>St Mary’s Cathedral’s Chinese New Year Celebration

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Sandakan : The Chinese community of St Mary’s Cathedral Parish celebrated the lunar New Year mass   on the first day of the festive season Thursday, 3rd Feb 2011 at St Mary’s Cathedral presided by Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom, con celebrated by Fr Thomas Makajil and Fr David Aloysius Garaman.

Right after mass, there was a colorful and lively lion dance  performance ushering in the year of rabbit at the entrance of the Cathedral.  The lion dance symbolizes  prosperity, good health and fortune in the upcoming year.

Bishop Julius flanked by Fr Thomas Makajil (left) and Fr David (right) presenting an ‘ang pow’ to the lion as a long standing tradition of the Chinese which symbolizes ‘good luck’ to the recipient.

Sunday, 13th February 2011 the Chinese Pastoral Committee (CPC) hosted a 44-table CNY dinner with some 500 people in attendance, at the Parish Centre.

Paul Chin, the Chairman of CPC welcomed all who came in support of the CNY event and among which he said, ‘The CNY gathering is an annual happening not just for the Chinese community but for all communities in the Parish. We hope to build a closer rapport with one another and to expose and share our culture for the promotion of solidarity.’
Fr Thomas Makajil, the rector expressed his appreciation to CPC for the initiative taken to organize the special occasion , celebrated in family spirit. 
‘The coming together of people in such event to share our varied gifts in harmony is great witnessing in itself.’ he said.
He called on the people to lend support to all parish activities and to continue to journey as one community in the Cathedral Parish. He hoped that the CNY will usher in prosperity for the Church, the family and each one of us.
Bishop Julius expressed his gratitude to the CPC for making the celebration, an occasion  for all communities ~ a sign of great solidarity among the people of God. He called on the people to look into the reality of the local Church, the acute shortage of priests to tender to the flocks. 
The prelate said, ‘As we celebrate this auspicious occasion, let us look back the yesteryear, ponder the moment and look forward for a brighter tomorrow. Build our future with hope in brotherly love.Pray for more priestly vocation especially from the Chinese community’ 
The CNY celebration was jointly graced by Bishop Julius, Fr Thomas, Fr David, Sr Appollonia fsic, Paul Chin, John Baptis, the PPC Chairman and leaders of the various Chinese ministries by bursting the hundreds of balloons giving rise to the similar unending cracking sound of fire crackers.
In traditional Chinese celebration, offering toast during dinner is a significant  expression of honor and goodwill.The first toast proposed to all present for their support in making the function a success. The second toast for Bishop Julius, clergy and all religious that God will continue to bless them as they shepherd  His people. The final toast proposed to all, that the Year of Rabbit be a prosperous and peaceful year filled with God’s abundant blessing.  
The dinner reception

During the course of the dinner, the people were entertained to a host of songs and dances – both traditional and contemporaries by the various Church groups.

The Chinese community of St Mark’s Church presented a sketch on the  ‘Reunion Dinner’
Presentation of prizes to winners of lucky draw, guess the right price for items displayed and guess the right number of sweets in the container.

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>IFFA’s Cultural Nite in Sandakan ~ Bidding Farewell

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Medley of dances from across Asia
Sandakan : The 12-day IFFA mission project in Sandakan came to a close with the staging of the cultural nite themed ‘Friends around Asia’ by participants from IFFA and the local youth at the Parish Hall, Saturday 12th February 2011. More than 300 people, mostly youth from the various BECs attended the occasion, graced by Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom.
It was an excellent opportunity to expose and share the rich and diverse culture in Asia with one another, promoting solidarity among the people of God. Their encounter with the local youth and the local community had paved the way for building a closer relationship.  It had also provided good networking opportunities between the young people of  IFFA and the local youth ~ a beautiful approach in building God’s kingdom.
Front  L-R :  Kou Jia, Tianan and Yang Ling Ling from China

The night’s program began with praise and worship ~ with the IFFA participants presenting ‘Here I am to Worship’

Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that you are my God
You’re altogether lovely
All together worthy
All together wonderful to me

The melody and the lyrics created the right setting for the people to pause and prepare themselves coming before the Lord in prayer.
Bishop Julius in his address to the young people cited Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 : 1 ~ There is a time for everything and a season for every activity in heaven. 
The prelate said, ‘The mission project may soon come to an end but the relationship built must be allowed to develop and flourish. Missionary work among young people is a great challenge and thus in everything we do for our Lord , we need one another, holding on to each other.’ 
Front L-R : Yau and Boa from Laos

The IFFA participants presented a medley of traditional dances from China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, the Phillippines and Malaysia. The ‘Keluarga Besar Katolik Indonesia’ from St Mark’s Church presented the ‘dolo-dolo’ dance while the youth from Our Lady of Fatima’s Church Beluran, BEC Merak and St Cecilia’s Group presented the traditional ‘sumazau’ dance.

