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Retreating to Become Stronger

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Over 40 catechists from both the primary and secondary levels of St Ignatius Church’s Sunday school left their daily routines and homes behind to attend their annual retreat from 28 February to 1 March 2020 at the Methodist Chefoo Centre in Cameron Highlands. Conducted by Fr Paul Cheong OFM Cap, the retreat centred on the process of renewal and growth in holiness.

While acknowledging the prayer life of the catechists, the retreat master noted that very often the laity depended mostly on forms of discursive prayer and Lectio Divina, which were prayers of the mind; where supplicants think, talk and ask God for needs. Fr Paul, however, gently pointed participants to more contemplative prayer, which he called the prayer of the heart.

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Contemplative prayer suspends ‘thought-talk’ and focuses solely on being with God, being still, and resting in His presence. To this end, he educated retreatants on breathing techniques and how to focus on breath and the use of one word to centre and still the mind, body and senses. Each session began with a period of mindful breathing and meditation, ensuring the practice of what was learnt.

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Fr Paul also conducted 30-minute sessions of Body Prayer each morning at 6.30 am, using qi qong as a basis of this breathing, movement and contemplation exercise. To complement this, he spoke of the need for self-care for catechists and outlined health strategies to deal with stress, poor dietary habits and lack of proper sleep. When welcoming the retreat participants, Fr Paul said, “I am not here to teach you to become better catechists. My role is to guide you to form strong inward habits of faith, so that you will be able to face the challenge of catechesis.” 

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To ensure the balance of the internal and external, veteran faith educator Sharma Rajadurai – who recently completed the Kuala Lumpur Archdiocese Catechist Trainer Certification Course – presented a rollicking, well-articulated and enthusiastically demonstrated session on the Vocation and Qualities of A Catechist. As a facilitator, Sharma deftly turned games of skill and coordination into examples of the mental dexterity, juggling ability, and partnership and communication a catechist requires in order to enjoy serving, engaging students, building rapport, reading students’ characters, and juggling between work and serving in church. This engaging, laughter-inducing session was a welcome break from the quiet solemnity of contemplation, allowing participants to get to know each other better, and providing many avenues for good-natured teasing and banter.

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During the celebration of Sunday Mass, Fr Paul’s insightful homily touched on the importance of the right motivation behind right actions. Using St Thomas Becket as example, Fr Paul preached, “Thomas Becket was unafraid of martyrdom. However, his sole fear was that he would go to his martyrdom for the wrong reason.” (The saint was to die defending the rights of the Church against an aggressive State).

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“When we are young in the faith, our sins are visibly before us; it is easy to spot and confess the sins of gluttony, avarice, jealousy. But when we grown older, the sins we commit are more internal: they are sins like a lack of humility, or actions we take which look honourable to the world, but whose motives are less than pure. It is only in quiet meditation can these sins be revealed, and perhaps that is why many people prefer not to sit in quiet, saying nothing to God.”

Click on Sunday School for more information.

 

Briefing on Lenten Campaign 2020

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St Ignatius Church (SIC) played host to this year’s Archdiocesan Office for Human Development (AOHD) Lenten Campaign briefing which was held on Saturday 1 February 2020. The briefing, which was given by AOHD Director Fr Bernard Arputhasamy SJ, began at 9 am after registration and a hearty breakfast.

Vision & Mission of the Campaign

After the opening prayer, Fr Bernard began by linking the three important practices of Lent – Prayer, Fasting & Almsgiving – to Jesus. He reminded us how Jesus prayed and fasted for 40 days in the desert to create a space where he could encounter God the Father. After the 40 days, Jesus began his ministry by healing and driving out demons which was how he gave his self-sacrificial love to the people. This is the call to almsgiving as we too must reach out to others with the love of the Lord.

