Author Archives: gssmmission

Uplifting, Encouraging & Empowering

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1988 was the year when I first met the Good Shepherd Sisters.  A team of them came to Sabah to set up the Women’s Crisis Centre.  Years went by, but I knew little about the Sisters other than what I had heard from the church network that they were still active in Sabah.

I left the seminary in 1993 and pursued my studies while working at Outward Bound Sabah, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.  Having to work and support myself through school, and other personal struggles, I felt a strong urge and passion to work with youths and families in their natural family setting.

My own deep love for my parents and family led me to organise gatherings and camps for my family members, including nephews and nieces, to build family bonds.  Gradually, these activities were extended to my village families, communities, NGOs and churches in Sabah.  Due to the popular demand, I decided to turn it into a business.

One day in 2003, I was surprised to receive a call from Sr. Imelda and Sr. Sandra asking for a Youth Teambuilding Programme.  This was the start of my involvement with the Good Shepherd mission.  I was very happy to meet local Good Shepherd Sisters helping local youths, a much-needed service.

At the end of the programme, Sr. Sandra invited me to be on their list of partners to help out with future programmes.  I accepted the invitation readily.  This led to much co-operation and collaboration in running youth programmes over the next few years.

In 2006, the youth programme was expanded to include the Uplift, Encourage and Empower (UEE), Youth Leadership and Facilitation (YLF) and Family Building and Reconciliation (FBR) to cater to different groups and needs.  They were developed in consultation with Sr. Maria Depal, who is currently overseeing the development of the programmes in the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, and the Dioceses of Keningau and Sandakan.  Sr Maia helped to design and deliver the programmes.  It was challenging, but fulfilling and enriching work.  Many participants experienced changes in their lives after attending the programmes.

The good responses to the programmes served to motivate me and allow me to be God’s instrument of change.  The programmes and activities are my way of helping the participants to experience the love and presence of Gode.  I must say that the Sisters are very hospitable and friendly and they make me really feel at home working with them and learning from them.

As a family man and businessman, I do have challenges managing my time.  But I see it as a matter of priority to also devote time to the youth programme.  I thought, “If not me, then who?” The words of Mother Mary, “Let your will be done,” strengthens my commitment to carry on.  Hopefully, I’m able to reach out to the many people in need via the Good Shepherd Sisters in Sabah, and in the spirit of St Mary Euphrasia, to touch many hearts.

The solid support from the Good Shepherd Sisters has been really uplifting, encouraging and empowering to my family and me.  Thank you, Sisters.

~ Terence J Dolinting ~

Dorothy’s Family

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Her youthful looks belie her age and she has a vigour that matches the children under her care.  Her name is Dorothy Loke.  And she is the longest – serving employee at the Villamaria Good Shepherd Kindergarten in Kuala Lumpur.  Twenty-five years of service!  What a testimony of her commitment to the Good Shepherd mission!  Still her association with the institution goes back even further.

At the age of five, her mother passed away.  Dorothy and her siblings were split up.  There was a lot of change and uprooting in her life.  She was raised and educated at different places.  However, at age 13, she was sent to the Good Shepherd Home in Ulu Klang where she continued her studies at the Vocational School.  It was here, for the first time, that her life took on some form of permanence and stability.

“I witnessed the kindness of the nuns and fully appreciated their kindness to me, Sr. Ita was the Mother Superior then, and they all treated me like family,” she recounted.  This kindness led Dorothy, upon completion of their studies, to work at the Good Shepherd Convent in Jalan Ampang.  As an assistant teacher, Dorothy also helped out in the canteen, bookshop and the office.

When the Villamaria Good Shepherd Kindergarten was opened in 1978, Dorothy was part of the pioneering team sent to get the kindergarten up and running.  She proudly said, “It was an exciting time.  I wanted to repay the kindness of the nuns.  I was willing to do anything and everything to help make the kindergarten a success.”

