For the first part of my Franciscan Year, I was sent to Indonesia to learn about the Franciscan Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) and Eco-Pastoral activities in the Province of St Michael the Archangel (Indonesia). The province has a well-established JPIC office in Jakarta with dedicated staff, and Eco-Pastoral is active in several locations around Indonesia, in Sindanglaya, Atambua, Khurbokho, Pagal and Tentang.
In January and February, I went to the JPIC office every day to learn its administrative structure. In March and April, I was in Eco-Pastoral Sindanglaya, where the friars administer a boarding school and the elementary school. Close by is a middle school, and the friars offer accommodation for students from low-income families and from the countryside.
On weekends and school breaks, a Lay Brother and Eco-Pastoral staff guide the students as they work in the garden or farm. They learn about compost packaging, gather grass to feed the goats, feed the fish, water plants, and harvest vegetables and other produce for their meals. They also learn to lead prayers, and read and sing at liturgical services.
I spent the final week of May to the end of June in Atambua, West Timor, near the border with Timor Leste. The journey to the friary in Atambua took six hours, and the Eco-Pastoral Motamaru mission is another 30 km by motorcycle.
The villagers are poor. When I visited a couple of nearby homes, I was sad to see that they only had soil floors and their walls were made entirely of bamboo. Imagine how wet everything would be when it rained.
The mission consists of two lay Franciscan brothers and four aspirants, and is neither affiliated with a church nor engaged in traditional ministry. Instead, it finds ways to interact with the villagers through eco-farming and, because it has a water pump, providing them with clean water. They are undoubtedly living the two Franciscan lungs of fraternity and minority.
My month there was a precious experience that strengthened my vocation. The morning I arrived, they had already begun their day. I am grateful that I was able to work with them in the paddy fields. It reminded me of what I used to see with my maternal great grandmother when I was a child.
However, the rice mill was what really moved me. It was not what I am used to seeing in my hometown in Sabah. This was smaller and ‘”do it yourself”.
I took a photo of Br Agus smiling while sitting on top of the rice mill, and looking at the photo later, I thought that he must have been smiling with the satisfaction of reaping what he had sown. A few bags of rice were kept for the friars’ consumption for the next six months, and the rest was sold to support the life of the friars and the aspirants.
Initially I was troubled by the lack of security. People were free to come and go, and to use our water pump at any time. I was always worrying as I had heard about goats and cows being taken in the past. However, God was teaching me to have faith, and to worry less in order to pay attention to what I was doing. So I said, “God, if it is meant to be, so be it.”
From West Timor, I moved to Flores Island on 2 July. There I worked, until the end of August, in an Eco-Pastoral with parish in Khurbokho, and later in Eco-Pastoral Pagal, where the Eco- Pastoral ministry began.
I learnt that the Eco-Pastoral mission provides practical experience through study and internships with nearby schools or universities. Students go to learn about how to care for the soil, and how to grow vegetables without using chemicals or pesticides.
The Eco-Pastoral team also teaches the younger generation that farming is a vocation. Eco-Pastoral Pagal is even introducing new varieties of vegetables to the villagers.
It is only now, after working with Eco-Pastoral Pagal, that I can grasp the meaning of Integral Ecology. It is the cycle of life, and we human beings are interconnected with the ecosystem. Eco-Pastoral is a way friars can build bridges in response to the cry of the poor and the earth.
As I look back on my time in Indonesia, I remember a line in a song by Ivan Nestorman in Manggarai dialect (the local language in West Flores) – “One hau de daku nai… ai hau de, mata leso ge”. This translates to “I give you all my loving heart, because you are my sunshine”.
This is like a prayer for me as I give God my time and myself, since he is the one who always shines the light for my journey, and is where my soul finds rest. Now, whenever I am feeling down, I find consolation in looking at the sun rising, shining in dazzling yellow, or setting in an orange-coloured sky. I feel the warmth of God’s love as he is always with me.
Friar Marvin Voo OFM
The Franciscan Year is an important time when the student friar is exposed to other fraternities, missions and possibilities to help him clarify the desire for solemn profession and his sense of belonging to an international Order.
Eight young men chose to chill out with the Franciscan Friars at the St Peter of Alcantara Friary in Penang on 11 September 2023.
