For the first time in history, the Catholic Church in Malaysia organised the Malaysian Catholic Clergy Assembly (MCCA), from 16-20 July 2018 at Majodi Centre, Plentong in Johor Bahru. The main theme of the Assembly was “May They Be One” (Jn 17: 21) and the sub-theme was “Friendship, Learning and Challenges”. There were altogether 280 of us including Cardinal, Archbishops and Bishops, Priests and Deacons. The Catholic Church in Malaysia consists of 3 Archdioceses (Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu) and 6 Dioceses (Penang, Johor-Melaka, Sibu, Miri, Keningau and Sandakan).
One of the most enjoyable times that I experienced during the 5-day Assembly was coming together for prayer, Eucharistic Adoration and Eucharistic Celebration. It was fascinating and delightful to see all the Malaysian Clergy coming together in prayer as a Church. This reminded me of my seminary days where we used to gather, without fail, for prayers and other spiritual exercises. In our priestly ministry, we pray as individuals and as a community with our congregation, however during the Assembly, it gave us the opportunity to come together, praying as a Church and as a Clergy.
We also had good spiritual input given by Archbishop Emeritus John Ha from the Archdiocese of Kuching, based on the theme. His profound input focused on mission and communion. Both are inseparable entities. In our priestly ministry, in order to be disciples of the Lord, we need to be one and to be in communion. He reminded us that wherever we are or whatever the situation we face, as ordained clergy, our strength and our unity lies in the way we live our vocation and exercise our ministry to draw all people of God into communion. Archbishop Simon Poh from the Archdiocese of Kuching spoke about the challenges being faced by the Malaysian Clergy in the areas of evangelisation and mission, either in East or West Malaysia and how we can strengthen our Church in Malaysia.
Besides the presentations and sharing, we had group discussions and workshops based on Family, Islamisation, Youth, Secularization, Evangelisation and Mission Witnessing, Disparities Between East and West and Vocation. These workshops have helped in building our friendship, learning to understand the uniqueness of both East and West Malaysia, as well as the diversity and challenges that we face as one Malaysian Church.
We have a role to play in making our country better, to encourage our Church communities to carry out their commitments seriously, and to spearhead the Church to be the “salt and light” of our nation. The Church should also be at the forefront of holding the new government accountable in protecting the people’s rights and freedom regardless of race, culture and religion.
During the Assembly, the Clergy visited parishes in Kota Tinggi, Masai, Skudai and Johor Bahru. We had the opportunity to meet parishioners from East and West Malaysia in these respective parishes, and they welcomed us with praise and worship, entertainment and fellowship.
The MCCA was truly a blessing for the Malaysian Clergy as it presented us with an opportunity to meet and interact, share ideas and thoughts, as well as reflect on our journey. Many of us hadn’t seen each other in a long time, and it was good to catch up and reminisce. I was happy to have met friends that I hadn’t seen for over 15 years! This Assembly has created warm memories, brought about laughter and given me the gift of new friendships. Personally, I feel blessed with much happiness and I am looking forward to the next East meets West assembly.
We pray that the Lord Jesus continues to bless our beloved Church in Malaysia!
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy