28 October 2007
(Picture shows parents listening attentively to the sharing by Agnes and Eddy De Souza.)
PENANG: The usually solemn-looking Parish Priest of the Church of Immaculate Conception, Pulau Tikus, Fr Marshall Fernandez, was smiling throughout the whole Mass. He seemed rather relaxed.
His assistant had gone on a pilgrimage and he had handed the planning of the Catechetical Sunday celebration to a group of laity consisting of the Parish Sunday Catechism Formators Committee (PSCFC), Parish Parents Support Group (PPSG), the Choir and Junior Youth Ministry.
The PSCFC and PPSG had prepared the liturgy and since the theme of the Mass was Family: A Nursery of Discipleship, families were invited to be involved in the commentating, proclamation of the Word, collection and in the choir (which was specially organised for the occasion).
Determined to ensure maximum lay participation in the celebration of a ministry that is basically lay, Fr Marshall invited a layperson, Martin Jalleh, to give a sharing. Jalleh reiterated the praises the late Pope John Paul had lavished on catechists. He then went on to challenge them to be innovative and creative.
Affirming that parents are “the primary catechists of their children” and that the family is the nursery of discipleship, Jalleh said that the challenges confronting marriage and family-life are increasing and serious and it called for some serious and honest soul-searching when it comes to faith formation of the young.
The catechists and the RCIA Faith Formators were invited by Fr Marshall to the front of the altar for a Commissioning Prayer. After their resounding “Yes” to whether they were willing to exercise the ministry of catechesis in the parish, the Parish Priest turned to the congregation.
He asked them: “Do you pledge your support to their spiritual endeavours?” The parishioners declared enthusiastically: “Yes, we do!” Fr Marshall smiled, stroked his beard and responded with a loud “Amen!”.
The teachers of the faith were visibly touched when Fr Marshall invited the whole congregation to extend their right hand and join him in praying for them.
A special blessing was also given to parents and guardians in recognition of their important and special role and responsibility in forming their children in the faith. The parishioners then expressed their appreciation and love for their priest by giving him the loudest applause possible.
The celebration continued after the Mass with a programme planned by the PSCFC. The primary students had a great time playing games organised by the Junior Youth Ministry. The secondary youths were given a very interesting talk by Dr Mary Bharathy, a psychiatrist and lecturer at the Penang Medical College.
Entitled Understanding Yourself and Family Relationships, Dr Bharathy’s talk touched on the physiological, cognitive, emotional, social and psychological changes in an adolescent and how these changes can affect his/her relationship with family members.
During the group discussion the youths shared on the challenges and difficulties they face in their relationship with their family members and how they dealt with the challenges. Summing up, Dr Bharathy invited the youths to look at their relationship with their families from the Christian perspective.
Meanwhile, an equally lively session took place in the AVA Room, where about 50 parents were gathered. By their personal and practical examples, renowned Marriage Encounter presenters, Eddy and Agnes De Souza, successfully prompted the parents to reflect seriously on their role as “life-givers”.
The celebration ended with a sumptuous fellowship brunch prepared and served by the members of the PPSG. Mark Jones of the PPSG commented: “Initially we were afraid there would not be enough food. But with so much love and support expressed today, the food multiplied!”
“Feedback all round was that the Catechetical Sunday celebration was indeed a meaningful and beautiful experience. The Lord was truly with us and it was HE who “orchestrated” this whole celebration,” the organising chairperson, Dr Annie Foo, very aptly concluded.