A Year After: Faith in our merciful God – Remembering Bernard Then Ted Fen
It was on the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord on 14 May 2015, the very day when Bernard arrived in Sandakan, Sabah, when he was kidnapped whilst having dinner with his wife and a friend whom they were visiting.
For the 188 days when Bernard was held hostage in southern Philippines, we lived on the edge fearing the reality of the terrorists’ threats to behead him but yet hopeful that he will be released unharmed as the authorities assured us that the terrorists will not harm Malaysian hostages.
In the evening of 17 November 2015 when we learnt that Bernard had been beheaded, our hearts sank so deep in trying to make sense of this tragedy. This senseless murder was furthest from our minds. Thoughts of how Bernard must have suffered in the hands of a band of religious fundamentalists who murdered him in the name of their god were haunting.
It took another 62 emotionally agonising days before we could finally accord Bernard a dignified farewell and interned his ashes in a columbarium.
It is our faith that we have a special purpose in life to serve the greater glory of God and when we pass on from this world in communion with God, we will be brought into eternal life in God’s presence where we will find peace and joy.
As Christians, we were taught to forgive those who have wronged us, those who have caused us so much anguish and pain. As we searched the depths of our hearts to summon the strength to forgive, we were reminded in this Holy Year of Mercy to be merciful as our God is merciful. We pray that God shows us mercy and blesses us with the spirit to endure the anguish and pain in our hearts.
Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother of Mercy, we pray that God shows mercy to Bernard and grants unto him eternal rest, and may the perpetual light of God shine upon him; may Bernard rest in peace.
As we were all created by God, it is inevitable that, one day, we will all return to our Creator. When that day arrives, we pray that God will also show mercy to the perpetrators of this heinous crime and to those who were responsible for Bernard’s sufferings.
We pray that our government will relentlessly live up to the responsibilities to ensure the safety and security of this nation so that no other persons should have to suffer the way Bernard did and that no other families should have to endure our heartache. Let Bernard’s senseless and violent death not go in vain.
With another four Malaysians kidnapped recently, let us pray for their and the other captives’ safe return, and that their families have the physical and spiritual strength in the face of this ordeal.
It was heartening to witness the love and solidarity of our faith community in rallying around our family during our saddest moments. We have been blessed by the thoughts and prayers of so many relatives, friends and well wishers, many of whom we hardly know. They shared our grief and journeyed with us during the time when Bernard was held captive to the time we anxiously waited for the recovery of his remains, and during the funeral Masses in Manila and at the Church of St Francis Xavier, Petaling Jaya, and during the memorial Mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral, Kuching. We are indeed grateful to all for their thoughts and prayers. May God bless them all abundantly. There are many families who have lost their loved ones due to violence and disasters, and they do not have closures as we had. Indeed we are blessed!
Bernard was shared with us for 39 years. He was the youngest in the family. Being the youngest, he was naturally inclined towards an easy-going and jovial personality. A filial son, a devoted husband and a faithful sibling, we have many fond memories of him. He was even-tempered and had a soft heart for those in need of help. He would have gladly shared or given away his “food” to those who needed it more than him. During his school days, he was a member of the Joyful Vanguard Movement and served as an Altar Server at St Joseph’s Cathedral.
It is indeed a very difficult journey for us as we mourn the loss of our dear Bernard whose life was cut short. As we weep silently, with pain that reaches the deep recesses of our hearts, we keep faith in our merciful God and take comfort in his words in Isaiah 55:8-9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
We thank our Archbishop John Ha, Bishop Simon Poh, Fr Felix Au, Fr Patrick Heng, Fr Stephen Chin, Fr Joseph Chai and Fr Larry Tan, and Fr Lawrence Andrew, Fr Alberto Irenus and Fr Albert Tan of the Church of St Francis Xavier in Petaling Jaya, and Fr Jojo Fung and Fr Benjie Redoble in Manila, and all the clergy, religious orders, ministries, lay organisations and our faith community for being with us in this journey of grief for our loss and journey of faith in our God.
From the family of Bernard Then Ted Fen
Today’s Catholic No. 28 Vol. 2 May 2016