By Anna/Herald Malaysia

Oct 21 2023

My journey in Rome continues. Today, October 4 is the day the Synod starts. It begins with an opening Mass at St Peter’s Square with Pope Francis presiding.

1. What are my significant moments? 

a) Showcasing my Identity.
I had the chance to showcase my Labuk traditional costume (which is from my mother’s side) for the opening Mass on October 4, 2023. I felt proud bringing my identity as a KadazanPapar and LabukBeluran, Sabahan and a Malaysian. It was such a blessing to be chosen and to be part of this important and historical event. 

b) New Amigos.
The place where I am stayingis a 20 – 30 minutes’ drive from Vatican City. I am bit sad because I am far from my Asian friends. I am sharing accommodation with six participants from Oceania, and one each from Trinidad and Seychelles. But as I said in my previous post, I am open for possibilities. It was a bit awkward in the beginning, but they made me feel at home.Now, they are my ‘home’. 

c) Meeting the ‘Man’.
I am so happy and blessed to have met Pope Francis. I could never ever imagine I would have this chance. He was very close to where I was, and it seemed that only a few people were queuing to greet him. One of my friend said that there would be more time to see him. But, I asked myself, “Should I go, or not.” 

Open for Possibilities Yup, thinking of it made me just GO! I was queuing patiently and kept my eyes on Pope Francis. My heart was restless, and it was beating so fast. When it was my turn, I immediately knelt before him, though I don’t know why I did it.  When the Pope reached my hand said, ‘please stand up.’ I held on to all the emotion that wasrunning wild in me. His hand was warm, and I wanted to cry but I was holding everything together. 

The first time I saw him in 2014 at the 6th Asian Youth Day in Incheon, South Korea. I was telling myself back then that I would not have that opportunity to see him in person and seeing him from afar is already enough. Eight years had passed and here I am with him in the same hall. I am ever grateful and blessed. 

We had some conversation when I was with him. I told him my name and where I came from. He was delighted when I told him, I’m from Malaysia. He was telling me something, but I did not understand. I will savour this feeling having his warm hand on my hand. I felt so much love and I smiled that whole day. I will never ever have another chance like this. I am so grateful for the road God had planned and prepared me for heading towards this moment.  

d) Having dinner with some Asian friends.
I finally got the chance to meet my familiar ‘home’. I was so happy to get the opportunity to sit down and have dinner with some of my Asian friends. We went to a Chinese restaurant and had some‘familiar’ food. I enjoyed every second with them, the sharing of laughers and stories. 

e) Weekend Walk.
After a whole week of praying, reflecting, and sharing, we came to our first weekend of free days. I went Santa Maria Maria Maggiore, The Archbasillica St John Lateran, Scala Santa, and the Colosseum. It was so fascinating to see the buildings and learn the history. It totally blew my mind away. Scala Santa (The Holy Stairs) has 28 stairs, and we can only use our knees to climb up the stairs. I prayed for my family and friends, Bishop, the priests, and the Diocese. I also prayed for the people who requested me to pray for them. I prayed for peace and hope. 

f) Gelato
I love eating thegelato here. There is a gelato store called ‘Old Bridge,’ near the Vatican. I went there for the first time with our President Delegate, a consecrated woman. The second time was after our Asian member dinner together and the third time was after our weekend walk. It was so yummy. I will keep going there while I am in Rome. Gelato makes everyone happy. 

2. What are my challenges?
English is not my main language. I don’t converse in this language everyday in Sandakan. So, it is a bit challenging to articulate what I want to say. And when I talk, I feel that I am stammering most of the time.

3. What God’s invitation for me?
Whatever it is, I need to be myself and know who I am. ‘Hantamsaja’and speak in English.Learn and grow from my mistakes and eventually I will improve little by little every day. – Herald Malaysia