Caritas Orientations, first step towards Parish Caritas

An online Caritas Orientation via Zoom for an English-speaking group was held on Mar 20. It was attended virtually by about 50 participants, comprising parish delegates, representatives from archdiocesan commissions, leaders from various governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as some observers from the Diocese of Keningau.

Apr 06, 2021

By Sr Bibiana Densia, FSP
An online Caritas Orientation via Zoom for an English-speaking group was held on Mar 20. It was attended virtually by about 50 participants, comprising parish delegates, representatives from archdiocesan commissions, leaders from various governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as some observers from the Diocese of Keningau.

Sr. Anita James, coordinator of Caritas Kota Kinabalu, in her pre-recorded opening remarks welcomed and thanked all the participants for their virtual presence. She was grateful that the online orientation has finally materialized after a series of postponements due to the Movement Control Order (MCO) to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In her speech, she reminded the participants that the Archdiocesan Human development Commission was dissolved in October last year. Therefore, two new archdiocesan Ministries were set up as replacement, namely: Caritas Kota Kinabalu and the Archdiocesan Migrants cum Itinerants Commission.

The Caritas Online Orientation was organized with the following objectives:

# To reimage, revitalize and spearhead the social mission of the Church in the Archdiocese

# To expose Caritas to the participants

# To initiate the formation of Parish Caritas in the Archdiocese.

Sr Anita informed that the term “Social Mission of the Church” is not commonly mentioned; instead “welfare works of the Church” is the more widely used term.  In fact, there is not much catechesis given on the social aspect of our mission in our communities. She expressed the hope that this Online Orientation would form and lead to a strong conviction in each one about the need for our social involvement as a church.

A three-step approach has been adopted in the Orientation: To see, to judge and to act methodically.

To see
Two sessions were presented to the participants as a means to see the journey that had been and to situate the participants to the present reality in the church.

Dominic Lim in his pre-recorded talk shared the background on how the Pastoral Thrust of the Archdiocese (to go inward, to go smaller and to go outward) came about. In 2018 another PAX Assembly was held in Bundu Tuhan to check on the progress of the Pastoral Thrust of the Archdiocese.

He revealed that it was reported during the assembly that several efforts to go forward were undertaken on various levels: Archdiocesan, Parish, as well as initiatives taken by the religious congregations.  He ended his talk by posing a question, “With the setting up of Caritas, 24 years after the launching of the first vision and mission of our archdiocese in 1997, can this be the prime mover for our archdiocese going forward?”

In line with the aspect of seeing, Jubilee Felix presented the summary of responses to a survey regarding the perception on social issues received from various groups and 17 parishes which responded to the questionnaire. This was followed by a discussion, open dialogue and sharing facilitated by Dr Jeffrey Soon.

To Judge

Likewise, two inputs were given under this second approach to help the participants to reflect on what had been presented earlier.

In the first talk, Fr Nicholas Stephen discussed the Social teaching and Mission of the Church by asking “Why must we care?”  He enumerated several principles of the Catholic Social teachings, pointing out the reasons of our being caring towards others, the most important of all being the principle of human dignity.  Each and every one of us is created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, everyone is worthy of respect and being served without distinction. 

He also pointed out the difference between doing work as NGO and doing Charity work in the church. The key, he suggested, is found in Mk 8:1-10, where Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for the crowd. Caritas does not merely deal with giving or feeding, but is also concerned with the spiritual well being of the people.

In his turn, Fr Gilbert in his input on “How will we respond to the issues as Malaysian Church?” tried to help the participants to understand better what Caritas is all about by showing a short video presentation on Caritas. Caritas which is love – God’s love for all humanity – is a love that knows no bound or boundaries of race, status or religion.

Caritas is the caress of the church to its people, the caress of the Mother Church to her children, her tenderness and closeness.” (Pope Francis)

He explained the meaning of the Caritas Malaysia logo adapted from the Caritas Internationalis. He shared about the Vision and Mission of Caritas as well as its roles  and functions.

Fr Gilbert mentioned briefly the foundation for the Caritas Malaysian chapter, which all started during the Catholic Bishops’ conference of Malaysia Singapore and Brunei in July 2019 when they met with the Caritas staff from the Vatican and Asia for a dialogue.

Bishops’ Conference unanimously agreed to establish Caritas Malaysia in January 2020 as an overarching body for all organizations involved in charity and development work. They agreed to work as one Malaysian Church and to bear witness to God’s love in the public spaces. With the launching of Caritas Malaysia in November last year, we are now officially a member of the Caritas Internationalis.

After the two inputs, there was a moment for silent reflection with the aid of a power point on Caritas Ministry.  It was followed by a question and answer session, mostly directed to Sr Anita and Fr Gilbert, being the prime movers of Caritas Kota Kinabalu.

To Act
In this third part, Fr Gilbert, spiritual director of Caritas Kota Kinabalu, displayed the organizational charts of Caritas Internationalis, Caritas Malaysia and Caritas Kota Kinabalu. He explained the structure and process of setting up the Archdiocesan and Parish Caritas, as well as their expected roles and functions on various levels.

Sr Anita then presented a proposed timeline initiative for Caritas Malaysia and Caritas Kota Kinabalu. She informed that various programs and projects were planned for the whole year at all levels: national, archdiocesan and parish levels from January to December 2021. It is indeed a time to work to bring those plans to fruition.

As usual, there were questions and answers as well as sharing related to the topics after the inputs. It was an enriching exchange of ideas as they provided further clarifications.

Archbishop John Wong congratulated and thanked the Caritas KK committee (18 members in all) who worked hard in organizing the online orientations both for the English and the Bahasa Malaysia groups, held a few weeks earlier.

Archbishop John also thanked all the participants for their active participation and for patiently listening to the lengthy four-hour orientation. With the Online Orientation, the Archbishop, being the head of Caritas KK, hoped that it has given the participants a clearer picture of what Caritas is all about and why the need to have an organized approach to carry out our social Mission in the Church.

He revealed that there would be follow up program in the middle of the year after all the parish level Caritas groups have been set up.

Caritas was set up as an official social arm of the universal church to respond to crisis locally or in the world, and to manifest the love of God through concrete social action. He stressed that the work of Caritas would not be easy due to our lack of resources but our strength lie in our concerted efforts, in our faith and relationship with God, the source of all graces and blessings. God could work through our nothingness if we allow ourselves to be a channel of his love in the world, he added.

Mother Teresa has been chosen as Patron Saint of Caritas Malaysia. Her words of Wisdom should be the guiding principle of Caritas “It is not how much we do but how much love we put in our doing, it is not how much we give but it is in how much love that we put in our giving.” At the end of the day, said the Archbishop, our performance through Caritas is measured by the amount of love that we put in carrying out our program and activities.

He reminded and urged all participants to pray for God’s guidance before planning or initiating anything in the Parish Caritas. “Pray for transformation of heart, to experience God’s love within you and encounter God in the little things you do, and the love of God will set your hearts on fire to reach out to wherever He will lead and send you in the mission.” He ended by giving his blessing to all the participants.

The Online Caritas Orientation concluded with an online evaluation.––CS

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