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400 catechists gather for PPKK/PUSKAT golden jubilee

Bishop Cornelius presents a token of appreciation to Fr Rudolf and his team at the golden jubilee celebration, 27-29 Apr 2017, Keningau.

KENINGAU – Four hundred catechists of the Keningau Diocesan Pastoral Centre (Pusat Pastoral Keuskupan Keningau [PPKK]), previously known as Pusat Latihan Katekis (PUSKAT), gathered for its Golden Jubilee celebration, held on 27-29 Apr 2017 at the centre here.

The three-day event saw the reunion of catechists who studied at PPKK/PUSKAT before with their trainers and course mates from other parishes and dioceses.

Bishop Cornelius Piong said the people should be grateful to God for the Spirit’s guidance under whom the late Father George Bauer, a Mill Hill Missionary and his team initiated and formulated courses for catechists in the early days, and founded PUSKAT in October 1966.

“Their effort has helped to develop a quality faith for Sabahan Catholics since the1960s. Although they lacked resources at that time, I believe they have put the right foundation for Catholic faith development in Sabah,” said the prelate.

According to him, the change of name from PUSKAT to PPKK is based on current pastoral needs where activities of the institution are no longer limited to train catechists for priestless service only, but it is also open to parishioners who want to obtain training on pastoral services such as leadership, leading prayers, catechetical guidance and many more.

Since its establishment, the bishop said, the institution has trained over 2,000 leaders and catechists for priestless service in Sabah. He commended the trainers in PPKK which is now headed by Father Rudolf Joannes, for their hard work.

One of the trainers, Franciscan Sister Veronica Kandaung, who taught at the centre from 1994-2006, said her life experiences teaching in PPKK has affirmed her faith and made her realise her personal limitations. Looking back at all the people that she has taught before, she said everything blooms in God’s own time. She admitted that PPKK is still relevant nowadays as a centre of knowledge and deepening of the Catholic faith.

By May 3, catechist Valintina Usad has reached her 25th year serving as a catechist for the diocese. She was only 22 years old when she joined the course in PUSKAT back in 1992. She said at that young age, it was hard for her to understand what was being taught on topics such as Catholic Religion, the Bible, Theory and Practical of RCIA, Priestless Service Liturgy, Catechist Leadership and Liturgy.

Nevertheless, the presence of teachers such as John Lainsin and Fredoline Umis has helped her a lot in her faith development, as well as Father Cosmas Lee who was serving in Keningau back then.  He gave them (catechists) the encouragement in their ministry. Fr Cosmas also taught them to reach out to the parishioners who reside in the interior.  This was where Valintina saw the apparent need for the catechist service.

The establishment of PUSKAT was based on pastoral needs as observed by Fr Bauer in the 1960s. He saw that the catechists were committed and loyal to their responsibility, but most of them knew very little about catechetics. At that time, much of the religious guidance was carried out by lay catechists, therefore Fr Bauer decided that a centre to train them was necessary.

Through the generosity of German benefactors and Missio-Germany in Aachen, Fr Bauer secured more than RM130,000 funding for the training necessities and the buildings in 1971.

Missio is a body that funds the spread of the Good News based in Germany.

In 1991, PUSKAT once again received funding from Missio-Germany, the Sabah government and local benefactors for more buildings.

The long term goal for PUSKAT/PPKK is to realise its vision for a new evangelisation to encourage a culture of praising God, faith formation and socially responsible community. Aldrin Benedict/John Lainsin

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