Dorothy took a three-year break to raise her daughter.  She rejoined the kindergarten in 1984.  Twenty-five years on, she still committed to the Good Shepherd mission, working as an assistant teacher and still “ready to do anything and everything as long as I am needed”, she quipped.

When I asked Dorothy what had sustained or motivated her loyalty all these years, she looked a little perplexed, then simply said, “This is my family.  I have children of my own, but this is my family too.  We have our ups and downs like any family. We may disagree, but the next day, everything is OK.  I have a lot of joy working here.  And there’s a lot of laughter, too!

  ~ Debbie Leon ~

A Three-Part Harmony

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i.  On Deeds

Giving and receiving has a role in my life.  Together they constitute “love”.

The moral of the life of Jesus in His own words are, “Love one another as I have loved you.” To me, loving is giving to others whatever I have received from God.  Receiving from others is my willingness to be influenced by others.

I have been enriched by the many stories of persons I have met.  They have been an inspiration to me.  I know of a woman who had been chaste, yet she was infected with HIV by her husband.  I saw how she stood by him and stayed in the marital relationship.  I often wondered to myself, if I were in a similar situation, would I have responded in the same manner?

Sometimes, I feel challenged by the people around me who seem to live out the vows I have taken more fervently than I do.  Their faithfulness and commitment in life push me on to be faithful to my God, and the mission He has entrusted to me.

More important than what I do is the reason behind why I do them.  The motivation and intention underlying my actions are important, besides my openness to be at home with failure and turning to God when things don’t work out the way I want it.

ii. On Experience

My experience journeying with those whom I serve has been one of feeling with them, and feeling for them – feelings of anger, frustration and helplessness over the evil and injustices around; feelings of joy and hope on possibilities; and feelings of happiness and satisfaction on the good that I have contributed.

My personal experience of God is His companionship which gives me a sense of security and calm in the midst of storms.  I know what He has done, for more than I can count, for me, with me and in me.  The Lord of love has reached out and touched me; He is truly my shepherd God.  In the words of Robert Doran, “Who I am is a far more extensive and rich story of experiences, feelings, insights, judgements, decisions and religious commitment than what I do.”

My lived experience in the 24 years of my religious life has encompassed the good and bad, pleasant and painful, wise and foolish, all these and more have been raw materials for greater self-understanding following my reflection on them.  Anthony de Mello once said, “The master was an advocate both of learning and of wisdom.” “Learning,” he said in reply to a question, “is gotten by reading books or listening to lectures.  And wisdom?  By reading the book that is you.”

iii. On Self

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second resembles it, “you must love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matt. 22: 37-39).

Over the years, living my life as a good Shepherd Sister has taught me that self-realisation is a starting point for responding to other human beings in a non-exploitative way.  And so I try to apply this in my ministry as well.

In summary, encountering and listening to the stories of others energize me; looking at my own past, my sacred history, helps me understand its role in shaping the person that I am.

My past and present have come together, teaching me to dream for my future; to create a dream that dares me to plan, to take calculated risks, to be different, and to go beyond my fears and barriers.  For I know that going beyond is the “I and Thou” experience.  This knowledge alone urges me on.

~  Sr. Mercy Daniels, rgs  ~

They Lifted Me Up

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I have known the Sisters since the age fo 15.  It has been a golden 38 years with the Good Shepherd Sisters.

In 1971, a young and naive girl, raised in a single-parent family, went in search of “love”.  Not knowing what the real world had in store for me, I ended mixing with the wrong company.  My mother was desperate as she did not know how to help me.

Fortunately, she learnt through a friend about Madonna Heights.  Together with my sister, she brought me there to be sheltered for the next five years.  While at Madonna Heights, I completed my studies and later, was offered a job as a clerk in Pusat Kebajikan Good Shepherd.  I spent two years working there.

Not long after, the Sisters were kind enough to recommend me a job in a legal firm.  Subsequently, I got married to a man whom I thought would take good care of me.  I never imagined it could happen to me but it did.  I had married a “love his family” conman.  By the time I discovered the truth, I already had a daughter.  Living with this conman husband was leading a life of fear – fear of creditors showing up and threatening the family.

