SINGAPORE – Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) representing the Dioceses of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei convened for their annual meeting on 27-29 June 2016 at the Retreat House, Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Singapore. With them was Archbishop John Wong of the Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese, who is the Episcopal President for New Evangelisation.
They came together to renew their commitment to mission, to be in fellowship, and to strengthen their fraternal bond. Two new Diocesan Directors joined the PMS gathering. They were Fr Kevin Chundi from the Diocese of Miri replacing Fr Sylvester Ding, and Fr Terence Pereira from the Archdiocese of Singapore replacing Fr Kenson Koh.
The meeting was chaired by PMS National Director, Fr VA Michael from the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, who handed out the Statutes to the new directors to guide them in playing their new role as PMS Diocesan Directors. He also explained the duties and responsibilities carried by Diocesan Directors.
He reminded the assembly of the three annual collections by each diocese, namely the Mission Sunday Collection, the Holy Childhood Collection and the St Peter the Apostle Collection. For the newcomers, he took the time to explain the four different societies in PMS and their roles and objectives; namely, Society of the Propagation of the Faith, Society of St Peter the Apostle, Society of Holy Childhood and Society of Missionary Union of Priests and Religious.
Referring to his attendance for the PMS Annual General Assembly in Rome in early June, Fr Michael enriched the meeting with his experience, as well as his personal meeting with the Holy Father, Pope Francis for the fourth time.
They have chosen the theme “Missionary Church, Witness of Mercy” for their discussion this year to reflect on Pope Francis’ World Mission Sunday 2016 message, which was released in the context of the Year of Mercy.
In his message, the Holy Father invites everyone to “go out” as missionary disciples, each generously offering their talents, creativity, wisdom and experience in order to bring the message of God’s tenderness and compassion to the entire human family.
The discussion continued in depth on Pope Francis’ words that the considerable and growing presence of women in the missionary world, working alongside their male counterparts, is a significant sign of God’s maternal love.
Women, lay and religious, and even many families today, carry out their missionary vocation in various forms: from announcing the Gospel to charitable service.
Together with the evangelising and sacramental work of missionaries, women and families often understand more adequately people’s problems and how to deal with them in an appropriate and, at times, fresh way; in caring for life, with a strong focus on people rather than structures; and in building good relations, harmony, peace, solidarity, dialogue, cooperation, and fraternity by allocating human and spiritual resources both among individuals and in social and cultural life, and in particular through care for the poor. Each director shared his experiences on how women in his diocese play major roles in the work of mission and other areas in serving the church.
Last year’s project of printing 10,000 Bibles for children in Bahasa Melayu was a success in addition to the 10,000 prayer booklets that PMS had distributed to children in 2014. The Bibles were distributed to each diocese where children were encouraged to read and be rooted in the Word so that in their little way they become little missionaries to spread the Good News among their friends and people they meet. The Bible is also a wonderful tool used in their catechism classes.
As there is a demand for more Bibles for the children, this year they have decided to distribute another 10,000 Bibles both in Bahasa Melayu and English. Both these Bibles will be distributed at no cost to the children.
A sharing was given by Daphne Leong from the Office for the New Evangelization (ONE) on the New Evangelization in Singapore. In her presentation, she gave three objectives of ONE: 1) Building a missionary; 2) Not a new gospel or a new mission but an ongoing and current understanding of both; and 3) New in ardour, methods and expressions. ONE is calling all Catholics to work in communion by renewing, living and sharing the faith. The four tenets of ONE are Word, Worship, Communion in Christ, and Community and Witness.
In closing the meeting, the National Director thanked all the Diocesan Directors for having collaborated with him in the last 10 years as his term ends at the end of February 2017. He also conveyed his thanks to all who had contributed for the Mission Sunday, Holy Childhood and St Peter the Apostle collections in the same period, as well as to the children for their efforts to raise funds to help the poor children in the third world countries.
As a highlight on the last day of the meeting, Fr Terence Pereira took the directors for an outing to the Night Safari, and gave them a briefing on the animal conservation projects and the many animals that are being extinct. – Justina Sharon