In an open conversation facilitated by Caritas Malaysia to conclude their national meeting and planning exercise, Bishop Bernard Paul, as President of Caritas Malaysia, called on all Diocesan Directors and Church Assistants in Semenanjung, Sabah and Sarawak to stay grounded, faithful and obedient to the Holy Spirit who is trying to lead the Malaysian Church.
April 29, 2022
KUALA LUMPUR: In an open conversation facilitated by Caritas Malaysia to conclude their national meeting and planning exercise, Bishop Bernard Paul, as President of Caritas Malaysia, called on all Diocesan Directors and Church Assistants in Semenanjung, Sabah and Sarawak to stay grounded, faithful and obedient to the Holy Spirit who is trying to lead the Malaysian Church. He said this while recalling times when previously discussed matters that had been agreed upon were again brought up for discussion.
“When we build what God wants us to build…. there must be obedience to the Spirit” (What the Spirit says, HERALD, February 13, 2022.) Faithfulness calls for obedience and obedience requires discipline. We must be obedient and submit to the Holy Spirit, maintain fidelity to agreed process, decisions and consensus and respect each other, roles and office because “even the biggest tanker has only one captain to lead vessel” . Adopting these three attitudes is important if we are to build a community parish Caritas that is unique to each diocese and to Malaysia.
Caritas Malaysia wants to move away from the traditional welfare agency ideology towards a community parish and diocesan Caritas where a community culture and way of doing things is embraced. It involves the whole community, which will eventually become a social network with social-minded people. In achieving this goal, Bishop Bernard recognized that it will take time and reminded everyone to go slowly and move in step with the Spirit. In serving the social mission of the Malaysian Church, Caritas should aim to “build up people, build up communities, build up parishes”. This will be our contribution to the Malaysian Church, he said. He also warned the bureau members not to be too ambitious and take over the roles and functions of other commissions, but rather to work by incorporating and including all social bodies without making them Caritas. Citing some examples, the Bishop said whenever we encounter ecological, youth or migrant issues, this should be channeled and discussed with the existing commissions – to see how to collaborate and respond to current needs.
He also pointed out that a space for people to volunteer and be part of Caritas should also be created through awareness raising, involvement and engagement. “Caritas offices must also understand the importance of integrating continuous training into all activities with small reflections and contributions integrated into the programs. It’s time we moved from talking about change to seeing and taking action on change.
The Bishop affirmed the need for structures, guidelines and a code of conduct as a way to embrace and practice the visionmission values. Currently, Caritas Malaysia holds regular meetings with its Board of Directors every quarter and a bi-monthly meeting with all Directors and Ecclesiastical Assistants (EAs). A national meeting was held at the beginning of the year to come together and plan the year; and there will be another national meeting in July 2022 with the aim of fostering bonds and team spirit between all the offices of the diocese.
Bishop Bernard also expressed his wish that all Diocese Directors and EAs be present at every meeting of Caritas Malaysia, but it is not enough to simply be present. He asked if the discussions and decisions made at Caritas meetings are transmitted to their dioceses (forward communication) and if they reach the people. Once again, officers were reminded to be true to the message (continuity). He also welcomed the idea of dioceses inviting an observer to directors’ meetings, as this is an experience for them as well as a succession for future leaders.
Earlier, after the three regional presentations and the key points that emerged from the discussions, the national office had proposed the following summary for Caritas Malaysia as its strategic directions for 2022/2023:
— Institutional strengthening – Training/Training [spirituality, family spirit (unity), volunteers – youth and women, disaster relief]Organizational development [structure, policy, guidelines, code of conduct, roles and functions, legal status/registration]
— Program Development and Collaboration – Programs and Resources [can adapt from Caritas Internationalis / Caritas Asia]Leadership [gaps with grassroots and among leaders]Poverty [grassroots needs]Collaboration [working internally among offices, with other ministries, and external organisation]
— Communications and networking – Promoting the identity and spirituality of Caritas [keep identity alive, build up a spirit of family, mandates given in trust, attract youth and volunteers]in collaboration with other commissions/ministries.
The areas of intervention are presented in the diagram below:
Areas of intervention for 2022 / 2023
— What is Caritas?
— Caritas Spirituality / Family Spirit (unit)
— Awareness programs
— Staff induction
— Establishing the identity of Caritas
— Social Media – updates on events, activities, etc.
— Remove the “fear of a takeover”
— National activities and campaigns
Organization and structure
— SOPs and Policies
— Code of conduct and protection
— Vision, mission and values
— Legal status
Thematic areas of the program
— Climate change
— Disaster Relief Response
— Disaster Relief Response
— Institutional development