Students Uniting in Faith to Fight against AIDS

21 08 2009

THAILAND – The 7th International Young Christian Students (IYCS) South East Asian Session (SEAS) was held from 10 – 17 August in Sriracha, Chonburi, Thailand. Claudia Law, Ralph Balan and Stephanie Ng from Kuching YCS together with two participants from Sibu YCS; Casimir Tang and Pauline Seri represented Malaysia for this event.


The session was held in St Louis Mary’s Juniorate in Assumption College Sriracha with a total of 45 delegates from seven South East Asian countries namely Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, with collaborative countries Indonesia and Laos and also an invited East Asian country China.

Themed ‘Students Uniting in Faith to Fight against AIDS’, delegates were brought to six exposure sites around Pattaya where orphanages and help centres existed for those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Besides group sharing on the exposure sites, country representatives also presented on the latest situation of HIV/AIDS in their respective countries.

An invited guest speaker, Orapan, the world’s longest living HIV/AIDS patient was present to share her life story of which she survived 23 years with this sickness she had had since birth.

Claudia Law

Participants in traditional/national costumes


I find SEAS very informative and resourceful. I have learnt to communicate with people from other countries and it gave me the feeling of unity and family warmth. It is my first and so far the best ever international event I have attended. Regarding HIV/AIDS, it is wonderful that I have changed my perspective towards the people living with it and the countries affected by it.

Casimir Callixtus Tang, Sibu YCS, Malaysia

I have learnt how to prevent HIV/AIDS for myself. I am going to avoid from using drugs or having sex at a young age before marriage, and tell my friends to do the same. Besides that, I met a lot of new friends and can’t wait for the next SEAS.

Matheus Denny, Indonesia

As a youth leader in the group, I can participate actively in all activities despite the language barrier we had of difficulty in understanding English. Coming for this SEAS opened my mind on how to organise an international event, and we look forward to hosting the next SEAS if all plans go well.

Thuy Tien, Vietnam YCS

Red Ribbon: Symbol for solidarity with HIV-positive people and those living with AIDS

Participants listen attentively

L-R: Stephanie Ng, Claudia Law, ?, Ralph Balan

Group Discussion

KAYD09 Pre-event Retreat: “Hand”

19 08 2009

KUCHING – The Kuching Archdiocesan Youth Day (KAYD) Servants Retreat was held on 15 – 16 August 2009 at St. Lukas Apostolic Centre, Kota Padawan. The weekend retreat, which is also known as The Hand of KAYD, was organised by various parish youth ministries under the Kuching Archdiocesan Youth and Vocation Commission (KAYVC). The retreat brought together over 75 youths from different parishes.

Hand of KAYD

Registration team sorting name tags

The Hand of KAYD aims to gather youthful servants who are actively serving in the upcoming KAYD event. An experienced guest speaker from Penang – Andre Ong, led the sessions on “We are Chosen by God”, “Getting Our Hands Dirty”, and “Discipleship”. Andre emphasized that as “hands” and “feet” of God, we should recognise situations where we can help one another voluntarily.

Andre Ong

Get your hands dirty for the Lord!

The participants learned to accept one another and unite as one in joyful service to the Lord, through team building sessions (according to the different KAYD working teams), and to serve one another through the simplest gesture of kindness while living as a community.

The opening Eucharist

Praising the Lord with music

The weekend was also packed with praise and worship sessions, short and entertaining presentations from different teams, a short briefing on the servants’ duties and responsibilities according to the respective working teams, Taize prayer and Eucharistic celebrations.

