Every year in the month of September all the clergy (Cardinal, Archbishop, Bishops and Priests) in Peninsular Malaysia will make their annual retreat for six days starting from Sunday evening till Friday evening. There will always be three locations of retreat centers: two in Cameron Highlands, one in Penang Island and the other in Plentong, Johor. Every year I choose to go for my annual retreat in Penang – I love Penang for certain reasons.
This year the retreat was conducted by Bishop Mylo Hubert from the Diocese of Pasig, Philippines. I still remember having attended his retreat back in 1995 which was 22 years ago when I was in the seminary at the College General, Penang. He was then, a priest.
This year my annual retreat has offered me an opportunity to stop, listen and reflect on my priestly journey. This retreat was enjoyable, relaxing and uplifting. I had a very good prayerful experience and a truly uplifting retreat. Bishop Mylo’s lovely encouraging words and his personal priestly life stories have brought enlightenment to me. On the first day itself he spoke a lot on mercy and compassion and how we can reach out to one another. This provided me an opportunity to truly reflect on my own life as a priest and my ministry with wonderful people whom I work with now. I do ask myself from time to time in what way have I experienced God’s mercy and compassion? I found the insights to be thought provoking and these have enhanced my realization as to what my true calling is in my priestly life. I have emotionally felt a sense of peace within myself. I have enjoyed my time at the retreat and gained a lot from it, a lot of meaning and understanding of my gift of the priesthood and my personal prayer life.
At night, we were given some free time for personal reflection and relaxation. This is the time we meet each other and share our thoughts, feelings and reflections of the day. I too enjoyed meeting my priest friends from the other dioceses, whom I have not met for some time. On most nights some of us went out for supper. I enjoyed eating Penang Char Koay Teow which is a favourite of mine. It was a very joyful balance between sessions, sharing and fellowship.
This weekend (22nd – 24th September) we are having our Parish Retreat. The Parish Retreat committee has worked very hard these past two months to recruit more participants to register for this weekend’s retreat. We have about 570 participants. I would like to congratulate all of you for working so hard to make this event a very significant and memorable one for our parish. We hope all those who have registered for this weekend retreat will pray that you will receive more strength to grow in your faith. Some of the participants are from different parishes and I hope you have met new people and you have made new relationships with them.
As your retreat draws to a close make a few practical commitments to improve your prayer life daily. I pray and hope you will have a refreshing and revitalising weekend retreat and deepen your relationship with God and one another. For the next couple of weeks do make a point to write down those thoughts and commitments in your notebooks. I hope everyone has a wonderful retreat and I am sure all of you will be looking forward to the next one.
We thank God for the gift of our retreat masters, Rev. Frs. Jacob Arimpur and Arun Louis and we pray that the Lord grant them the wisdom, understanding and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Fr. George Packiasamy