The “Lepak with the Friars” evening was an opportunity for them to get a glimpse of life as a friar, and explore the possibilities for a deeper discernment for their calling in life.
The evening began with Vespers (Evening Prayer) and looking back on the day with a sense of gratefulness. This was followed by a hearty dinner of hot and spicy ayam penyet sambal ijo rice complemented by a refreshing passion fruit drink prepared by Postulant Master Friar Cosmas and Jonathan, the Postulant (first-year student).
After the warm fellowship at dinner, the guests were given an introduction to the Order of Friars Minor and, in particular, its presence in Malaysia and Singapore i.e. our Custody. They were very interested to hear about the various communities and ministries we have in Kota Kinabalu (Sabah), Kuching (Sarawak), Masai (Johor), Penang and Singapore. We also shared a video in which various friars in our Custody of St Anthony shared their aspirations and dreams for the Custody. This offered the attendees a glimpse into our commitment to serving God and His people in the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi in Malaysia and Singapore.
The evening’s programme included a brief presentation on the Franciscan family tree, explaining the relationship between the three Orders – the First Order (Friars Minor), the Second Order (Poor Clares), and the Third Order (Secular and Regular).
The evening concluded with Compline (Night Prayer) as we came together in prayer before the end of the day.
More “Lepak with the Friars” evenings are planned so look out for the announcements in our social media channels. In addition, if you would like to have a conversation with regard to your discernment, or are wanting to ask and understand more about the Franciscan (OFM) vocation, do send an email to email@example.com.
With joy and thanksgiving to God, The Order of Friars Minor Custody of St. Anthony (Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei) warmly invites you to celebrate the ordination to the Order of Diaconate of Friar Nelson Evarinus Sipalan, OFM on the 14th January 2024, 6pm at St. Ann Church Kota Padawan, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia.
As part of their discernment and formation, postulants to the Order of Friars Minor participate in an exposure immersion programme. The single postulant we have, Brother Jonathan Omok, spent the month of July in Thailand working in two places – the Camillian Social Centre in Rayong and the Camillian Home for Children Living with Disabilities in Lat Krabang.
The Camillian Social Centre assists persons suffering with HIV/ AIDS, with a focus on orphans and women. There Jonathan was assigned to help care for Thum, male patient whose legs and arms are twisted and weak because of HIV, and so has to rely on others to bathe him, change his diapers, and help him with food and drink. Jonathan also interacted with the other residents who were mainly teens and children who had contracted HIV from their parents. He found that some residents asked for his help because they wanted companionship, someone who was willing to spend time just chatting.
The experience reminded Jonathan of the tale of St Francis and the leper.
“When I was in sin, the sight of lepers nauseated me beyond measure; but then God himself led me into their company, and I had mercy on them. When I became acquainted with them, what had previously nauseated me became the source of spiritual and physical consolation for me.”
“It seemed to me that the great saint of Assisi was speaking to me,” said Jonathan.
At the Camillian Home for Children Living with Disabilities, Jonathan was assigned to the Physical Therapy Programme, and helped the physical therapist treat and rehabilitate the children. Since he was the only man on the team, he also helped many of the children get from their wheelchair to their assigned station.
After the exposure programme, Jonathan shared that he had been enlightened by the experience. “Throughout my time caring for HIV/AIDS patients and children with disabilities, I couldn’t shake the feelings of abandonment, loneliness, and loss. Because of their flaws, these people are frequently rejected by society,” he said.
“I felt the Lord stirring in my soul, indicating that there is more He wants me to do. He reminded me that He had requested my assistance and support in areas where I felt overwhelmed, and that He was also clearing the way for me as I prepared to tell Him my mind was too preoccupied. I hope that as I pursue my vocation, I will be able to be open to the Holy Spirit and commit myself to following the poor and humble Christ and bringing God’s love to the world.”
Eight hundred parishioners from Holy Rosary, Limbahau, along with the faithful from other parishes within the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, came together to commemorate the anniversaries of four priests.
LIMBAHAU, Papar: Eight hundred parishioners from Holy Rosary, Limbahau, along with the faithful from other parishes within the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, came together to commemorate the anniversaries of four priests. Friar Gerald Terence Saimel OFM, Fr Terans Thadeus and Fr Lasius Gantis marked the first anniversary of their ordination. Friar Arul S Mariadass OFM, from Penang, who is now serving in Papar and Limbahau parishes, celebrated the 26th anniversary of his ordination.
