Putting aside pastoral preoccupations for quiet time

The clergy from Sabah comprising of the Arch/Dioceses of Kota Kinabalu, Keningau and Sandakan had their retreat from September 5-9 at the Bundu Tuhan Retreat Centre.

Sep 23, 2022

Fr Clarence Devadass with the Sabah clergy.

The clergy from Sabah comprising of the Arch/Dioceses of Kota Kinabalu, Keningau and Sandakan had their retreat from September 5-9 at the Bundu Tuhan Retreat Centre.

Moral Theologian, Fr Dr Clarence Devadass (pic) from the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur was the retreat master.

Fr Clarence began the retreat with an introduction from Mark 6:31 quoting Jesus’ words, “Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while.”

He urged the clergy to put aside their pastoral preoccupations and spend the week in silence in order to listen to the Lord and to have their rest.

The first day was spent on listening to Fr Clarence as he shared his reflections on the Vatican document, The Priests: Teacher of the Word, Minister of the Sacrament, Leader of the Community.

Teachers of the Word
The next day the clergy were led to reflect on the duties of the priest as the Teachers of the Word, based on Christ’s role as Prophet.

Fr Clarence emphasised that in the ministry of the Word, the priest begins with a relationship to the Word, who is Jesus Christ.

It is the duty of the priests to proclaim the message of salvation to the world. Priests are to teach the Word by way of invitation to conversion and holiness. The ministry of the Word, he said, begins with witnessing the Word.

Fr Clarence also gave some pointers on how priests should preach the Gospel in the modern world, namely,

1) Familiarity with the Word and continuous updating with spiritual readings,
2) Live the Gospel, and
3) Know the modern world.

Ministers of the Sacraments
On day three, Fr Clarence led the retreatants to reflect on the duties of the priests as the Ministers of the Sacraments, based on Christ’s role as Priest.

Priests are to be conscious of being living instruments of Christ, by virtue of their sacramental character in the ministry, underlined Fr Clarence.

He added, priests, acting in persona Christi, feed the flock, the people of God, and lead them to holiness. As the Ministers of the Sacraments, priests commit themselves to preserve the Body of Christ, the Church.

For that, the Eucharist is at the core of the pastoral ministry. A credible lifestyle on the part of the priests should be completed with a high standard of liturgical celebration.

Fr Clarence also encouraged them to be priests endowed with the spirit of Evangelii Gaudium (as exhorted by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation).

He offered 10 key points of being joyful priests through prayer, simplicity of life, rid of spiritual worldliness, preach the message of hope, open to be evangelised by the people, maintaining strong friendship especially among priests, befriend people who make you uncomfortable, respecting the dignity of all people, taking risk in pastoral ministry that is, out of one’s comfort zone and let Jesus do the saving.

Leaders of the Community
On day four, Fr Clarence’s reflection was centred on the duties of the priests as the Leaders of the Community, based on Christ’s role as King. His reflection was based on Jesus the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).

Fr Clarence underscored, the priest draws his identity and spirituality from the community. A priest, according to him, belongs to the family of communities, both presbyteral and parochial, which make up a diocese.

The priests, as the Leaders of the Community, are built on the Word and the Sacraments. The priestly leadership is essential for transformation, he added.

Seven Characteristics
Fr Clarence offered seven characteristics of the priests as the Leaders of the Community, namely,

1. The priests are to serve as Christ did – a servant leadership,
2. The priests are focused on the Kingdom of God,
3. The priests should always speak the truth,
4. The priests ask for more and offer even more,
5. The priests should value people more than task,
6. The priests are motivated by compassion, and
7. The priests are ready to overlook other weakness and offer another chance.

He added, as the Leaders of the Community, the priests need to create a culture of love, recognise all are called to be disciples and apostles, engage the laity, listening and learning from one another, and acknowledge the common priesthood of the baptised.

Coinciding with the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Fr Clarence encouraged the priests to imitate Mary, the Mother of the Priests. Mary is the model for priests in the virtues of faith, love, priestly obedience, pastoral charity and total availability.

Ten Virtues in the Ministry of Accompaniment
On the final day, Sept 9, Fr Clarence concluded the retreat with his reflection based on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). The priests, he said, are the Apostles of Accompaniment, quoting the words of Pope Francis, ‘We need a priest that accompanies the people on their journey.”

He highlighted 10 virtues for a priest to possess towards the mission of accompaniment, namely,

1) Love of Eucharist,
2) Prayer life,
3) Grounded on Scripture,
4) Healthy self-image,
5) Kindness in all things,
6) Good listener,
7) Ability to work with others,
8) Give respect and earn respect,
9) Be compassionate, and
10) Have a capacity for friendship.

He closed with the question of Pope Francis, “Are we still a Church capable of warming hearts?”

As the Sabahan clergy took to heart the invitation of the Lord to “come away all by yourselves to a lonely place”, they discovered that the reflections and communal prayer time together have refreshed them, and provided them with the rest they sought. Catholic Sabah

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