Seventeen Religious Major Superiors and delegates of the different congregations gathered at George Adventure Base, near Mt Kinabalu, August 10-17, for their second gathering for 2023.
The Conference of Religious Major Superiors (CRMS) of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei is a canonically instituted association where Religious Superiors work towards greater collaboration with one another and also to “establish appropriate coordination and cooperation with the conference of bishops and also with individual bishops” (CIC 708).
For the past few meetings, CRMS president Friar Derrick Yap, OFM, focussed on the group’s attention and efforts regarding the Safeguarding and Protection of Minor and Vulnerable Persons. There is a two-prong approach to safeguarding: (1) the reactive approach is taken when there is a complaint of abuse, and (2) the proactive approach is adopted to promote mental and spiritual well-being and thus is a preventive strategy against any form of abuse happening in the first place.
This round of formation sessions were targeted on the proactive preventive approach. Dr Joachim Lee, a psychotherapist, was invited to inform and introduce the group to the latest research in Brain Science and Psychology. Under the guidance and sharing of Dr Joachim, the group experienced a powerful message to be open and recognise “The Wisdom of Trauma”, which is the title of a documentary the superiors watched before the input session.
The group learnt that dysfunctional behaviours and addictions are often trauma-based. It was with this awareness that Dr Joachim helped trace the journey in discovering a good enough authentic self, involving the brain, psychology and ourselves. Other topics covered included the mental health continuum, causes of anxiety disorder, stress, burnout and depression. These topics were contextualised within the life of a Religious and community living, and there was plenty of material to further our reflection on.
With such awareness of the struggles within religious living, this group of religious leaders found themselves confronted with this challenging reality and how to journey and accompany the Religious men and women under their care. The call to personal conversion and deep compassion rang in our hearts as we felt the continuous call to follow Christ more closely as servant-leaders and authentic Religious.
The second part of the gathering consisted of the official meeting. The Religious Superiors shared the latest updates in their respective congregations. They also had a brief Zoom session with Friar David Leary, OFM, reflecting on and studying issues and policies surrounding the protection of minors and vulnerable persons, which is focussed on the reactive approach.
This August meeting was also an opportune moment for feedback regarding the Malaysian Religious Assembly held in June; they have decided to carry on the good works and conversations that have taken place, and to keep it up-to-date for the Malaysian Pastoral Convention in 2026.
Finally, the superiors had open and free conversations in small groups about matters affecting our congregations in this part of our world. There was some alignment among the small groups revolving around issues of greater collaboration in the areas of ministries and formation; sharing and optimisation of human and land resources; care plans for aging and infirmed religious.
Being in Sabah and accompanied by the hospitality of the Sabahan Religious brothers and sisters, especially through Capuchin Friar Valentine Gompok’s arrangement, we spent our last day together visiting the interesting shrines and sites in Ranau, namely the Church of St Peter Claver (Ranau) and Puncak Kasih Bonda. They had us soaking our feet twice in a day, once in the river where beautiful fish swam close, and in the afternoon, at the Poring Hot Springs. It was truly a time of laughter, friendship and enjoyment of nature.
Taking time for relaxation and appreciating the gifts of God in these places provided us with a more holistic experience as men and women called by God to build God’s kingdom of love.
At the end of our time together, the 17 superiors returned to their communities refreshed and recharged with greater zeal for mission in the world, in and through advancing a more effective and authentic community living