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Easter pastoral letter from our bishop | Our Christian life— a lifelong catechumenate
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
May you have a Happy Easter! I am happy to share with you the good news that at the Easter Vigil on March 30 this year our diocese will be blessed as 3,560 adults receive the sacraments of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion) and join our family of the Church.
Our diocese is deeply thankful for this blessing. On behalf of the diocese, I sincerely welcome them. Also, to their catechists, I express my sincere gratitude and deep admiration. May God reward them a hundredfold.
Those who are embracing the Catholic faith will have spent 18 months taking part in a catechumenate before receiving the Sacraments. But, in fact, what they have completed is only the initial stage of the Christian life, as Christian Baptism is just the introduction to a lifelong catechumenate.
This Year of Faith has reminded each member of the Church that we must undergo a systematic and holistic faith formation (cf. Apostolic Letter, Door of Faith, numbers 11 and 12).
The diocese set up a Commission for Ongoing Formation of the Laity last year with the express purpose of helping all Catholics, especially the recently baptised, to continue their formation in the catechumenate of faith and life.
In addition, as I have repeatedly mentioned, in order to grow in their ministry as lay people, newly-baptised Catholics would do well to join a Catholic community or an association of the faithful, where people encourage each other and learn from each other.
Those who wish to become volunteer-catechists have the opportunity of learning more through the ministry of teaching and guiding.
I sincerely encourage all those who are interested in enriching their own faith by being part of the evangelising outreach of the Church to enroll in a course at the Holy Spirit Seminary College of Philosophy and Theology, which provides a Bachelor in Religious Sciences programme (evenings and Saturdays) as well as philosophy and theology courses in the daytime.
There is also a two-year catechetical training course provided by the Diocesan Catechetical Centre, as well as a three-year diploma course at the Catholic Biblical Institute. In short, a lifelong commitment to the catechumenate is an essential element in the process of deepening our faith and making our evangelising outreach more effective.
In fact, not only laypeople, but also clergy and religious brothers and sisters have to continue their formation. Earlier this year, the diocese invited Father Joseph Wong osb cam. to an annual study camp for clergy to conduct a seminar on The Benedictine Rule and its Spirituality, to help them strengthen their spiritual lives.
During and after the study camp, Father Wong made a special presentation on The Threefold Good of the Benedictine Rule, which proposes: (a) deepening our relationship with God through silent solitude, prayer and study of the Bible; (b) fostering the spirit of fraternal community through the practice of the community life; (c) going out as a missionary, or being hospitable.
There are thus many ways of implementing the mission of evangelisation: rendering services, proclaiming the word of God as revealed in the Bible, witnessing to the Gospel, giving spiritual counselling, leading retreats or conducting theological seminars.
The charism of The Threefold Good can be compared with the three elements of the Early Church Community: the teaching of the Word (Didache), community life (Koinonia) and witness of service (Diakonia) (cf. Acts 2:42-47), as mentioned in my Lenten Message. Both are profoundly similar and complement each other.
Cicero, an ancient Roman author, said: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”
The Risen Lord, through certain people and opportunities, has given us our Christian faith. It is a precious gift. We have to cherish it, live it and share it through our words and deeds.
We will not only share our faith with those who are not yet believers, but also help the baptised, who have abandoned the practice of their faith, to return to the Church and to rekindle the fire in their hearts. This is also what the Year of Faith has called us to be conscious of.
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, let us offer mutual encouragement in the lifelong catechumenate and on the path of evangelisation and give testimony to Christ.
Let us join hands and sing Alleluia to the Risen Lord!
+ John Cardinal Tong
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