As his followers, we are all called to imitate Jesus and also create a ‘space’ through prayer and fasting so that we can encounter the Lord. It is from that encounter with Jesus that Conversion, Renewal and Transformation take place. It begins with the individual but must extend to families and entire communities. The Church is called to live out the Vision and Mission of the 2020 Lenten Campaign which are:-

Vision: A Catholic community that actively cooperates to build the Kingdom of God.

Mission: To promote the active and conscientious observance of Lent.

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Role of AOHD in Campaign

Lent always has to have two dimensions: The personal and the social. If Lent is to be practised solely as a personal journey, Jesus would have remained in the desert but he did not. Every year, the Lenten Campaign programme, founded on Catholic Social Teachings, is organised and conducted by AOHD. Fr Bernard expressed his gratitude to the many Catholics who have generously donated to Lenten campaigns year after year, as the money has enabled AOHD to run a number of pivotal projects for the needy as follows:

i) Urban Poor & Women Ministry

ii) Migrants-Refugees Ministry

iii) Special Needs Learning Centre (Early Intervention) & Vocational Training Centre

iv) Welcome Community Home - Shelter for Men with HIV/AIDS (closed in 2019)

v) Episcopal Commission for Creation Justice

vi) Orang Asli Ministry & Prison Ministry & Mental Health (AMHM)

Themes for 2018-2020 Campaign

The main theme of the Lenten Campaign for three years (2018 to 2020) is ‘Caring For Our Common Home’. In 2018, the theme ‘Towards Ecological Conversion’ focused on creating awareness that our actions have dire consequences for the Earth. 2019’s theme ‘Encounter Christ & Serve as Stewards’ called for the faithful to be moved to even greater mindfulness so that we change our outlooks and habits. This year, 2020, the theme, “Stewards Protecting Creation” emphasises the urgent need to act. The Action Focus is ‘Living the Gospel of Creation’ which means to address the most pressing and critical concerns of our times. Catholics are called to have the courage to re-assess issues and respond to current needs sincerely. Conversion must be a continual process and has to be deep-rooted for the change to endure.

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Key aspect of the 2020 Campaign theme: Caring for all of Creation is our Vocation:

We can no longer say that ecological concerns have nothing to do with our faith. At Creation “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it.” (Genesis 2:15). This verse has falsely been interpreted as allowing for Man’s ‘Dominion’ over the Earth when it should be properly understood as ‘Responsible Stewardship’. The verse clearly indicates that the concept of sustainability is not a new one. When we become aware and understand this Vocation, we change our values, choices, habits and behaviour.

The Gospel reference for the theme is Matthew 25:14-30 (Parable of the Talents). Jesus teaches about the importance of using the gifts that God has given us for the Kingdom of Heaven (responsible stewardship). Probing questions to ponder are ‘Do we recognise them as gifts’ or ‘Do we feel we are entitled to them?’

Responsible stewardship has three important principles namely Ownership, Responsibility and Accountability. The principle of ownership recognises that God ‘owns’ everything, creation is gift to us and we are administrators acting on His behalf. The principle of responsibility is that we are responsible for how we treat God’s Creation and what we do with it. The principle of accountability means that stewards must give an account of how they have managed what God has given them (lesson in the Parable of the Talents).

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Suggested Activities & Helpful Resources

Fr Bernard shared the seven mindful steps of Living the Gospel of Creation (The Action Focus) and suggested activities for catechism, BECs and parishes. Some of these were in the printed 2020 Lenten Campaign booklet that was distributed to all the participants but Fr Bernard also referred us to online links to materials, power point slides, action sheets, posters, stickers and kits which can be downloaded and used by all. He emphasised the importance of adapting the materials according to the intended audience i.e. Sunday School children, BEC members etc. or even creating resources.

Feedback Session and Closing

There was a feedback session during which Dr Dionysius Sharma shared about programmes held by the Church of the Divine Mercy in line with Laudato Si. Other participants also shared about activities and best green practices at their parishes. Fr Bernard ended the session with a prayer and expressed his hope that the participants would share the message of the 2020 Lenten Campaign with their parishes and groups. This Lent, may we all “Hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (Laudato Si 49) and remember Pope Francis’ burning question: “What kind of world do we want to leave for our children?”

