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The only team that managed to get the ping-pong ball into a tiny loop. At the lay leaders retreat by the St Ignatius Church. The retreat was from March 17 to 19 at Fraser's Hill.

Tents, ping pong balls and lessons on unity at SIC’s lay leaders retreat

The lay leaders of the Petaling Jaya-based St Ignatius Church attended a retreat from March 17-19 at Fraser’s Hill in Pahang. The spiritual directors were parish priest Rev Fr Lawrence Ng, CDD, and his assistant Rev Fr Martin Then, CDD.
Bob Ho, one of the lay leaders, gives an account of what happened there.
MARCH 22, 2023

Mission accomplished
  1. Lay leaders had their teamwork ability tested when they were asked to pitch a tent together.
  2. In the process, they learned that teamwork is about opening hearts and minds as people of God united to build the church.
  3. “For the church is not a building but you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, as the salt of the earth and light of the world,” Parish Priest Fr. Lawrence Ng, CDD, told the leaders at the start of a three-day retreat.
  4. The leaders were divided into nine groups, each with a member blindfolded and another hands tied.
  5. Fr. Lawrence added the two challenges to “reflect that we may be differently abled but we are all loved by God who gives us the strength to work in His vineyard”.
  6. He stressed that teamwork was best served by a desire to truly complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
  7. Every group had to get its members get inside the tent once it was pitched. When the smaller tents could not fit all,  Fr. Lawrence encouraged the leaders to always unlock their creativity to enlarge the given space and “never to give up easily in our desire to be inclusive”.
  8. He asked the leaders to reflect on the conditions under which Moses and his people lived in tents in the desert for 40 years during the Exodus.
  9. All activities for the 80 lay leaders, who came from the three languages apostolates – English, Mandarin and Bahasa Malaysia, were to infuse team spirit and bonding in problem-solving.
  10. It was the first SIC retreat where all three language apostolates were brought together. The participants represented the various ministries and BECs.
  11. As self-introduction, the leaders brought an item each that best described them. One of the lay leaders, Helen, showed her thermoflask which she said resonated with her, “Cold from the outside but filled with warmth inside”, and sometimes “warm outside but cold inside”. Their connection with their items were written down and presented for all to see and for the leaders to know each other better.
  12. The ping pong ball challenge required every team member working as one, pulling the strings attached to a ring in the centre. The strings were like spokes of a wheel joined to the hub. Working in perfect unity, they had to maneuver the strings to move the ping pong ball onto the ring.
  13. Fr. Lawrence offered an excellent tip, that the focus should be on teamwork moving the ping pong ball; not the ball.
  14. Fr. Lawrence also got the lay leaders to write affirmations on each other’s positive traits, inspiring one another to be exemplary servants of God’s people.
  15. On the first night, they also observed 18 hours of silent reflection on God’s affirmation (Isaiah 43:1-5) as Fr Lawrence reminded them that every leader is a blessing, unique and a pleasure to God. “And when we had to observe silence, we enjoyed the outdoors more since we can’t chitchat so much indoors,” said Kim, another lay leader.
  1. The leaders were indeed blessed as they received the Body and Blood of Christ at the mass on all three days. Frs Lawrence and Martin alternated as celebrant and concelebrant.
  2. On the second night, Fr Martin led the silent Eucharistic Adoration.
  3. After the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction, Frs Lawrence and Martin presented the St Benedict Crucifix to the leaders, symbolising their sent-off on a mission after their “road to Emmaus”, which was the theme for the retreat. “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32) 
  4. The lay leaders praised the spiritual directors and the Formation team for a retreat filled with love,  joy and sharing. They are especially overwhelmed by the love both priests have for them.
  5. Daphne, also a lay leader, captured the essence of lay leaders’ feelings: “The fellowship and working together with everyone was an amazing experience. I’m looking forward to walking together with all of you alongside our beloved priests on this road with the love and lessons we brought back today,” she wrote on WhatsApp.
  6. William, also a lay leader, felt blessed to have walked together with so many SIC leaders on a journey of reflection and formation. He added: “Felt the Holy Spirit working among us. Kudos to the formation team and our beloved priests.”
One big happy family