PENANG. On 10th December, the 2nd Sunday of Advent, a group of Indonesian migrant workers, dressed in their Sunday best, gathered in Faustina Hall of the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM) after the morning Mass. They had made their way to Sungai Ara from various locations around the island, some travelling by bus while others came by taxi. There was even a group who had came from Teluk Bahang, leaving their quarters by 6.30 am in order to arrive in time for the 9 am Mass. It was a journey they undertook every Sunday, but this Sunday was different. A special event had been arranged for them – a meeting with Fr Yohannes Baptista, a priest all the way from Flores, Indonesia. He had come especially to minister to them during this season of Advent. They had found out about this event through the parish announcements and from their Whatsapp chat groups.
While waiting for the arrival of Fr Yohannes, the CDM Migrant Ministry served up a light meal of fried rice, bee hoon and jelly. Everyone present was most appreciative and commented that the food was “sedap”. A number of local parishioners also dropped by for a chat to foster a spirit of fellowship with our migrant brothers and sisters. It was a great opportunity to get to know them better and make them feel more at home in this church community. They talked about their jobs in construction, manufacturing, factory parts assembly, etc. Most of them had been working in Penang for 3-5 years and there was even one person who had been working here for as long as 17 years!
During his sharing session, Fr Yohannes emphasised the importance of face-to-face communication. He reminded his audience of Pope Francis’ exhortation to promote a culture of encounter (“budaya perjumpaan”). He went on to explain that even though social media helped us to make connections, there could be no encounter if we did not make the effort to meet people, talk to them, listen to them and feel what they were telling us. For example, for the people of his village, he had brought the outside world to encounter them through a series of short films which he had made about their lives. Fr Yohannes said that it was his hope that these faith-based films would be used to educate, catechise and promote the culture of encounter with those outside his village. (Fr Yohannes’ short films may be viewed online on YouTube channel Komsos Agung Ende. He may be contacted through his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/yetra.kotten)
At the end of the session, Fr Yohannes reminded the parishioners to pray and to put their faith in God. He also invited them to practise the Sacrament of Penance and many accepted his kind offer after the gathering.
Overall, the response to the event was most positive. Some said that they appreciated the effort that had gone into making the arrangements to bring such a well-known person of their faith to CDM. One young lady who had been given a rosary by Fr Yohannes during the fellowship was quite visibly moved as she had never owned a rosary before then. Fr Yohannes himself said that he felt very blessed at being able to meet and minister to so many Indonesians working here.
Ng Wai Queen
18th December, 2017