Language Pastoral Assembly 2019

The Malacca Johore Diocese (MJD) recently held four language group assemblies for the Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin and Tamil speaking respectively. These day-long Language Pastoral Assemblies (LPA) are one of the initiatives that was proposed in response to the needs raised at the Diocesan Synod 2016 and the Fourth Peninsular Malaysian Pastoral Convention (PMPC IV).

The final statement of the above two assemblies had stated that, “mission must be of becoming a listening, discerning and prophetic Church, where we are then propelled to be creative, inclusive and bridge-building in our pastoral vision and mission.” It expresses “an alternative way of being church” where cultural and language diversity is looked upon as an opportunity to build a sense of being Malaysian.

A LPA Kit was introduced by the diocese Mission Pastoral Institute (MPI) with the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) methodology and pre-LPA questionnaire. This was translated and given to the parishes about 3-months prior to prepare the delegates and have their feedback before the assembly. A moderators workshop was also conducted to prepare the facilitators. Every parish was asked to send a maximum of 10 representatives from each language group for their respective LPA. Majority of the clergy were present at every LPA to express their concern as pastors for all peoples.

The objectives of the LPA are:

  1. Expressing and celebrating - how much each language community has grown as a faith community, focused on the pastoral thrust of the diocese (2016-2020).
  2. Shared future - Using the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) methodology, the language groups are to Define & Discover (DISCOVER), to Dream and Design (DISCERN); and Deliver (DEEDS) the areas of concern for their groups.
  3. Discern and write - the vision for every language group community in the diocese; and draft a Language Pastoral Plan (2019-2022)
  4. Anticipate the future - prepare representatives for the upcoming vicariate assembly (2020) and finally the Diocesan Pastoral Assembly (2021).

Keynote Address

Bishop Bernard Paul in his keynote address started with a bible reflection from Acts 15:1-29 where the early Christian community had their first Council in Jerusalem. The issue was if the Gentile converts are required to circumcise and follow Moses’s Law in order to be saved? Bishop reflected on three kinds of religious community, namely if we are Mindless followers, Mindless meddlers, or “Mind of God” leaders. He expanded the “Mind of God” leadership in a few steps:

  1. acknowledge problems
  2. review experiences and signs in the people
  3. interpret experiences of God at work in the Church with Scripture
  4. decide on policy and direction
  5. policy adopted and announced

He concluded his keynote with expectations on the LPA to discover by reading the signs, discern and dream as to listen to the Spirit, and in delivery and deeds to become effective-fruit bearers.

Focus on the Bahasa LPA

The first LPA kick-started with the Bahasa Malaysia speaking community on 20th May 2019. About 84 representatives from nine parishes and two chapels participated in the LPA. Based on all the group discussions, the areas of priority were the youth, family and community. The needs were reaching out to the young, forming the next generation of leaders, family reconciliation and faith formation, evangelisation, counselling, community needs, vocation and support system from the parish and the diocese. There were suggestions to celebrate mass on Malaysia Day, and celebrate Family Day and Harvest Festival at diocesan level.

Focus on the English LPA

The English speaking LPA on 4th June, saw 79 representatives from 16 parishes attending. They saw their strengths as including the special minority groups such as the Filipinos, renewal programs like ALPHA, supportive parish priests, and multi languages mass. During the second session, the delegates listed their major areas of concerns as active or supportive parish priests, youth, BEC, leadership and formations. They also spoke of the need for being inclusive, to grow leadership, better communication, evangelisation, building unity, strengthening family life, fundraising and personal retreats.

Focus on the Mandarin LPA

The Mandarin LPA on 5th June had 134 representatives from 17 parishes attending. Through the discussions and sharing, there were seven fields that emerged: Youth, BEC, Family Life, Catechesis, Social Media/Facilities, Liturgy/Personal Formation, and lastly Clergy/Vocation. Action plans that emerged included:

  1. Providing youth with more motivation and space to be creative as well as involving them in liturgy. (Youth)
  2. Breaking the stereotype that BEC is a community for adults/elderly only and using BEC as a platform to do good for the larger community. (BEC)
  3. Providing faith formation for parents and conducting home visits. (Family life)
  4. Providing a diocesan platform that develops and cares for catechists and RCIA facilitators. (Catechesis)
  5. Providing various language versions of the MAJODI website. (Social media/facilities)
  6. Organizing short term Bible classes e.g. Little Rock. (Liturgy/Personal Formation)
  7. Organizing more diocesan vocational camps. (Clergy/Vocation)

Tamil LPA

On 6th June, 85 representatives from 9 parishes and 3 chapels attended the Tamil LPA. During the first session, all representatives reaffirmed the findings on new initiative, efforts, graces, blessings, successes as part of their community strengths. They highlighted the BECs, house visit and collaboration with parish priests as their major strengths. In the second session, most representatives identified the dream to reach out to lapsed Catholic, helping the needy, to make catechism more attractive, have more vocation awareness, leadership formation and counselling service/centres for the youth as priorities.

Conclusion

Apart from listening to the people, the LPA provided a forum for the delegates to dialogue with the Bishop and respective priests on any relevant questions and provide their feedback and suggestions. It was a good opportunity for the representatives to share their thoughts and ideas for the direction of their respective language groups.

The common sentiments that was raised from the people in all assemblies are:

  1. Clergy to be faithful to the diocesan guidelines and SOPs – liturgy, finances, management, catechetical, maintenance, etc.
  2. Unity in diversity does not demand uniformity - freedom in expressing their respective languages and cultures
  3. Multilingual mass – bringing people together
  4. Succession plan (continuity) – leadership, programs, projects, etc.
  5. Transparency – finance, the need to involves parishioners in decision making
  6. Communication – Social media presence, clarity, dissemination of information
The Mission Pastoral Institute (MPI) team sensed the following:
  1. Voices of the people were heard – freedom to voice out their concerns, difficulties and challenges
  2. Most achievements/concerns/dreams/needs/priorities raised are about pastoral matters, none on social mission/ issues/responsibilities were discussed.
  3. Support from the clergy - empowerment and encouragement
  4. AI methodology need to be explained – many of them are not familiarised
  5. There is certain adherence of all parishes to the Diocesan option and the AI methodology
  6. Obvious observation is that all parishes have begun to introduce the Parish Pastoral Assembly (PPA) as communities’ time for discovery, discerning, designing and delivering on the action plan

The LPA steering committees will now collate the reports and develop a pastoral plan. Bishop will study these and issue a pastoral letter to address the needs and directions for all language groups. The LPA is a way to understand in our own tongue the message and meaning of Christ in our lives and language communities.