Archbishop John Wong (fourth from left) with newly-appointed members of Caritas KK at their inaugural gathering Dec 19 at Catholic Archdiocesan Centre

By Linda Edward

Dec 22 2020

PENAMPANG – Archbishop John Wong of Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese has officially formalised Caritas Kota Kinabalu (KK) Committee to spearhead the Church’s social mission at their inaugural gathering Dec 19.

The prelate has appointed 15 lay people from diverse backgrounds as Committee members and said that the appointment is a result of some consultations, and recommendation by Fr Gilbert Marcus, Spiritual Advisor and Sr Anita James, Coordinator of Caritas KK.

Caritas KK will focus on top three to five priority social issues in Sabah to begin with, among 19 wide-ranging issues identified at their initial consultation with various respondents.

Caritas KK Committee comprises individuals from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Catholic Doctors Group, individual lawyers, Banking Institutions and Church leaders who will serve for a period of three years until the end of 2023.

The prelate said at the moment Caritas KK is still being called a Committee, and as they grow in maturity, in the future the Committee would be renamed a Commission alongside nine other Commissions in the archdiocese.

During the inaugural gathering, the members were given initial orientations on the concerns and the Social Mission of the Church and the role of Caritas KK.

Initial findings from the ground, after consulting with various respondents, have established a series of social issues in Sabah that the Church should be concerned about. In his presentation, Jubili Anilik Felix, Caritas KK member, presented the findings consisting of 19 identified social issues from poverty, political instability, pandemic, gender inequality, racial discrimination, faith formation and so on.

Jubili Anilik Felix presenting the social issues in Sabah during the Caritas KK orientation

It would be ambitious were Caritas to start dealing with all of the issues at once. Thus the Committee has decided on a face-to-face consultation on Feb 27 next year with each parish’s representative and identified groups, to further refine and clarify them and ultimately to reach consensus on the top three to five priority social issues in Sabah to begin with.

After listening to the social issues that exist in Sabah, Dominic Lim, an ex-officio member of Caritas KK, said he hoped that everyone is ‘disturbed’ because those are not the kind of life that is created and planned by God the Father.

He explained that Caritas stands as a social mission of the Church that is building towards a civilization of love where preaching the Good News is one’s social responsibility, and working with others is for the common good of the whole society.

He said there will be many challenges, “The work is not going to be easy, many people will challenge us because of the differences in values,” emphasizing that Caritas is carrying the Gospel values.

The orientations followed with Fr Gilbert Marcus explaining in depth on the role of Caritas KK, who will be working closely with local NGOs and government agencies in her missions.

Archbishop Wong revealed that at the initial stage, the funding to do Caritas missions will come from two sources i.e. from the Archdiocese and donations from the Lenten Appeal.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia (CBCM) has decided early this year to establish Caritas Malaysia as the official social mission arm of the Catholic Church and has thereon launched Caritas Malaysia Nov 6, with each arch/diocese establishing their own Caritas Office.