Growing Together as a Bigger, Better and Stronger Parish Family

Article written by Jeannette D’Netto

The Church of the Divine Mercy, Shah Alam, today installed its 5th parish priest, Reverend Fr Alan Pereira. Gracing the hallways of CDM for over 100 days now, and recently marking his 13th sacerdotal anniversary, accompanied by his faithful canine companion Shadow, Fr Alan shares his thoughts about leading a new parish and hopes for the people of CDM in Shah Alam.

Leading with collective input

The year 2022 marks the first time CDM Shah Alam is blessed with two priests since the Church was established 17 years ago. The dynamic synergy of Fr Alan as parish priest and newly ordained Reverend Fr Michel Dass as assistant parish priest paves the way towards realising greater potential in this growing parish of Shah Alam.

Leading the charge as a direct and solutions-oriented Shepherd, while recognising the importance of being empathetic, Fr Alan believes in leading the parish with the collective input of the community.

“I believe in working closely with the parish’s various committees and ministries.  When we make a decision, the decision is always made for the good of the Church as a whole,” Fr Alan explains.

“It’s important to empower our people in their mission and roles when it comes to addressing challenges and needs in the parish and community. The choice is ours to either become part of the problem or the solution. Together, we can grow bigger, better and stronger as a parish family here in CDM,” he adds.

Enriching parish faith life

Sharing his admiration for the people of CDM, Fr Alan lauds the swift response and generosity of the Church in support of communities affected during the pandemic and natural disasters like the  floods in Shah Alam last December.

Moving into endemicity, Fr Alan hopes to see a full return of parish members to physical masses with a renewed sense of appreciation for the Eucharistic celebration. Furthermore, he sees an opportunity to strengthen the foundation of the Catholic faith and teachings in both adults and children alike.

“Let’s go back to basics: understanding who Jesus is to me, how the sacraments, such as the Body and Blood of Christ, and reading God’s Word transfer into my daily life? There are many ways we can put our faith into practice. It could be as simple as checking in on our neighbour or offering to buy groceries for them,” Fr Alan opines.

Turn off from the world, tune in to God

The realities of daily life and modern day distractions such as chores, work, tuition or extra-curricular activities can prove to be a challenge. Fondly recalling words of wisdom from the late Reverend Fr Ignatius Huan, Fr Alan shares that while it is good to observe our Sunday obligations of attending mass and BEC rosary meets, it is also critical to remember God in the in-between periods.

In sharing practical tips for incorporating quiet time to turn off from the world and tune in to God, Fr Alan advises us to start small.

“Find a time that works for you and try turning off the Wi-Fi for 10 minutes to pray or read the Word of God, progressively increasing the time. I personally try to avoid reading the Word from devices to minimise the risk of distractions from incoming messages or emails.”

Open to God’s calling

Vocations to the priesthood is a constant intercession raised by the community of CDM who gather in prayer at the weekly Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help on Saturdays and Divine Mercy Chaplet on Sundays.

Encouraging the young people of CDM, Fr Alan reminds us that God’s mercy is something we can always rely on.

“Being in the Church of the Divine Mercy, we are invited to love and show compassion, mercy and serve with care. This paves the way for us to contemplate God and where He is calling us, be it through vocations to the single life, married life, the religious life or priesthood.”

Drawing from his experience on contemplating God’s calling, Fr Alan shares that while joining the seminary was not an immediate choice, he was well aware of God’s calling.

He attributes his gravitation to the priesthood to his foundational years in his home parish of Sts Peter and Paul and the Church of Our Lady of Fatima in Banting. The Youth and Sunday School ministries served as the building blocks of his heart for service in the Lord’s vineyard. Additionally, the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP) priests such as Reverend Fr Guittart, and mentors like Monsignor James Gnanapiragasam, Archbishop William Goh and the late Fr Ignatius Huan among others were also pivotal in Fr Alan’s priestly formation.

Retreat, reflect, return rejuvenated

Answering faithfully to lead a relatively larger parish presently, Fr Alan recognises the importance of balancing time to retreat and reflect on God. He finds combining his passion for fitness and the outdoors, particularly scuba diving, as a healthy outlet to stay well and an opportunity to turn off from the world and enjoy silent contemplation, listening to God’s voice.

In that same vein, Fr Alan is quick to point out that, “it would be a shame to work so hard to be fit for this world, and be unfit for the King”.

He is inspired by scripture, 1 Timothy 4:8 which says, “While bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way as it holds promise for the present life and also the life to come.” Drawing attention away from superficial appearances, but rather on preparing a ‘fit’ soul worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.