KOTA KINABALU – The dawning of Christmas and the exciting Christmas party never cease to thrill these “special friends” of the Sacred Heart Cathedral Special Ministry for children with developed mental disability (SHCSM).
Some 25 of these special people, who were accompanied by parents, grandparents or carers turned up with great expectation of fun, of yummy food and of receiving numerous presents and goodies.
They “tolerated” the speech time, and sprang to life at the signal for their favorite games “Musical Chair” and “Passing the Parcel”. Kudos to those who accepted without fuss when they were dropped out from the game!
After the advocates belted out some carols on their part, there was no return of the microphone to the adults. One after another, the children had great fun singing familiar carols.
Sr Genevieve Tinun, coordinator for SHCSM, informed that the ministry now has 23 advocates to cater to 32 “special friends”.
“Stagnant with 12 advocates for the last few years, God has been pleased to bless us recently with 11 newcomers, for which we are grateful,” said Sr Tinun.
But, she revealed, even with this big number, the ministry still does not have sufficient helpers. The ideal ratio of helper to children is 1:1. But now, they make do with one to two or three children that are not severely disabled. She said there is a need to promote for advocates, and support from friends, families, carers, and parishioners is more than welcome.
Rosalind Vun, an advocate for over four years, reminisced her first brush with the ministry, which she accorded to the influence of the late advocate Mary Kutty.
Not knowing how she would react at first sight, she found to her surprise that she experienced much love for the children. She relayed that it was this “love” that has sustained her passion for the ministry since.
For newcomers Airrin Lojingki and Betries Augustine, they readily agreed to be trained as advocates as their grandchild (Airrin’s) and son (Betries’) were already part of the ministry. Since they have to send them to the ministry’s activities, it makes sense to offer service where it is needed, they said.
Francesca Malantin and Patricia Totu, both retired nurses, responded because their vocational experience as nurses stand them in good stead.
Dr Christabel Mojiun, the “youngest” advocate of two months old, said literally the Lord brought her into the midst of the members of the ministry without her planning it, in answer to her search for direction.
The ministry runs two sessions fortnightly in a month. The first is run for adults preparation where the advocates prepare themselves on the sharing of the Word of God and for agape (celebration of birthdays, fellowship, etc).
The second session is for the children where they come together for the sharing of God’s Word, agape time, activities to prepare them to receive the sacraments (baptism, first Holy Communion, Confirmation), and activities for Christmas and Lent.
Besides, the children have opportunities for outings, a yearly thanksgiving Mass and penitential services for Advent and Lent.
Fr Max Hontor, spiritual adviser to the ministry, is always present to support the ministry with Mass, penitential services and advice.
For the occasion, he spoke encouraging words to the advocates, thanking them for their sacrifice and service to the Church in the ministry. He called them on to continue to give support to the ministry, and more so, to those whose children are part of the ministry, so that they (children) might have hope in their life, hope in them as their parents, and hope in those who “advocate’ them. – CS