The occasion was also a thanksgiving celebration for Fr Elvost Lunchi MHM who was ordained on July 22 at the same church.
The five-in-one celebration was presided over by Friar Gerald. Also present were Holy Rosary’s parish priest, Msgr Nicholas Stephen, Fr Slyvester Wong, Fr Joshua Liew and Fr Aloysius Fidelis.
Fr Elvost, in his homily, focused on God’s love. He said God’s love is perfect, He loves us unconditionally and His love is self-sacrificing. He gave His Son, His one and only Son so no one needs be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. (John 3:16)
In his thanksgiving address, Fr Terans conveyed his appreciation to all who had taken the trouble to organise the event and thanked the Lord for the gift of priesthood bestowed upon the five of them.
“When I reflect on my first year as a priest, I did not realise one year had passed so quickly. It felt just like yesterday that I was ordained a priest. Your continuous prayers, support and friendship strengthens me in my service.”
At the end of the Mass, Msgr Nicholas conveyed his gratitude to all the parishioners who pray, support, encourage and honour their priests. He noted that the presence of the parishioners for that fellowship as a big and united family is a reflection of a Christian community without barriers of language, race or custom.
A fellowship was held at the Fr Amandus Augustine Hall where Fr Joshua’s birthday was also celebrated.
LIMBAHAU: “Merayakan ulang tahun pentahbisan empat paderi dan upacara kesyukuran seorang paderi yang baharu ditahbis menandakan keindahan Ekaristi.”
“Melalui Ekaristi, kita diingatkan bahawa Tuhan itu sudah bangkit dan Dia bersama-sama dengan kita. Oleh itu, dengan tertahbisnya seorang paderi, ini bermakna kita akan sentiasa bersatu dengan Tuhan dan sesama melalui Ekaristi,” demikian kata Fr Terans Thadeus, salah seorang paderi yang merayakan ulang tahun kepaderian kali pertama, pada Julai 31, di Gereja Holy Rosary, Limbahau, Papar.
Fr Terans yang ditahbis pada Julai 16, 2022 merayakan ulang tahun imamat pertama bersama tiga lagi rakan paderinya iaitu Fr Lasius Gantis (Ogos 4, 2022) dan Friar Gerard Terence Saimel OFM (Julai 2, 2022) yang masing-masing menyambut ulang tahun pentahbisan pertama serta ulang tahun kepaderian Friar Arul S Mariadass OFM yang ke-26 tahun. Friar Arul ditahbis pada Julai 18, 1997.
Turut diraikan pada hari itu ialah kesyukuran sempena pentahbisan Fr Elvost Lunchi MHM yang ditahbis pada Julai 22, 2023 di Gereja yang sama.
Perayaan Ekaristi lima dalam satu ini dipimpin oleh Fr Gerard OFM yang turut dihadiri oleh Msgr Nicholas Stephen, Fr Slyvester Wong, Fr Joshua Liew dan Fr Aloysius Fidelis.
Homili disampaikan oleh Fr Elvost MHM yang “bagaimana mengasihi? Apakah itu kasih. Saya menyayangi ibu bapa dan orang-orang sekeliling tetapi tetap ada pertelingkahan dan perselisihan.
Oleh itu, Fr Elvost menumpukan kasih Tuhan yang sangat unggul. Kasih manusia terhadap Tuhan belum sempurna. Kerana kita semua adalah penziarah yang sedang menuju jalan kekudusan.
“Mari kita fokus kepada kasih Tuhan, kita tidak dapat berpisah dengan Seorang yang sangat mencintai kita, yang turun ke dunia untuk menjadi manusia dalam segala aspek seperti kita kecuali dosa, mengalami segala penderitaan dan sengsara sehinggalah wafat di kayu Salib. Ini adalah kasih Tuhan sehingga sanggup memberikan nyawa.”
“Kasih-Nya tidak berakhir di kayu Salib, tetapi bangkit dan hidup bersama kita hingga akhir hayat.” Selepas Misa Kudus, para paderi dan umat beredar ke Dewan Fr Augustine Amandus untuk acara makan bersama dan meraikan ulang tahun kelahiran Fr Joshua Liew.