It was church “Report Card” day at the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM) Penang. A total of 151 parishioners stayed back after the 9 am mass on the 9th November, to hear the progress their church had made since it was established a year ago.
The proceedings began with a hymn and a prayer. The Parish Council Chairperson, Rodney Gomez, then made his welcoming speech. This was followed by a slide show looking back on the events that had taken place since October 2013. It ended on a touching note when some of the unseen people working for the church were identified. These included those who regularly cleaned the church premises and its grounds and the parish priest, Fr. Martin Arlando, shown perched high up on a scaffolding fixing lights on the main crucifix and standing up on a church wall tending to plants.
In his address, Fr. Martin remarked that although it was just a year, it had seemed that they had been around a long time. He said that he been bold in insisting on certain changes when he first came to CDM. Zone gatherings were changed to BEC gatherings. Initially, there was a reluctance and some resistance to this change, even though it really meant more work for himself attending to BEC masses. But since then the BECs are now moving towards better participation and BECs represent the core of the parish. He was glad to observe that they were becoming a participatory church. He emphasized that the CEC is the heartbeat of the parish and every effort must be made by parents to enroll their children for this faith formation. To become a vibrant parish, he had to make bold changes and take certain risks. This was all for the betterment of all. He added that the ability to constantly strive to raise standards are the gifts given to him. He is moved by the sensing of the Holy Spirit. However, he said that his inspiration comes from each one of the parishioners who responded to his changes. He asked only that they pray for him to be the shepherd after the heart of Christ.
The financial report showed that the church was on firm financial standing. The results of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the Ministries and BECs were reported by way of SWOT analyses. Six new ministries were established in the parish and 25 activities planned for the year were completed. This left only two activities yet to be executed and scheduled to be done by the end of the year or early 2015. There was a positive feeling of accomplishment among the parishioners and a good sense of progress in the building of community at CDM.
In Fr Martin’s speech on the focus for 2015, the parishioners were given a broad perspective on Fr’s short and long term plans for CDM. On the spiritual level, a parish retreat was planned. Members of all ministries were required to come 30 minutes earlier for silent adoration before the start of the scheduled meeting. This was to instill the sense of prayer for guidance of the Lord in all church activities. Seder meals were planned for Lent for each BEC in order to experience what the apostles felt at the Last Supper. All Wednesdays are set aside for formations. Fr Martin emphasized that greater participation was needed in all ministries. He explained that recruitment was best done through the witnessing by others of the personal testimonies of people working in the ministries.
In the 17 questions that were raised in the Q & A session, a wide range of topics were covered. This included the setting up of a Children’s library and Bible Study groups, providing tuition for poor needy students, catering to the needs of mentally challenged children of parishioners, transportation to mass for migrants, the dispensing of the host and wine during communion and the tracking of weaknesses and threats found in the SWOT analyses.
The assembly ended just after two hours. It was heartening to note that barely anyone left early from the assembly and many stayed back for clarification on some issues raised. Judging by the concerned responses and participation showed, the assembly was deemed a success.
11th November, 2015