Core Team Members:
Coordinator: Gabriel Saminathan
Asst. Coordinator : Jennifer Tham
The BEC of St. Joseph covers the following areas:
- Jalan Kasah
- Lorong Kasah Dalam
- Lorong Kasah Tepi
- Lorong Setiapuspa 1
- Lorong Setiapuspa 2
- Lorong Setiapuspa 3
- Lorong Setiapuspa 4
- Jalan Beluntas
- Lorong Beluntas 1
- Lorong Beluntas 2
- Lorong Beluntas 3
- Jalan Belimbing (off Jalan Damansara)
If you would like to become a member of this BEC, you can contact the Coordinator via the Parish Office at 03 2078 1876
About the BEC of St Joseph
Following Vatican Council II, Aggiornamento was convened at the College General Penang in 1976 to discern how Vatican II impacted the local Church. This month-long gathering of 123 priests from throughout Peninsular Malaysia prayed and discerned the direction for the local Church to follow for growth. The core need for growth among the faithful in Peninsular Malaysia lay in the formation of basic Christian communities, inspired by the early Christian communities in the Acts of the Apostles (sic Pastoral Letter of Aug 31, 1976 from the Bishops and Priests in Pen Malaysia to the Religious and Laity).
At inception, the community did not adopt the name of a patron saint and the BEC was styled as a BCC (Basic Christian Community).
Although Medan Damansara had already been in existence for 8 years, there were no census record of Roman Catholic families in residence. If one took an evening walk around the housing estate a welcome indication of the Catholic households was either a crucifix or a picture of the Sacred Heart hanging over the front door. However, not all Catholic households proclaimed their faith in such a manner.
It was clear home visitations were needed to lay the foundation for a Roman Catholic Community to be established. Announcements made at the Cathedral of St John would have reached only those who worshipped at this parish. But residents of Medan Damansara attended services in a mixture of parishes, viz the Assumption and St Francis Xavier parishes in Petaling Jaya as well as Church of Our Lady of Fatima, Holy Rosary Church, St Anthony and St Joseph in Sentul Kuala Lumpur.
The parish priest of St John’s Cathedral, Rev Fr Eduard Limat, was unstinting in his constant encouragement and guidance to the 4 pioneers who came forward to undertake the challenge to establish a Basic Christian Community in this residential area.
The tasks were daunting. Mindful of how the Lord sent out his 72 disciples to spread the good news of love, at the homes which received the news of the BCC eagerly, the pioneers prayed with their hosts for success of the BCC yet to be established. There were other residents who were open to the concept of BCC but were cautious, agreeing to attend meetings but would not commit to active involvement. And there were those who rejected the plan entirely – they attend Sunday mass, their children have been baptized, attend Sunday School, have received 1st Holy Communion and the sacrament of Confirmation; so ‘what more does the Church want from me?’ they ask.
The pioneers, overwhelmed as they were by these challenges, were spurred on by their parish priest; he urged them to persevere. He told them if it is the Lord’s Will, no matter how modest the beginnings of the BCC they were attempting to get off the ground, it would happen and endure. If is is not the Lord’s Will, no matter how much prayer and fasting they undertook for the success of their efforts and no matter how hard they worked, the BCC would flounder.
Birth of the BCC
No more than a dozen families responded to the Lord’s invitation to them come and see when attended the first gatherings. Aware of the need to get members used to and comfortable with the concept of BCC, fortnightly meetings were held. These were kept to an hour and every effort was made to make these gatherings lively. Having an accomplished guitarist among the 4 pioneers helped tremendously.
The format of the gatherings in those early days was simple. Songs of praise and worship led by the people of the Community into a sharing session. The sharing was either conducted by a visitor or by one of the pioneers themselves; and it was usually bible-based. Following the sharing session, intercessory prayers lifted up the needs of the community, especially of those present. The gathering closed with more songs of praise and the sign of peace exchanged among all present.
Growth of the Community Follows
As the months passed, more residents joined the BCC meetings and attendance expanded. An even more encouraging sign of the BCC taking root was the presence of youth and children from the resident families.
From the nucleus of a dozen families at the first gatherings, numbers swelled to more than twenty at the meeting with the youth sitting on the staircase of the house where the people gathered.
Prayer was paramount within the BCC. However, although prayer-filled, the BCC needed the members to become more involved in the big and small events of one another’s life. When a death occurred, the members of the BCC gathered to offer prayer and moral support to the bereaved family. The Good Shepherd sisters kindly allowed us the use of Villa Maria to hold bible classes conducted by Fr (now Msgr) James Gnanapiragasam who was then parish priest of the Church of Our Lady of Fatima, Brickfields.
After a year the fortnightly BCC gatherings were scaled down to once a month as members had by then grown to accept and were comfortable with the concept of BCC. Activities continued with participation from more residents, not only offering their homes for the regular gatherings but also for month of May and October nightly home rosary prayers. Lenten campaign activities following the form devised by the archdiocese each were were conducted with active participation from all in the community.
The Journey Continues
With the passage of years, the youth who were 11 or 12 years at the start of the BCC progressed to their teens. Having grown close together through friendships forged in community, these young people gravitated to one another and a Youth section of the BCC began. In encouraging them to become more involved in life in community, the Youth were given charge of organizing the program for some BCC meetings. They were also given responsibility for Christmas Caroling within Medan Damansara.
A Ladies Auxiliary group which began with mothers exchanging favourite recipes, and teaching one another to knit and crochet, came into life. Visits to the home-bound were undertaken.
In some years, a Day of Recollection was organized by the incumbent BCC Co-ordinator. Collection of food stuff for distribution to the underprivileged was organized to mark Lent and Advent. Annual fellowship meals coinciding with the anniversary of the start of the BCC followed a BCC home mass. Outdoor Stations of the Cross at the Church of St Francis of Assisi was organized in Lent and between August 2001 and December 2003, weekly bible study of the Gospel according to St Mark were held. These were among some of the activities that were conducted to sustain the life of the community.
Early in 1998, the community unanimously agreed to adopt the name St Joseph (patron saint of the universal Church) thus becoming St Joseph BEC.
Challenges Faced by the Community
In its early life, the BCC faced a real problem posed by attempts from non-Catholic denominations to take over leadership of the community. While we welcomed these Christian brothers and sisters at our gatherings, the leaders of the BCC were firm that the community at Medan Damansara was started by the Catholics and will always remain a Roman Catholic community.
Today, another kind of challenge poses itself – attendance at monthly gatherings. It is recognized that the mean age of members is not the crux of the problem but it hides a potential challenge in diminishing number of members by attrition. Medan Damansara was developed to promote home ownership of civil servants. Almost all the houses were owner-occupied. With the passage of time, while the house owners continued to live in Medan Damansara, their children entered adulthood, married and moved away to start families of their own. Young families find the market value of property at the appreciated prices of real estate in Medan Damansara mostly beyond their budget. A consequence of this is that the mean age of members of the BEC continue to rise while the number of active members diminish each year with deaths in the community.
Another moot point St Joseph BEC face for flagging attendance at monthly gatherings is probably the result of urban living and perhaps similar to what other BECs in the KL archdiocese face. Stress and pressure of the working life in the private sector exacerbated by the horrendous traffic jams on the roads take its toll on arrival time home for dinner and on family life of the young families who rent in Medan Damansara. Be that as it may, the leadership of St Joseph BEC and its active members are mindful that quantity does not equate to quality. The energies of all are thus focused on community through living and sharing deeper faith experiences and also to support one another in building the Kingdom of God in our milieu.
ST JOSEPH BEC ANNIVERSARY MASS – 25th APRIL 2018