Dearest family and friends,
May the Lord give you peace!
Unanimous. This one word brought about a wave of emotion for me. At our Chapter, all the friars voted in favour of a Fraternal Life Project for every community in our Custody. It was a dream come true! What this means is that every single Franciscan friar in Singapore and Malaysia desires and commits to a more authentic fraternal life, returning to basics with a heart faithful to God and to the Franciscan brotherhood, taking personal responsibility for their own ongoing formation and committing to have an eye of care for every single brother.
This is certainly one of the highlights of my year, and I am truly grateful to God and to every friar for voting “yes”.
As we journey towards Christmas, it is a worthwhile exercise to look back at the moments that have been a gift to us during the year. These precious moments can feel like a new birth, a restoration.
The theme of our Chapter, held from 17 to 21 October, was “Restoring the Gospel within us”. We are called to restore the goodness of the Good News within us, and then go forth to renew others. Of course, for this restoration to even begin, we have to be intentional in deepening our connection with our God. That said, God can provide the grace of restoration without us being ready for it. That is why he is Emmanuel, God-with-us, born in the messiness of a manger.
In the messiness of our lives, I felt God’s powerful guiding presence during the Chapter. We shared deeply and vulnerably about our joys and struggles, about how in unwavering hope, we continue to believe in the goodness of every person, and about the “magic” that happens when we come together as brothers. This is the glimmering hopeful joy that lay deep in the heart of St Francis.
Speaking of hope, we have dreamed for several years of establishing a presence in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah since many of our friars hail from Sabah. On 21 September, Archbishop John Wong signed an agreement permitting us to establish a presence in his Archdiocese. A Spirituality and Retreat Centre is in the works and we pray that it will truly be a sanctuary, a place of pilgrimage, a sacred space where people can feel at peace and at home with our Franciscan spirit, and experience God holding them and healing them.
We have also voted to become an autonomous entity, independent of the Province of the Holy Spirit. This means that we will make our own decisions, be self-sufficient in our finances, and in the management of our ministries. Whilst it can seem daunting, being autonomous will spur the Custody towards greater responsibility and ownership.
We thank you, dear friends and benefactors, for your continued support these many years, and ask that you continue to pray with us as we embark on this exciting adventure that God has called us to. Please pray that we may keep our eyes focussed on the Lord as he brings us into deeper renewal as authentic friars minor, after the heart of St Francis of Assisi.
Peace and all good,
Custody of St Anthony