A ministry team praying together

The retreat ended on Sunday afternoon. The participants went home with a renewed heart of service to the Lord and to one another. May we continue to pray for the upcoming KAYD event, which will be held on 28 – 30 August 2009 at the Christian Ecumenical Worship Centre, Kuching.

by Evelyn Chow

Some testimonies:

This retreat really reached its purpose, which is to unite all the (KAYD09) servants with 1Love and 1Heart. We helped each other and got close to each other. I praise the Lord for all the blessings that he granted us and for his presence during this retreat. Amen.
Henry Luk, 22

At first, I wondered why I made the decision to go to this retreat. Actually, I just wanted to be a participant but then something inside of me told me to offe3r myself to become a KAYD servant. Finally God answered my question, and now I am ready to serve and get my hands dirty.
Ivy Elora George, 20

Retreat pra-KAYD09 kali ini amat menyeronokkan dan memberikan semangat ketabahan kepada diri saya. Selain itu saya juga dapat mempelajari sesuatu yang paling istimewa daripada penceramah kami berkaitan dengan “Get our Hands Dirty” kerana bersempena dengan tema KAYD tahun ini iaitu “1Love”. Oleh itu saya berharap agar lebih ramai belia-belia dapat mengikuti KAYD09.
Elcie Stell, 20

The “Hands of KAYD09” servants’ retreat was one of the most life-changing experiences for me because it has taught me to serve God the right way. It has definitely changed my perspective on “getting my hands dirty” for God. Praise the Lord for bringing me to this event.
Natalie Ha, 16

Blessed be God. There is great power in surrender. What I learnt from this retreat is that service is not about what one can give but about the heart that gives that service. The love of God must be the heart of service because it is the overflow of God’s love reaching out to people. Thank God for such a simple message. Thank you, Andre. Thank you, Jesus.
Pius Kallang, 22

The KAYD09 servants’ retreat is a good avenue for servants/ministers to discover the real meaning of discipleship. The retreat taught us that we are one body in Christ and we should not be afraid to get our hands “dirty”. We should start with the little things first. The organisers did a great job (in spite of the fact the programme schedule was not posted on the noticeboard). The speaker, Andre Ong, is superb in addressing the message for this retreat.
David Dzrandinuraidi 34

Saya mendapat pengalaman baru selama 2 hari 1 malam berada di St Lukas untuk retreat ini. Dengan tema Hands of KAYD, saya berjaya memupuk semangat dan keyakinan saya untuk menjadi kakitangan Tuhan untuk KAYD09. Saya bersedia untuk berkhidmat dalam KAYD nanti. Penceramah, Andre Ong, berjaya menaikkan semangat saya melalui input yang beliau berikan. Saya paling menggemari sesi “Getting my hands dirty”. Pada masa itulah saya merasakan diri saya sudah bersedia untuk melayan. KAYD09, i’m coming…
Maria Susan, 18

The retreat was a blast. Great speaker, good food, wonderful company and an unforgettable experience. Personally I benefited a lot from this retreat and I learnt that serving the Lord takes more than just my own skills and talents. It is when we work together with others to serve him that makes the experience more fantastic. No man is an island; through this retreat, I learnt more about what this actually means. Praise God for giving me the opportunity to be able to participate in this retreat. What I gained from it is literally priceless.
Alexander Lee, 19

Brian, youth coordinator of KAYD09

Group dynamics

"We are graduates of Chef School, ready to feed you!"

The talented worship team

Offer your hands to wash for the Lord

Are you getting ready to party in the conference hall?

Alex playing the 'devil' trying to push and separate the 3 young men

Are we saved by faith or by works?

16 08 2009

Mother Teresa of Kolkata

These are some passages from the Bible that teach us about faith and works:

  • For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9)
  • What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. (Jam 2:14-18)
  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Mt 7:21-23)

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 161) we are informed: Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. “Since “without faith it is impossible to please (God) ” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.'”

Catholics therefore must accept the necessity of faith for salvation. The question for us is ‘what is faith’? Faith is not only an intellectual belief in Jesus. True faith is faith that moves us to repentance, enables us to trust Jesus, compells us to obey God and enables us to have a loving relationship with Jesus. In a way, it is a state of being, a state of our relationship with the Lord.

This kind of relationship with God will certainly manifest itself in good works. St John emphatically says, ‘We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 Jn 4:19-21).

