We have to be interdependent and interconnected

President of Caritas Malaysia, Bishop Bernard Paul of the Malacca Johore Diocese, in his opening address, said: “We have come together to discover, discern, decide and design our future and our response to the “new times”.

Nov 21, 2020

By Gwen Manickam
President of Caritas Malaysia, Bishop Bernard Paul of the Malacca Johore Diocese, in his opening address, said: “We have come together to discover, discern, decide and design our future and our response to the “new times”.

“It is a time to see big, think big and act big. It is no more you or I, nor we and them, nor my ministry and your outreach. We come as Church-with-a-Social Mission. We are the many parts of the One Church, the Body. Whatever ministry or group one belongs to, the world sees us as CHURCH. We admit that the social mission dimension is the weak element in the Malaysian Church. We have faith, but minimal good works. People say: The Catholic Church is hardly seen or heard ‘touching lives and society’ in the local scene.”

In the Malaysian Church’s 400year history, there has been 400 years of charity work and outreach to the masses — serving needs, setting up structures and sending forth the locals into the mis sion hinterland. The country was blessed with missionaries from Portugal, France and the United Kingdom, among others, who brought schools, healthcare services, hospitals and cooperatives to its people.

Next came workers’ rights and the setting up of trade unions by the Young Christian Workers, and the Catholic Welfare Services began to unify and advance social concerns. The Society of St Vin cent de Paul continues to play a vital role in looking after the needs of the less fortunate. The seasonal Lenten campaign, New Commissions and Ministries, the Initiatives of Religious Congregations, independent ministries like mental healthcare, living skills, food banks and street feeding are leaving their mark. Most recently, the natural disasters and the pandemic initiated the setting up of hotlines and the crisis management teams. Participants of the Caritas Malaysia National Launch. We have to be interdependent and interconnected Bishop Bernard Paul DD participating in the online discussions.

Living in a VUCA world
Today we are entering ‘new times’ of ‘new normal’, ‘new needs’ and ‘new cries’. It is a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world out there. It is an extraordinary “moment of civilisation” that is overtaking us - a time of enormous expectancy and possibility, a time to manifest the loving concern for the poor, the loving appreciation for the needs of the world and loving appreciation of opportunities for accelerated development, a time to find ways to make things happen.

Bishop Bernard added, “It is worth remembering that the world of the apostles, after the death of Jesus was a VUCA world. They mourned. They grieved. They feared. They were filled with anger, doubt and confusion. But they came back together and prayed. They had seen the Risen Lord. They were reminded of God’s promises by Him. They began to adapt. They waited. What do we hold on to during challenging times? The VUCA state is a reality. We can perceive it as an enemy or a challenge or condition that  invites all institutions and ministries to thrive through collaboration and innovation. We can become agents of positive change and creators of a new future by re-programming the acronym VUCA to Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility.”

To accomplish this he said, there is a price to pay: “Parishes may need to be more welcoming; ministries may lose their exclusivity and status quo, and the clergy may need to turun padang (go out into the field). At the diocesan level, it may need to spend more, re-design plans and invest in skilled manpower to drive this social mission agenda.”

Times have changed. We must change. “Together, by being interdependent and interconnected, we can do it. We can manifest the human face of the Church to the world. May we, the nine dioceses together, be a communion of charity.

“Fires need fireplaces. Let us build up ‘fireplaces of love’ wherever we are, to fire up the world into a ‘communion of charity’.”

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