Migrant Sunday: It’s About ALL of Us

“It’s not just about migrants”. With these words from the video shown before Mass still ringing in their ears, the congregation rose to their feet to sing the entrance hymn at the 9 am Mass at the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM), Sg Ara, Penang on 22nd Sept 2019. It was the day on which the parish celebrated Migrant Sunday and the theme chosen for the celebration, “It’s not just about migrants”, aligned with the focus of Pope Francis’ message for the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2019. In his message, the Holy Father explained that it was not just about migrants but about all of us because “Through them, the Lord invites us to embrace fully our Christian life and to contribute, each according to his or her proper vocation, to the building up of a world that is more and more in accordance with God’s plan.”.

The readings for the day were perfectly apt for the celebration. In the first reading (Amos 8:4-7), Amos spoke up against the exploitation of the weak by the powerful because some wealthy members of the tribe of Israel were taking advantage of the poor and cheating them. Today, we are guilty of the same thing ourselves when we treat anyone unfairly, abuse them or deprive them of their rights. And the victims are usually migrants simply because there are insufficient laws enacted to protect them.

In the 2nd reading (1 Tm 2:1-8), Paul reminded Timothy that the Gospel was to be taken to all people, no one was to be excluded. This reading is a timely reminder to us today, that our prayers and concern should not only be for ourselves, but for all, including migrants.

In expounding the Gospel reading (Luke 16:1-13), parish priest Fr Martin Arlando related the story of a man who held a menial job. Even though he earned only a small salary, he managed to sponsor the studies of six children, keeping very little money for himself. Nevertheless, he was contented with what he had because helping others was more important to him than money and material possessions. In a similar way, we ought to set the right priorities for ourselves, for example, by acquiring earthly wealth through moral and legal means. This includes not exploiting or oppressing others. We then use our wealth in a responsible manner and according to God’s will, we build up our treasure in heaven.

Fr Martin ended his homily with a reminder that all of us, including the migrants in our midst, are one family in God. Therefore, we are responsible for each other and must take care of one another as members of the family of God.

At the end of Mass, Tami, a parishioner from Indonesia, recited a poem entitled “Tenaga Kerja Indonesia” which was composed by her fellow Indonesian in Penang, Masni Elisabeth. Although dedicated to Indonesian migrant workers, the poem’s sentiment applied to migrant workers of all nationalities in Malaysia. The congregation listened with rapt attention, some visibly moved. Tami then joined a group of her friends from Indonesia to perform a joyful dance in thanksgiving to God. Fr Martin then invited all the migrants in the congregation to the front for a special blessing. He thanked them for being a part of the CDM family and giving the local parishioners the opportunity to serve them, for in serving them, we serve the kingdom of God.

After Mass, the congregation waited patiently in line to venerate the relic of St Maximilian Kolbe. This first class relic, consisting of some hair from the saint’s head, was recently granted to CDM by the Friars Minor Conventual (Franciscan Fathers) of the Niepokalanów Friary in Poland. The relic is the latest addition to the collection of Polish relics in CDM, the others being the relics of St John Paul II, St Maria Faustina Kowalska and Blessed Fr. Michael Sopoćko.

Meanwhile, in the Faustina Hall, tables and chairs had been set up in readiness for the coffee morning organised in conjunction with Migrant Sunday. The fundraiser, organised by the parish Migrant Ministry in aid of the Free Learning Center and Community Hall, featured the national dishes of Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia. The dishes were all sponsored and cooked by CDM’s migrant parishioners. Among the dishes on sale were Vietnamese spring rolls, Pakistan-style briyani rice, semolina fufu with egusi soup from Nigeria, Indonesian mee gomak, a variety of Filipino cakes, and the Indian breakfast favorite, idli with coconut chutney. Sales were brisk as parishioners turned up in full force to support the event. It was heartwarming to see migrants and locals working side by side, helping each other to serve the customers and having a good time together. One parishioner commented on how touched she had been by the poem recited by Tami and asked for a copy of it. The first reading, proclaimed in Sinhalese by John Fernando, and the second reading, proclaimed in Vietnamese by Peter Tran, made impressions too, as some in the congregation had felt a sense of calm when listening to the Word of the Lord even as their eyes followed the English translation. Karen, a Penang-ite, commented that she felt very proud and blessed to see so many people from different cultures celebrating the Sacred Liturgy together. In fact, a number of people said that they were happy to see the cultural diversity in the parish. Asher and Sunny, both from Pakistan, said that they were very excited that they could cook a dish for the event as it made them realise that they were genuine contributing members of the parish family. Many praised the Youth choir who were on duty that morning, saying that they sang really well. And of course, everyone was extremely impressed by the wide variety of delicious, home-cooked dishes that were available. A big Thank you, Terima kasih, Salamat, Cảm ơn bạn, Shukriya, to the organisers, the cooks and all who contributed to making this a successful event.

Written by
Ng Wai Queen
24th September, 2019

Tenaga Kerja Indonesia Indonesian Workers
Pagi2 buta kau bangun segera,
Tinggalkan ranjangmu walau mata masih meminta
Kau berlari turuni anak tangga kejar bus pekerja
Sang mentari belum muncul pula,
Kau sudah mulai bekerja tanpa lelah
Tenaga kerja indonesia,
Semangatmu kerjamu begitu nyata
Tak peduli kau perginya pagi, pulangnya malam
sudah tiba.
Yang penting kau dapatkan ringgit yang melimpah.
Ingatlah bila kau lelah,
Jaga kesehatan jangan sampai sakit melanda.
Karena kita jauh dari orang tua kita.
Untuk itu janganlah kau lupakan ibadah,
Doa dan persekutuan setiap hari minggunya.
Karena apapun yang kita punya,
Itu rezeki dari Tuhan yang maha kuasa...
Waking at the crack of dawn
You tumble out of bed, eyes barely open
Running down the stairs, you catch the bus
arriving, before sunrise,
you start to work, tirelessly.
Indonesian workers
of strong resolve and hard work
toiling day and night
all to earn
precious ringgit.
take care of yourself, do not fall sick
for we are far from home.
Remember, on Sundays
to pray, worship and commune
as everything that we have
is granted to us by God Almighty.

by Masni Elisabeth

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