Christ and the Good Thief

The good thief was promised paradise by Jesus because he repented and had faith in Jesus; he did not merit it by good works. Similarly, a person who is incurably paralyzed will not be able to perform good works. However, he too is saved if he is repentant, knows and loves the Lord. This would in turn make him able to love others, and express that love, not through physical service but perhaps through prayers and by offering his sufferings for others.

The Lost Generation

9 08 2009

Our perspective of life determines how we live it. The following clever and inspirational video drives home this truth:

Mother chooses life of child over cancer treatment

7 08 2009

Ricardo and Mayra receive Holy Communion at their wedding in hospitalDenver, Colo., Jul 24, 2009 / 03:19 pm (CNA).- Though Mayra Sandoval died of cancer on July 8, her son Samuel is alive and healthy thanks to her insistence on choosing life, against the advice of doctors who urged her to abort. Now, Mayra’s husband and friends remember her as a powerful witness to the immeasurable value of life.

In an interview with “El Pueblo Catolico,” the Spanish newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver, Mayra’s husband, Ricardo Flores, recalled the battle of faith and trust that the couple underwent in the months leading up to her death.

Both Ricardo and Mayra were born in Mexico. They moved to U.S., where they met three years ago, began to date, and eventually moved in together. At the time, neither had a strong faith, but they were nevertheless overjoyed when, in October 2008, Mayra became pregnant.

lung tumorMonths later, doctors detected a cancerous tumor in Mayra’s lungs that was already in an advanced stage and was still continuing to grow. Mayra was advised to abort the baby on the spot, so that she could start a treatment to halt the cancer growth.

But Ricardo and Mayra chose life. Although it was difficult, Ricardo said he never had any second thoughts in the decision to choose life. When the option of abortion was presented, “We always said ‘no.’ We couldn’t do that,” he explained. “God gave life and God takes it away.”

“And we can trust in God and let His will be done,” he continued, explaining the peace that the couple found in abandoning themselves to the Lord’s will. “We can accept whatever God sends us, good or bad.”

While Mayra’s cancer continued to take its toll, the couple was beginning to learn more about their faith. Mayra’s sister, Aida, recalled the couple’s spiritual journey. She described how God had not always played a prominent role in her sister’s life. “She believed, but like many Catholics, did not know her faith,” she said.

The road was difficult, but Ricardo and Mayra were not alone. They received prayerful support and solidarity from the Catholic community, including prayer groups from St. Anthony of Padua and St. Joseph’s parish.

Divine MercyParticularly memorable for Ricardo was the loving presence of Fr. John Gregory, who helped the couple through their struggle. “He was always close to us,” he said, “teaching us, helping us, supporting us, strengthening us, speaking to us about God, of all that God had done for us.”

The sickness brought many trials, but also moments of light and hope. One time, the couple passed by St. Joseph’s Church as they were on their way to the hospital. Mayra was experiencing sharp pains and having difficulty breathing, but she asked to stop at the Church.

“Without thinking about it, we got out and as we entered we saw the image of the Divine Mercy and she started to cry right there,” Ricardo said, noting Mayra’s devotion to the image of Divine Mercy.

They stayed at the Church praying for about two hours, first alone and then with members of a prayer group who arrived and offered to pray with them. Mayra’s pain soon disappeared.

“As we went home, we were reflecting on all that had happened: we were going to the hospital but ended up in the Church,” Ricardo said. “That was another incredible thing that consoled us and brought us peace. Again we realized that we weren’t alone.”

Six and a half months into the pregnancy, Mayra began chemotherapy. About six weeks later, however, doctors determined that the treatments were not working, and they had to perform an immediate caesarean section.

The operation involved a high risk of death for both Mayra and her son. It was an intense day of prayers and trust, Father John Gregory explained, and it affected even the hospital workers. “The nurses said, ‘This the first time we have seen something so strong, the blending of life and death.’”

