the Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei to attend the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC) “Shepherding Families in Asia” Seminar, to be held at the Salesian Retreat House, Hua Hin, Bangkok Thailand on 16-20 May 2016.
Melaka-Johor diocese was announced as host for ERCFL 2017, which would be held on 23-26 April 2017. Fr Bede Antonius and Fred Judin, from the Commission of Family Life of Keningau Diocese, handed over the Meeting Banner to Deacon Dr Leslie Petrus, representing Melaka-Johor Diocese delegates.
To conclude the meeting, the delegates were brought to visit the Sabah Handicraft Centre in Keningau, followed by high tea at St Francis Xavier Cathedral canteen, a grand traditional VIP welcome by Bishop Cornelius Piong from Keningau and the Catholic community at Kampung Biah with Mass, dinner and fellowship with all its richness of culture, pomp and fiesta.
This round is the third edition of ERCFL, the first being held in Kota Kinabalu in 2014, and the second last year in Kuala Lumpur. – Neil Mah, ERCFL Secretary