My take on the Diocesan Synod in Johor

“Own it… Let’s get real… Move on… We need to face the future…” were some of the words and phrases I heard during the Synod on 1st and 2nd May 2016 at Majodi Centre.

Jun 03, 2016

Dear Editor,
“Own it… Let’s get real… Move on… We need to face the future…” were some of the words and phrases I heard during the Synod on 1st and 2nd May 2016 at Majodi Centre (JB). I sensed all participants — Bishops, priests, presenters — were fully aware of the challenges we face as Church and as Catholics today. Thus, the Synod provided a platform to air our views and to be assured that we are not alone in our concerns. And the threats we face as Church in 2016 are indeed very real: globalization, Islamisation, insufficient priests, racial polarization. These are just some of the threats highlighted in the Analysis of the Collated Responses to the PMPC VI Survey.

The keynote address by Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri on “Standing at the Crossroads: Discerning our Witness amidst Challenging Times” brought home how Malaysia continues to face the ‘Great Divide’ made up of the three Rs’ — race, religion and rights. Unfortunately, in a multi faceted country like ours, this is something we can’t help but talk about. There is a need to connect our faith journey within this context.

At an Episcopal Ordination, Archbishop Julian Leow echoed Reverend Herman’s views by reiterating that “Malaysians are indeed at the crossroads of our future. We need to rewrite the script and produce a new and fresh narrative.” Archbishop Leow added that his pastoral priority includes the four Ls — the lost, the last, the little and the least.

Lawyer and mother, Dr. Helen Tan’s presentation was on “Family and Community.” Dr. Tan emphasized the changing times with the changing definitions of ‘family’ and ‘community.’ The family goes beyond parents and children. It includes the extended family members like grandparents, aunts and uncles. As more people migrate/emigrate for work and better opportunities, the extended family becomes the primary caregivers of the children.

Communities are evolving too as people earn more and want a better environment to live in. Gated communities, for example are to deter criminals from entering, but these also keep families to themselves and ‘closed in.’ Problems faced by these families may not come to the attention of their priests.

I was relieved to hear Bishop Bernard Paul say the Synod was not a mechanism to solve the issues brought up, which ranged from BECs to Ministries to our national language to mission schools. I was also heartened to hear participants speak passionately and with much conviction, urgency even, about us Catholics taking ownership and being active players. This is a sentiment I agree with. We can’t afford to be ‘lukewarm’ with our faith amidst the chaos as cautioned in Rev 4:15 ‘I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot.’ We certainly can’t afford to be complacent, Rev 4:17 ‘For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’

The world is ever changing and most challenges tend to come full circle, often packaged in a different way. The one thing that must remain constant is our faith. We can rest assured that God is fully in control and His plans are perfect. Perhaps the Synod’s most important goal was to remind us of that powerful truth.

Karen-Ann Theseira
Via Email

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