KUCHING – From 2 February-13 April, the Archdiocese of Kuching organised six parish-level celebrations in the spirit of the World Youth Day (WYD), which culminated with an Archdiocesan-level celebration at the Catholic Memorial and Pilgrimage Centre (CMPC) at Mount Singai (Bau).
Realising that only 50 youths from Kuching would participate in the WYD celebration in Sydney, Archbishop John Ha called the youth leaders and the Archdiocesan Youth Commission to bring the pilgrim experience of the WYD to the young people here.
The organisers patterned the celebrations after previous WYDs. The aim of the celebration was to bring the youths of diverse backgrounds and ethnic groups to experience solidarity not only with their peers in the local Church but also with young Catholics of the Universal Church, as well as to help them encounter the love of God through deeper appreciation of their Catholic identity. All the events included catechesis on the Sacraments, with emphasis on the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
Adopting the same theme as WYD 2008 in Sydney, ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses’ (Acts 1:8), the Kuching celebrations challenged young people to be authentic and courageous witnesses of the Gospel, opening their hearts to God’s vocation for them. Special sessions were devoted to help young men and women consider and discern the vocation to the priestly and religious life.
The event was launched in Kuching city on 2 February with the blessing of the World Youth Day and Vocation Celebrations (WYDVC) cross and icon at a Mass in Blessed Sacrament Church (Stampin) presided by Archbishop John Ha. These symbols of God’s love, travelled through the parishes of Blessed Sacrament, St Theresa (Serian), St Jude (Bunan Gega), St Ann (Kota Padawan), Our Lady Queen of Peace (Sri Aman), and St Stephen (Bau), before ascending Mount Singai to CMPC.
12 April saw 1,400 youths gathering in CMPC for praise and worship, a youth festival, catecheses, a vocation expo and an evening of silent meditation with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
The following Sunday morning (13 April), the Apostolic Delegate for the region, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, and Archbishop John Ha arrived at CMPC celebrate Mass for the youth delegates. Truly meaningful was the presence of the Archbishop Pennacchio for he represented the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, who would be in Sydney for the WYD in July. The Catholics of the surrounding area swelled the number at the Mass to about 1,700.
Incidentally, 13 April was also the 110th anniversary of the passing of Fr Felix Westerwoudt who was the Mill Hill Missionary instrumental in the founding of the mission in Singai, Bau. Today, St Stephen’s Parish in Bau boasts 33,000 Catholics. Indeed the memory of the heroic sacrifice of the Mill Hill priest inspired the young people to be witnesses of the Lord.
Archbishop Pennacchio was invited to plant a belian (iron wood) seedling to commemorate his presence at CMPC. He said this would mean he had to ascend Singai again in the future to see how the tree would have grown. However, he expressed his greater hope and desire to visit the Archdiocese to see the faith of the young people grow and flower.
More pictures in the Youth Section (pages 13-14).
Fr Felix Au