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ERCSC Annual Meeting and Formation in Sibu

KOTA KINABALU: Social communicators from the nine Catholic dioceses in Malaysia and Brunei emerged from their annual meeting with a renewed zeal for their work.

The four-day Episcopal Regional Conference for Social Communication (ERCSC) comes just ahead of a busy calendar events within the Catholic church in the country.

The ERCSC was held at the Laudato Si Centre adjacent to the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Sibu from June 10 to 14.

Thirty-five representatives from nine dioceses across Malaysia, the Apostolic Vicariate of Brunei and the Daughters of St. Paul, who also represented SIGNIS Malaysia, attended the conference and formation, chaired by Cardinal Datuk Seri Sebastian Francis. The Archdiocese of Singapore was absent with apologies.

Cardinal Sebastian set the tone of the conference by reminding the delegates how Peter led the other Apostles out of the upper room after the Holy Spirit descended upon them on Pentecost.

He emphasised that without Peter and the Apostles leaving that upper room to announce the Good News, the Church would never have been established as the global presence it is today.

Similarly, Cardinal Sebastian urged those involved in social communications to step out of their own ‘upper rooms’ and explore new ways to fulfil their mission.

He also stressed that they are part of a synodal Church and emphasised the importance of avoiding compartmentalisation within this body. Despite evolving structures not outlined in the Gospels, clergy, religious, and laity have served the Church effectively for thousands of years based on tradition.

Cardinal Sebastian encouraged everyone to focus on their baptismal call and to strengthen their relationship with Jesus. He reminded the delegates that clergy, religious, and laity are all disciples whose central task is to reach out to the people of God.

The Prelate also outlined upcoming events at the diocesan level that the Social Communication Commissions (Social Comms) could assist with in the coming year and these include:

  1. Opening of the Jubilee Year of Hope at the diocesan level on December 29, coinciding with the Feast of the Holy Family.
  2. Diocese level events for the Jubilee of World Communication ‘Pilgrims of Hope’ at the Vatican from January 24 to 26, 2025.
  3. Malaysia Catholic Young People Assembly (MCYPA) in Kota Kinabalu from March 31 to April 6, 2025.
  4. The various events leading up to the Malaysia Pastoral Convention (MPC) 2026
  5. The Sabah Pastoral Assembly on May 11 and 12, 2025, in Kota Kinabalu and
  6. Diocesan level events marking the closing of the Jubilee Year of Hope on January 6, 2026.

At the Sibu meeting, it was also decided that the next ERCSC is to be scheduled for June 23-27, 2025, in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

During the formation sessions, delegates explored the implications of artificial intelligence, inspired by the Pope’s World Communication Day message. It was emphasised that AI is a tool that complements human communication but cannot replace human input or personal touch.

A follow-up session allowed delegates to share how they used AI tools, such as ChatGPT, for proofreading and checking spelling and grammar errors in their reports.

Another formation session, led by Fr. George Plathottam, Executive Secretary of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences Office of Social Communication, focused on visual communications and enhancing their role in our mission. Fr. George also underscored the importance of explaining visual symbols in liturgy.

There was also a session in which the delegates were asked to reflect on their lives, to ask themselves things like the challenges they faced and what were the things that drove their lives. They were later asked to represent their answers in artwork made assembled from leaves, flowers and other plant materials.

As the conference winded up, Cardinal Sebastian led the representatives to visit the Rumah Anjat Angkah longhouse in Nibong Tada, a 40 minute drive from Sibu for them to experience a slice of Sarawak culture.

After a traditional Iban welcome by the longhouse residents, Sebastian said the presence of thousands of Sarawakians and Sabahans in the peninsula to work and study had helped rejuvenate the churches there.

“Thank you for sending so many of your people to colleges and universities as well as those working in the armed forces and police. You have flooded the peninsula with the spirit of Sabah and Sarawak and we are grateful that you are part of us,” he said.

The Prelate said the people of both East Malaysian states are showing Malaysians the way forward by living in harmony and teaching the meaning of equality.

 by Ruben Sario, SOCCOM ADKK

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