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KK prelate leads Chinese speaking parishioners on pilgrimage to Ranau and Sandakan Holy Doors

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RANAU-SANDAKAN – As a ‘good shepherd’ leading his flock, Archbishop John Wong led a 450-strong contingent of Chinese-speaking pilgrims, mainly from the Sacred Heart Cathedral and some from Good Shepherd Menggatal and St Simon Likas,  on a pilgrimage to the Holy Doors in Ranau and Sandakan on 6-8 July 2016.

The pilgrimage was organised by the cathedral Chinese Coordinating Committee who also encouraged participation from other parish groups. The pilgrims travelled in six tour buses, each of which had a bus leader assisted by five group leaders, in order to organise the large crowds in an orderly manner throughout the journey.

On the first day, Archbishop John Wong led the opening prayer to set off the pilgrimage at the SHC parish hall, urging the pilgrims to open their hearts to experience the mercy of the Lord throughout their spiritual journey.

Arriving at Ranau, the pilgrims were well received by parish priest Fr Nicholas Stephen, who gave a brief explanation on the icons on the Holy Door. He also encouraged the pilgrims to relate their experiences to the icons and to pray for forgiveness and to be forgiven, as well as for those who needed forgiveness and healing.

The pilgrims started their procession from the parish hall to the church proper while chanting the Litany of the Saints led by a teenage choir. After praying the Entrance Rite, Abp Wong led the pilgrims to cross the threshold of the Holy Door of Mercy, followed by the celebration of Mass.

During the homily, the prelate asked the pilgrims whether they aspired to seek the merciful face of God, whether their life reflected the mercy of God, and whether it proclaimed the coming of God’s Kingdom. “Ask the Lord to help us to prepare for His coming and to proclaim His Kingdom,” said the prelate. After Mass, the pilgrims ate their packed lunch before embarking on their long journey to Sandakan.

The throng of pilgrims arrived in Sandakan in the early part of the evening, tired but expectant. They were welcomed by the Chinese speaking parishioners at the St Mary’s Cathedral parish hall, where a brief introduction of the Chinese speaking pastoral committee and a short history of St Mary’s Cathedral were made before dinner was served. After dinner, the pilgrims were transferred to three different hotels, while the KK Chinese Coordinating Committee stayed back to finalise details for the programme for the next day with the Sandakan Chinese Coordinating Committee.

The next day the pilgrims, led by Abp Wong, entered the Door of Mercy at St Mary’s Cathedral.

In his homily, the prelate said, “Faith demands us to let go and to let God so that we can experience the mercy of God. The crucified Christ has set an example of perfect self-renunciation which needs faith and courage.”

After Mass and breakfast, the pilgrims proceeded to St Mark’s Church at Mile 14, and along the way visited the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre. St Mark was established to serve the migrant community. During a lunch fellowship with the pilgrims, the local church PPC members had the opportunity to share about their enthusiastic service to the church despite the trials and challenges. They also handed out bookmarks with prayers to the pilgrims.

In the afternoon of the same day, many of the pilgrims, including the elderly ones, climbed the Marian Hill and recited the Rosary at the five stations. Their physical exhaustion was replenished by a sumptuous buffet in a restaurant in the evening.

On their journey home, individuals were inspired to share their experiences. Joan Pang shared that she was touched by the archbishop’s down-to-earth ‘caring attitude’ for his flock.

Charlene Luk recalled the zeal of St Mark’s ‘servants’ to proclaim the Good News of the Lord and who love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and souls.

Serena was reminded of the verse in John’s Gospel, “I am the Good Shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep” (John 10:11), and counted it as an experience of God’s faithfulness for her and hence saw it as an invitation to imitate the Good Shepherd in leading His sheep towards the green pastures. – Catherine Wan

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