Speech By Rita Wong, President of CLS Kuala Lumpur During The Red Mass 2019

Following is the full text of the speech given by Rita Wong, President of the Catholic Lawyers’ Society Kuala Lumpur during the Red Mass held recently at the Cathedral of St. John, Kuala Lumpur.

Your Lordship Bishop Richard Ng, Your Grace Archbishop Julian Leow, Your Grace Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam, Reverend Fathers, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, My fellow lawyers, ladies and gentlemen.

On behalf of my committee, I would like to begin by expressing our appreciation to His Lordship Bishop Richard Ng who has travelled thousands of miles to be here today to celebrate the mass for us.

Our appreciation also goes out to His Grace Archbishop Julian Leow, His Grace Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam for attending and supporting us this morning.

Our thanks to our spiritual advisor Father Michael Chua for his guidance and to all reverend Fathers for attending and concelebrating Mass today.

To Monsignor Leonard Lexson, parish priest of the Cathedral of St John. Thank you so much Monsignor for agreeing for St John’s Cathedral to be the host church for us. Monsignor your support, encouragement and thoughtfulness are deeply appreciated.

Our thanks also go out to everyone who helped animate the mass today - the altar servers, the choir and everyone involved, thank you so much.

The Catholic Lawyers’ Society gathers annually at the beginning of the year to celebrate the Red Mass in honour of the Holy Spirit, in the presence of almighty God, who is the judge of all and who knows the secrets of our hearts.

2019 Red Mass initiates the start of the Catholic Lawyers’ Society’s 25th Anniversary. We once again acknowledge and renew our calling and commitment for the administration of justice and to reflect the mercy of God. We seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance, courage and fortitude that we might remain true in carrying out our roles and responsibilities, and wise in our undertakings and disposition.

As lawyers, we have a better understanding of the law than others, and we should impart and dispense our knowledge and understanding of law in the cause of justice to act morally and truthfully according to a well-formed conscience.

This reminds us of the great saint and jurist St. Thomas Moore, who refused in conscience to take the Oath of Supremacy, which required recognizing the king of England as head of the church. Thomas More had a well-formed Christian conscience, he would not take an oath in violation of God’s law, even though it meant imprisonment and death. He died, as he said at the scaffold, as ‘the king’s loyal servant, but God’s servant first.’

I am delighted that our country's election has been settled and the new government has been elected. However, we must not be complacent. We shall continue playing the role of supervision, to safeguard the independence of the judiciary, to pay great attention to politics and to provide legal services. We need to stand up and check on possible abuses of power or unwise action by the government, to uphold democracy, freedom, equality, justice and the rule of law in order to transform our country into a prosperous, harmonious and civic conscience nation.

Corruption is a feature of a country where the rule of law isn’t functioning properly. The Great Wall of China is a gigantic structure that cost huge amounts of money and took much labour to construct. It looked impregnable when finished. But the enemy breached it, not by tearing it down or digging a tunnel under it, but by bribing the gatekeepers. Nothing is safe where there is corruption, where integrity is missing.

In addition to providing services in the field of our expertise, we should also pay attention to the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and be actively involved and participate in public welfare undertakings. We should be good Catholic lawyers who can give light to the world and be the salt of the earth, to be generous, to care for the weak and the poor and to protect the vulnerable.

We ask God to sustain us in our duties, to grant us humility and sound judgement, to forgive our errors, and to inspire us to serve the common good, justice, human life and dignity and peace.

We desperately lack young and capable lawyers. I appeal this year as we celebrate our 25th Anniversary that we should focus on recruiting members and promoting the “one-bring-one member” campaign and to strengthen and expand our catholic lawyers society’s networking.

I have had the pleasure and the privilege of serving in CLS under two presidents. I have run my race in so far as me serving as president of CLS is concerned and in the AGM in March this year, it will be time for all of you to elect a new President.

To my committee members I would like to say thank you for all the support you have given me. Thank you for giving me the space when I needed it. Words are not enough for me to express my gratitude.

I have made mistakes during my term as President. I have said things that have hurt people. I have also failed to do things which many have come to expect from a President of CLS. For this I am truly sorry. I ask for your forgiveness.

This year the AGM will be held on 23rd March, 2019 at 10 am, at Assumption Hall, Church of Assumption, Petaling Jaya. There are about 70 members of CLS present this morning. I am appealing on behalf of the next committee. How many of us will turn up for the AGM? How many will come forward and help CLS? Truthfully… how many?

I humbly urge you, my friends, to please put into practice this greater participation by firstly participating in the fellowship after this Mass. Yes, you may have lunch plans but the point is not so much in the eating, it’s in the fellowship.

In the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “we make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give”--- Giving does not stop with the giving of things and money. It finds its fullness in the giving of self – in time, effort and loving acts.

Finally, I sincerely hope that the Lord will always be in our lives, to preserve our hearts, our thoughts and our minds, to enable us to do His will that brings honour to His Holy Name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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