Pilgrims flood Gethsemane Pilgrimage Centre on Opening Day

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Archbishop Simon Poh presiding over the opening ceremony with Archbishops Emeriti Peter Chung and John Ha, and other priests. (Photo: todaycat)

BUNAN-TEBEDU — St Jude’s Parish has reached another milestone when their Catholic community celebrated the fruit of their labour: the Gethsemane Pilgrimage Centre.

The Centre was blessed and opened in the morning of 26 May, witnessed by at least a thousand people from far and near, including donors and benefactors.

Presiding at the blessing ceremony and Mass was Archbishop Simon Poh. Also present were Archbishops Emeriti Peter and John, the Claretian Provincial Superior (of Chennai Province, India) Fr Jesu Doss CMF and four priests.

It was remarkable that the construction of the Gethsemane Pilgrimage Centre took just about five months to complete, through the gotong-royong and hard work of 25,000 Catholic families from 46 outstation villages of St Jude’s Parish.

The Archbishop, in his remark before the dismissal, commended the Catholic community of the parish for their effort, commitment and sacrifice. It was the labour of the local community that enabled the Catholic faithful in the archdiocese to enjoy its fruits.

The new pilgrimage centre, located about one kilometre away from St Jude’s Church, is a 12-acre land covered with secondary forests. The site consists of three unique features: Stations of the Cross, Rosary Garden and Divine Mercy Chapel.

Unlike Catholic Memorial and Pilgrimage Centre on Mount Singai in Bau, the Gethsemane Pilgrimage Centre has a rather flat terrain with some gentle sloping areas, so it does not require any climbing. With the lush forest canopy, the sound of leaves rustling and the sounds of insects and birds, Gethsemane Pilgrimage Centre offers a conducive environment for silent meditation and prayer.

The land, locally known as “Tuan Iras”, was a gift from Kampung Terbat Mawang and Kampung Terbat Leban to the Archdiocese of Kuching. The idea of developing it into a pilgrimage centre only came rather recently.

The story goes back to the 1970s, when the land was given to St Jude’s Parish, then under the rectorship of the Mill Hill missionary Fr Leopold van Rooyen, to build a secondary school in Bunan. Unfortunately, his proposal to the Education Department was rejected. The land was hence left abandoned.

In 2013, Fr Jerome Juleng initiated talks with the elders of Kampung Terbat Leban and Kampung Terbat Mawang for their consent to give the land to the Archdiocese of Kuching, in order to obtain the land title. In return, the Archdiocese gave a compensation amounting to RM10,000.00 which was shared among the three kampungs, Kampung Terbat Leban, Terbat Mawang and Muara Ahi.

After the successful procurement of the land title in 2018, St Jude’s Parish was requested to build a small hall or a hut to retain the land, as per the government’s requirement. While some land clearing work was underway in May 2018, Archbishop Simon Poh and St Jude’s Rector, Fr Berkmans Rayar CMF deliberated on the possibilities of using the land for the development of the youth apostolate. Eventually, the idea of building a pilgrimage centre was mooted. Construction began in December 2018.

When asked why the name “Gethsemane”, Fr Berkmans told Today’s Catholic in an interview, that it was in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus made his momentous decision to obey his Father, which led him to humiliation, torture and a horrific death.

“Based on his experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, God’s chosen people are given the opportunity to stay with the Lord in prayer and listen to him in silence, in this newly erected pilgrimage centre,” said Fr Berkmans.

It is even more fitting that this new pilgrimage site is now ready to receive pilgrims, as this site and CMPC have been designated for pilgrimages in June until October, in conjunction with the Extraordinary Year for Mission.

Those who would like to make pilgrimages to the Gethsemane Pilgrimage Centre or to know more about it, may contact St Jude’s Parish Office (082-895167) or Fr Berkmans (012-8040135).

During the Mass too, St Jude’s Parish launched the book entitled “Buk Sermon Sewa C”. It is a compilation of weekly reflections written by Archbishop Emeritus John Ha, translated into the Bidayuh Serian language for catechists.

Audrey Yu

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