Announcements from the Regional Office

Jesuit Regional Superior of Malaysia-Singapore, Fr. Colin Tan, has missioned Frs. Simon Yong and Sebastian Koh, and Br. Simon Raj to new ministries in the Melaka-Johor Diocese (MJD).

Fr. Simon Yong, SJ will become the Head of the Catechetical Commission of MJD and also the assisting priest at the Church of St. Theresa, Masai.

Fr. Sebastian Koh, SJ will assume the Directorship of the Pastoral Institute of MJD. He will also assist in pastoral and audit work in the diocese.

Br. Simon Raj, SJ has been missioned to become Pastoral Assistant in the Church of St. Elizabeth, Kota Tinggi. He will also be the Pastoral Assistant to the Advisor of the Diocesan Service Team (Charismatic) and the Diocesan Pastoral Secretariat at Majodi Centre.

Let us keep them in our prayers.

Reflection: A Teacher's Prayer

Stanley Goh, SJ with his Jesuit colleagues at St. Joseph's Private School, Kuching. From left to right: Fr. Francis Lim, SJ, Fr. Alvin Ng, SJ and Stanley (seated far left).

The following is a reflection written by Stanley Goh, SJ who has just completed his regency assignment, teaching at St. Joseph's Private School in Kuching, Sarawak. Stanley will soon begin his theological studies at the Gregorian University in Rome.

[Adapted from a sharing given on 15 May 2016 during mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral, Kuching]

I’ve had a wonderful two years here and though my primary role here has been to teach, I’ve also learned to live and to love as a Jesuit in Kuching. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly I was welcomed and accepted to this community here and I continue to be grateful for that ease with which I was able to start my ministry here as an educator. I felt these past two years have been a time of immense growth, not just as a religious in formation but also as an educator. It might surprise some to know that the strongest and clearest call from God that I felt was to teach and that remains a key experience of how God communicates with me and these past years have helped to ground that call in reality. It reminds me that I’m not just at home being a Jesuit but that being a teacher and an educator remains at the very core of my being.

 The poet W. B. Yeats once wrote that ‘Education is the lighting of a fire, not the filling of a bucket.’ We remember that education is like a flame that casts out the darkness of ignorance and it’s a flame that we teachers have to light in the hearts of our students. We know that despite the need to finish teaching particular chapters and getting our students to know things, our main role as teachers is to ignite the love of learning in our students. We don’t fill our students up with knowledge but give them the willingness and ability to find things out on their own. More than this, we who have been called as teachers know that good teaching comes from the heart.

 As we do more of this, we realise that being a teacher is not just a job or an occupation where we merely do things of fulfil a particular role – that’s just us trying to fill the buckets, both in our lives and in the lives of our students. We know that being called to education means that we’re called to share our lives with others, to educate, the root word of educate means ‘to draw out’) and to draw forth the potential from all whom we meet. Being a teacher, especially a Christian one, is to be a person whose heart is aflame with the love of Christ that makes us truly desire to share this love with our students. In short, we seek to be Christ to our students.

 That’s a tall order and we know it. And what I’ve realised is that the more we seek to love and be Christ to our students, the more we learn about our own weaknesses. I realise that on most days, I learn more than I’m able to teach. I learn how I’m able to teach even despite my own weaknesses and that these same weaknesses make me all the more human. I can be grumpy, have off-days in class where nothing seems to go right. I know I can be unfair and judgemental sometimes too. I’ve learned to accept my weaknesses and to trust in the Lord’s grace to straighten out whatever I can’t. When I’m able to accept that I can’t do everything, God comes in to do the rest. My students, especially when they’re difficult or unmotivated, have also taught me the grace of prayer. They often ask what I as a religious and a teacher pray for and my answer is always the same – patience.

 As we pray and seek to light fires, we need to continue to reflect not just about what we’re doing but how we’re doing it. After all, we know that teaching is not just about filling students with knowledge or passing examinations. St Paul in the 1st letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13: 1-3) said that if we do many things but have no love, we are nothing. Similarly, if I teach and fill the students with all the knowledge in the world but have no love, I’ve not lived my life well as a teacher. To love as a teacher is to find God in the faces, actions and thoughts of our students. To love as a teacher is to love the difficult students more by being to them what the Lord has been to us. To love as a teacher is to truly see the infinite potential in all our students and to struggle with them to try to work towards that. To love as a teacher is to love as we have been loved. It’s not easy and but we know that it’s possible because we’ve been called and we know that the Lord will aid us in this journey.

 Teaching does truly come from the heart. It’s born out of love and ends in love. That’s what I’ve learned in a real way as a teacher here and that’s what realised by truly loving as a teacher. I leave Kuching with a heavy heart not only because I’ll miss all the wonderful people here but because I’ve loved and been loved as a teacher and there will always be a part of my heart that will remain here. This sadness makes me feel more alive because I know that what I’ve been through here truly means a great deal. And so I end with that question again – why do we teach? We teach because we can, because we’re called to and because we want and desire to love as we have been loved.

More than just teaching, the time in Kuching, with the Bellarmine house community, was a time of growth for me as a Jesuit. By living and working in a vibrant apostolic community, I was able to witness and feel Jesuit life first hand and this allowed me to better appreciate my own vocation both as a teacher and as a religious. The community was of course supportive and encouraging but that was not what kept me going. It was the zeal and enthusiasm with which everyone went about in their own ministries that helped me to want to channel my own efforts and energies into education and the helping of souls.

