It was on a cloudy Sunday morning on the 26th November that the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM) held its 4th Parish Assembly. The meeting, which was held inside the church after the 9 am morning Mass, was attended by 144 parishioners. It was heartening to note that even though the attendance this year was slightly lower than the previous year, the number of youths coming to the assembly had increased. The meeting started with a hymn and a prayer.
This was followed by a breakout session during which the attendees were organised into groups to discuss two questions. A representative from each group then presented what they had discussed. In discussing the first question on how the parish’s year focusing on Prayer had impacted them as a community and as individuals, all the groups commented on how the daily 8.05 pm prayer, which is the practice of pausing activity at that time to say a short prayer, had had a significant impact on them. Many said that this daily prayer had helped bring them closer to their families and to God with some even claiming that their day felt incomplete if they had not said the 8.05 pm prayer. The Wall of Prayer, which had been set up for parishioners and visitors to post up their petitions, also got the thumbs up and it was the consensus that the Wall should be retained for the year to come. Regarding the second question, “How can we be rooted in the Word of God in our homes and in our parish?”, the suggestions given included coming to church for daily Mass and the Holy Hour on first Fridays of the month, reflecting upon the daily readings, participating during BEC meetings, and making known God’s workings in our lives through works of Mercy.
In delivering his welcome speech, the Head of the Parish Pastoral Council, Rodney Gomez, remarked that although the parish had come a long way, it still had a long way to go. He said that on this long journey, we must endeavour to listen for God’s promptings and put aside personal desires for the good of the community. He then went on to present the financial report, meticulously taking the assembly through the income and expenditure of the parish. He also explained the meaning and purpose of a solidarity fund. Next up was the parish report card by Mark Stephen which reminded us that we are now moving into the second year of the parish’s three-year liturgical plan (i.e. first, focusing on Prayer, then on the Word of God, and lastly the Family). The assembly was updated on the status of the planned events/activities announced at the last assembly. The completed events included the Gala Dinner and the home visits conducted by the parish priest, Fr Martin Arlando. The implemented on-going activities included recitation of Lauds before each morning Mass and the monthly guided Holy Hour on first Fridays. The status of the proposed new building housing the Free Learning Centre was also given, including a clear illustration on how to achieve the fundraising target of RM10 million through planned giving, projects and donations. The assembly was reminded that the success of the project will be their legacy to the future generations of parishioners of CDM.
Since the parish focus in 2018 will be on the Word of God, the assembly was shown a video in which Pope Francis called on Catholics to consult the Bible with the same frequency as we might consult our cellphones for messages. The Bible, His Holiness explained, contains the Word of God, the most effective tool in fighting evil and keeping us close to God.
In his address, Fr Martin revealed that 2017, the parish’s Year of Focus on Prayer, had been an “intense journey” for him. He explained that prayer time was a non-negotiable part of daily life at the seminary and strictly enforced, so there was never any question of missing it. However, after becoming a busy parish priest, he has been facing difficulties setting aside time for private prayer during the day due to parishioners dropping in unannounced to seek an answer to a query or problem or consult with him on church affairs. His solution? To pray while working in the garden or late at night after every one has left. He went on to outline his plans for the parish in 2018 which included organising pilgrimages to not-so-famous churches, five formations, hosting the fourth AACOM (Asian Apostolic Congress on Mercy), and the introduction of Lectio Divina as a method of prayer. He also informed the assembly that in the coming year he would not be celebrating Masses at BEC level but will instead visit BECs during their meetings to participate in their sharing sessions. Furthermore, all BECs will be encouraged to organise outreach activities to minister to the migrants, the poor and the needy living in their area.
The last item on the agenda was a Q & A session during which those present wrote down their questions and submitted them to be answered regarding their concerns about the affairs of the parish. The questions covered a wide range of topics, from repositioning of the choir in church to language-specific BECs to cemetery plots. There were also questions posed regarding the disturbance caused by young children during Mass, the taking of photos during Mass, the significance of the Lamb of God statue on the tabernacle and parking issues outside the church compound. In closing, Fr Martin recited the poem, “The Oyster”, reminding all present of the significance of turning adversity into something precious and valuable in their work in church and in their personal lives.
Who found that some sand had slipped under his shell.
Just one little grain –but it gave him much pain —
For oysters have feelings –although they’re quite plain.
Now did he berate the working of fate —
Which had led him to such a deplorable state?
No! He said to himself as he lay on a shell,
“If I can’t remove it –I’ll try to improve it.”
So, the years rolled by as years always do,
And he came to his ultimate destiny –stew!
But the small grain of sand which had bothered him so —
Was a beautiful pearl all richly aglow.
Now this tale has a moral for isn’t it grand —
What an oyster can do with a morsel of sand?
What couldn’t we do — if we’d only begin
To enrich all those things that get under our skin.
The assembly ended with Fr Martin giving a reflective quote from Job 23:10-12 asking the parishioners to pray for him (But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. I have not departed from the commands of his lips. I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread). This was followed by a closing prayer with everyone joining in to sing Michael W. Smith’s hymn, “Ancient Words”.
Ng Wai Queen.
27th November, 2017