Purak, PAPAR – The Council of Religious (COR) in the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu has once again organized the yearly Religious Vocation Awareness Seminar held at Pace Bene from 13 – 15th March 2020.
About three months before the event, the organizing team started doing publicity for the seminar in church bulletins, through social media like whatsapp, facebook as well as in the archdiocesan website. The main purpose of the vocation seminar was to create awareness to the participants about the manifold ways of serving in the Lord’s vineyard through the various charisms and ministries of religious orders in the Church.
About 80 participants of both genders, who felt called to serve as consecrated religious, attended the weekend seminar. They hailed from various parishes of the Arch/dioceses of Kota Kinabalu and Keningau. Most of them were school leavers, those who have just completed their Form Five or Upper Six and waiting to continue their higher studies. There were also working youth/adults between the ages of 18 – 30.
The number of participants this year was understandably much lesser as compared to last year. This is due to the last minute cancellation of some registered participants for fear of the covid-19 pandemic.
The Seminar officially opened with the Holy Mass at 5:00PM on Friday. Some of the activities conducted were the icebreakers in the form of games, group sharing, praise and worship – action songs. This was followed by input sessions on the call to holiness (by Fr. Rafael, OFM Cap) and on community life (by Fr. David Au, OFM). Ten minute sharing sessions were also given by all the Congregations present. There was then an open forum with selected representatives from various religious orders and secular institutes facilitated by Fr. Aden, OFM, related to some of the frequently asked questions on religious life. Holy Hour was at 8 – 9PM on Saturday night. During the seminar, an opportunity and space were also provided for the participants to go for personal counselling and individual confession.
The religious congregations who were present to share to the young people about their charisms and spirituality were the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (FSIC), the Good Shepherd Sisters (RGS), the Daughters of St. Paul (FSP), the Sisters of the Divine Saviour (SDS) or Salvatorian, based in Melaka Johor Diocese, Brothers of St. Gabriel (SG), Marist Brothers of the School (FMS), Clerical Society of the Most Holy Trinity of Mirinae (SST), Order of Franciscan Friar Minor (OFM), Order of Franciscan Friar Minor Capuchin (OFM Cap) and the Order of the Pious School (Piarist) (Sch.P).
In addition, two groups of Secular Institutes participated in the Seminar: the Ordo Francisanus Secularis (OFS) and the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS) who at the same time represented the Carmelite Nuns (OCD).
The seminar was conducted in a holistic way by allotting time for everything: to rest, to eat, to pray, to learn by listening to various talks and to work together as a group like sweeping and dish washing. In a way, the participants experienced how it is to live in a community and take part actively in all duties and responsibilities it entails.
Archbishop John Wong celebrated the concluding Mass on Sunday at 11:00AM. His grace inspired the participants with the interesting sharing of his vocation story. And in the light of the Gospel on the third Sunday of Lent about the Samaritan woman he told the participants that Jesus too is thirsting for their love. He challenges everyone to look deep within oneself and see how personally we can satiate the thirst of Jesus during this Lenten season and in the service to the needy brothers and Sisters who are waiting for them. He encouraged everyone to be courageous in answering God’s call. He said, “Should you hear the stirring of God’s voice deep within you, harden not your heart. It does not matter what congregation or religious order you choose to enter, after all we are serving the same Lord and Master.”
At the end of the Mass, Br.Thomas, SG, the head of the council of religious in the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu expressed sincere thanks to all the Franciscan Sisters, the staff and management of Pace Bene under Sr. Juliana’s purview, who allowed the religious and participants to occupy the place for the weekend seminar free of charge. He also thanked all the participants and the various congregations who contributed to the success of the vocation Seminar.- Srbbfsp