Fr Joachim Robert (head of Caritas Penang Diocese) delivering food to the migrants under the Sharing Hope project.
By Carmel Dominic Aug 8, 2021
PENANG: This pandemic has certainly thrown us into the deep end but we have proven to be resilient. One of the many ways we have managed to do this is by finding creative ways to stay afloat and keep our spirits up. In this respect, Caritas Penang has played an enormous role by giving us a platform to stay relevant.
Since the lockdown, Caritas Penang Diocese has taken advantage of social media to keep championing the cause of the needy. Caritas is a platform for social mission ministries to join forces and help each other serve the community efficiently. This platform also allows those involved in these ministries to learn and support each other by sharing experiences, manpower, ideas, resources and information. Caritas Penang was formed in January 2020 but will be officially launched later this year. Each parish will eventually have their own Caritas team so they can function as an inter-parish network community. Parishioners are encouraged to participate in their efforts.
July 17 marked the second gathering of Caritas Penang via Zoom. A total of 76 members from 24 parishes “attended” the virtual gathering. These members serve in 17 different social mission ministries collectively. Fr Joachim Robert, who heads Caritas Penang, was also present. The theme for the day was Creative Possibilities in Reaching the Poor During the MCO.
During the three-hour gathering, members gave testimonies of God’s bountiful blessings as they reached out to those in need. Evelyn Khoo, a retiree who hails from Kristus Aman Chapel in PJ, had some very moving and inspiring testimonies to share. Her testimony included how God more than doubled a fundraiser that was targeted at RM10,000, but shot up to RM50,000 in a week; how God provided much needed PPE equipment for the frontlines through the kindness and generosity of an entire neighbourhood; and how God multiplied food for the homeless, just as he did in the miracle of the five loaves and two fish.
Catherine Tan, from the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, spoke about their Sharing Hope project which went viral. Since then, they have received 200 over requests for the food baskets which contain daily essentials.
Roland Victor, from the Church of the Divine Mercy, Sg Ara, explained about their virtual Wall of Mercy, whereby anyone with a need of any kind can post it on the wall in hopes that someone will be a blessing to them. He added that the number of migrant workers asking for help has grown exponentially.
Jeiprakasam Lazaar, from St Joseph Batu Gajah, sees to the needs of female inmates who have been abandoned and rejected by their families.
The lockdown has posed a challenge for teams to get up close and personal with the needy community. Hence, the Internet has become a primary tool to not only send out requests for cash and kind but also to transport the contributions to the needy. Khoo said that she managed to send food and other physical necessities across districts by forming a human chain through her contacts. She was astonished at how accommodating people were, especially in a time when everyone is struggling. She attributes all these to God’s grace and mercy. Tan, Victor and Lazaar echoed her sentiments wholeheartedly.
During the Zoom meeting, participants had the opportunity to ask each other questions about the challenges they have faced in their mission work. The Q&A session gave the participants tremendous encouragement to carry on their good works.
God doesn’t have labels for us — illegal immigrant, sex worker, ex-convict, refugee, single parent or homeless. He loves us all the same.