And Jesus said to the apostles, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31). He had sent them out two by two to minister to the people, and they were exhausted on their return. He saw their need for rest, not just for physical rest, but their need to rest in the Lord.
So do we all need to rest in the Lord. And rest in the Lord is what the friars of the Custody of St Anthony (Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei) did when they gathered in a remote location in July. From their varied ministries in Singapore, Kuching, Johor and Penang, they travelled to Kampung Kokol in Sabah to rest in the Lord, in quiet, in prayer, in fraternity, and to seek his voice in what the Custody ought to do in the next three years.
They had gathered for the Custody Assembly which, together with the Custody Chapter in October, is
held every three years. With them was Provincial Minister Friar Phillip Miscamble, since the Custody is part of the Province of the Holy Spirit in Australia.
The Custody Assembly and Chapter are among the most significant gatherings in the life of the Custody. It is when, as a Custody, the friars:
- Look honestly at its life and ministry – How have they lived their lives as Friars Minor? What have they done as ministers of the Gospel?
- Report, reflect and discuss issues which are important for the life of the Custody
- Discuss the possibilities for faith-filled love and life, and propose suitable ways to foster growth and improvement.
The theme of this Assembly and Chapter is “Restoring the Gospel in Us”. Recognising that the Gospel is the source and origin of the Order, it was felt that it was time to focus again on “restoring” the Gospel life.This Assembly, they were joined by Visitor General Friar Robert Frazzetta, who had been sent by Rome for the official visitation which takes place every three to six years. This official visitation is intended to ensure that the Custody remains faithful tothe Franciscan calling of fraternity and observance of Gospel living.
It serves to remind them of the foundational values of Franciscan life and encourage them from the heart to greater things – from the good to the better.
The friars spent the five days, 4 to 8 July, almost cloistered in a modest hotel about 40 to 50 minutes from the city.
They were full days, and much was achieved in terms of work and planning as the friars developed a broad sketch of how they envisioned continuing in their mission to bring the Good News to the places where it needs most to be heard.
They were days of community prayer with Lauds and the Eucharist in the morning, and Vespers in the evening. It was a joy to be able to pray together as a Custody and as a fraternity.
They were days of fraternity especially since it was the first gathering of the whole Custody since the Covid-19 lockdowns. There was great relief and happiness that they were able to meet each other again face to face, and to reconnect and renew bonds.
Friar Crispus Mosinoh, one of the newly-ordained priests, summed up his experience of the assembly thus, “The Custody Assembly was a joyful event, like how an extended family meet for a reunion dinner. Like any family, we have differences and challenges. As a young friar, it is very heartening to witness the spirit of renewal and fraternity that we share. If we can be brothers despite the challenges, then we can hope for the bigger community, the church. And if we have hope for the church, we can also have hope for society, for the world.”
The period of reflection and renewal that commenced with the Custody Assembly in July will culminate with the Custody Chapter at the end of October.
At the Chapter, the friars will evaluate further their Franciscan life, presence, ministry and formation, and discuss their priorities and areas of growth for the next three years. They will also spend the time discerning what more they can do from early next year, now that they have five newly-ordained priests.
The Custody Chapter is also a time of elections to office. The new leadership will also form the Board of the Custody’s registered charity, The Order of Friars Minor (Singapore) Limited.