Young dancers from Our Lady of Fatima’s Church, Beluran ~ IFFA candidate???
Front L-R : Roselinah, Lisa and Anna from Malaysia
Front L-R: Judith, Rose, Carlu, Sanpi and Christina from Myanmar
Front L-R : Aleona, Rodrigo and Ferly from the Phillipines
The ‘dolo-dolo’ by the Indonesian Community together with participants from IFFA
The Diocese of Sandakan would like to say thank you to Charles Bertille, the Director and the formation team of IFFA for having chosen Sandakan as the venue for their mission project. As you leave with fond memories of Sandakan in this part of the world, do communicate with us and together, may we remain connected. Though far apart from one another in different parts of Asia, we remain united in Christ. May the experience gained here be useful to you in your pastoral work in your country. 
Let us pray that the young people of IFFA who are to graduate on 6th March 2011, may be guided by our Lord throughout their missionary life. 
God bless.
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>A briefing session to the participants of IFFA

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Sylvester Ho  
Sandakan : On the 10th day of the IFFA Mission Project, Thursday 10th February 2011, participants attended a briefing session on the history and background of the Church, the general statistical summary, pastoral plan and direction and the various outreach programs in the Paitan Missionary Area under its care.
The session started with Sylvester Ho, the Office in Charge giving an insight into the beginning of the Catholic mission in Sandakan with the arrival of the Mill Hill Missionary priests in 1881 till the present moment. He gave a clear overview of all the buildings encompassed in the Cathedral compound, the sub parishes, chapels  outstations, schools and hostel..He summed up by giving a detail statistical summary of the Catholic population, number of baptisms, confirmation, number of Sunday school goers, catechists and other related information.

Daniel Fan helping out with the pp projection
John Baptis 2nd from left

John Baptis, the PPC Chairman spoke on the structure of the PPC, its various portfolios and the people involved as well as the parish pastoral plan. He shared that the parish is moving very much in line with the ‘dream’ of the diocese which is building communities through BECs. As of date, there are 12 established BECs in the Cathedral Parish.

Fr Thomas on the left
Fr Thomas Makajil, rector of the Cathedral briefed the attendees regarding pastoral care and evangelical mission in the outstation especially in the only missionary area of the diocese – the Paitan Missionary Area established some 25 years ago.He highlighted the progress of the mission work in Paitan covering 12 kampongs with a total Catholic population of over 1,000 people. He shared on the many challenges and encounters of the mission work with the indigenous people. The sharing created an ideal background for young people, on which to project the changing emphasis and approaches of missionary work and efforts.
The attendees – IFFA participants and local parishioners

After the briefing session, the participants were hosted to a dinner fellowship, arranged and prepared by the Cathedral. The fellowship helped to get the young IFFA participants to get more acquainted with the local parishioners and enhanced the already established relationship.

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>Farewell and Welcoming Dinner for outgoing and incoming assistant rector of St Mary’s Cathedral

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L-R : Fr Phillip Muji and Fr David  Aloysius Garaman
Sandakan : A farewell and welcoming dinner fellowship was held on Wednesday 9th February 2011 at the Parish Hall hosted by the PPC of St Mary’s Cathedral. The  get together was organized to bid farewell to Fr David Garaman, ordained just over a month ago, will be transferred to Holy Trinity Church, Tawau as the assistant rector before month end. 
At the same time, the dinner was also organized to welcome the new incoming assistant rector Fr Phillip Muji  of HTC Tawau. 
In his opening address, Fr Thomas Makajil, the rector of the Cathedral said, ‘Life is but a series of hellos and goodbyes’. He thanked Fr David for his dedicated service of over a year in the Cathedral, initially doing his pastoral immersion, ordained deacon on 19th March 2010 and later ordained a priest on 31st December 2010. He is very much involved with the youth and is currently the spiritual director of the Diocesan Youth Apostolate  and the Diocesan Liturgical Commission.
He welcomed Fr Phillip and wished him a fruitful and fulfilling priestly ministry in the Cathedral Parish and called on the people to render him support  as he step forth to face the reality of the community life in the parish. He continued to say ‘As priests we need to be in the midst of the people tending to their pastoral needs’.

‘There can be no Eucharist without the priesthood just as there will be no priesthood without the Eucharist’ and as such he called on the people as a community to always pray for the priests and for more priestly vocations in the diocese.

