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Requiescat In Pace Fr John Chia

Three days ago, we received the sad news that our beloved Fr John Chia had left us.

For the next few days, we prayed like never before, given the challenges that the current global situation presented us at the moment. He was kept for a night (or even two), in the morgue at Bintulu Hospital, while awaiting for his COVID-19 blood test result.

It was a relief when the test result came out NEGATIVE. That meant he can be returned to his family and given a proper burial, unlike if it had been positive. Praise be to God!

But even then, there was still the Restricted Movement Order that is ongoing, an order that did not allow gatherings of people or travel within districts; stressing on the importance of social distancing to contain the spread of COVID-19…

It is not without challenges I am certain, but also by God’s grace, that they managed to bring him back to his hometown.

And 2 hours ago, he was laid to rest at Bakol Catholic Cemetery in Limbang.

Eternal rest grant unto the soul of Fr John Chia, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Our dearest Fr John, it still feels like just a bad dream that you left us. That at any moment, we would wake up and still see your smile and hear your voice. Still hear you sing and listen to your teachings and advice. Still laugh at your jokes and enjoy your company.

As I watched the video of the funeral, I kept thinking about the Gospel we had 2 weeks ago about The Death of Lazarus. With Holy Week just around the corner, may we be strengthened by the words of Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 1:25)

O God, Thou didst raise Thy servant, Fr John Chia, to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ, according to the Order of Melchisedech, giving him the sublime power to offer the Eternal Sacrifice, to bring the Body and Blood of Thy Son Jesus Christ down upon the altar, and to absolve the sins of men in Thine own Holy Name. We beseech Thee to reward his faithfulness and to forget his faults, admitting him speedily into Thy Holy Presence, there to enjoy forever the recompense of his labors. This we ask through Jesus Christ Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

Rest in peace, Father…

You were a wonderful Shepherd and you are missed by us all…

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A Tribute To Fr John Chia

It was 10.26 am when I heard the news that Fr John Chia had passed away at Bintulu hospital almost 20 minutes ago.

All those who have had the privilege to know him in his life are grieving his loss.

While the reality that he has left us is difficult to accept, I want to focus instead on the person he was to me personally.

Working Youth Conference (WYC) 2012 in Miri

I first met him 8 years ago in Miri. He was one of the Speakers at the Working Youth Conference (WYC) that year.

He was a friendly, energetic and charismatic man and the youths were very close to him.

Although we just met, it was not long for me and my friends to also be comfortable around him even before the end of the conference.

Supper with Fr John after WYC 2012

I was in Brunei at the time, and once I met him at Church of Our Lady of Assumption, Bandar Seri Begawan when he was in town.

WYC was an annual event, hosted alternately between Miri and Bintulu, that meant I saw him only 2 years later in Miri again:

Working Youth Conference (WYC) 2014 in Miri

In 2015, I moved to Bintulu and it was there that I learned more about him.

Working Youth Conference (WYC) 2015 in Bintulu

A gifted musician and singer, speaker and leader, he was adored and admired by his parishioners no matter where he was based. For a time, he was based in St. Anthony’s Church in Bintulu, but he was already assigned elsewhere when I arrived. But we would still see him now and again for diocesan or parish events.

At St. Anthony’s Church, Bintulu, Nov 2019

Little did I know that Nov 2019 was the last time that I would see him personally… and only on the live stream of the Diaconate Ordination of Deacon Henry and Deacon Ronald in Feb 2020…

A special Mass will be said for him (LIVE at St. Edmund Church Limbang Facebook Page) at 7.00pm tonight, followed by rosary prayers tonight and for next 7 consecutive nights…

O God, Thou didst raise Thy servant, Fr John Chia, to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ, according to the Order of Melchisedech, giving him the sublime power to offer the Eternal Sacrifice, to bring the Body and Blood of Thy Son Jesus Christ down upon the altar, and to absolve the sins of men in Thine own Holy Name. We beseech Thee to reward his faithfulness and to forget his faults, admitting him speedily into Thy Holy Presence, there to enjoy forever the recompense of his labors. This we ask through Jesus Christ Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

Rest in peace, Father…

You were a wonderful Shepherd and you are missed by us all…

Eternal rest grant unto the soul of Fr John Chia, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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Days 9-11 RMO: Urbi et Orbi

26th -28th March 2020

As of today (28 March), Malaysia COVID-19 totals: 2,320 cases (Bintulu 5) & 27 deaths

Sorry I dropped off the radar a bit after my previous heartbreaking post.

It’s been 3 days since the Restricted Movement Order was extended to 14 April.

It STILL sucks.

I am STILL sad that we will be spending Holy Week and Easter in isolation from our Church communities.

It won’t ever not suck, but now I can see it in a different light.

Last night, no, it was actually very early at 1am this morning, Catholics around the world united together with Pope Francis via live streaming as he held the special Urbi et Orbi from the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.

