Enlarging the space of our tents to welcome all

It was a day where many thoughts were expressed with common aspirations and dreams for a welcoming Church, in “enlarging the space of the tent” for all to enter.

Dec 01, 2023

By Aaron Lim

It was a day where many thoughts were expressed with common aspirations and dreams for a welcoming Church, in “enlarging the space of the tent” for all to enter. With this being the theme and takeaway message, more than 300 delegates from the various parishes and ministries gathered for the Penang Diocesan Pastoral Assembly 2023, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on November 18. The assembly served as a preparation for the upcoming Malaysian Pastoral Convention (MPC) in 2026.

Keynote Address
Cardinal Sebastian Francis, delivered the keynote address in which he quoted from Scripture that “we are God’s coworkers, God’s field, God’s building; you are the temple of God in which the Spirit dwells.” (1 Cor 3:9-10, 16-17)

The prelate shared that the enlarging of one’s tent is a sign of the universality of our Church that was revealed on Pentecost by the symphonic unity of the people from all parts of the world.

The cardinal also emphasised the continuity of the mission in the Diocese of Penang, which began its renewal together with the Peninsular Malaysian Church through the Aggiornamento held in 1976 with the subsequent Peninsular Malaysian Pastoral Conventions (PMPC).

Cardinal Sebastian highlighted the many focus areas which were identified through the subsequent PMPC events, which indicated that the tents of the Church continue to widen, being inclusive to everyone.

In sharing the vision of the Church through a post-Synod exhortation from the Penang Diocesan Synod in 2016, the Cardinal reminded the delegates of the need to follow-up with the directives of PMPC IV in becoming a creative, inclusive and bridge-building Church.

The prelate then urged the faithful to continue praying for the second and final phase of the Synod next year, which will be followed by the celebration of the Jubilee Year of Hope in 2025.

Summary of Findings
Throughout the second half of 2023, parishes in the diocese have been conducting their respective pastoral assemblies via applying the SEEJUDGE- ACT method in identifying the various challenges and situations confronting them.

These findings were then presented at the assembly by Iruthaya Das and Aaron Lim, with the aim of helping the delegates to understand current realities, touching on spirituality and community building whilst the search for solutions remains an ongoing effort.

Family – Catholic families in general must live up to their role as the domestic Church in promoting a holistic Christian way of life, in the face of challenges of the separation of sexuality and procreation. They too must be aware of the creep of materialism and be aware of their vocation to support social life in all aspects.

Society – There is a need to address the contention between secular values that overshadow the sacred values based on the Gospel, with an increasing income inequality creating much disparity amongst peoples including a gap between the young and old. The societal fabric of the nation relies heavily on cultural context which is seen to promote superiority of majority groups, thus it becomes more crucial to make the Catholic faith relevant in the world today.

Ecology – Widespread environmental disasters, especially those in our nation such as flash floods and landslides, had also given cause to social injustice, with unchanged lifestyle habits leading to continuous pollution and ineffective implementation of green policies. All must be able to see and feel the tangibility of efforts being placed to ensure that practices such as lowering carbon footprint can be sustained.

Church – Our way of witnessing through mission must be a personal effort in facilitating the encounter between man and God, and that religious pluralism in our nation provides endless opportunities for evangelisation. Empowerment of clergy towards the laity will ensure that they become movers for the growth of the community, whilst digitalisation should never replace the personal touch of faith and experiencing God.

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