 

Chinese New Year Mass 2020

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In spite of fears of a slowing world economy and the uncomfortable hot weather, this year's Chinese New Year Mass held at St Ignatius Church (SIC) on Saturday 25 January 2020 was as joyous and well-attended as in previous years. Both inside and outside the church, the young and not-so-young dressed predominantly in red came together as a worshipping community to usher in the Year of the Rat and pray for the blessings & abundance of Almighty God in the year ahead.

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In his homily at this combined English & Mandarin Mass, Fr Francis Chong CDD (Superior General, CDD) advised that we must not neglect our spiritual life even as we aspire to excel in education, attain greater material wealth & hope for good health. Referring to the Beatitudes in the Gospel Reading, Fr Francis reminded that as children of God, our goal is eternal life. We need to let God be the centre of our lives & balance our spiritual life with physical life – for real hope & real joy and the blessings of God.

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SIC Parish Priest Fr Andrew Wong CDD was the main celebrant with Fr Francis, SIC Assistant Parish Priest Fr Lawrence Ng CDD and Fr John Heng from Taiwan as concelebrants. Among the gifts brought to the altar were flowers (representing adoration & admiration), red candles (hope & peace), nian gao (Chinese New Year cakes representing unity & fellowship) and fruits (happiness & achievements).

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A Rite of Commemoration of Ancestors was conducted after the final blessing, beginning with a reading from the Book of Sirach 44:1-15 in remembrance and praise of our forebears for their great contributions & rich heritage; teachings & acts of virtue and piety which deserve our honour & respect; and example for us to imitate. 

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On behalf of the congregation, Fr Andrew offered joss sticks (to honour our ancestors), two baskets of flowers (representing love), three cups of wine (remembrance) and two trays of fruits (admiration). Frs Andrew & Lawrence then blessed oranges which were given out together with ang pows (red envelopes containing money as a symbol of good fortune) to attendees. A lion dance performance then ensued at the church entrance to round out the celebrations.  

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SIC wish all a Blessed and Happy Chinese New Year!

More photos taken by the Parish Communication Team (PCT) are being processed and made available for viewing & downloading (preferably using pc or laptop) at parishlife

 

Infant Baptism - Jan 2020

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Click on Infant Baptism for more information. More photos taken by the Parish Communication Team (PCT) are available for viewing & downloading (preferably using pc or laptop) atparishlife

 

Pongal Festival

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More photos taken by the Parish Communication Team (PCT) are available for viewing & downloading (preferably using pc or laptop) at parishlife

 

SIC Says 'NO' to Single-Use Items

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by Sharon Woo & Pollyanna George Joseph (PIHDM Green Team)

“Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.” - Genesis 2:15

Answering this Christian call and Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment titled “Laudato Si – On Care for Our Common Home”, the St Ignatius Church (SIC) Parish Integral Human Development Ministry (PIHDM) Green Team was inspired to build an “Upcycled Christmas Tree”. With a month to Christmas, the team took on a mammoth task to put together a Christmas tree made from 100% recycled materials.

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This included first obtaining the blessings of SIC Parish Priest Fr Andrew Wong CDD, collecting recyclable materials from SIC parishioners, designing and crafting the tree’s decorations and garnering other support needed. After many tireless days and nights, the strong support of key ministries and volunteer parishioners, we successfully managed to build a beautiful upcycled Christmas tree and a mixed-media Nativity scene positioned at the church entrance.

A video on the “Upcycled Christmas Tree” project and its objective was played during weekend Masses (English and Mandarin) and continuous efforts will be made to strengthen the spirit of “Caring for Our Common Home” amongst the SIC family. Special thanks to the Green Team members; Vincent Raj (who is also PIHDM Coordinator) and Jenny Seow who were instrumental in making the project a reality & getting the tree ready on time!

 
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