Recollection for Friars ‘Under 5’

Recollection for Friars ‘Under 5’

A small group of young Franciscan Friars from the Custody of St Anthony (Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei) began 2024 in Danang, Vietnam.

Except for Custos Friar Derrick Yap, who guided the recollection, all of them are in their first five years of Solemn Profession or Ordination. This is one of the most volatile periods in Religious Life, when statistically most breakdowns happen. Hence this “Under 5” effort to accompany more closely Solemnly Professed “young friars” who are “under 5”.

There are seven Solemnly Professed friars “under 5” – two in Singapore, one in Johor Bahru, three in Penang and one in Sabah. Five of these seven went to Vietnam.

The five days (1-5 January) had a good balance of prayer, formation and fellowship. It was also an opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of Vietnam, as well as the local cuisine.

Friar Derrick used “Clowning in Rome”, which is a compilation of Henri Nouwen’s addresses to Religious Men and Women in Rome, to set the framework for the recollection.

In line with the Order’s desire for friars to be ‘Contemplative Fraternities in Mission’, the five young friars delved into the chapter on “Contemplation and Caring”. In the recollection, they were invited to recognise how their life of prayer is deeply connected to their life in ministry. Especially being young friars, there can arise a very real temptation and expectation to work and minister, and give more of themselves, at the expense of their prayer life and spending time in contemplation.

As Nouwen said in “Clowning in Rome”: “To contemplate is to see, and to minister is to make visible, the contemplative life is a life with a vision, and the life of caring for others is a life revealing the vision to others.”

Striking this balance of prayer and ministry, or “contemplation and caring” as the recollection material called it, has been a real challenge, as the friars shared vulnerably. Guided to re-centre themselves in the Lord in contemplation once again, the friars returned from this recollection renewed in their vocation, ministry and relationship with the Lord, as well as in fraternal love and support for one another.

“This recollection together with my batch mates in fraternity really helped me to begin the year on a right footing of prayer and fraternity. Now that all of us are in full-time ministry, more so we need to recognize that a solid prayer life is foundational in enabling us to minister effectively,” said Friar Gerald Tan

Ordination to the Order of Diaconate of Friar Nelson Evarinus Sipalan, OFM

Ordination to the Order of Diaconate of Friar Nelson Evarinus Sipalan, OFM

KOTA PADAWAN — All glory to God for another moment in history at St Ann’s Parish, Kota Padawan as we have a newly ordained deacon for the Minister of the Word. Friar Nelson Evarinus Sipalan OFM was called to the Order of Deacons by Kuching Archbishop Simon Poh on 14 January 2024.

The Mass began at 6.00 pm with a traditional dance from the Bidayuh Community of Kampung Seratau at the entrance of the Church. The ordination Mass was also live-streamed via the YouTube and Facebook social media platforms of St Ann’s Church.

The main celebrant of the Holy Mass was Archbishop Simon Poh, and concelebrating with him were Friar Don Don Ramerez OFM (Rector), Friar Derrick Yap OFM (Custos), Friar David Au OFM, Friar Esmond Chua OFM, Friar Gerard Victor OFM, Friar Cosmas Francis OFM, Friar Rowland Yeo OFM, Friar Aiden Peter OFM, Friar Cruzander Alex OFM, Friar Joseph Nasanathan OFM, Friar Crispus Mosinoh OFM, Friar Sixtus Pitah OFM, Fr Stanley Goh SJ, Fr Galvin Ngumbang, Fr Nicholas Ng, and Fr Mark Bonchol.

Friar Nelson is a Sabahan who joined the Franciscan Friars of St Anthony Custody for Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei. He started his pastoral work in St Ann’s Church for a year in 2017 as part of his formation and since then, it has always been part of his heart.

The Church was filled with St Ann’s parishioners and guests from Sabah, Johor, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. Witnessing Friar Nelson at his ordination were also his siblings who represented their parents who were not able to come over to Kuching.

At the Mass, Custos Friar Derrick also announced that Deacon Nelson will be taking Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) for six months in Penang, to prepare him to serve the people of God better in the future. After Friar Nelson finishes his CPE, his ordination to the priesthood will be announced at a later date.