Despite this situation, I still loved my husband very much and was hopeful that he would change.  Carrying this hope, I continued living with him.  He went in and out of jail.  each time, I was hopeful he would change.  He was given chance after chance to change.  I was beginning to see an “empty hope”.

Many times, I turned to the Sisters for help – accommodation, work, counselling, and more – you name it, the Sisters had been through it with me.  They were always there for me.  In spite of their many disappointments with me, the Sisters took me in each time I was “in trouble”.

By the time my second child arrived, my husband had not changed one bit.  The last straw was my discovery of his unfaithfulness to me.  That was it.  I really couldn’t take it anymore.  I left home with my two children and sought help from the Sisters, again.  This time I was very strong and decisive.  I filed for divorce.

The Sisters helped me navigate through this very difficult time.  I was really down in the dumps.  I felt helpless and hopeless.  It was the Sisters’ patience, love and care that saw me through and lifted me up.  They offered me a job in the Kindergarten.  I have been working there since.  My two children have grown up.  Without the Good Shepherd Sisters, I would not be what, and where, I am today.  They taught me to be strong.  “They can because they think they can,” and “Gratitude is the memory of the heart,” – these words of encouragement from the Sisters are inscribed in my heart.

I am truly grateful to the Sisters.  I will never ever be able to repay their kindness, not in this lifetime.

~ Anonymous ~

Beyond Familiar Pastures

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1999 was the year I was missioned to Sabah.  Arriving in Sabah, I felt I was in another country.  I didn’t think that I was still in Malaysia.  It was just so different from the West Malaysia I’d lived in all my life until then.  The culture, customs, life-style and languages of the people in Sabah are very different.

In my heart though, I sensed that the Good Shepherd was leading me to where St Mary Euphrasia would have loved to pitch her tent!

A folktale on rice cultivation in Sabah introduced me to this beautiful “land below the wind”.  Over the years, as I worked in our outreach ministries in Tenghilan, helped families, teenage girls, women and children of Seri Murni Crisis Centre, youth on out Youth PREPLink programme, and the urban pastoral ministry, I’ve found that it is important, sacred and most useful to be familiar with local traditions and practices, values, native laws, beliefs and the cultural background of our clients.

For me, this positive approach to the Good Shepherd mission enables me to relate with each person armed with our Good Shepherd values of understanding, respect, appreciation, patience, caring, compassion, dignity and justice.  As much as it is challenging, it is also rewarding, and not without its own surprises.  I’ve learnt a lot about rural, semi-urban and urban people of various ethnic and social backgrounds through the many relationships formed, and they have certainly given me a greater awareness and acceptance of the uniqueness of each person.

During the past year, I got more involved in the pastoral ministry in our parish.  I believe that all my varied experiences from working in Good Shepherd sponsored ministries have equipped me to continue my Good Shepherd mission beyond familiar pastures, into dark valleys and restful waters, led by the Good Shepherd Himself.  I can see that our mission of reconciliation is very much needed and appreciated everywhere.  My present pastoral ministry is very meaningful, hopeful, encouraging, as well as challenging for me as I live my Good Shepherd charism and spirituality.

Together with our lay partners, and Associates of the Good Shepherd who are also involved in pastoral ministries, our Good Shepherd presence continues to spread beyond the familiar pastures of traditional Good Shepherd ministries in residential care.

~ Sr. Teresa Chye, rgs  ~

Take Your Love Out Of The Freezer!

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 Frozen heart

“Take your love out of the freezer!” these words jolted me out of my daily routine.

They were spoken by a young, temporary professed Sister with the Good Shepherd Sisters in 1979.  She would share with me the work of the Sisters – loving and care for the “marginalised and the rejected” in society.  She would tell me the life stories of the teenage girls staying in the home run by the Sisters.  I felt moved with compassion towards the girls.  The next thing she did was to invite me to a weekend vocation camp.  I replied with a firm “No” and gave a million reasons why religious life was not appropriate for me.  I felt inadequate for that kind of work.

