Bishop Cornelius Piong carrying out the Rite of Blessing for Greccio Convent, Sep 17, Toboh

By Linda Edward

Sep 19 2020

TAMBUNAN – History was created for Keningau Diocese when a new Formation House for the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (FSIC) was recently completed this month for the temporary professed sisters who are journeying towards their final profession.

Synonymous to the spirituality of St Francis of Assisi that emphasizes on a life of prayer and love of nature, the new development called ‘Greccio Convent’ is located in the middle of vast green fields of Kg Toboh, Tambunan.

Bishop Cornelius said this positive development of the Church is a blessing of God’s participation in the diocese and also to Toboh parish, the Holy Cross Church.

“This moment of history today by the FSIC congregation is a blessing to Toboh and Keningau Diocese. A few years after the diocese was established, I felt that we need a praying community,” shared the bishop.

Greccio Convent is built solely to house temporary professed sisters who are on their final journey towards making their perpetual profession. The convent will not be involved in any parish’s activities but will dedicate their time fully for discernment and prayer.

“With the FSIC sisters living here and praying, I hope the people will turn their gaze to this place and receive inspiration and guidance. Use this opportunity to really be a channel of God’s presence,” Bishop Piong advised.

He said this at the Eucharistic Celebration and blessing of the convent 17 Sep which coincided with the Feast of Stigmata of St Francis of Assisi. Assisting him at the Mass were Msgr Gilbert Engan, Toboh parish priest and Fr Giovanni Sugau, CSE of Kaingaran.

In her speech, Mother Frances briefed the small audience of 30 people present on the blessing day of how UK-based Raleigh International came into the picture to kick-start the building of Greccio Convent.

“In December last year, the Raleigh International approached Sr Germaine Angkangon, coordinator of Rumah Kanak-Kanak Bondulu Toboh, and asked “We want to help… do you need any help?”

“Sr Germaine said “Yes, we need to repair the teachers’ quarters.” So, they went to inspect it and found that it was only a small project, and asked Sr Germaine for a bigger project.

Sr Germaine proposed the building of the convent. Thus, “a group of 59 people from all over the world, who are mostly students, stayed in Tambunan for two weeks. They started building the foundation of the convent on Dec 8 and completed it in two weeks,” said Mother Frances.

The Raleigh International completed the foundation of the building as agreed, and the building itself was completed by contractors appointed by the FSIC council.

Mother Frances emphasized on the purpose of the convent, “We take the temporary professed sisters away from active apostolate (and place them here) to study, reflect and to pray. It is also another added spiritual strength to the parish because they will really have the time to pray, praying for the diocese, especially for the people here.”

Two temporary professed sisters this year

Sr Appollonia Gumpu, Directress of Formation, said they have moved to the new convent Sep 1 and currently there are two temporary professed sisters who are on their final (seventh) year, Sr Jadine Gutierrez from Penampang and Sr Clarice George from Telupid.

From left Sr Clarice, Sr Appollonia and Sr Jadine

“Another three (sisters) will be coming next year. Altogether we will have 10 temporary professed sisters.

“After four years (serving) in the parish, they are here for one-year discernment. The whole year is called immediate preparation for perpetual profession.

On a normal day, Sr Appollo said the schedule of the sisters would be like: “Morning prayer at 5.00am, then we will proceed to the Church for Mass. We come back for breakfast, study, house duty and prayer together. There will be time also for manual labour as part of our spirituality.

“We do not have specific involvement in the parish but once a week we will assist in the faith formation of the Bondulu children,” she said.

The convent has six rooms with double deckers which can accommodate up to 15 people at a time.