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PAPAR – About 25 members and their families of the St Simon Catholic Church Likas Pastoral Care Ministry visited the Holy Family Residence for Senior Citizens here on 29 Jul 2017.
The sixth outreach visit for the ministry this year, led by Vera Chin, also involved 15 students from confirmation class and two teachers.
The team was blessed by its pastor, Father Cosmas Lee, before the convoy of 10 vehicles loaded with food stuff and goodies left for the 45-minute journey.
Franciscan Sisters Aileen and Regina were on hand to welcome them to the residence, home to 35 elderly.
Some of the highlights of the visit included meet-and-greet, fellowship and performances by the confirmation class students which moved some of their audiences to tears, among others.
However, amid all the formality of the event, one story of conversion caught this writer’s attention, that of Madam Chin.
Madam Chin, 84, was wheelchair-bound following a fall which injured her hip bone. She said she moved into the residence only four months ago.
Chin was born in Sandakan to a pagan family. When she was five years old, she envisioned an eagerness to see God and asked her elder brother where to find Him.
“It has to be the God from the Catholic mission (Tien Tzu Tong in Hakka dialect),” said Chin.
Her brother told her the church is the only place to find God. He was studying in a Catholic school then. While growing up as a Buddhist, she never forgot about the Catholic Church.
She eventually married and had children of her own. Then one Sunday morning 22 years ago, she felt a very strong urge to seek God. So she got hold of her baby grandson who was under her care then, called a taxi and instructed the driver to go straight to St Mary’s Church (now St Mary’s Cathedral), which was eight miles away from her home along Labuk Road.
She said the minute she heard the Church bell tolling and the hymns, she felt her burden, sorrow, unhappiness and sufferings all disappeared. She felt so peaceful, relaxed, and joy filled her body thoroughly (the feelings have never changed since then, she said).
That same Sunday, she enquired about how to become a Catholic. She was introduced to Fr Tobias Chi the rector of the church then. She joined the Chinese Catechism class and was baptised a year later.
Later, her husband got a stroke and she had to care for him. She confessed there was a time she became a lapsed Catholic while being engrossed with family matters.
When she decided to go to a retirement home she insisted it has to be managed by Catholic mission. She said the Holy Family Residence for Senior Citizens is her only choice because she feels she can be near God there. She said she prayed “very, very hard” in order to be admitted into the residence. She believes she has made peace with God now by attending daily Mass to make up for the times that she neglected God.
When Chin talked about God, her tone became very excited and her face radiant, and a flow of peace and happiness filtered through her. When she heard the song “Amazing Grace,” her eyes brimmed with tears. She did not speak English but hummed along sweetly. She said she loves singing and would love to have a Chinese hymn book.
The writer felt privileged to meet this simple but remarkable lady whose struggle to know God took her through so many years of ups and downs that now she surrenders her later years in the senior home just to be near God and not with her children and family.
“It is my choice to come here… to have time with God,” were her very first words to this writer when they shook hands. – Joan Pang @ SOCCOM St Simon Catholic Church