Participants and the Sabah Vocation Team gathered at Tatal Retreat Centre for 2022 Vocation Retreat

By Natheniel Ezrabel, IY Seminarian

Nov 11 2022

TATAL, Keningau – “You are salt of the earth and light of the world” (cf Mt 5:13-14) was the theme for the three-day vocation retreat, organized for young men who felt called to the vocation of priesthood.

The retreat held in Tatal Retreat Centre attracted 14 participants from various parishes of the three arch/dioceses as a continuation of their discernment process following the previous vocation seminar held earlier this year.

Director for the Aspirants Formation House, Fr Isidore Gilbert, described the retreat as “a step further” for them to spend time in silence and solitude in the discernment of vocation, away from the noises of the world.

The retreat commenced on Friday to Sunday Oct 28-30, in conjunction with the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, the Apostle. The weekend was aptly chosen to avoid interfering with the participants’ work schedules.  

The retreat was the initiative of the Vocation Team of the three Sabah arch/dioceses and it was organized by the Initiation Year seminarians and aspirants.

Apart from being the organizers, the seminarians and aspirants also journeyed with the participants in reflection. As emphasized by the Retreat House’ Host, Fr Roney Mailap, the calling crucially demands the docility of spirit and humility of heart for the work of the Holy Spirit to be fruitful. This leads to continuous change of heart as part of an on-going formation.

Keningau prelate, Bishop Cornelius Piong, presided over the Holy Mass and concelebrated by the priests in the Vocation Team, to officially open the retreat. The celebrant reminded the participants to trust in His Divine Providence especially when He called, exemplifying Christ’s manifestation of faith and trust in the Father in doing His will by dying on the Cross. Bishop Piong also highlighted the significance of cultivating a deep, intimate and profound relationship with the Lord in prayer, and in discerning one’s calling in life.  

Bishop Cornelius Piong celebrated Holy Mass to open the retreat

Among inputs and activities carried out during the three days were a video show on Vocation Promotion, a talk by Fr Isidore Gilbert on Pope Francis’ Message on World Day of Vocations 2022, Guidance in Decision-Making by Fr Mattheus Luta, Taize Adoration led by the seminarians and aspirants, and a Forum Session by panels comprises the aspirants and seminarians.

On the final day, the priests led by Fr Mattheus Luta presided over the Holy Mass to conclude the retreat. In his reflection based on the Gospel, on the story of Zacchaeus, the Tax Collector, he asserted that it is really important to respond to the boundless and unfathomable love of Christ to encounter Him personally, similarly like Zacchaeus.

Fr Luta eagerly reminded those present, of the significance of responding to His love which entails reconciliation and repentance. “The spiritual creativity of Zacchaeus to catch a glimpse of Christ is an apt response for each one of us in encountering God, which takes us beyond our comfort zone”, said Fr Luta. 

In his closing speech, Fr Isidore Gilbert, representing the Vocation Team, acknowledged all who has contributed to the success of the retreat. He thanked the Keningau prelate and the Retreat Centre Host’, Fr Mailap, for the conducive and serene environment and complimentary accommodation for the participants. He said that without these, there would be no Vocation Retreat.

Some of the participating young men

He also thanked the aspirants and the Initiation Year seminarians for their support, and for the wholesome food and warm hospitality by the sisters of the Institusi Sekular Komuniti Betania (ISKB).

Meanwhile the 14 young men were encouraged to persevere in their calling and to continue on to the next vocation seminar that will take place next year.

The Vocation Team comprises Fr Isidore Gilbert and Fr Mattheus Luta of the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, Fr Roney Mailap of the Diocese of Keningau, Fr Christopher Ireneus of Sandakan Diocese, the Initiation Year seminarians from St Peter’s College, Kota Kinabalu and the aspirants from the Aspirants Formation House in Catholic Diocesan Centre, Penampang.