Mayra survived the C-section, and Samuel was born, healthy for a premature baby. After a few weeks, the family was able to go home, but Mayra’s condition continued to decline, until she had to return to the hospital, where the pain could be controlled.

Despite radiation therapy, the cancer overtook Mayra’s body and eventually, she was unable to eat or even breathe on her own.

On June 21, while she was in the hospital, Mayra and Ricardo were married. As they had grown in their faith and received guidance from Fr. John Gregory, they had come to see the meaning of marriage.

“We got married in a room in the hospital. It was beautiful,” Ricardo said. “Afterwards, we felt peaceful, in God’s grace. We also did it for Samuel, so that he could also receive God’s blessing of having his parents married.”

As her condition grew worse, Mayra’s family prepared for the end of her earthly life. Aida described the beauty that shone through the pain of her sister’s last days on earth. “At the end, I saw her like Christ, with so many wounds and bruises on her arms and her side,” she said.

Those who knew Mayra will remember her beautiful witness to life. Fr. John Gregory described the opportunity to accompany Mayra along this difficult journey as “an incredible path of faith” for his own life.

“[T]his experience has given me more strength to preach what death really is, because she gave me a witness of a new birth,” he said. “It has given me more enthusiasm and helped me to understand that I have to explain that the true death is sin, not physical death.”

I am worthy of God's love

Ricardo said that Mayra’s sickness and death taught him about the existence and love of God. “Through all this, God made me know that He exists, that He is with us,” he said.

Ricardo wants to give back to the Catholic community that has and continues to support him. But for now, his primary focus is his new son, whom he wants to raise and educate in God’s love. “Now I have to look after Samuel, and tell him that his mommy gave her life for him,” he said.

Although coping with Mayra’s death is still difficult, Ricardo finds strength in the Lord as he moves forward. “Now I’m at peace,” he said. “I have hope and continue trusting in God. It has changed my life.”

Session on God’s love at Lodge International

5 08 2009

KUCHING – A simple session on God’s Love was held at Lodge International School, Kuching on 31 July, 2009. The session, which aims at Christian students between the age of 13 and 15, was led by Stephanie Ng, along with three youths from Kuching – Claudia Law, Evelyn Chow and Ralph Balan Langet.

Ralph addressing young lodge students

The session started with a brief introduction on God’s Love by Stephanie, followed by a sharing and life testimony from the youths. Ralph and Evelyn shared about their walk of faith and family lives, and they testified to how God’s love had strengthened them despite numerous turmoil and obstacles. The students were also encouraged to offer their service to the Lord while they are still young.

Then, Claudia led the students into a sing-along session, where they enjoyed themselves by singing and dancing. The session concluded with a message of God’s love from Stephanie, and a closing prayer.

Christian teachers at Lodge

Inter Campus Camp 2009

3 08 2009

KUCHING – An inter-campus camp was organized by the Kuching Campus Ministry, with the theme “The Voice of Truth Will Set You Free”. The camp was held at St. Lukas Apostolic Centre, Kota Padawan from 31 July 2009 to 2 August 2009, with the participation of approximately 30 youths from various universities and colleges.

ICC Group Discussion

Sessions on Human Rights were conducted by Mr Nicholas Mujah – an invited speaker from Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA), Fr Felix Au, and Mdm Stephanie Ng.

The students were challenged to think critically on various issues on Human Rights. Indeed, the participants are now more aware of the rights that all humans ought to defend, especially after viewing a short documentary on the Native Customary Rights (NCR) in Sarawak.

ICC participants eating lunch

Human rights violation and discrimination have adversely affected millions of people around the world for generations. Therefore, various action plans have been drafted out by the students, to respond to the realities within their community and campus.

The students also enjoyed themselves with games, sing-along sessions and various group activities during the weekend. It has been a successful camp, where everyone went back feeling contented, and bearing a mission of making a difference in this world.

by Evelyn Chow

Session on Catholic Understanding of Human Rights

Some of the ICC participants and organizers

ICC Dinner

ICC Prayer