Bishop Emeritus Paul Tan with catechumens and the congregation after the Rite of Election at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Johor Bahru, on February 25, 2023

Compilation by Herald Malaysia

Mar 16 2023

THIS year, the Peninsular Malaysia Church will welcome 852 new Catholics during the Easter Vigil on April 8, 2023.

Over the weekend of the First Sunday of Lent, their names were enrolled in the Book of Elect marking their entry into the final phase of their preparation to receive the Sacraments of Initiation.

Let us continue to keep the Elect in prayer as they prepare to answer the call of Baptism.

Diocese of Malacca Johore

The Rite of Election in the Diocese of Malacca Johor saw almost 200 catechumens affirming their desire to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. The Rite took place at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Johor Bahru, on February 25, and again at the Church of St Teresa, Melaka, on Feb 26, to cater for catechumens from both states.

The celebrant of the Rite in Johor Bahru was Bishop Emeritus Paul Tan, whereas the one in Melaka was presided over by Msgr Peter Ng, both celebrants being delegated by Bishop Bernard Paul, who was in Thailand attending the Asian Continental Assembly on Synodality.

Assisting at the Rite at both locations was Director of the Malacca Johore Diocesan Catechetical Ministry, Deacon Sherman Kuek, who preached a brief homily on the call of the Gospel to abdicate our thrones and allow God to be the Lord of our lives.

He said, the temptations faced by our Lord in the Judaean wilderness reminded us of what truly mattered, God’s will or our self-determined life programme, God’s timing or ours. He stressed the importance of trusting in God’s way and timing in all matters of life, assuring the new Elect of the prayers of the Church, together with those of our Blessed Mother and the entire host of heaven.

Diocese of Penang

The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit (CHS) was filled on February 25 as Bishop Sebastian Francis celebrated a multilingual Mass for 128 catechumens from 12 parishes of Penang Island and the Northern Deaneries of the Diocese of Penang.
This assembled multitude truly reflected the Diocesan Lenten theme: Renew our hearts to care, with its focus on Kempen Kasih.

Bishop Sebastian welcomed the soon-to-be Elect of God, and all present, to the joyous event that marked the final threshold-crossing into a period of intense spiritual preparation to receive the Sacraments of Initiation.

In his homily, Bishop Sebastian expressed his delight to be with the catechumens because “You are central to the Church and the heart of Christ.” He explained how this Lenten journey also doubled up as a Synodal journey. In reiterating the three-part traditional syllabus of Lent: Pray-Fast-Give (alms), he added a fourth: Receive. He emphasised its participatory nature, “It is a two-way process.” He both preached and taught from the cathedra:

1. What is the call? Baptism. It is crystal clear.
2. What is the identity that comes through Baptism? I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.
3. What is the gift? None other than the Holy Spirit who comes with the fire of communion and mission.
4. What is the destiny? Abba, Our Father. It is the destiny of all creation to end in the embrace of Our Father.

He solemnly reminded and clarified to all present to hark and mark the two key points of Pope Francis’ 2023 Lenten message:

1. Listen to my Son – Jesus Christ.
2. Rise up and do not be afraid.

“The Synodal journey of Lent will climax on Easter night in the glorious baptism of 194 adults throughout the Diocese of Penang,” he noted. He invited all to join in the Diocesan Caritas Lenten Campaign: Renew our hearts to care. He closed with a call for all to pray with him in a personalised way: Lord, how are you inviting ME to pray, fast, give, and receive, this Lent? He cautioned, “The Lord may surprise you with the answer!” He assured the catechumens, “As your bishop, I will be interceding and praying for you at every Mass until Easter.” He then translated his homily into Bahasa Malaysia, after which Bernadette Teh and P.R. Selvarajan translated it into Mandarin and Tamil accordingly.

Proceeding with the scripted Rite of Election (ROE) that began with the “Calling” of their names, the bishop explained that this calling out aloud of each name was precious in God’s hearing. Having sought affirmation from godparents/sponsors and facilitators re their spiritual readiness to be admitted to the Election stage, and the assurance of congregational support, the catechumens were called upon to openly declare their own intentions for admission.

Satisfied, the bishop beckoned “Then offer your names for enrolment.” On behalf of their parish priests, RCIA coordinators took turns to submit to the prelate the Book of Elect containing the names and signatures of the catechumens. Bishop Sebastian signed each Book on the spot. He then pronounced the Act of Admission/Election, “Catechumens, I now declare you to be members of the Elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the forthcoming Easter Vigil.”

During the intercessory prayers, the Elect faced their godparents/sponsors who placed their right hands on their shoulders as a gesture of receiving and caring for them. The prelate prayed over the Elect in concluding the ROE, inviting them to stay for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. He utilised every experiential learning opportunity to teach them: why do Catholics kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer? “Because Jesus Himself ‘turun padang’ to be one with us!” He encouraged the Elect to be in Spiritual Communion with the rest who received Holy Communion. — By Lucille Dass


As Catholics go through Lent to prepare for Easter, 66 non-Catholics from the Perak Deanery have been preparing themselves for a year to receive the Sacraments of Initiation.

On February 26, the Rite of Election for the Perak Deanery was held at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, presided over by Bishop Sebastian Francis.

The names of the 66 Catechumens were inscribed in the Book of Elect and were presented to Bishop Sebastian Francis. The Rite of Election provides an opportunity for these names to be formally enrolled among God’s chosen people.

Addressing the catechumens during the homily before the Rite of Election, Bishop Sebastian said, “It is with delight that I speak to you as we begin the Lenten Penance and the Synodal Journey, in this Year of the Lord 2023. Traditionally, the Church tells us to Pray, Fast and Give. And I would like to add, “And Receive”. Pray, Fast, Give and Receive. He also added that the Synodal Journey of Lent will climax on Easter night, the night of glorious baptism throughout the Diocese of Penang and Baptisms in Kelantan, Kedah, Perlis, Perak, Penang and beyond.

Towards the end of the homily, Bishop Sebastian assured the Catechumens that he would pray for each of them personally till Easter. — By Pauline Sundram

Herald Malaysia