Preparing Catholic leaders for the Extraordinary Missionary Month

The Institute for New Evangelisation (INE) conducted the Catholic Leaders Evangelisation Conference (CLEC) from November 14 to 18 at MAJODI Centre, Plentong. Graced by Bishops Sebastian Francis of Penang and Bernard Paul of Malacca Johore, the conference was organised in conjunction with the Extraordinary Missionary Month (EMM) in October 2019 called by Pope Francis. Fifty-six church leaders from the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur and the Dioceses of Penang and Malacca Johore attended.

The EMM celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud of Pope Benedict XV in 1919 with the theme: Baptised and sent out: the Church of Christ on a mission in the world. The aim is to foster an increased awareness of the missio ad gentes and taking up again, with renewed fervour, the missionary transformation of the Church’s life and pastoral activity.

The Apostolic Letter of Pope Francis in 2017 called for transcending national boundaries and bearing witness, with prophetic spirit and evangelical boldness, to God’s saving will through the Church’s universal mission.

Bishop Sebastian Francis, Bishop of the Diocese of Penang and the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, announced at the conference that the Bishops of Malaysia have decided to set the Solemnity of Epiphany as the starting point of the Extraordinary Year of Mission and this will end in October 2019.

Fr Victor Louis from the Penang Diocese, who was in 2017 appointed the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Society by the Conference of Malaysian Bishops, was the guest speaker and spoke about the coming EMM.

He highlighted Pope Francis’ rational for this celebration:

1) Evangelisation is a response to Jesus’ perennial command to “go out into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature (Mk 16:15)

2) Obeying this mandate of the Lord is not an option for the Church: in the words of the Second Vatican Council, it is her essential task.

3) The Church is missionary by nature; she exists in order to evangelise.

4) Evangelisation is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church.

5) The Church must walk the same path Christ walked: a path of poverty and obedience of service and self-sacrifice.

As part of the five-day session, a para-liturgy called Baptised and Sent was animated by Bishop Bernard to help participants recall their baptism and to remind them of their call to evangelisation.

After input sessions, participants were divided into pairs and sent into the field. They went to the nearby hospital, mall and home for the aged to experience “street” evangelisation. Many shared that they were apprehensive initially about approaching a stranger but took up the challenge. This was the result of feedback from the last seminar in July for the need of an outreach – to cement the practical to the theory.

Participants were also given a chance to express themselves creatively on Social Evening, where in groups according to Dioceses, they presented their evangelisation efforts based on their parish and ministry experience. The evening was made even more meaningful with powerful personal testimonies from two of the participants.

Sharon Fong from the KL Archdiocese who came to the Conference as a member of the INE team had this to say, “As a participant of the first seminar (in July), I was made to understand that evangelisation is not just about doing good but also to share the Good News. It made me see that evangelisation is about sharing, planting the seed and not converting.”

She went on, “Back to Majodi, the second time with a different role felt familiar but with apprehension as I was working with team members that were unfamiliar and I was unsure if I could really contribute. Things changed after I agreed to lead in one of the Praise & Worship sessions. Praise God the session went well.

Then, I realised that this is similar to evangelisation. It sounds scary and uncomfortable but all we need is just to say YES — just like Mother Mary. Coming back as a team member has made me discover that no one is ever too small to do God’s work. All are given the authority to evangelise!”

In the Commissioning Mass, Fr Louis acknowledged the fears that the participants may face when they go home. However, he reminded them to be “Christ to the people we meet and bring the love of Christ with faith, love and without fear, for Christ has conquered everything.”

In 2019, INE will be conducting its first seminar in Mandarin in May, followed by the BM session in August. The sessions will also be held at St Anne’s Bukit Martajam, Penang and KL respectively, before returning to Majodi in November.


Article reproduced from Herald Malaysia online

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