Dear Parish Leaders and Parishioners of Penampang Parish,
Greetings in the Lord Jesus,
We are still under Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO). The National Security Council has just announced that the current CMCO has been extended for Sabah, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor until 20th December 2020 due to the high number of new COVID-19 cases reported in recent weeks. I was also on home quarantine for having been a close contact to a COVID-19 infected person. My quarantine period was just over yesterday. Hence, this two-week late released Advent pastoral note.
Some church zones asked permission to set up canopies outside the church to accommodate parishioners attending Sunday Masses. I did not give permission because it is against the SOP. The allowed number of people stated in the SOP is based on the size of the church. Furthermore, the whole idea of the SOP is to make a gathering less crowded.
However, there is an updated SOP we received on 5th December 2020 allowing non-Muslim religious places of worship (churches) to accommodate 50% of the size of the Church for activities (masses). I have been granted a “green-light” from His Grace Archbishop John Wong to implement the instruction at our parish. We are going to start this new SOP (on the attendance for churches activities) in our parish this coming Sunday (13th December 2020).
I would like to seek cooperation from all zone leaders (pastoral and finance) to readjust the SOP marking of the pews in all the churches before the end of the week. I suggest that we follow the arrangement in clinics and school classrooms where seating distance is based on “shoulder-to-shoulder width distancing” or whatever suits the zone churches situation. Nevertheless, always bear in mind NOT to break the established SOP.
A wedding in the church is still limited to 20 people-attendance at a time including the priest, a reader, a communion minister and a photographer. If the couple wish to have a choir, they would have to ensure that the allowed number is observed. Meaning, they would have to reduce the number of their guests in place of the number of choir members.
Sunset masses are still being put on-hold in our parish until further notice. However, we will be organising Christmas Eve masses in some churches on 24th December 2020. Please take note that there will be no 5.00 pm mass at St. Michael’s Churches on Christmas Day. A gentle reminder for everyone, children aged 12 years old and below are still not allowed to come to church. Senior parishioners aged 70 (provided that they are healthy) and migrants, nevertheless, are now allowed to come to church.
Online Sunday Mass in Kadazan still continues as usual. Likewise, “Drive-through communion” is also available at St. Michael’s Church from 12.00 pm to 12.30 pm. Daily Masses, however, is still being put on-hold for public. We have arranged schedule for the Advent Penitential Service with General Absolution. Kindly please check the schedule at the Parish Website or call up the Mission Office.
Despite many requests to have Infants Baptism, we cannot do it yet because infants are below 12 years old. It goes the same with Sunday Schools. Even RCIA, Pre-Marriage Course and other Faith Formation activities would have to be put on-hold for the time being.
It may seem as if we are putting all the works of evangelization on “K.I.V”. It is not so and it will never be. We are having the Rite of Acceptance for new RCIA candidates this coming Sunday (13th December 2020) at St. Michael’s Church. There will be 47 candidates all together. Let us pray for that everything will go as planned. We have also invested on 3 licenced Pro-ZOOM Apps to facilitate parish pastoral activities. Our Mission Staff is in the midst of arranging the guidelines for using this facility and soon we will enable fair bookings to all groups at the Penampang Parish.
We will be having the online Carols by Candlelight for our parish on 15th December 2020. It is going to be different this year but all the same, we are proclaiming the Good News of the Saviour of the World. This event is organised by the Team Pelayanan Belia Paroki (TPBP). We thank the youths for their efforts and dedications. Come and join this program virtually at 7.30 pm next Tuesday.
Finally, we are going to launch a new financial support system for our parish very soon. It is called the Parish Donation.If you still remember, during the celebration of the “130 Years Arrival of The Good News in Penampang Parish”, I presented a talk called “The Parish Aspirations”. I mentioned among others, the need to move from the conventional methods of fundraising like Dinner, Bazaar and Raffles. I believe there should be better ways in which everyone would not be burdened and would happily be contributing to the parish finance.
This new system of Parish Donation is especially urgent as we are currently facing an unprecedented situation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our parish finance sources were generated from Sunday collections, fundraising events, marriage fees, Advent Carolling, Lenten Appeals (for a specific usage), mass intentions and the government grants. It was quite manageable before the pandemic struck us but not anymore.
We used to collect between RM12,000 to RM15,000 weekly of all collections from 13 churches under the Penampang parish. As time goes by, there is a big collection gap among these churches, the highest being RM5,000 to RM8,000 whereas the lowest being RM15 to RM35. St. Michael’s Church, by and large, has been the biggest contributor as far as Sunday collection is concerned. BUT again that was before the pandemic.
The last time I checked, our Sunday collection was only RM6,868.00 with the biggest contribution still from St. Michael, Penampang BUT only amounted to RM2,479. Needless to say, that is partly due to the restriction on the church attendance and the existing online masses. We do get some online donation but it is also not so encouraging unlike when MCO just started.
Every month we are spending a fixed sum of RM22,496.80 for staff salary. That includes contribution to EPF, SOCSO and EIS. Don’t forget we also need to pay for utility bills namely electricity, water, telephone and unifi, Clergy and religious allowance, parish vehicles running and maintenance expenses, office stationaries and rectory household expenses. We have had no Sunday collections for a few months except recently. I think you can imagine how critical is our parish finance standing now. So, all the more reason, we have to start with this “new system” of financial funding.
I was supposed to have a briefing on the Parish Donation system 2 weeks ago to all the parish leaders but on the day I was supposed to conduct it, I was home quarantined. I propose to have a new date on 17th December 2020 at 10.00 AM at the PPC Hall. All zones pastoral and finance leaders are requested to come. This time, I hope there will be no more obstacles for us. I will post to the parish website the slide presentation explaining the Parish Donation system for the general parishioners after the briefing.
Let us pray that this Season of Advent will truly give us new hope and refresh our faith to receive with joy the Saviour of the World, the Prince of Peace!
Fr. Wilfred Atin
9th December 2020