Fr Martin Arlando, parish priest of the Church of Divine Mercy, Penang (CDM) held his last Parish Assembly on the 24th November. He is scheduled to leave the parish at the beginning of August 2020 to further his religious studies in Canada. A total of 139 parishioners attended the assembly held in St Faustina Hall. The head of the Parish Animating Team, Roland Victor began the event with a song of Praise and Worship. This was followed by a welcoming address by the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) chairperson, Rodney Gomez. There was much nostalgia as he explained the many events of the year and recollected the moments of pride he experienced serving his two terms in the PPC.
Departing from the previous years, it was decided this year to invite various representatives from different ministries to come forward and give testimony of their challenges and blessings serving in their ministries. Xavier Sebastian was the first to present his experiences as the head of a BEC. He related his struggles, coping with complaining and critical members where there was back-stabbing and often instances of being taken advantage of and also taken for granted. However, through it all he has surrendered all to the Lord and developed patience with his motto “Tak boleh, memang boleh”. Janet Capel, the head of the Ladies Group was next. She said that she had spiritually grown and learned to rely and trust the Lord. Her constant strength was to remember the words of the Divine Mercy “Jesus, I Trust in You”. She also expressed her thanks to the people who produced the current monthly BEC reflection paper KampungKu. Her BEC members had expressed favourable comments to this locally tailored version and she hoped that this paper would continue. Dr Mary Filmer then came forward to explain her experiences teaching catechism to young CEC children. She related how story telling formed an important part in her sharing the faith and how the children often astounded and challenged her by their candid questions and simple answers. Adeline Sum then related her challenging role leading the Intercessory Prayer Group. She explained that all baptised people are filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore are charismatic people as we are blessed by Him. We are then all called to share this gift and to receive the opportunity to experience God in our lives. The leader of the Meditation Group, Mike Yong began his sharing by reciting Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”. Mediation requires us to be still in the body and mind and this takes practise as we have to learn to let go of our pride and ego and allow God to take over. He said that he realized a change in himself becoming more prayerful and able to see changes in others who do meditation.
Mark Stephen then gave the audience the CDM report card for the year. He showed the many things the parish had been able to accomplish and some of the obstacles yet to be overcome. It was comforting to note that as a young parish we had shown a progressive attitude to the many challenges that faced us.
The leader of the newly formed ministry of the Friends of Creation (FoC), Magdalene Chiang then came forward to proudly announce that CDM had just recently won two Awards. The first was the Green Office Award from the Penang Green Council of the State Government and the second was the Aqua Save award from the Penang Water Authority. Most significant was that the Green Office award is the first such award given to a religious institution in Malaysia. The Green Council had made a request to CDM to become the role model for other religious institutions. She thanked all the ministries who had contributed to this success and asked them to continue in this endeavour as we would only gain a monetary incentive reward upon re-certification in two years time.
At the end of the program, Fr Martin began his speech with a story of a scorpion repeatedly biting the hand of an old man who tried to save it from drowning. This story was first told by him at the first CDM parish assembly. Fr explained that it was still his resolve not to change his nature to give of himself as much as he could, even though many a time he was hurt in the process. This is in line with the words from Job (23:11-13) of not neglecting the commands and cherishing the words of God and leaving it to God’s plan for him. He apologized for not being the best or perfect priest but CDM has been a great family for him and in it he sees great potential for growth. He then outlined his commitments for the following year until the time he leaves the parish. Among them were the endeavour to make the parish more prayerful during Lent by having daily masses (even on his off day); a session on Child Protection & Care to counter the suicidal tendencies of young people; the twinning of BECs to bring about better fellowship and foster greater bonding; formation for all ministries emphasizing on Reconciliation, Affirmation and Healing; the introduction of an Holy Hour for each catechism class to bring about greater awareness and relevance to the Holy Eucharist and more green initiatives for the parish to take responsibility for the care of the environment. He ended with requesting that each person to encourage a new face to come forward to join in or help out in the parish activities to make CDM a more inclusive and welcoming parish.
Fr’s farewell address was given a standing ovation and in the Question & Answer session, some asked who would be taking his place and if he would be given a chance to return to CDM. To this he just replied “Insyaallah” (God’s will). The assembly ended with Fr Martin dissolving the present Parish Pastoral Council and announcing that fresh elections for new leaders was to be completed by the end of February 2020 at the latest.
Dr Ivan Filmer
26th November, 2019.