She persisted and said to me, “Lucy, why do you put so many obstacles along God’s path? Why do you keep your love in the freezer?  Why not take it out and share it with those in need?” This person is also none other than my own younger sister.

For a period of time, the questions kept pounding in my ears and churning in my heart.  And in my quiet moments, I could not avoid them.  I was so pre-occupied with them that I started to ask myself, “If I were to be a religious, in what way could I help those girls?  Could I even be a religious?” It sounded so impossible.  I was happy with my life at that time and was reluctant to change it.  Yet, I felt that if I allowed myself to be led by God, surely God will make the impossible, possible.

It has been 30 years since I attended that vocation camp.  I left home at 29 to become a Good Shepherd religious.  Over the years as I cared for many women and girls, heard their stories, and seen how their lives had changed, I also witnessed God’s merciful love at work.  And as I witnessed their courage and hope in rebuilding their lives, despite the painful realities, I felt the broken bits of me being healed as well.

Today, I feel blessed by God’s intervention in my life.  Religious life has changed and formed me into who I am today.  I see God’s love at work the graces God gave to me to respond to God’s call, the many people sent to touch my life, even the life-threatening illness, which struck me in 1994.  I was then on the threshold of death.  Surviving the illness has led me to live my life to the full and in authenticity.  It was a passage to the deeper places within me where I realised both my limitations and my potential.  I was able to remove my mask and embrace the person that I am.

Now, I find much joy and meaning in what I do.  A friend teased me recently, “Lucy, the only thing you keep in the freezer today is food!”

I am grateful for the transforming action of God in my life, which is still at work today.  I am grateful to my own family, especially my parents, for their unwavering and unconditional love for me.  Let me share the following words of Nelson Mandela that have inspired me to keep growing:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others,.

~  Sr. Lucy Chia, rgs  ~

Part of An MNC

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After more than a year working at the Marian Center, which has since changed its name to Good Shepherd Student Care, I embarked on my first ever “business trip”in 2006.  I made my way to Sabah, Malaysia.  That changed my notion of Marymount Centre.

I realised that it is not just another voluntary welfare organisation in Singapore.  It is actually a multi-national corporation (MNC).  Malaysians, Indians, Filipinos, Australians, Koreans, Africans, Thais, and more are some of my counterparts.  We are part of an MNC, bound together by the Good Shepherd Mission.

During the few days that I was in Sabah, I participated in the annual Asia-Pacific Conference.  When I heard the Sisters in my group sharing about their ministries in their own countries I was inspired as they were involved in more challenging social issues.  Through them, the Good Shepherd mission became more apparent to me, and I started to really feel the impact of the Euphrasian line, “one person is of more value than the whole world.”

What got me really excited was when I was brought to Tenghilan, a town about an hour’s drive from the state capital, Kota Kinabalu.  I was told that the Sisters in Sabah ran a student care service in a nearby village, the same kind of service we have back in 790, Thomson Road, Singapore.  Upon reaching the “office”, which was actually a room in a modest house near the village church, I was asked to plan and organise an activity.  I got down to my task with much gusto.

I was expecting the children to come to the house but no, we had to go to them instead.  I was brought to the community centre of the village, a big building with zinc roofing, dirt flooring and a few noisy fans.  The children had just finished their meal.  I was told that the organisers needed to provide a meal, otherwise, the parents would not send their children to the session after school.  The parents had no issue with their children roaming on their own after school, without the need to complete their homework.  It was so different from what I was used to in Singapore.  Resources were far more in abundance back home and what we deemed as important would be casually dismissed here due to cultural differences.

The Sabah experience opened my eyes and heart to take a more active role in our Good Shepherd mission.  As a lay partner, I am motivated to teach values through meaningful and fun activities in my ministry.  No doubt this experience has laid the foundation for my zeal to continue providing values formation to our children in Goode Shepherd Student Care Centre.

~ Shirley Woo  ~