It was to be the first and last pre Parish Assembly to be held at the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM) Penang. The meeting was held in church right after a light breakfast after the 9 am mass on the 13th October. In spite of the heavy downpour that occurred throughout the morning, a total of 149 parishioners showed up to see what the newly established parish had succeeded in doing the past year and what the newly installed parish priest, Rev. Fr. Martin Arlando had planned for the future of CDM.
The assembly began with a short Praise & Worship session followed by a welcoming address. The parishioners were told that everyone, regardless of gender, age or race, was important in contributing towards the future success of the church here in Sg. Ara. Fr. Martin then explained that this was going to be our first and last pre Parish assembly as we had not yet formed the Parish Pastoral Council. The church was presently under the supervision of the Advisory Committee. He went on to introduce the members of the committee.
A report from the BEC ministry showed low attendance to meetings but increased on special occasions like zone masses. There were approximately 2,500 parishioners presently registered at CDM. A complete list of activities carried out by all the ministries from November 2012 until the end of the year was then shown and explained.
Fr. Martin then explained his focus for the parish for 2014. He said that the Parish Pastoral Council would be set up by March 2014 at the latest. In line with Pope Francis’ emphasis on the parish pastoral care of families, he has decided to direct all activities towards the BECs and not at zone levels. This would mean added work for him as there are just 6 zones compared to 17 BECs. There would no longer be any zone masses but BEC masses would be carried out throughout the year of 2014. At the parish level, in line with Bishop Sebastian’s wish to build up the migrant community, a day would be set aside to adopt a migrant or poor family where their needs for that day would be seen to by another better off family.
A shift towards the needs of the children was also clear when Fr announced the setting up of the Children’s Liturgy of the Word (CLOW) Ministry, initially, to be under CEC. Masses for children and Good Friday service for children would also be started. In order to better serve all parishioners a new census would be carried out. This would also help in planning and budgeting for formations. Wednesdays would be set aside just for formations except when it clashed with other church celebrations. There would be monthly formations and all BEC leaders would be given a formation on facilitation skills in order to help them conduct the monthly reflection papers more efficiently. Fr emphasized that BEC attendance had precedence over work in other ministries. No one should be excluded in BEC meeting because of language barriers. All office bearers and leaders would serve for a period of 3 years.
In closing, Fr asked for parishioners to be more conscious in energy saving measures when attending meeting or activities in church. A meeting of a small group of people need not light up the whole hall and to remember to switch off lights promptly. He also announced that a recycling project of just papers would be initiated to fund formations.
In the Question and Answer session that followed, Fr. cordially replied to 28 questions and comments from the floor. Each family was also reminded to take home and read the copy of the summary of Pope John Paul’s 2nd Encyclical Paper “Dives in Misericordia” (Rich in Mercy) as a guiding reference for CDM. The assembly ended with a closing prayer by Fr and the singing of the hymn “The Summons”. There was a good show of solidarity among the people who came for the assembly. A great sense of appreciation was felt for the huge burden put on their first parish priest to attend to the spiritual needs of 17 BECs and as many as 497 families at CDM.
Written by Dr. Ivan Filmer
16th October, 2013.