Friday, November 20, 2009

Lay People need Religious to inspire them

HUA HIN, Thailand (UCAN) -- Men and women Religious are needed in Asia today to inspire laypeople and be a powerful a sign of God's presence in their economically driven societies.

This was the message a lay Church worker gave to leading Asian Religious gathered for a Federation of Asian Bishops' (FABC) meeting in Hua Hin, Thailand.

Religious must live the consecrated life not only for themselves but as an inspiration for laypeople, who face the pressures of modern living, Sherman Kuek told some 60 nuns, brothers, priests and bishops at the Nov. 16-21 FABC symposium. The meeting had the theme, "The Impact of Today's Culture on the Church, especially as regards Consecrated Life in Asia Today."

Kuek, 33, is director of the Melaka-Johor Diocesan Pastoral Institute in Malaysia and was the only lay speaker at the symposium. Religious must live radical antithetical lives that inspire and excite laypeople to emulate them, albeit in their lay state of life, he said.

He noted that laypeople live in a culture that urges them to "work more, earn more, spend more," and which is "at odds with the Gospel."

He said that laypeople have inevitably reinterpreted, redefined and compartmentalized religion. From being at the center of their lives, it is now relegated to a corner. They faithfully perform religious duties and obligations but otherwise they are busy engaging with a culture that advocates consumption and the acquiring of wealth.

In modern Asian societies such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, laypeople "choose both God and mammon," Kuek asserted.

Now the Church in Asia is challenged to answer a prophetic call to authentic discipleship, Kuek continued, explaining that this call is for Religious to make a stand for the sake of the laity.

"The Church can shout and shout" in condemning materialism and urging charity but laypeople do not necessarily listen because they have to survive in the modern world, he stressed.

Many Religious said on the sidelines that his call to them was a powerful challenge.

Filipina Sister Julma Neo noted that after Vatican Council II, many Religious not only "adapted" to the world, as was intended, but also "adopted" the ways of the world.

The former general councilor for Asia of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul agreed that for the consecrated life to make sense, it must be mystical, prophetic and counter-cultural.

(Published in UCAN News, November 19)
Dr. Sherman Kuek was Pastoral Associate of Formation and Youth Ministry in the Church of Visitation, Seremban and Chapel of St. Theresa, Nilai from 2008-2009. He now serves as Director of the Pastoral Institute of the Melaka-Johor Diocese.

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