KUCHING — On 21 May, more than 2000 parishioners from parishes near and far converged at St Joseph’s Cathedral, Kuching to celebrate the thanksgiving Mass for the 40th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Kuching. They gave thanks to God for forty years ago on 31 May, Pope Paul VI instituted Kuching as an archdiocese, a full-fledged local Church with Archbishop Peter Chung as the first bishop.
The Mass was presided over by Archbishop John Ha and concelebrated by Bishop Simon Poh, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Joseph Marino, five emeriti from Kuching, Sibu, Kuala Lumpur and Penang, and more than 20 priests.
During the homily, Archbishop John Ha revisited the vision of the Archdiocese, “Church – Disciples of the Word in Communion for Mission”, carved out from the Archdiocesan Pastoral Congress in August 2012. “Now we need to look back at our forty years as a full-fledged local Church to see if we have been disciples of the Word in communion and if so, how much we have made Christ’s name known to people around us,” said the Archbishop.
At this juncture, the prelate offered questions for everyone to ponder: “Are our priests living and working as a united presbyterium or as individuals pursuing personal agendas? Are our parishes outward-looking with the realisation that they are part of the local Church in the Archdiocese, or are they rather inward-looking with each one going their own way and safeguarding their own interests?
Are lay organisations, while having their own spiritual paths and areas of apostolate, working in unison? Do kampungs within the same parish have a sense of belonging? Do priests and religious, especially the Sisters, work together with a sense of communion? Are language groups, while necessary for greater participation in the Church’s life and worship, divisive or sensitive to communion with one another?”
“I appeal to all sectors and levels to take them up for reflection and action so that the Archdiocese will grow as ‘Disciples of the Word in Communion for Mission,’” he added.
During the joint anniversary and Gawai dinner at the Archdiocesan Curia and Cathedral Pastoral Centre (ACCPC) that evening, Archbishop Ha continued to dwell upon the vision of the Archdiocese of Kuching as he revisited the important milestones of the local Church as an archdiocese. He said, although the archdiocese has grown, “we must not be complacent” but “pray that we will continue to grow as Disciples of the Word in Communion for Mission.”
At the Prayer of the Faithful during the Mass, the petitions were read in eight local languages, which were Iban, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, Biatah, Bukar Sadong, Jagoi and Salako, signifying unity and communion of the culturally diverse local community.
In his address at the end of the Mass, the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Joseph Marino said that though the Archdiocese of Kuching is young, “she has been what is the most essential characteristic of the Church, the agent of God’s mercy and love”. He said Pope Francis has repeatedly emphasised that the messages and the activity of the Church have to portray and dispense the mercy of God, to bring people to encounter the love of God’s mercy.
“I am sure that we can give a very positive account of so much that has been accomplished over these 40 years, but nothing is more important or more eloquent that the person who was lost but was found, the person who was in despair but found hope, the person who was blind but regained sight, because he or she found a Church with open arms, a forgiving smile and a warm embrace,” concluded Archbishop Marino.
The year-long celebration of the 40th anniversary of Archdiocese of Kuching was officially launched with a video message by Archbishop John Ha, screened in all parishes on Pentecost Sunday, 24 May 2015.
Every month consecutively, videos carrying testimonies of personal conversion and encounter with God by the local faithful were produced and screened in the parishes. The video project was headed by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, with the intention of reaching out to fallen-away Catholics and inviting them back to the Church and to live a deeper faith in Jesus Christ in the community of faith. These videos will be made available on YouTube.
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