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BUKIT MERTAJAM – Thirty-five Family, Laity and Life Commission delegates were told to open their hearts, spread the love of family and laity, sustain the basic cell of the family, and journey together to build the Kingdom of God.
Archbishop John Wong, President of the Episcopal Regional Commission of Family, Laity and Life (ERCFLL), spelled out the mission of the ERCFLL as they gathered for their 5th annual meet at Domus St Anne here on 23-25 Apr 2018.
ERCFLL has been re-created to merge the Commissions of Family Life and Laity following the creation of the new Dicastery for the Laity, and Family and Life by Pope Francis on 1 Sep 2016 for “the promotion of the life and apostolate of the lay faithful, for the pastoral care of the family and its mission according to God’s plan and for the protection and support of human life.”
The annual gathering, which was hosted by Penang Diocese, were represented by the arch/dioceses of the Bishops’ Conference for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei comprising of the Arch/dioceses of Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Singapore, Penang, Melaka-Johor, Sibu, Miri, Keningau, Sandakan and Brunei Vicariate.
The reports from the delegates revealed that most dioceses have worked hard to bring awareness of the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation on Family, Amoris Laetitia to the faithful.
Two newly inaugurated programmes in KL Archdiocese and Penang Diocese, namely the Retrouvaille Weekend – A Marriage Lifeline, and the Catholic Singles Dating Hub respectively, have stimulated interest from other delegates who expressed the desire to have them introduced in their dioceses.
Other interesting programmes reported included the Men’s Seminar: The Courageous Man, Marital First Responders Workshop, Marriage Discernment Weekend, HLS Family, Marriage Enrichment Experience, Rosary Rally and Reconciliation, Pastoral Care-From Womb to Tomb, Renewal of Marriage Vows, Promoting God’s Plan for the Family, Being Authentic Gifts (BAGs), Launch of Courage & Encourage, Catholic Divorce Survival Guide, and Family Prayer Packet.
Delegates agreed that in the light of the number of marriages breaking down, proper marriage preparation is of paramount importance. Although the modus operandi for marriage preparation varies, the delegates agreed that the time allocated for marriage preparation is too short. A remedial proposal to mentor young couples after the Marriage Preparation programme by either those preparing or by senior married couples was suggested. The delegates were informed that this has already been made compulsory in the Archdiocese of Kuching.
An eye-opening talk themed “Understanding the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community” was presented by Bryan Crucis Shen, a former Singapore Airforce pilot and now an accomplished independent Lay Missionary.
Commission members were taught the correct terms and terminology used in relation to LGBT. Shen explained that gender identity development could be influenced by the interactions and the environment in the family and may be contributory factors to same sex attraction (SSA). He also explained the difference between being Gay and SSA. Awareness was instilled into the delegates on issues impacting the family unit and the Church in relation to the onslaught of LBGT social challenge.
As part of the programme, the delegates were taken on a visit to Penang Island, where they visited the newly refurbished Church of the Assumption and the church museum. The delegates were also treated to hawker food for which Penang is famous.
ERCFLL Conference 2019 will be hosted by Kuching Archdiocese. – Chris Kostka/Joseph Pragasam