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This year marks the 60th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations (WDPV), established by Saint Paul VI in 1964. The Holy Father Pope Francis has chosen the theme: “Vocation: Grace and Mission” and he reminds us that the WDPV is a day for us to reflect and realise that the “Lord’s call is grace - a complete gift and a commitment to bring the Gospel to others.”

The 4th Sunday of Easter - Good Shepherd Sunday or Vocation Sunday - is an opportunity for young people or single adults to pray for the gift of courage and understanding, discerning the grace and mission entrusted to each of us in today’s world. The Holy Father highlighted that there is no vocation without mission. The essential part of vocation is love – “God calls us in love, and we, in gratitude, respond to him in love.”

Thus, everyone in the Church, including ordained ministry – bishops, priests, deacons, and religious and consecrated life, should work together in going forth on mission with their charisms “to give ourselves in love” and “to radiate the new life that we found in Christ” throughout the world. The day we respond to the call of God with love, our happiness “comes to us by the work of the Holy Spirit in every new way to enlighten our minds, strengthen our wills, fill us with amazement and set our hearts afire.”

A week ago, we, as Church, paid tribute with warmth and affection to Bishop Emeritus James Chan Soon Cheong, DD (also known as Ah Go Go Chan), for his remarkable and faithful service rendered to the Church in Malaysia. He became a Catholic Priest and served churches in the Diocese of Penang from 1959 to 1973. Then he was appointed as the first bishop of the Diocese of Malacca-Johor in 1973 and retired in 2001. After serving as priest and bishop for 64 years, he departed this life on 22 April 2023 at the age of 97.

We admire the courage, tireless efforts and achievements of Bishop James Chan amid all challenges and afflictions. He established churches in his diocese spiritually and financially. Building the MAJODI Centre was the brainchild of Bishop James Chan and it was officiated on 23 August 1980. This building is a mission pastoral institute with various facilities for spiritual retreat, formation and other resources.

His Episcopal motto was “To Serve is My Joy.” He carried out the mission of Christ throughout his ministry with great joy and love. He was a very spirited man of God with a cheerful heart. Bishop James Chan lived his vocations faithfully and truthfully without qualms. He found happiness and fulfilment in his vocation by giving himself totally and wholeheartedly to his ministry.

This Good Shepherd Sunday, let us remember the courage, strength and sacrifice that all bishops, priests, deacons, and religious and consecrated people offer in the service of the Church in Malaysia. We thank the Lord for granting them the grace to prolong His mission here on earth, building the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.

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