Regency also allowed me a closer look at myself and how I can be a hindrance to my own efforts to help others in ministry. I learned the value of pacing and saying ‘No’ at times to requests and other tasks that would detract from my primary role as a teacher in the school. I learned the value of rest and self-care to allow myself to be a more effective helper of others. I appreciated the relative freedom during the weekends as I as a scholastic did not have the sacramental responsibilities of the priests – and learned to truly treasure the weekend rest periods that gave me time to recuperate. Most of all, I learned how the Lord was leading me through the difficulties and joys of this time and how I was constantly invited to work with Him in all that I was led to. The time of regency was, for me, a time of grace that allowed me to deepen my own vocation not just as a Jesuit but as an educator as well.

 I end with a short prayer written in the last few weeks of school, a prayer that I think was in the heart throughout my time in Kuching and just managed to come to the surface then. It reminds me that it’s grace that allows us to teach and it’s that same grace that we seek, both for ourselves as well as for the young people whom we serve. 

A Teacher’s Prayer

Lord, bless us who are called to teach,

that we can to young minds reach,

to give the spark that brings your love,

that we may cling to you above.

Amen.

Vocation Discernment Weekend

Calling all men in Malaysia and Singapore who are discerning God's will: consider coming to "Ephphatha: Be Opened - A Weekend with the Jesuits" from Sat, 30 April to Mon, 2 May in Singapore.

MAS Region Gets New Superior

From left to right: Fr. Christopher Soh, SJ (in-coming Regional Superior), Fr. Colin Tan, SJ (current Regional Superior) and Fr. Ravi Michael, SJ.

The Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Adolfo Nicolas, SJ, has appointed Fr Christopher Soh Yeow Fook, SJ as the New RegionalSuperior of MAS. He will take over from Fr Colin Tan Chin Hock, SJ on the 8th November 2016.

Tanging Yaman Mission Trip

 

Between May 24 and 31, 2015, Fr. Mark Aloysius, SJ brought three Jesuit candidates from Singapore for a mission trip to Bantayan Island in the Philippines. One of the candidates, Andre Theng, recounts and reflects on the experience.

On the long drive to Hagnaya Port, from which we were to catch a ferry to Bantayan Island, Fr Mark shared with us an anecdote that another Jesuit had shared with him. A Filipino town was considered to have “made it” when branches of three establishments had opened in the town – an SM Department Store, a Mercury Drug Store and a Jollibee fast food outlet.

The department store and fast food outlet have yet to reach the shores of Bantayan. Yet this was the precise charm of the place, a pristine oasis of about 110 square kilometers and about a 4-hour journey away from Cebu City. An hour-long ferry from Hagnaya Port, about a 3-hour drive from Cebu City is the main port-of-entry to the island. Home to about 135,000 people, the main economic activities on the island are fishing and poultry, as evidenced by the many chicken farms on the island. It is also an increasingly popular resort destination.

Together with Fr Mark, Fr Gil and two other Jesuit candidates, we travelled to Bantayan for a week-long mission trip. Much changed on the island following the 2013 Typhoon Yolanda, which caused severe damage to many parts of the island. It was a chance for us to contribute in a very small way to the rebuilding of their lives.

Our main mission was to paint several of the houses which had been newly built with funding from CHARIS Singapore, in cooperation with Jesuit Mission Singapore and the Tanging Yaman Foundation in Manila. It was a simple task if not for the fact that most of us in the group had never painted before. After three days of painting, our small team was able to complete 7 houses in two different areas.

However, we did more than just merely painting, and a major part of our trip also was about understanding how Yolanda had affected the people in Bantayan. On one of the afternoons, we paid a visit to some 20 families who had benefited from the rebuilt houses donated by CHARIS, and we were moved by how their spirit remained strong despite all they had gone through, and how they were filled with gratitude for the houses they now had.

Personally hearing and seeing their stories of the people – a child suffering from bad skin rash, a father suffering from cancer, a mother who had lost her husband to illness and who was now running a convenience store out of her home to support herself and her children made real the struggles of the people. We were glad to see that 50 houses had been completed. Although the project sponsored a fixed design, most of the families had taken ownership of the project and built their own extensions in the form of extra rooms or covered kitchens, for example, and some had also painted the houses on their own, one even in a bright green hue.

In addition, our group also participated in other activities together with the local community. On Tuesday, Fr Mark and Fr Gil, together with Fr Roy Bucag, parish priest of Santo Nino Catholic Church, concelebrated the Flores de Mayo mass for children at the church. We also helped to pack hundreds of stationery sets, donated by various donors from the community, meant for children who were about to begin a new school year.

The trip was also an opportunity for spiritual renewal for us, and the tranquil and peaceful environment at Kota Beach provided for an ideal place for reflection and for rest. We took time each day for daily mass, as well as sharings and reflections on our experiences during the trip. These added meaning to our work and allowed us to learn from one another on how God has been present during the trip.

After a short 6 days in Bantayan, we left with a heavy heart, sad to be leaving not just the beautiful island, but also the many friends we had made there. Our contributions to the people in Bantayan is perhaps but miniscule, but in many ways our time on the island was a source of great peace and of great encouragement in our faith lives, seeing the piety and devotion of people who lead far simpler lives than ours. As Fr Mark shared during the trip, these all were merely numbers prior to our visit to the Philippines – only dollar amounts of financial aid, a number of houses being built communicated in the many emails sent between Singapore and the Philippines and numbers of people affected by the typhoon. This trip was about turning the focus from those numbers to that of the people, whose lives have been deeply affected and changed by the typhoon. Even if we had done only a little to change Bantayan, it was truly Bantayan that had changed us for the better.

We were glad to be able to make a small contribution to the project, a project not about 100 houses or the amount of money it cost to build them, but a project about the people who live in them and their families. 

(To see more photos, please click here.)