Later on, all the people celebrated with a fellowship at St Anthony’s Hall. The celebration of thanksgiving was filled with activities such as cake cutting, speeches, performances by the Sisters of St Francis of Sarawak (SSFS), dancing, and food.

Deacon Friar Nelson was overwhelmed by the whole celebration and thanked all parishioners, benefactors, family, and friends who had contributed to or supported him on this special journey.

We continue to pray for him as he embarks on his journey as a Deacon. May God bless us all.

Source: Todays Catholic

Blessed with brothers in formation

Blessed with brothers in formation

The Custody of St Anthony Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei is blessed to have a good number of young brothers in various stages of formation in 2024.

Two candidates – Jonathan Ng from Singapore and Maximillian Alexson from Kuching, Sarawak – joined the postulancy programme on 14 January this year. Postulancy is the initial stage of the formation journey in the long process of discernment to religious life. (Click here for photos of the event)

Brother Jorgerson Japar, who is from Sarawak, has completed his novitiate. He made his First Profession of Simple Vows on 6 January at St Anthony Friary, and begins his first year in philosophy at St Francis Xavier Major Seminary. (Click here for photos of the event)

Brother Julian Chua has completed his philosophy studies, and will begin his Franciscan year soon. The Franciscan year is when friars in formation are sent to a Franciscan entity beyond their Custody to experience community and mission work in a different culture and environment. Brother Julian will go to the Pakistan Province for his Franciscan year.

Having completed his Franciscan year in Indonesia last year, Brother Marvin Voo returns to the formation house at Greccio Friary in Singapore to continue his formation and studies.

Finally, Brother Nelson Evarinus has completed his priestly formation studies, and was ordained as a deacon on 14 January 2024 at St Ann’s Church, Kuching, Sarawak. He has been assigned to the Church of the Risen Christ, Penang for his diaconate ministry. Whilst in Penang, he will also do a course on Clinical Pastoral Experience at Mount Miriam Hospital. (Click here for photos of the event)

For the Franciscan friar, formation begins the moment God calls, and continues through the various stages of formation that deepen the call to community life, to ministry, and finally to embracing the evangelical vows for life. We thank God for these brothers in formation, for their openness to the Holy Spirit, who is the ultimate formator, guiding them in the footsteps of St Francis, to be at service to Christ and his Church. Please join us in praying that they may continue to grow in their love and commitment as friars minor.

Embracing humility: Inspired by Matthew 23:11-12

Embracing humility: Inspired by Matthew 23:11-12

The path to the diaconate has been a transformative journey marked by self-discovery, spiritual growth and commitment to the teachings of Christ. As I prepared for my diaconate ordination on 14 January 2024 at St Ann’s Church, Kuching, Sarawak, the verses from Matthew 23:11-12 were a guiding light. “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humble, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

This is the essence of what it means to be a deacon – to be a servant, to embrace humility, and to find greatness in selfless acts of love and compassion.

I reflected on these words with a deep sense of gratitude and responsibility. They are a call to emulate the humility of Christ who washed the feet of his disciples, exemplifying the essence of servant leadership. They are a reminder that humility is not a virtue reserved for the cloistered halls of a monastery, but an indispensable quality for anyone aspiring to follow Christ’s teachings. The measure of greatness lies not in the accolades we receive but in the lives we touch and the burdens we help carry.

Following my ordination, I will be posted to the Church of the Risen Christ in Penang for six months. This opportunity to serve in a different community is a chance to embody the teachings of Matthew 23:11- 12 in a practical way by walking alongside the people of Penang, sharing in their joys and sorrows, and offering the comforting presence of a servant-leader.

While in Penang, I will also be taking Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) studies, which will help to refine my pastoral skills, deepen my understanding of human suffering, and enhance my ability to offer compassionate care to those in need.

The journey ahead in Penang promises to be a time of profound learning and growth. May the footsteps of this humble servant leave an indelible mark on the hearts of those I am called to serve, as I strive to show Christ’s love in every act of kindness and compassion.

 A Franciscan Year Focussed on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation

 A Franciscan Year Focussed on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation

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.

An Evening of Fellowship and Exploration

An Evening of Fellowship and Exploration

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