PENANG – Seven covenant communities in Malaysia kept their appointment to meet for the 5th edition of their Fellowship of Malaysia Covenant Communities (FMCC) gathering here from 30 Apr – 1 May 2016 for deepening and expansion.
Altogether there are nine covenant communities in existence in Malaysia. Two (from Labuan and Papar) were unable to make it this year, which saw in attendance the total number of 164 members comprising of both adults and youth.
FMCC this year was hosted by Covenanted For Christ Community, Penang/Taiping at the Catholic Pastoral Center. The gathering is an attempt to rally the members of the communities within Malaysia for fellowship, sharing of resources, and aligning the vision and mission of covenant communities with the Church and God.
The FMCC gathering began with an Opening Eucharistic celebration presided by Bishop Sebastian Francis of Penang Diocese. Bishop Sebastian welcomed all the members of Covenant Communities who have gathered in Penang from the other parts of Malaysia. In his homily he encouraged the Covenant Communities present to continue to be faithful to their calling to witness through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.
FMCC chairman Anthony Lim gave an update on the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships (CFCCCF) on pertinent matters which have a direct effect on the local communities, in particular Pope Francis’ personal letter to CFCCCF on the 25th anniversary of its pontifical recognition in Rome in November 2015.
Lim highlighted three key areas: firstly, Pope Francis calls for a deepening of communion as a way of preparation to celebrate with him the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Rome on Pentecost of 2017.
His call to a deepening and expansion experience within communities abides in a specific scripture given by him from Isaiah 54:2-4 “Widen the space of your tent …”
Lim called on the communities to bring it home for a deeper reflection what it means for each community.
Secondly, Pope Francis calls for a new way of looking at ourselves as communities “not just as a movement in the Church but rather be the renewal of Pentecost for the Church and the world.” He sees it as the need for the Holy Spirit more than ever, especially for those who have yet to experience “being born anew.”
Thirdly, Pope Francis reminded the communities of his mandate for them in his 2014 address to CFCCCF in Rome: 1) to seek unity, 2) to share the baptism of the Holy Spirit with everyone in the Church, 3) to remain faithful in preserving the prayer of praise, and 4) to encourage ecumenism.
Lim noted the constancy and intensity of the Pope’s charge to the CCR to share the baptism of the Holy Spirit on four occasions in 2014 and 2015. He concluded by urging all communities to “grasp and do” the pontiff’s mandate for the CCR, with a clear understanding of our relevancy as covenant communities, “Don’t just feed the poor. But also share with them the baptism of the Holy Spirit!”
FMCC 2016 has the privilege of listening to what the Spirit of God says through Deacon Clement Samuel. Deacon Sam, as he was fondly called, was present at the invitation of FMCC to the Bishop of Penang Diocese, who has sent the deacon to represent him as his liaison for the covenant community in the diocese.
Deacon Sam spoke on the “pastoral priorities of covenant communities,” relating his chosen topic as a response to the pontiff’s call of deepening and expansion, specifically in seven areas: Deepening of the Charismatic/Covenant spirituality, Spirit-filled/Visionary leadership, Formation to prepare for membership, Strengthening of gender identity and role of men/women groups, Family Life to prepare the next generation, Unity in diversity, Mission to promote baptism of the Holy Spirit, the Prayer of Praise.
The Fellowship gathering culminated in the Youth Rally on the last evening, which saw a synergy of communion of seven FMCC youth groups becoming one FMCC Youth.
“It was a glimpse of the “deepening communion” of FMCC, a clear demonstration of the work of the Holy Spirit,” said Anthony Lim in his summary of the gathering.
“It is a glimpse of the future, when FMCC youth will burst the Church! It is a witness of the Spirit being so free!” Lim said.
He closed with an encouragement to the youth “Thank you for witnessing to us, for teaching us how to be young in the Spirit! You are the hope and future of FMCC! Continue to communicate in the way that you have been doing. The future of FMCC is in a good place!”