Bishop Julius in his address said that the transfer of priests within the diocese is a normal practice. It is an enriching experience for priests to tend to the flock in different parishes. They will have the opportunity to be more innovative in applying their pastoral skills to meet the needs of different community of different settings.

The prelate said, ‘I congratulate both of you for your new appointment. May you continue to serve the Lord and His people faithfully with much zeal.’

Present at the function were the 24 students, interns and staff of Institute of Formation, Fondacio Asia  (IFFA) of the Phillipines who are currently undergoing their mission project here in the Cathedral Parish from 1st – 12th February 2011.

 Parish Youth


IFFA participants

The participants from IFFA and the local youth presented some songs and dances during the dinner fellowship.

San Pi from Myanmar presenting a souvenir to Fr David
John Baptist, PPC Chairman handing over a gift to Fr David

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>Progress on IFFAsia Mission Project in Sandakan

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Sandakan :  The second phase of the 12-day IFFAsia Mission Project held here in the St Mary’s Cathedral Parish entered its 7th day today, 7th February 2011. Participants, students, interns, staff and volunteers of IFFAsia were kept on schedule with pastoral and social activities preplanned for them.


On the 3rd and 4th day of their pastoral exposure, participants had the opportunity to experience Chinese New Year with their foster families. They visited homes of the local Chinese parishioners and had the feel of the new year festival with CNY meals, ang pows, mandarin oranges and lion dances. 


On the 5th day, participants had the day’s session with the local youth through the youth encounter program centering on ‘youth as agent of change’. The session allowed the youth to have an experience of God with the youth through the exchange of experience and to call and inspire young people to be agents of change through witnessing. The program included building relationship, introducing oneself in a creative way, sharing in small and large groups, games connected to the theme and testimonies by individual participants.

In the evening, participants attended the Eucharistic celebration, the fifth Sunday in ordinary time which was also the mass for the world day of consecrated life, presided over by Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom D.D. The prelate in his homily called on the people to join the religious sisters to give thanks and praise to God for the gift of religious life. He asked the people to be the ‘salt and light’ to the world as a single grain of salt could add taste to food and a little bit more could  preserve it. Many needy out in the world actually need that kind of salt and light that we could share with them. The salt and light in that context is the essence of our faith.

After the celebration, participants and the local youth attended a talk on religious life of the local order, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and Religious of Good Shepherd presented by Sr Appollonia fsic and Sr Maria Dipal rgs respectively at the former Kindergarten block.
On the 6th day, a Sunday, participants were with their foster families the whole day. Most had the opportunity to make a tour of Sandakan – a nature city. They visited the popular Sunday street fair, the Buddhist temple, Agnes Keith’s House, the crocodile farm, the rainforest discovery center and the  sepilok orang utan rehabilatiaton centre.
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>Students of IFFA embark on mission project in Sandakan

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Sandakan : 23 participants from the Institute of Formation, Fondacio Asia (IFFA) based in Quezon City of the Phillippines arrived safely at the Sandakan Diocesan Centre on Tuesday night, 1st February 2011. The participants, 13 students, 4 interns and 6 staff and volunteers coming from eight different countries across Asia  will be here for their second part of mission project in Sabah which is an integral part of their pastoral studies The members were earlier stationed in the Diocese of Keningau from 19th – 31st January 2011.
On arrival, they were given a warm welcome by the local organizing committee led by Francis Tan of the Diocese and foster families. 10 generous parishioners responded to host the students and interns. They, not only open their homes to house them for their 12-day stay but open their hearts as well to welcome and journey with them.
The participants and foster families were given a briefing on the schedule of their 12-day mission exposure by the main coordinator of the local organizing committee. The participants were then introduced to their foster families.
They were then feted to a dinner reception hosted by the Diocese. Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom in his welcoming speech told the participants to take the opportunity to integrate with the local faithful as they  put their pastoral knowledge into practice.
The prelate said, ‘Dear uprising young leaders of Asia, explore and immerse yourselves in all activities as planned  to enhance your pastoral skills so that you may lead others to Christ.’
Rev Thomas Makajil the rector of St Mary’s Cathedral bade the participants a warm welcome and expressed  high hope of the young  participants as future leaders of the Church. He also said that young people are to be empowered to be agents of change to shape the future Church.
Also present at the function were Fr David Garaman, the newly ordained priest, religious sisters of the Franciscan Sisters of Immaculate Conception and the Religious of the Good Shepherd, Diocesan and Parish Pastoral Councilors, Cathedral’s ministry leaders and representatives from the youth apostolate.
The following morning, 2nd February 2011, the participants were briefed by Francis Tan on the history, structure, statistics, context and pastoral challenges of the diocese followed by a question and answer session.
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