This extraordinary blessing was held for an end of the coronavirus pandemic, considering the gravity of the current global situation, as more than half of the world’s population is confined to their homes to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

This blessing is usually a colorful event reserved only for Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, but this time Pope Francis was standing in a deserted St. Peter’s Square speaking to the world through the means of online live streams, as a steady rain fell…

The scripture reading from the Gospel of Mark (The Calming of the Storm) made me recall the time I was in the Holy Land and we were on a boat on the Sea of Galilee… It was calm on that day like on most days (our guide told us), so you can imagine how the disciples felt when all of a sudden the calmness was replaced by a storm. They were terrified! And I remember what we reflected on on that day: It didn’t matter whatever Storm we have in our lives; all that mattered was that Jesus was in the boat with us!

This time, Pope Francis reminded me again of this in his Scripture meditation. The full text of his meditation can be found here, but these parts (especially those I have bolded) struck me with regards to the situation we have now:

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.

The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.

Right after the live stream ended, the church community that I am with here started sharing in our whatsapp group how peaceful we all felt after the Urbi et Orbi. I shared that it would have been nice if I had Padre Pio’s gift of bilocation so that I could’ve been right there at St. Peter’s Basilica with Pope Francis. It was our spiritual advisor, a priest, who replied to me that really completely calmed the sea in my heart. His reply:

There is no need for bilocation. His, Jesus, presence is omnipresent. He is here with us always even when the Pope was leading us in prayer all the way from the Vatican.

Indeed, He is present with us – even if we are only able to join Masses via live streaming.

And like every other storm that has ever happened in our lives, this too shall pass.

He is with us and we need not be afraid.

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Day 8 RMO: Extended another 2 weeks!!

Malaysia Prime Minister just announced that the Restricted Movement Order (RMO) has been extended for another 2 weeks until 14 April 2020.

I already expected it as I wrote yesterday’s post

Even though it is expected, it still hurts.

Palm Sunday falls on 5 April 2020, which marks the beginning of Holy Week.

Good Friday is on 10 April 2020.

Easter Sunday is on 12 April 2020.

And this year, all of it will just be celebrated at home, alone and unable to have Mass in Church.

Holy Week and Easter – the most important season in the Church and we cannot come together as brothers and sisters in Christ to celebrate the Eucharist.

A sad sad day and a sad sad time.

Only God be our strength at this difficult moment.

Lord, have mercy on us!

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Day 2 RMO: 19 March – Solemnity of St Joseph

Today is Day 2 of the Restricted Movement Order (RMO), and 2nd day of my Working From Home (WFH) experience. You can read more on that in the previous post.

Onto less depressing news, today is the Solemnity of St Joseph. Being the responsible citizens/humans of the world, the Church had already cancelled all masses on Monday, even before the RMO came into effect yesterday. All Masses and church services (like Stations of the Cross) were now available via online streaming so that parishioners can still pray together, even when they are confined to staying at home.

That said, tonight was the first time I actually joined the online streaming of Mass. Twice.

My Mass set-up during this RMO period

One was the Archdiocese of Kuching‘s live streaming for the Solemnity of St Joseph:

Photo taken by my brother who was streaming it in Kuching

The other was when I accidentally streamed the Mass celebrated by Bishop Cornelius Sim, Vicariate of Brunei, while I was looking for the video link for the live universal rosary prayer that was scheduled at 9pm. Although I streamed the Mass about an hour after it took place, it felt very much live to me… and it was just overwhelming.

Watch LIVE streaming of Masses in the Vicariate of Brunei here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnUHlfeJZPQDKSMtE3vJrWQ

Why was it overwhelming? Because it really dawned on me that “I cannot at this moment receive You [Christ] sacramentally”

Prayer while watching the Mass online; at the point of Holy Communion

I have said this prayer before, but it was never in the context that I could NOT receive Holy Communion; I could still go to Mass whenever I wanted. But not any more for now…and not for the next 2 weeks at least. And that reality overwhelmed me.

At the same time, I am super thankful that in spite of the challenges that COVID-19 and the RMO presents, we are at a time where live streaming of Mass was possible. If this had happen years ago, when not many people had internet even, it would have been much more difficult. Thank God for technology!

On that note, here’s the links where you can catch the online streaming of Mass and services in different dioceses. (If your diocese’s link is not listed, do include it in the comments yeah.)

ARCHDIOCESE OF KUCHING
Mass schedules via live-streaming on Facebook during suspension of Masses
https://www.facebook.com/arch.kuching

Sunday Mass
Time: 7.30am (English)
Time: 8.30am (Mandarin)
Time: 9.30am (Bahasa Malaysia)

MIRI DIOCESE
https://www.facebook.com/dioceseofmiri

Daily Mass
Time: 7.00am (English)

Sunday Mass
Time: 8.00am (English)

Stations of the Cross (Friday)
Time: 3pm (Mandarin)
Time: 4.00pm (English)
Time: 5.00pm (Bahasa Malaysia)

ARCHDIOCESE OF KUALA LUMPUR

https://archkl.org/index.php/tv-archkl-org

VICARIATE OF BRUNEI DARUSSALAM

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnUHlfeJZPQDKSMtE3vJrWQ