KOTA KINABALU: The St Simon Catholic Church Likas community duplicated the Archdiocese PAX Assembly, a “mini PAX”, which was held at the parish’s conference room on June 25.
Led by parish priest Fr Cosmas Lee with invited speaker Fr Wilfred Atin, the participants were briefed on the Archdiocese-level event in November 2015. Also on hand to present their talks were the parish’s lay leaders Vera Chin and Magdalene Chu.
At the beginning of his address, Fr Cosmas briefed the participants on the history and background of the PAX Assembly. He began by asking the participants if they knew what “PAX” meant. Some were unaware that the acronym stood for Pastoral Council of the Catholic Church in Sabah.
“The letters aren’t exact,” he said, adding that because it was run by the founders of the Pastoral Council of Sabah for many years until 1997, from the days of Mustapha in the 1970s, “PAX was the kind of ‘parliament’ of the Church”.
“(It was) the highest body to legislate, to execute all policies in the Church. Of course, PAX was led by the bishop, priests, religious and lay leaders.”
He explained that due to the State’s political history, “the Church in Sabah was a little bit unusual in the way we used to govern ourselves”.
He added that because of this “urgent reason, we really had to involve the lay people much more, that’s why we have this unique Church government body. In the whole world, there is no other diocese that was officially run in the way we were run”.
The assembly used to gather once every year at one time, and the idea of a synod (assembly) was to bring together the bishop, clergy, religious and lay leaders whenever there is a need to consult them over issues that are afflicting the Church, he said.
The assembly was also a platform “to find technical solutions to these issues”, Fr Cosmas said, adding that such assembly is a concept of the faithful journeying together.
He said, however, once the participants got into small groups for the discussions they would begin to understand why the process can be difficult.
“Last November, the Archdiocese PAX Assembly had a synod because the authority felt that there are some challenging issues that we must look at.
“We dealt with six issues which we considered urgent and important. The idea is where are we as Church? What do we need to do in order to face these issues appropriately?”
He said it was a “marvellous experience” at the previous assembly and added that the participants should also get that experience at the mini PAX.
“After the assembly as tradition goes, every parish was asked to do a ‘mini PAX’ – a duplication – so that the experience gained by the top leaders of the diocese will also be gained by leaders in the parish,” he said, adding that it was the main objective of organising the mini PAX at the parish.
Meanwhile, he also talked about the vision and mission of the archdiocese. “We always talk about the vision and mission of the archdiocese as if people know it (well).”
In the last 10 years, he noticed that the younger generation had no clue what they are about. “When you talk about DOPP – the Diocesan Organisational Pastoral Plan – which was launched in 1997 and most importantly, at the heart of this plan is a vision, a vision for the archdiocese.
“Many of us don’t know. Many of us have not even read it. So we need to go back to the vision and mission. The vision of a body of people never changes.
“It’s an ideal that the body (community, group of people) will have to strive for all their life. It will never be perfectly realised but it becomes an ideal – a dream – permanent.
“The archdiocese has a vision that everything we do all our life, all our work, efforts, ministries – you name it – even the Year of Mercy, should always be seen as part of the moving towards the realisation of this vision.”
In 1992, Fr Cosmas said the Archbishop Emeritus John Lee (then bishop) had a very important address called “Review and Renew”.
“From that, as we discerned and discussed, we decided that there should be the process of an organisational pastoral plan – a plan that is permanent with a vision that we should put who we are, what we want, how we should get it and how to get there together once and for all.”
The process started in 1995, and after years of consultation by the committee involved, the DOPP was officially launched in September 1997. Fr Cosmas added that whatever the Church community is doing, all should be in favour and part of the Church’s moving towards this vision.
“Without this vision we would all get very disintegrated, confused. We need to be with that vision to see whatever is happening that all should work out in line with the mission.”
Meanwhile, invited speaker Fr Wilfred shared his presentation similar to that of the previous PAX Assembly where he spoke on the Catholic identity in Malaysia seen through the:
- universal perspective,
- ecclesio-historical perspective,
- socio-political and economical perspective,
- Christological perspective.
The Parish Pastoral Council chairperson Anne Wong, on the other hand, reported the answers given by the participants during the discussion which covered some of these pressing issues:
- As Catholics in Sabah, who are we and what is our mission as church in Malaysia?
- What do you understand by Secularisation (absence of religious / spiritual values – godlessness) which is happening everywhere and how can we help our community to face the reality?
- In fulfilling our mission as Church, do you find the apathetic attitude prevailing in our parish? Why, and what could we do to get them actively involved?
- In all the concerns, where and what is the role of the family?
- In your understanding of our mission as Church, what other critical concerns do you think are affecting us? What are your suggestions to face them?
The floor was later opened to the participants to discuss further on the answers given by the groups and moderated by Fr Cosmas.
Vera and Magdalene later shared presentations on the Pastoral Thrust, derived from the DOPP, which was mooted by the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu to address the issues previously mentioned.
The Pastoral Thrust covers a three-fold movement of (a) Go Inward, (b) Go Smaller, and (c) Go Outward.
The Mini PAX Assembly ended with a Mass at the chapel. Prior to that, the participants were asked to write down their resolutions after having experienced the parish-level mini PAX Assembly on pieces of paper.
These papers were later burnt in front of the chapel after the Mass.