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TAMBUNAN – First Year Theology seminarian Konstend Gnanapragasam, who comes from the Diocese of Penang, shares about his pastoral immersion in Tambunan:
After each year of Theology studies, all seminarians are sent for four months of pastoral work. I was sent to St Theresa’s Church in Tambunan Sabah.
I began my pastoral immersion on 10 Jan 2017, and it was the first time I came to Sabah. To my amazement, the hilly landscape and green mountain range surrounded by paddy fields and vegetable plots truly touched my heart and brought fond memories of my childhood days when I used to live in a village (Kg Paya).
I am really impressed by the uniqueness of Tambunan culture which I have never experienced elsewhere. The community here really gives meaning to life through their fellowship by being together, sharing what they have and always giving thanks to God.
I use the Malay word PEDAS to give meaning to their fellowship and translate the acronym in English which is ‘Praying, Eating, Drinking and Singing.’ Based on my experience here with the community, they love to pray, eat together, drink ‘tapai’ a local alcoholic drink made of rice and yeast, and which ends in joyous singing. Through activities and fellowship, I was able to see people from all walks of life such as teachers and leaders who would come down to the grassroot level to be with their communities.
Furthermore, their solidarity gave me a sense of belonging as a member of their community. There were many times that I went out with youths and their families for hiking or other activities such as visiting homes. They are united, and pray for each other as encouraged by Mother Teresa: The family that prays together stays together, and if they stay together they will love one another as God has loved each one of them. And works of love are always works of peace. I experienced such love and peace through their fellowship and activities.
Apart from the Mass at the parish, I also went for Mass in the homes for memorial and house blessings as they focus on God on all the occasions by giving thanks and seeking strength during times of sorrow and joy. It reminds me of the early community in the Acts of the Apostles 2: 42, These remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.
I realised that they have moulded me on how to mingle, how to be simple, and how to respect each other. This solidarity resembles a bridge to connect people of different status, age and mindset.
Reflecting further, I was able to understand the meaning of PEDAS with a deeper insight, which is “Prayers Ensure Deep Authentic Solidarity.” I would like to end with a bible passage from Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together. –Konstend Gnanapragasam