The announcement of the Holy Father’s appointment of Monsignor Bernard Paul as Bishop of Melaka-Johor Diocese on 19 November 2015 was indeed a blessing and an occasion of happiness for the people of the diocese and to our country. The Mass of Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Bernard Paul was held in Johor Bahru on 12 January 2016.
Bishop Bernard Paul was ordained as a priest on 21 July 1989 and has since served in the Diocese of Penang as Parish Priest and spiritual advisor for various ministries. He also held the post of Vicar General from 1996-1998 and later from 2012-2015. His Episcopal motto is the same with that of his priestly ordination theme, “TAKE, BLESS, BREAK and GIVE”, (Mt 26;26).
During my final year as a seminarian in the year 2002 at College General, Penang I was assigned to do a one-year pastoral work and exposure programme in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Kulim, Kedah. It was a weekend programme from Friday evening till Sunday evening. Fr Bernard Paul was then the parish priest.
Normally, on Friday afternoons I would ride my motorbike from Penang Island to the Church. The distance was about 160 km (to and fro). I always looked forward to the weekends to get involved in the parish ministries and to learn about the people in the parish. I also had an opportunity to get to know this wonderful, kind priest who also became a spiritual coach to me. He was filled with great pastoral zeal and had excellent community building skills.
One day I was a little down, thinking seriously about wanting to know my charism, on how the Holy Spirit was moving in my life and how I should respond. I approached Fr Bernard and expressed what was in my heart. After a long conversation with him, he gave me 5 spiritual exercises to follow during that weekend. I did it prayerfully over the weekend and the following weekend he sat with me and explained them meticulously. I was very contented with his feedback which made sense for my spiritual maturity.
I am really grateful to Bishop Bernard Paul for helping me to discover my vocation to the priesthood at that time. Till now those spiritual exercises help me to live my priesthood courageously and responsibly.
For many of us, at times we are not aware of the path we should take and for this we need to grow in spiritual maturity. Spend some time every day or at least once a week to enter into deep prayer and have a new start and fresh beginning in our lives. God has given us a lifetime of moments to receive his mercy and forgiveness and to start anew. As we have just begun a New Year, let us pray that Year 2016 brings us a lot of new opportunities, new blessings, and new happiness to us and to our families.
Fr. George Packiasamy